Any good tips to know before building a house

  1. Hey guys,

    In our search to find a decent house, we have discovered that the housing market moves much faster than we do. We we asked to look at a house that was just going on the market, hadn't been listed yet... Already has an offer on the table and it isn't even LISTED yet!

    So in our wealth of frustration we decided that we are going to build a house.

    Any one have words of caution before starting this endevor?

    I looked at the estimated cost of building just the house at 45-150$ per sq foot. The price ends up somewhere between 164K and 600K, that kinda variation scares me a bit.

  2. 22 Comments

  3. by   WickedRedRN
    Are you working with builder in a planned community? If so, my only bit of advice would be to have a realtor working for YOU! Many of the sales reps in these communities will tell you that you do not NEED a realtor, which is true, you don't have to have one, but the realtor is there to look out for your best interest. Good realtors do not care if you buy an exsisting home or build, but only that YOU get what YOU want, for the best price. Most states, the buyer pays realtor no commision, it is paid by seller. In the case of building in a planned community, the builder would be the one to pay your realtor's commision, so nothing out of pocket for you.

    My hubby works 2 jobs, 2nd is as a real estate agent. I cannot tell you how many people have called him in a panic after signing papers with a builder, because they misunderstood things, or did not get what they really wanted. Taking an agent with you will make the process much smoother.

    Hope that helps some!
  4. by   Rustyhammer
    Is that your baby so big already??
    Ok, figure out what you are going to do and what you can (have to) sub out.
    Mostly that is plumbing/electrical (to sub out).
    You can buy or download some building plans at many places. Online building plans are a plenty and they will even show the cost. Pouring slabs and running plumbing are not that hard. You can do that. Framing is pretty easy too. Be prepared to do a few BBQ's and buy plenty of beer for your helpful friends. If you finance the whole venture you will need to get periodic inspections before the bank will dole out more money. I have some experience in this area. PM me if you want (or ask here).
  5. by   Mithrah
    My parents built a house and it was not a good experience for them. They rarely agreed on things like what type of cabinets to install, the color of the carpet, whether or not to put in a fireplace, etc. Now that they are moved in they complain that they didn't get what they wanted because they had to compromise (a lose-lose situation). Hopefully, this won't be the situation for you.

    Keep in mind of any upgrades you may want. They drastically drive up the cost.

    Visit your house through the various stages of building and take pictures.
  6. by   Havin' A Party!
    Do what you've gotta to do now to protect yourself from a wet basement. It'll cost a lot more to take care of this later.

    Good luck!
  7. by   Sheri257
    Been through this myself. I'd carefully check out the contractor. Make sure they're licensed with the state and city, etc. Call you local building permit office, see what they say about him. You'd be amazed at how many contractors are illegally operating without license and have lost their license for various scams, etc.

    I don't think a realtor helps, actually. I've seen realtors rip just as many people off as contractors do. And, if the contractor has to pay a realtor, they'll often add that fee to the purchase price. When I mentioned bypassing the realtor, contractors frequently knocked at least $5,000, often $10,000 or more off the estimate. Something to consider.

    I would definitely avoid financing this yourself. A lot of contractors want you to take out a construction loan so they can save the financing costs. However, you have little control, even though it's your credit on the line, since the bank writes the checks and oversees the contruction. And the bank doesn't always do a good job of monitoring costs, etc.

    I refused to talk to any contractors who weren't financing the construction themselves. The only way to make sure they do a good job is to make sure they're assuming the initial financial risk, not you.

    Nevertheless, I went with an pre-existing home. After much hassle, I finally found a contractor I thought I would trust. Then I discovered he wanted to build on a lot with a pre-existing lien that he hadn't been able to sell, and was trying to dump on me. It would have made the construction a nightmare.

    After all of that, I went with a pre-existing home. I figured I was better off dealing with a structure that was already built. At least I knew exactly what I was buying, and I've been very happy with it.

    Last edit by Sheri257 on Apr 3, '04
  8. by   colleen10
    Like Rusty said, pouring a foundation, framing, etc. are all very basic. Where the cost can really get out of control is things like tile, carpeting, fixtures, cabinets, etc.
    Upgrades can really increase the total cost.

    I like the idea of getting yourself a "buyer's agent". This is very popular and some real estate agencies only provide "buyers" services, but really, if you call any real estate agency one of the agents can assist you in this role.

    Another thing, once you make construction decisions (ie. putting a window there and putting the kitchen cabinets here) don't change them. It can become very costly to make those kinds of changes once construction has allready begun.
  9. by   Rustyhammer
    Are you planning on hiring a contractor or building it yourself?
    If you hire a contractor your costs will be much higher.
    You can also take a short course and get your contractors license and be able to sub out most everything and take the savings to the bank.
    If you are planning on doing most of the actual work yourself you will save a bundle but it will take you longer to complete the project. You can even do the electrical and plumbing and just pay a small fee to have an electrician sign off on the job.
    You don't really mention your experience in home building. It's not as scary as it sounds.
  10. by   canoehead
    My parents acted as their own contractors building their house. They saved money, but faced a lot of frustrations dealing with suppliers. Since the suppliers knew this was their only house they delayed shipping orders, gave the best service to the established contracters. I remember having a lot of frustration with getting help to do things and then the supplies and equipment wouldn't be ready when the people were.
  11. by   wtxcchp
    I would suggest talking to people in neighborhoods where you know this contractor has built before. Find out what problems they have had, if they have had problems, I guarantee you - they will tell you.
    Wish we would have done this! Would have gone with a different contractor.

    Many of the houses built today are what I call "apartment" quality. I had my house built 5 years ago, and it has served it's purpose. However, it is not the quality of house that I thought we were having built. So we have just sold our home and have found an existing older home with lots more square footage.

    What's funny is, we have more costly repairs on our 5 yr old home than what is needed for our new 30 yr old home.
  12. by   moonshadeau
    Thanks everyone. My husband wouldn't care it the property was a 60 acre lot as long as it has the capability of building a pond or has one that already exsists.

    As for my experience in home building... Yeah, that is a big, fat, zero. I expect that we will be doing a good chunk of the work independently. My husband is the most perfectionistic man that I know. It WILL be built right the first time. That much I know. What scares me is how much the RIGHT way will cost.

    And yes, that is my little one in my avatar. 9 months old at the end of the week. Not a tooth in sight.
  13. by   Pab_Meister
    I just thought I'd jump in here...

    Under no circumstances should you consult with a realtor. They are NOT there to cover your butt! They know zippo about building codes, etc. Do yourself a favor and hire your own building inspector. I recommend you take a look at the web site for The Independant Home Inspectors of North America (IHINA). Their web site is

    For anyone in need of a home inspector on a house purchase, do yourself a favor - the last guy you want inspecting your home is the inspector you r.e. agent refers.

    If you were buying a used car and the seller were to say, "Here's the name of my mechanic, have him look the car over for you.", would you? Use the same logic when buying a home - the realtor only gets paid if the sale goes through.

    As for building your own home - Congrats!!

    If you're really brave, you can be your own contractor. You can get a book at Home Depot (and probably lot's of book stores) that will tell you how to go about it. I've never done it myself, though.

    Good luck!!

    I hope this helps....
    Last edit by Alexander on Apr 2, '04
  14. by   WickedRedRN
    Perhaps I should apologize for the suggetion of a Realtor, apparently my husband is regarded as nothing more than a used car salesman out for money. Trust me, we make little money from his commissions. Maybe this is because he is ethical in his business dealings.

    Lumping an entire group of people together as "bad" is hurtful, as this comment has been. Thank you for opening my eyes as to how he is viewed.