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John in Erie, CO's Interview Answers

Previous Owner-Builder for John in Erie, CO at OwnerBuilderBook.com - Build Your Own Home

How many finished levels in your most recent owner-built house?
 One
 
What type of construction?
 ICF
 
House style?
 Other
 
How much did you save altogether vs. appraised or street value?
 >50%
 
How many hours did you spend as a couple, counting planning and construction?
 > 1,000 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?
 ICF foundation main level, radiant heat, paint/stain, low-voltage wiring, some excavation and exterior grading work. House staking. All wood flooring, tile work, tile/tub surrounds. Faux finishes.
 
How much did you save on the trades you did yourself?
 $110,000 - $130,000
 
How long did your self-work trades take?
 >1,000 hours
 
How many bids did you get for each subcontracted trade, on average?
 Three
 
Did you get bids from generals?
 No
 
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?
 Choosing finish, design, materials based on exactly what you want, not based on what is cheap at the local outlet or sells well.
 
Did you get materials separate from labor on any of the trades?
 20% - 30%
 
What were special features in your house?
 Home automation, whole house telemetry. Super energy efficient, fireproof construction. 360-degree views. Underground 210-sq. ft. wine cellar. Radiant heat, no carpet (all tile or hickory hardwood).
 
Did you have contract problems?
 One or two
 
Did you get liened by anybody?
 No liens
 
What percentage of O-B's do you think get liened?
 1% - 5%
 
How much time did it take to construct?
 More than ten months
 
How many trades were involved on your job?
 20 - 25
 
What time of year did you start?
 April
 
Any reason you chose that time of year to start?
 Good scheduling with day job.
 
What do you consider the rules of good work?
 Neat finish, matches specifications plans, and contracts, done using best known methods.
 
What were your most important tools?
 
Tape measure, level, cell phone.
Hydraulic bender/cutter was handy for ICF rebar.
 
What do you consider the most desirable features in a custom home?
 Location, efficiency, maintenance inside/outside (low maint). Fireplaces, tubs, showers. Floor plan with details to match the owner.
 
What features in your house save operating costs?
 Extreme energy efficiency, on demand hot water, pre-plumb for solar. Radiant heat, high efficiency boiler, passive solar design with south exposure shading. ICF exterior walls, spray foam sealed attic. Detailing on windows/doors.
 
What features add the most value to your home - rate them.
 
Location
Efficiency/quietness (ICF)
Finishes (granite, wood, tile)
Design/layout
Radiant heat
 
What owner-builder laws exist where you live?
 Can't sell an O-B house for a year.
 
Did you get a construction loan without a contractor?
 Yes
 
Do you have a step-up strategy?
 No
 
What do you do for a living?
 Engineer.
 
How much combined time did you spend planning?
 400 - 500 hours
 
How many times are you planning to do this?
 One time total
 
Are you organized?
 Pretty organized
 
Are you a good shopper?
 Good shopper
 
Were there any schedule items that took you a lot longer or shorter than you thought they would?
 Excavation was much longer, most everything else was close.
Rain slowed us significantly, one+ month lost due to rain.
 
Did you use a designer, architect, stock plan?
 Designed My Own
 
What are the three best things you did?
 ICF walls and radiant heat.
Good design.
 
The three worst things that you did?
 RotoZipping extra plastic from window bucks, nearly lost my finger.
Never measure your own trusses, I got lucky that mine worked.
 
What is a good way to get discounts on lumber?
 Shop around to keep your main lumber guy honest. Quit wasting your time at Home Depot/Lowe's.
 
What is a good way to get discounts on cabinets?
 Can't help you there, they are all expensive!
 
Any problems with the inspector? Items that caused you to fail an inspection?
 Electrical inspector was from the state; he was picky. Preparing for final move-in, the electrical inspector failed a final electrical inspection for some minor items. When he came back for re-inspection, the wireless broadband guy had installed the Internet connection, and the electrical inspector wanted the wireless guy's ground rod tied to the house ground rod, on the other side of the house. We had to do a lot of trenching.
The county/building inspector was great!
 
Where did you get good help and advice?
 Cheated! Hired a consultant, had experienced family members.
 
What did you find to be the top five biggest expenses in the budget? How much, and how to cut back?
 ICF walls, use poured foundation?
Structural steel - use a simpler floor plan with few beams.
Stucco - build smaller house or mix exterior coverings with another material that is cheaper.
Roofing - we used a commercial EPDM single-ply continuous membrane, could have saved building a different architectural style with a traditional asphalt/shingle roof.
 
Did you find a wide range in the prices you were bid for different things? What are some examples?
 Stucco varied from $32K to $55K for the house.
Electrical, varied from $11K to $34K
ICF walls, ~$56K (DIY) vs. $120K
 
How big was your punch list? How much time did it take you to finish it out?
 Not too big, but we chose to move in and finish (not a good idea, but it let us put our old house on the market sooner).
 
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?
 It's a very stressful experience, but having a plan and communicating will solve almost everything.
 
Did you have any problems getting your building permit?
 No problems as an owner-builder
 
How did you find good subcontractors? Any suggestions?
 Cheated some here. Consultant, and my own footwork.
 
What was the average price quoted you to build your design? Highest price?
 Actual cost plus $100k, minimum.
 
Did you use some type of written agreement when hiring subcontractors?
 Everything in writing. My own contract usually, sometimes theirs.
 
Did you hire anybody from out of town?
 One trade from out of town
 
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?
 Passive solar design. Storage.
 
Were there aspects of your home that were improved because of your owner-builder involvement?
 Attention to detail on finish, flooring, etc. Energy efficiency.
 
Did you incorporate anything in your design to facilitate a hobby?
 Wine cellar, bike maintenance room. "Mad Science tinkering lab". Oversized garage.
 
Did you design anything special for a pet?
 Special room for all pet stuff, with elevated tub. Extra heat areas for dog beds.
 
Were you ever lied to by a contractor? Examples?
 "Be there next Monday..." Lie.
 
What is the worst treatment you ever got from a contractor?
 Stucco guy kept putting off the final bit of work,
 
Did you make some mistakes? Examples?
 Hindsight is always 20:20. Should have fired framers and gotten new ones to speed schedule. Should have made garage even larger.
 
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