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Mark - Well, this is a surprise. Does the award go to the wordiest post? If so, I can certainly appreciate why I won!
Glenn M., Golden, CO

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.

Jo-Lynn in Issaquah, WA's Interview Answers

Previous Owner-Builder for Jo-Lynn in Issaquah, WA at - Build Your Own Home

How many books about contracting or the trades did you read when you owner-built?
How many finished levels in your most recent owner-built house?
What type of construction?
House style?
Do you want to say anything more about your house style or construction?
 We built a modified prow-front (all glass) two-story with a full basement.
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?
 Neither working
Who took primary responsibility in your family for the work?
 Both equally
What trades did you do yourself?
 Assemble/hang cabinets, finish carpentry, hardwood floor, tile work, some plumbing, some electrical, landscape.
How much did you save on the trades you did yourself?
 $30,000 - $50,000
How long did your self-work trades take?
 100 - 200 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 a first-ever home.
A step-up home is a bigger, better-appointed home than the one you're presently living in.
A custom is a house that is built to your specs.
Your dream home is built with everything you ever wanted or can imagine wanting.
Did you get materials separate from labor on any of the trades?
 30% - 40%
What were special features in your house?
 Trapezoid windows on entire end to take in the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Huge wraparound deck to facilitate indoor-outdoor living in beautiful western North Carolina.
Super bargains you got?
 Lights, ceiling fans and plumbing fixtures on eBay. Tiles from a surplus tile store. Use of previously purchased hardwood from another flooring job in our Florida house. Out-of-box gas fireplace unit.
Ways to save money?
 Comparison shopping on internet vs. local stores.
What are the qualifications to be a good O-B?
 Knowing your limitations and having the smarts/humility to know when to ask for help. Project management skills are key.
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?
 Five months
How many trades were involved on your job?
 10 - 15
What time of year did you start?
Any reason you chose that time of year to start?
 First possible start after procuring land and getting approval from homeowner's association.
What were your most important tools?
 Computer, telephone and file box with all pertinent job documentation contained within it.
What anguish or fear of loss did you go through? What was your worst fear during the project?
 No fears -- just hopeful optimism!
What do you consider the most desirable features in a custom home?
 The most desirable features are the ones that make your life easiest and address any challenges you or loved ones might have. For us, my husband's accessibility is the biggest issue so we've designed in flat access, 3' wide doorways, roll-in shower, bracing for future transport equipment to be ceiling mounted and, the biggie, an elevator. Of course, the pretty finishes are what interest a future buyer so you can't forget the stone counters, quality wood cabinets and hardwood flooring.
What features in your house save operating costs?
 High efficiency heat pump, on-demand natural gas tankless hot water heater, double paned windows, upgraded insulation.
What features add the most value to your home - rate them.
1- Elevator
2- Hardwood throughout
3- Universal design/accessibility features
Did you get a construction loan without a contractor?
What do you do for a living?
 Retired for the most part, just a little part-time job as a blog editor. Hubby is retired as well.
How much combined time did you spend planning?
 200 - 300 hours
How many times are you planning to do this?
Are you organized?
What suggestions do you have for O-B's to get organized?
 Make sure to have PDFs of your entire plan set (including your site plan) in your possession.
Use email to communicate with everyone you ask for a bid so you have a paper trail.
You can start with a binder with tabs to organize each trade's bids but realize that you'll likely want to move on to a file box that can hold a ton more while still being portable -- it will be your office in a box that keeps you organized and on-track.
I found it most efficient to organize my file box in the order tasks occurred/trades were needed. So administrative stuff first (GC-related, construction loan docs, envelope for receipts, etc.), then excavation and foundation. Then plumbing, framing, electrical and so on.
When I was getting to the final total number for the project, everything was easy to figure out because I kept all incoming bid information in a spreadsheet.
Once you have a good bid for whatever material or material/labor, make sure every other bid you get is apples to apples. Carefully review each subsequent bid and if you find it doesn't break down things in a way that you can really compare it, request a breakdown that will specifically allow you to do so. If a vendor won't comply, I just wouldn't deal with them, period. It probably means that there's profit padding in there that they don't want you to see and that isn't going to be good for you and your family. Walk away and go on to the next, more communicative and flexible vendor.
Are you a good shopper?
 Super shopper
What suggestions do you have on finding good prices?
- Look at local big box stores to decide what you like. Record model numbers, finish information and local price.
- Google or Bing search for the model numbers you want and see how low you can get that model number product for.
- Check for any reviews of websites you're thinking of doing business with.
- Google "reviews [website name]" to find out what others are saying about a particular online store you're considering doing business with
- If you're buying a fair amount of stuff from a single place, ask for contractor or bulk pricing. Most will be willing to do something for you.
- If you aren't ordering a volume high enough to get you a custom discount, be sure to check out rebate sites like BigCrumbs or Ebates to see if you can get a rebate on your purchase. These are free to register with and pay out promptly per their guidelines. Start your shopping session through one of these sites and, when checking out, don't forget to put in a discount code.
- When ordering on-line always check to see if discount coupons/codes are available for that site. Google/Bing "discount promo code [website]" and then run through a bunch of the results to see how big a discount you can snag!
Did you use a designer, architect, stock plan?
What is a good way to get discounts on lumber?
 Send your plan PDFs via email to several local lumberyards and ask for bids on all materials they sell. Once you have the material take-off lists, you can compare to the local big-box store to make sure the prices are better than what you can get just walking in off the street to Home Depot or Lowe's. Compare the resulting take-offs to assure they're the same, and if they're not, request information from the company who DID quote any additional material so you can understand what it's for. Use the better bid to request a price review by bids at higher prices. Once they know they're competing, you'll likely get better prices either across the board or on specific items.
What is a good way to get discounts on cabinets?
 I couldn't find the quality I wanted locally at a price I was willing to pay, so I went online to Solid wood cabinets, dovetail full-extension drawers, lifetime warranty... hard to beat!

Future Owner-Builder for Jo-Lynn in Issaquah, WA at - Build Your Own Home

What will be the R-value of your walls?
What is the average monthly maintenance cost of the house you'll be leaving?
 $400 - $500
How much personal use do you make of the Internet?
 > 25 hours a week
How many tools do you own?
 $4,000 - $5,000
How many covered vehicle spaces will you provide in your owner-built house?
Who will take primary responsibility in your family for the work?
 Wife primary
Do you have experience using spreadsheets for budgeting or scheduling?
 More than 500 times
How many children do you have?
How many hours do you project spending as a couple, counting planning and construction?
 > 1,000 hrs.
Will you get comparison bids from general contractors?
Do you know your credit score?
Will you be working when you owner-build?
 Only wife working
Are you organized?
What type of construction are you planning?
How many books about contracting or the trades will you read when you owner-build?
How many bathrooms are you planning on?
How many houses have you built, remodeled or added on to as an owner-builder?
How many times are you planning to do this?
 One time total
Will you take pictures of the job when you owner-built?
 Will use a digital camera regularly
Are you a good shopper?
 Super shopper
Will you incorporate active solar panels (PV) into your home?
How much do you plan to save altogether vs. appraised value?
 30% - 35%
How much construction industry experience will you have before you owner-build?
 No experience in the industry whatsoever
What is the average General Contractor estimate to build your plans?
 $125 - $150
How many finished levels in your future owner-built house?
Will your project be a starter, step-up, custom, or dream home?
How much calendar time will there be from when you first did some written planning to groundbreaking?
 One to one and a half years
Do you have a step-up strategy?
How much combined time will you spend planning?
 700 - 800 hours
If stick-built, will you use 2x4 or 2x6 framing?
What time of year will you start?
What's the population of the community where you will build?
Do you own a truck?
Planned house style?
Is your occupation "blue collar" or "white collar"?
 Won't be working when I build
How many houses have you owned prior to this one?
Do you plan to use any personal friends as subs?
What is the average monthly utility cost in your current home?
 $350 - $400
How many air conditioning units will you include in your owner-built house?
 One compressor
Will you build in town or in the country?
What will you choose for wall insulation?
 Fiberglass batts
How many children will be living at home when you owner-build?
What percentage of the time do you think O-B's get liened by subs or vendors?
 1% - 5%
How many bedrooms are you planning on?
What are the most helpful websites for your owner-builder project? - cabinetry - hardware - plumbing - plumbing, bath hardware
Why are you considering owner-building?
 We need to have a highly customized home to account for accessibility issues and have found the turnkey options to be prohibitively expensive. I'm a very good project manager and enjoy the challenge of finding the best deals on everything so it seems like a natural fit.
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