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If you've read The Owner-Builder Book you've already started. I've found it to be one of the best confidence builders yet. It gave me exactly what I needed to get started. For real. What I mean by that is, starting is not clearing land or putting a hole in the ground. It's planning and understanding what you are up against. This book covers it very well.
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Try one of our new Construction Bargain Strategies for free. Coupon code: CBS. One strategy could save you $1,000 or $10,000 or maybe $50,000 when you build or remodel.

Mike in Bonham, TX's Interview Answers

Previous Owner-Builder for Mike in Bonham, TX at - Build Your Own Home

How many finished levels in your most recent owner-built house?
What type of construction?
 Conventional framing
House style?
Do you want to say anything more about your house style or construction?
 Texas Hill Country Ranch house, 2x6, standing seam roof.
How much did you save altogether vs. appraised or street value?
 20% - 25%
How many hours did you spend as a couple, counting planning and construction?
 > 1,000 hrs.
Were you working when you owner-built?
 Only husband working
Who took primary responsibility in your family for the work?
 Husband primary
What trades did you do yourself?
 Flooring, trim, paint.
How much did you save on the trades you did yourself?
 $10,000 - $30,000
How long did your self-work trades take?
 200 - 300 hours
How many bids did you get for each subcontracted trade, on average?
Did you get bids from generals?
Have you had it appraised?
Was yours a starter, step-up, custom, or dream home?
What's the difference in your mind between a starter, step-up, custom, or dream home?
 Whatever you want it to be.
Did you get materials separate from labor on any of the trades?
What were special features in your house?
 Geothermal, triple-paned windows, flagstone floors, reclaimed oak floors, local red cedar porches, standing seam metal roof, high-efficiency insert fireplace.
Super bargains you got?
 Reclaimed flooring, flag stone, limestone for exterior, masonry.
What are the qualifications to be a good O-B?
 Make time to do the planning, supervision, understand the trades and relationships of each job to the other.
Did you have contract problems?
Did you get liened by anybody?
 No liens
How much time did it take to construct?
 More than ten months
How many trades were involved on your job?
 15 - 20
What time of year did you start?
What were your most important tools?
 A phone.
What anguish or fear of loss did you go through? What was your worst fear during the project?
 Getting subs to complete jobs well and on time/budget.
What features in your house save operating costs?
 Geothermal, windows, insulation.
What features add the most value to your home - rate them.
Layout, design
Geothermals/energy efficiency
Finish, look
What owner-builder laws exist where you live?
 Home-stead for financing in Texas
Did you get a construction loan without a contractor?
Do you have a step-up strategy?
Things or approaches you invented?
 Using SIPS screws and plywood to brace off ICF blowouts for repour.
Ways to save money?
 Hiring the right subs with the correct skill sets, even at a premium to get the job done one time and correctly. Not doing work that I'm not qualified for or have the time to do right the first time.
Doing things yourself that take too long will delay everyone else and cost you interest on your loan.
Biggest thing, don't touch the tools unless you're highly qualified.
What percentage of O-B's do you think get liened?
 10% - 15%
What do you consider the rules of good work?
 Right crew for the job.
What help did you want but couldn't get?
 Decent foundation guy to complete work.
What do you consider the most desirable features in a custom home?
 Energy performance.
What do you do for a living?
 Home builder, green entrepreneur.
How much combined time did you spend planning?
 200 - 300 hours
How many times are you planning to do this?
 One time total
Are you organized?
 Pretty organized
What suggestions do you have for O-B's to get organized?
 Everything on a computer spreadsheet, line-items, contractors, estimates, bids, key contacts.
Are you a good shopper?
 Good shopper
What suggestions do you have on finding good prices?
 Talk to anyone/everyone else who has built. Use a network.
Were there any schedule items that took you a lot longer or shorter than you thought they would?
 Finish-out took a lot longer.
Did you use a designer, architect, stock plan?
Any reason you chose that time of year to start?
 Just how the schedule fell.
What are the three best things you did?
 Had a good designer who understood what I wanted and got good plans to bid/build from.
Sited the house to take advantage of natural features on the property.
Dealt with a local bank that knew the area and my project.
The three worst things that you did?
 Relied on subs for recommendations for other subs.Drinking buddies just doesn't cut it.
Tried to do too much of the finish work myself
Underestimated certain costs by ignoring some of the bids I was getting. I was convinced I knew better than the pros.
What is a good way to get discounts on lumber?
 Get turn-key framing package bids from various suppliers. Be sure they understand that they will be bidding for an entire job.
What is a good way to get discounts on cabinets?
 Shop and compare. I was surprised. My local custom shop had better quality and better prices than the big box stores with their press-board carcass cabinets.
Any problems with the inspector? Items that caused you to fail an inspection?
 At the time, no inspections were required other than % completed by the bank.
Where did you get good help and advice?
 Local builder, lumberyard.
What did you find to be the top five biggest expenses in the budget? How much, and how to cut back?
Did you get a bad surprise on property taxes?
 Yes - it was more than I expected
Were utility costs in the new house a surprise?
 Less than I expected
They say that a marriage that survives building a house will survive anything. Any comments?
 Listen to each other and agree on what areas of the home over which you or your spouse have the final say. Give, give, give, on both sides.
Was there anything you traded for materials or services?
Did you have any problems getting your building permit?
 No problems as an owner-builder
How did you find good subcontractors? Any suggestions?
 Ask other owners, suppliers.
Did you use some type of written agreement when hiring subcontractors?
Did you hire anybody from out of town?
 More than five trades
Did you buy any materials from out of town?
 For four trades
Were there features in your home that you implemented for free or cheap because of planning?
 Staircase, flooring
Were there aspects of your home that were improved because of your owner-builder involvement?
 Most of it. The mechanicals, materials, design, finish.
Did you incorporate anything in your design to facilitate a hobby?
Did you design anything special for a pet?
Were you ever lied to by a contractor? Examples?
 Not lied to, but optimistically underbid.
What are some of the discouraging comments you have heard from others about acting as your own contractor?
 The frustration of trying to deal with subs when you don't have the knowledge or confidence to address technical issues.
What is the worst treatment you ever got from a contractor?
 Walking off of the job after only one day and not returning calls or addressing the problems. I finally had to find out where he lived and go to his house to find out what happened.
Basically, he didn't like the frame job and refused to complete the trim work.
Did you have any embarassing moments building?
Did you make some mistakes? Examples?
 Choice of subs, especially the roofing contractor.
Moving into the house before it was fully complete.
Did you run into any outrageous construction pricing?
 Yes, turn-key bids.
What were the biggest construction bargains you found, and how did you find them?
 All the stone for the exterior and floor of the house. I bought directly from the quarries, bypassing local stone yards.
All the oak flooring in the house is used from other older homes. Lot of work cleaning the flooring, but I had my kids helping with that.
What was your most valuable planning/preparation activity?
 The design work and features list.
Beside yourself, who in your family got involved in this project?
 My wife, kids, brother, his wife, brother-in-law, brother-in-law's friend, dad, friends, friends' kids.
How did you find other owner-builders to network with?
What websites did you find helpful when you built?
Do you know of people wasting a lot of money when they built? Explain.
 Yes. Not knowing what you want before you start the project. Changing materials or layout on-the-fly will kill a budget.
Were there disappointments with your project that could have been avoided? How?
 Not moving in before everything is complete.
How did you mark your lot for the excavator who dug your foundation?
 Batter boards and string lines.
Who built or installed your mailbox?
 Me. And the county still knocks it down with their road grater about every six months.
Did you have a good mentor who helped you accomplish this? Describe.
 Jon Higgins of Texas Help-U-Build in Austin.
What were major causes of delays that occurred in your construction?
 Rain, subs.
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?
 15 - 20 yrs.
How much more activity was there at end of project than in the middle?
How many dead days did you have where nobody did anything?
 10 - 15 week days
What self-work that you did would you hire out next time?
 Laying the hardwood floor, trim work.
Have you owner-built more than once?
 Only once
How much management time did you and your spouse spend during the construction phase?
 300 - 400 hours
What were the benefits of your time on site?
 Addressing questions, issues, inspections.
Suggestions for controlling the job?
 A stun gun or taser. :-)
Did you use a computer?
 Yes - extensively
Did you install a water softener?
What was your planned schedule when you started out?
 9-10 months
If you had a general contractor estimate, how much did you save vs. average estimate?
Apples to apples, what utility savings did you get in your new house vs. old?
Did you incorporate active solar panels (PV) into your home?
Did you have a written schedule for construction?
How much would the trades you did yourself have cost in the marketplace?
 $50,000 - $70,000
How many trades did you do yourself?
Did you read The Owner-Builder Book before you built your house?
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?
How much calendar time from when you first did some written planning to groundbreaking?
 Two to two and a half years
Do you know your credit score?
How many houses did you own prior to this one?
What did you choose for wall insulation?
 Blown-in cellulose
What is the R-value of your walls?
How much construction industry experience did you have before you owner-built?
 1-2 years
How many books about contracting or the trades did you read when you owner-built?
Did you use any personal friends as subs?
How many houses have you built, remodeled or added on to as an owner-builder?
How many bedrooms did you include in your owner-built house?
How many bathrooms did you include in your owner-built house?
How many air conditioning units did you include in your owner-built house?
 Two compressors
If stick-built, did you use 2x4 or 2x6 framing?
How much combined time did you take off work when you built?
Do you have experience using spreadsheets for budgeting or scheduling?
 More than 500 times
Did you take pictures of the job when you owner-built?
 A few pictures
How many covered vehicle spaces did you provide in your owner-built house?
 No garage
Did you use a contracting consultant or an owner-builder program?
Why did you consider owner-building in the first place?
 To get the house and features I wanted.
What was your original construction budget, not including land?
 $100,000 - $200,000
What were the impact fees for you to build?
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
What was the initial interest rate on your mortgage?
What year did you get your certificate of occupancy?
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