How hard/easy is to build your own house in the US?
It all depends on your background and what you mean by building your own house. Are you very handy around the house or prefer calling someone to fix that leaking faucet?
Assuming you own the land and have ample funds for construction, you have primarily three choices:
- Hire a whole house builder - not a general contractor - but someone who has built complete houses. They will get you the right crew, all the way from the initial architects to the final interior designers and landscaping contractors. The crew from the TV series ‘HomeTime' and ‘This Old House' have the right mix of skills.
This would be the most expensive option. However, if your builder is good, all you will need to do is essentially make decisions on the hundreds of choices presented to you before a certain deadline to avoid delays and make the payments at the agreed times. Some delays are inevitable, so add reasonable buffer time to the communicated deadlines.
You may be able to reduce some labor costs by providing the labor yourself - if you are up to it and the builder allows it. Many people start off enthusiastically, realize its beyond their current capabilities and back out. That's okay as long as you accept the fact and make appropriate arrangements.
- Act as a general contractor and co-ordinate the labor+materials at the scheduled times - its primarily project management. However, you will need a fairly deep understanding of the construction industry to be efficient and save yourself money in the process.
You will learn to be quite patient with the process and be able to identify the various skill levels in the project. If you are not good with the planning and getting the work done from the various people involved, then you risk exceeding the cost of hiring a whole house builder in option #1.
- DIY. I'm an avid DIYer and yet to attempt a project of this scale. However, I have done a whole bunch of things in and around the house so can speak from personal experience. Some things to keep in mind ...
- It can turn out to be anywhere between the most personally rewarding experience or an outright nightmare. Attempt smaller projects around the house before attempting the whole house.
- Ensure your family supports you with this decision.
- Depending on your skill level, it may be most cost effective way to build.
- Again depending on your skill level, it may end up taking the longest time.
- You will need a lot of perseverance. Being part of a team and DIY alone are two entirely different things.
- Hire help to do the heavy lifting - and there will be a lot of heavy lifting - unless you are building one of the tiny houses.
- Always follow the safety instructions on the tools, especially the power ones. This is no time for heroics or having a false sense of invincibility.
- Most of the tools rented at your neighborhood home improvement store are typically ones that DIY'ers can handle. For the remaining equipment, its best to hire licensed operators.
- Here's a small rule I follow for tool rentals. If I think I need it for one hour, I rent it for four hours. If I expect four hours, I rent it for a a day. And if I need it for more than a day, I just buy it new. I can sell it later on.
- You will end up making a lot of mistakes. You'll be fine as long as you are willing to learn, rectify and remember them.
- You don't know most of the tricks of the trade so will be taking the ‘scenic route' more often.
- You will remember the smallest triumphs and mistakes you made along the way for a very long time.
- You will end up creating a lot of memories to narrate to your family and friends. They in turn may take pleasure in narrating it to their friends!
- You will also learn a lot about yourself - enjoy the journey!
Hard or easy is personal and depends on your skill level. With practice anything can become easy. Spend ten years carving decorative table legs and you may be able to churn ten in one day for legs that took you ten days apiece when you first started out.
This is one industry where the wisdom of experience often beats the strength and agility of youth.
If you are not an established builder who has an existing relationship with a bank that has given you construction loans in the past, it will be very difficult to get financing for the construction.
I had a real estate client who had a PhD in engineering and decided to contract out his own house. I told him that it would take six months out of his life. He called me a year later and said, "You lied! It didn't take six months out of my life. It took a year out of my life."
He went through several construction managers, and numerous sub-contractors quit. The house was never 100% completed, but they managed to live in it for a number of years. It looked like a house that had not been professionally designed and built, and it did not have the same value as other houses in the same neighborhood. He lost much more in the reduced value of the house than he saved by not paying a builder.
It is not easy to build your own house, and it will not necessarily save you money in the long run.
Using a flowchart as your knowledge base makes it very doable. The biggest challenge is getting your bank construction financing in place, after that it's all fairly systematic. Every state and municipality have differing rules and requirements, but an individual still has the right to build their own home. It's best to visit your local government building permit facility and have a sit-down discussion with one of the officials about their requirements and procedures before forecasting any project.
Typically the property will suffice as sufficient equity for your lender if you own it downright, this of course will very depending upon the final value.
The main thing is...... you can do it!
It's very difficult. If you have an existing property on the land, that will have to come down. Financing will be tough. Bad contractors will find you. Connecting to city services costs money (sewer, water, electricity). Dumping on your site. Theft of materials. Neighbor opposition. I was at a planning meeting a few months ago in my city. A neighbor was bitching about the inevitable parking problem due to this new proposed construction. I told him he could park in my driveway for the few weeks that it would be a problem. He looked at me with a blank stare and told me that he sold his car last year. He was just being an idiot neighbor. They'll find you too. Hope this helps.
Regarding municipal restrictions, that will depend on the municipality. Generally municipalities are open to the landowner acting as their own general contractor or builder and doing tasks that normally require a licensed tradesman. For instance, I pulled the permits for the electrical wiring, plumbing, and gas lines on my house and installed them all myself. However, I couldn't hire myself out to do those same jobs without a license.
As far as actually building a house from start to finish? It will be hard anywhere.