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Steve in Anthem, AZ's Interview Answers

Previous Owner-Builder for Steve in Anthem, AZ 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?
 I build spec houses for resale. I try to get the most square footage because that is what is most important to the appraiser when you get ready to sell your house. I build four-bedroom houses that have family rooms and formal living rooms with dining rooms and breakfast rooms. I put in a wet bar and three- and four-car garages. When I do a four-car garage I use a 6/12 pitch roof so that I can have a bonus room in the area above the garage that I can finish later into separate bedrooms or guest quarters. I build wide houses (80 to 90 ft.) that fit on larger lots because people who build custom houses usually get a larger lot than they would get with a tract home. I use a lot of double French doors off every room in the back with a huge patio that runs the full length of the back of the house. I also use a see-through zero clearance fireplace that I can use in two rooms and I like a separate fireplace in the master bedroom. Always a separate shower and Jacuzzi tub in the master bath.
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?
 400 - 500 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?
 Cleanup and delivery of some materials. No actual trades.
How long did your self-work trades take?
 <100 person-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?
A starter is 1,100 to 1,400 sq. ft. and very few extras.
A step-up is larger; 2,000 to 3,500 sq. ft. and has larger garage and fireplace and wet bar and more tile and marble or granite.
Custom is similar to step-up but even more upgrades, especially in kitchen, cabinets, wood work, windows, flooring, and masonry.
Did you get materials separate from labor on any of the trades?
 40% - 50%
What were special features in your house?
 Fireplaces, built-in cabinets, masonry, French doors, huge garages, large attic space for future finishing for more sq. ft. Lots of tile and upgraded flooring.
Things or approaches you invented?
 The area above the garage was a big hit (kind of like an unfinished basement).
Super bargains you got?
 Oak double front doors with leaded side glass. Oak mantles for $200.
Ways to save money?
 Buying roofing tile yourself and hiring a roofer to install save 30%.
What are the qualifications to be a good O-B?
 The sub contractors can make or break you. Get subs that are low priced but have a large enough fleet to show up when you need them. Be very clear on exactly what the sub will supply and do for the money that you have agreed to. You must be at the job site at least once per day and you must schedule about two weeks out.
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?
 25% - 30%
How much time did it take to construct?
 Four months
How many trades were involved on your job?
 15 - 20
Any reason you chose that time of year to start?
 In California or Arizona it is good almost year-round. You just can't work when it rains unless the shell is enclosed.
What do you consider the rules of good work?
 Pass inspection by the city inspector or come back with in 24 hours for corrections.
What were your most important tools?
 Pickup truck and a mobile phone and a calendar.
What anguish or fear of loss did you go through? What was your worst fear during the project?
 Passing city inspections. They want to find something wrong every time to validate their job.
What help did you want but couldn't get?
 I wanted to know who I could trust and what was considered a good price on each trade.
What do you consider the most desirable features in a custom home?
 Windows, kitchen appliances, and custom cabinets and finish trim.
What features in your house save operating costs?
 Radiant barrier is the best invention in years. Then foam insulation.
What features add the most value to your home - rate them.
 Square footage is the most important.
Did you get a construction loan without a contractor?
Do you have a step-up strategy?
What do you do for a living?
 Loan officer.
How much combined time did you spend planning?
 100 - 200 hours
How many times are you planning to do this?
 More than five
Are you organized?
What suggestions do you have for O-B's to get organized?
 Get the Microsoft Project program.
Are you a good shopper?
 Super shopper
What suggestions do you have on finding good prices?
 Craigslist has a list of subs, also Drive around new construction and talk to the subs on site and they will all know a handful of trades they would recommend.
Did you use a designer, architect, stock plan?
 Designed My Own
What are the three best things you did?
 French doors, attic, garage, see-thru fireplace, step-down living room, Jacuzzi tub.
The three worst things that you did?
 Small bedrooms.
What is a good way to get discounts on lumber?
 Shop with your previous bid.
What is a good way to get discounts on cabinets?
 I had them custom built from a cabinetmaker.
Any problems with the inspector? Items that caused you to fail an inspection?
 Fireblocking, foundation straps, needed extra sheer panel.
Where did you get good help and advice?
 Best friend was a general contractor.
What did you find to be the top five biggest expenses in the budget? How much, and how to cut back?
 Roofing, framing, foundation concrete.
How big was your punch list? How much time did it take you to finish it out?
 One page, took one week.
Did you get a bad surprise on property taxes?
 No - it was less than I expected
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?
 The one who stays at home feels like the one on the job site is always gone.
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?
 At a job site that they are working.
What was the average price quoted you to build your design? Highest price?
 Did not talk to contractors.
Did you use some type of written agreement when hiring subcontractors?
 Yes you can buy software with contracts at
Did you hire anybody from out of town?
Did you buy any materials from out of town?
Were there aspects of your home that were improved because of your owner-builder involvement?
 More decisions on materials.
Did you incorporate anything in your design to facilitate a hobby?
 Garage for four cars for dads.
Did you design anything special for a pet?
Were you ever lied to by a contractor? Examples?
 Yes, said they would be there and did not show or call.
What are some of the discouraging comments you have heard from others about acting as your own contractor?
 Yes, the subs try to take advantage of a non-professional. More money upfront.
What is the worst treatment you ever got from a contractor?
 Did not show for two weeks.
Did you have any embarassing moments building?
 Forgot to call for an inspection.
Did you run into any outrageous construction pricing?
Were there little luxuries you were able to implement at little or no cost?
 All had some extra cost.
What were the biggest construction bargains you found, and how did you find them?
 Roofing material, with the Internet you can find more than ever.
What was your most valuable planning/preparation activity?
 The design is where you can make small changes to save money (called value engineering).
Beside yourself, who in your family got involved in this project?
How did you find other owner-builders to network with?
 I didn't.
What websites did you find helpful when you built?
 Google owner-builder and you will find videos on how to build.
Do you know of people wasting a lot of money when they built? Explain.
 Yes, the custom builders waste because everything costs so much.
Were there disappointments with your project that could have been avoided? How?
 Scheduling two weeks in advance.
Were there things that came out right because you were involved that might have been messed up if you had used a general contractor?
How did you mark your lot for the excavator who dug your foundation?
 with stakes and I met him on the site to go over it.
Who built or installed your mailbox?
Are there planning steps that you would suggest that might not be in The Owner-Builder Book?
 The book spends more time planning than actual steps to build.
Did you have a good mentor who helped you accomplish this? Describe.
 Yes; a general contractor helped out 1,000 percent.
Do you know examples of people being injured trying to do their own work? Tell what happened.
What were major causes of delays that occurred in your construction?
 Subs don't show or finish on time and finish their corrections that the inspector calls for fast enough.
What was the age of your previous home?
 1 - 5 yrs.
How many trips to the hardware store or other suppliers did you have to make during your project? What could have cut that down?
 Every day.
How much more activity was there at end of project than in the middle?
 10% more
How many dead days did you have where nobody did anything?
 5 - 10 week days
How many days when only a single sub was on site?
 25 - 30 days
What are some examples of day to day problems you had to solve?
 Scheduling, materials, and inspections.
What design strategies did you use to keep your house up to date?
 Did not buy from a book. They were designed fresh, up-to-date.
Have you owner-built more than once?
 More than four times
How much management time did you and your spouse spend during the construction phase?
 400 - 500 hours
What were the benefits of your time on site?
 Talk with subs; they keep you up too date, they know you care and let you know what they need. Any problems!
Suggestions for controlling the job?
 Be on job.
Daily duties?
 Daytime: on job; evening: on phone.
Did you use a computer?
 Yes - extensively
Would you be willing to help another owner-builder?
 Yes, I would respond to emails.
Did you install a water softener?
What was your planned schedule when you started out?
 <4 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?
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 city
What's the population of the community where you built?
How much calendar time from when you first did some written planning to groundbreaking?
 <Six months
Do you know your credit score?
How many houses did you own prior to this one?
What did you choose for wall insulation?
 Fiberglass batts
What is the R-value of your walls?
 < R-14
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?
 More than eight
How many children do you have?
How many children lived at home when you owner-built?
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?
 One compressor
If stick-built, did you use 2x4 or 2x6 framing?
How much combined time did you take off work when you built?
 More than eight weeks
How many tools do you own?
 Less than $500 replacement value
Do you have experience using spreadsheets for budgeting or scheduling?
 Never used a spreadsheet
Did you take pictures of the job when you owner-built?
 Many pictures
Are you a coupon shopper?
 I use a coupon < 10% of the time I grocery shop.
What are your favorite shows or cable channels?
 The Sopranos, Lost, Law and Order, CSI.
Do you own a truck?
How many covered vehicle spaces did you provide in your owner-built house?
How much personal use do you make of the Internet?
 10-15 hours
What were the most helpful websites for your owner-builder project?
 Google "owner builder"; there are pages and pages. I go to school at and I am working on a bachelor's degree in construction management.
Did you use a contracting consultant or an owner-builder program?
Why did you consider owner-building in the first place?
 I wanted to build a house. some for the money and just because I love building.
What was your original construction budget, not including land?
 $100,000 - $200,000
What were the impact fees for you to build?
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 appraisal was same as precontruction appraisal
What did the plans for your project cost?
 $1,000 - $1,500
What print publications do you read regularly?
 ICC building codes and
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