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Brian in Manvel, TX's Interview Answers

Previous Owner-Builder for Brian in Manvel, TX at OwnerBuilderBook.com - Build Your Own Home

How many finished levels in your most recent owner-built house?
 Two
 
What type of construction?
 ICF
 
House style?
 Two-story
 
Do you want to say anything more about your house style or construction?
 ICF since we live close to the coast. Hurricane-proof up to 200 mph!
 
How much did you save altogether vs. appraised or street value?
 25% - 30%
 
How many hours did you spend as a couple, counting planning and construction?
 100 - 200 hrs.
 
Were you working when you owner-built?
 Both working
 
Who took primary responsibility in your family for the work?
 Husband primary
 
What trades did you do yourself?
 Electrical, plumbing, painting, trim-out, cabinet install, landscape, driveway, some tile.
 
How much did you save on the trades you did yourself?
 $110,000 - $130,000
 
How long did your self-work trades take?
 200 - 300 hours
 
How many bids did you get for each subcontracted trade, on average?
 Two
 
Did you get bids from generals?
 Two
 
Have you had it appraised?
 Yes
 
Was yours a starter, step-up, custom, or dream home?
 Dream home
 
What's the difference in your mind between a starter, step-up, custom, or dream home?
 
Starter is basic box and well-appointed but uses entry level materials.
Custom is functional but has upgraded materials.
Dream home is functional, fully upgraded and designed and laid out your way with your personal wants included.
 
Did you get materials separate from labor on any of the trades?
 100%
 
What were special features in your house?
 
Prewired for automation, video surveillance
Home theater
ICF and SPF walls
Central Vac
Custom wrought iron front door and stair railings
High-end flooring
Custom lighting and fixtures
Lots of windows
10-12 ft. ceilings
 
Ways to save money?
 eBay coupons to Home Depot or Lowe's.
 
What are the qualifications to be a good O-B?
 Patience.
Don't sweat the small stuff- if it's not in concrete, it can be changed.
Some building knowledge would go a long way in not getting shafted by a trade.
 
Did you have contract problems?
 None at all
 
Did you get liened by anybody?
 No liens
 
What percentage of O-B's do you think get liened?
 10% - 15%
 
How much time did it take to construct?
 Eight months
 
How many trades were involved on your job?
 15 - 20
 
What time of year did you start?
 April
 
What do you consider the rules of good work?
 Show up on time. Do it right. Clean up.
 
What were your most important tools?
 Phone and checkbook.
 
What anguish or fear of loss did you go through? What was your worst fear during the project?
 
No fears really, I build houses for a living.
One concern was rain before getting dried in. ICF walls take a lot longer to get up than frame walls.
 
What do you consider the most desirable features in a custom home?
 
Large rooms
Quiet
Open and divided floor plan
Automation
Custom desinged one of a kind fixtures
Unique built-ins
Utilization of all spaces
 
What features in your house save operating costs?
 
ICF walls
Vinyl Low E Argon windows
SPF insulation
 
What features add the most value to your home - rate them.
 
1. ICF walls for windspeed strength
2. SPF insulation for energy efficiency
 
What owner-builder laws exist where you live?
 Must have a GC if getting a loan.
 
Did you get a construction loan without a contractor?
 No
 
Do you have a step-up strategy?
 No
 
What do you do for a living?
 General contractor.
 
How much combined time did you spend planning?
 Less than 100 hours
 
How many times are you planning to do this?
 Three
 
Are you organized?
 Very
 
What suggestions do you have for O-B's to get organized?
 
Get a good file system.
Don't get more than 2-3 bids. You'll go nuts.
Talk to some professionals when possible to get info on timetables and order of construction. There are some things that must go before another trade that may not be obvious. (like countertops before tile backsplash but floor tile goes before countertops) Common sense would have all the tile done at once.
 
Are you a good shopper?
 Super shopper
 
What suggestions do you have on finding good prices?
 Stay away from big box (Home Depot/Lowe's).
Go through a neighborhood and look for delivery trucks. Buy your stuff there too.
Tell them you are a contractor and ask for special pricing.
 
Were there any schedule items that took you a lot longer or shorter than you thought they would?
 Custom stair railing said 16 weeks, but took 10 months.
 
Did you use a designer, architect, stock plan?
 Designed My Own
 
What are the three best things you did?
 
Not waste money on a GC.
Run a very tight schedule. Trades were asked when they would finish, and given 1-2 days cushion.
Expect the worst and plan for the best.
 
The three worst things that you did?
 Bought stuff too early because it was on sale and had to store it in garage.
Rushed to get the house ready by Christmas and had to shortcut a few things like painting rooms different colors. Had to last-minute spray them one color before carpet went in. Now have to tape off and repaint the wall colors in some rooms.
Tried to do too much myself and it slowed me down.
 
What is a good way to get discounts on lumber?
 Get a takeoff done and take it two-three lumberyards for pricing.
Make them match lowest priced one if they want it all.
 
What is a good way to get discounts on cabinets?
 Wait for a sale or go direct online.
 
Any problems with the inspector? Items that caused you to fail an inspection?
 No insp. required in my area.
 
Where did you get good help and advice?
 Vendors I bought from.
 
What did you find to be the top five biggest expenses in the budget? How much, and how to cut back?
 Polysteel ICF- 50,000 could use stickframe
Slab30,000-less slab,less concrete if stick frame, ICF requires stronger slab= $$
Front door-12,000- could have gone with wood instead of custom iron
Stair rails-16,000 could have gone with half walls or wooden balusters
Stucco 30,000 could have bricked or Hardi trimmed for less
 
Did you find a wide range in the prices you were bid for different things? What are some examples?
 
Yes
Lumber package
84 lumber was 280,000
Home Depot was 34,000
 
How big was your punch list? How much time did it take you to finish it out?
 Did not have one. I punched daily while trade was there so as not to have to bring back. Did not pay until completed.
 
Did you get a bad surprise on property taxes?
 No - I expected the tax assessment I got
 
Were utility costs in the new house a surprise?
 About what I expected
 
They say that a marriage that survives building a house will survive anything. Any comments?
 Tell the wife to stay away until Sheetrock is up.
 
Was there anything you traded for materials or services?
 No.
 
Did you have any problems getting your building permit?
 No problems as an owner-builder
 
How did you find good subcontractors? Any suggestions?
 
Am a GC so I used my guys. But I got them from production builders previously.
Production builders are cheap so trades are always looking for more work.
 
What was the average price quoted you to build your design? Highest price?
 $400k - $486k
 
Did you use some type of written agreement when hiring subcontractors?
 No.
 
Did you hire anybody from out of town?
 No
 
Did you buy any materials from out of town?
 No
 
Were there aspects of your home that were improved because of your owner-builder involvement?
 Locations of doors, switches, plugs.
 
Did you run into any outrageous construction pricing?
 Yes, copper wire.
 
Were there little luxuries you were able to implement at little or no cost?
 Yes: second staircase in kitchen.
 
What were the biggest construction bargains you found, and how did you find them?
 10% off and free shipping on lighting at Home Depot.
 
How did you find other owner-builders to network with?
 Ownerbuilderbook.com forums.
 
Do you know of people wasting a lot of money when they built? Explain.
 
Yes, they took too long.
They did not have a clue what came next so things were done out of order, which costs more when trades have to work around things (tile or carpet in too early).
It also eats up the construction interest.
 
Were there things that came out right because you were involved that might have been messed up if you had used a general contractor?
 Yes, there was a lot of customization a GC would have screwed up.
 
How did you mark your lot for the excavator who dug your foundation?
 We don't dig in TX.
 
Who built or installed your mailbox?
 Me.
 
Do you know examples of people being injured trying to do their own work? Tell what happened.
 Yes - falling off ladders is common.
 
What were major causes of delays that occurred in your construction?
 Rain.
 
What was the average monthly cost of maintenance in the home you left to occupy your new home?
 Less than $100
 
What was the age of your previous home?
 1 - 5 yrs.
 
How much more activity was there at end of project than in the middle?
 50%
 
How many dead days did you have where nobody did anything?
 15 - 20 week days
 
How many days when only a single sub was on site?
 More than 50 days
 
Have you owner-built more than once?
 Twice
 
How much management time did you and your spouse spend during the construction phase?
 0 - 100 hours
 
What were the benefits of your time on site?
 Kept things from getting done wrong.
 
Suggestions for controlling the job?
 Be there every day
 
Daily duties?
 
Check job at lunch.
Check before 500 with sub. if you need to order material, you have to do before 5pm to get the next day.
 
Sub recognition?
 Just a check.
 
Did you use a computer?
 Yes - extensively
 
Would you be willing to help another owner-builder?
 Yes, I would respond to emails.
 
Do you have other suggestions or comments for owner-builders?
 
Don't expect anything to go as planned.
Expect a half-baked job from the subs, if there is a shortcut, they'll take it.
 
Did you install a water softener?
 Yes
 
What was your planned schedule when you started out?
 4-5 months
 
If you had a general contractor estimate, how much did you save vs. average estimate?
 30-35%
 
Apples to apples, what utility savings did you get in your new house vs. old?
 45%-50%
 
Did you incorporate active solar panels (PV) into your home?
 No
 
Did you have a written schedule for construction?
 Yes
 
How much would the trades you did yourself have cost in the marketplace?
 $110,000 - $130,000
 
How many trades did you do yourself?
 3
 
Did you read The Owner-Builder Book before you built your house?
 Yes
 
Was your project a new house or a remodel and addition?
 New house
 
Was your project urban or rural?
 In the country
 
What's the population of the community where you built?
 <50,000
 
Did you make some mistakes? Examples?
 Yes, should have built more closets.
 
How many trips to the hardware store or other suppliers did you have to make during your project? What could have cut that down?
 
Dozens.
Order more than was needed and then take it back.
Tried to buy less to keep costs down and not tie up $ in excess inventory.
 
How much calendar time from when you first did some written planning to groundbreaking?
 Six to 12 months
 
Do you know your credit score?
 Yes
 
How many houses did you own prior to this one?
 Two
 
What did you choose for wall insulation?
 Insulated Concrete Forms
 
What is the R-value of your walls?
 >R-40
 
How much construction industry experience did you have before you owner-built?
 > 10 years
 
How many books about contracting or the trades did you read when you owner-built?
 None
 
Did you use any personal friends as subs?
 Three
 
How many houses have you built, remodeled or added on to as an owner-builder?
 Two
 
How many children do you have?
 Two
 
How many children lived at home when you owner-built?
 Two
 
How many bedrooms did you include in your owner-built house?
 More than six
 
How many bathrooms did you include in your owner-built house?
 More than five
 
How many air conditioning units did you include in your owner-built house?
 More than two compressors
 
If stick-built, did you use 2x4 or 2x6 framing?
 It wasn't stick-built.
 
How much combined time did you take off work when you built?
 More than eight weeks
 
How many tools do you own?
 More than $8,000
 
Do you have experience using spreadsheets for budgeting or scheduling?
 A hundred times
 
Did you take pictures of the job when you owner-built?
 Used a digital camera regularly
 
Are you a coupon shopper?
 10% - 20% of the time
 
What are your favorite shows or cable channels?
 
Lost
Extreme Makeover Home Edition
Trading Spaces
 
Do you own a truck?
 Yes
 
How many covered vehicle spaces did you provide in your owner-built house?
 Four
 
How much personal use do you make of the Internet?
 > 25 hours a week
 
Did you use a contracting consultant or an owner-builder program?
 No
 
If you used a contracting consultant or O-B program, what did it cost?
 Didn't use one
 
Why did you consider owner-building in the first place?
 I know what I'm doing and it's cheaper than paying someone to do my job.
 
What was your original construction budget, not including land?
 $400,000 - $450,000
 
What were the impact fees for you to build?
 $10,000 - $20,000
 
If ever you move from your O-B house, how long will you have lived in it?
 < 5 years
 
How did your final appraisal compare with your preconstruction appraisal for the lender?
 Final was 20% more
 
What did the plans for your project cost?
 $500 - $1,000
 

Future Owner-Builder for Brian in Manvel, TX at OwnerBuilderBook.com - Build Your Own Home

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