Part 1: Should We Build Or Buy A House?
Once we had purchased our land, we needed to decide if we should self-contract or hire a builder to oversee the construction of our home.
We spoke to several trusted friends and family members who had built their homes both ways, and came to the conclusion that whether we chose to self-contract or hire a builder, there were pros and cons to both.
You will receive plenty of advice (solicited or otherwise!), but there is no right or wrong answer; it ultimately boils down to what makes the most sense for your own family.
Pros and cons to self-contracting and hiring a builder.
- Most economical. Self-contracting can save you 15% on construction costs if all goes well. Sometimes more!
- You’re in full control. If you have unique tastes (such as using reclaimed or vintage materials), it can be tricky to convey your vision to a general contractor.
- You get the satisfaction of doing it yourself. Building your own home is the ultimate DIY!
- It’s easy to overestimate cost savings. There’s no shortage of resources that will tell you the joy and ease of self-contracting and how much money you will save, but according to Building Advisor:
Most exaggerate the savings and minimize the time commitment required, the difficulties, and the risks. There are owner-builder success stories and owner-builder nightmares. Before going too far down this path, take a hard look at what is required to succeed at this and a clear-eyed view of the potential savings. Then decide if it’s worth it.
Estimated costs are often vastly different than real costs. When you take into consideration cost overrun, time commitment, and unexpected expenses, your actual savings may not be as much as you think – so be careful!
- It takes a lot of time. From planning, to scheduling, to monitoring, to researching, to recruiting, to hiring and overseeing, everything takes a lot of time and concentration. This is multiplied when it’s a first time project! If you have the time and energy to take on another full-time job (25-40 hours a week), it works, but if you’re already wishing for more hours in a day, hiring a contractor may save your sanity.
- We’re not contractors. Professional contractors have professional contacts for every trade. They know who does the best work for the best price. They understand all that’s involved with obtaining permits efficiently, and building to code. They have an in-depth knowledge of the building process and won’t be rattled if one of the sub-subcontractors is a no-show. They know how to work through roadblocks and keep the project moving.
- You have to bear the brunt of the stress. Your custom windows don’t fit? The electrician does a sub-par job? Your flooring guy laid the right tiles in the wrong bathroom? The carpenter slices off his thumb? You have to deal with that.
- You’re just a small fish. Contractors can make you wait, since they need to prioritize their large contracts over your one-time job.
In summary, if you have time self contracting seemed to us to be the way to go. Almost all of the above “cons” can be mostly or completely erased by time – for example, being able to spend more time learning the ropes, spending more time gathering quotes and talking to customers of the contractors who make your shortlist so you make solid decisions, etc.
Hiring A General Contractor
Caveat: these Pros only apply if you have access to a reputable builder. If you sign a contract with the wrong guy, you could wind up in a much more expensive project with all the negatives of self-contracting and then some!
- They bear the bulk of the stress. A professional builder will contract out, manage, coordinate and supervise the entire project from beginning to completion.
- They save time. A project this size benefits by having someone who is experienced with obtaining permits, construction schedules, and getting things inspected.
- They know who does the best work for the best price. They will evaluate multiple bids from subcontractors and can get discounted contractor rates with suppliers.
- You can usually get a better construction loan from the bank if you are working with a licensed general contractor.
- A licensed builder carries all the insurance coverage you need for the build. This means that they are responsible for the risks and liabilities associated with the job.
- A professional contractor can provide a home warranty. Commercial home warranty companies typically only provide coverage to licensed builders.
- A home built by an experienced contractor should require less maintenance and fewer repairs.
- A professionally built home can have better resale value.
- A professionally build home costs more.
That is literally the only negative Brad and I could think of regarding the hiring of a builder for our home, and to us, that extra cost was worth it! Honestly, it was the only option for us, too. 🙂
Neither of us have any experience with building a home, nor do we have the time. Brad’s job is experiencing exponential growth right now, and as Chief Operations Officer, he’s doing the best he can to keep his head above water! Homeschooling our kids and coordinating our provincial homeschooling conference take up much of our remaining time.
We dreamed of self contracting, but after all options were considered, we simply did not have the time or energy to take on a project of this magnitude by ourselves.
Plus, we know and trust our builder – the Project Manager was actually a classmate of Brad’s! They are part of our church community and have done many projects for friends and family, all while maintaining an excellent reputation for being honest, timely, and flexible.
So far the time commitment required from our end has been very minimal, and all is going exactly as we had hoped it would – allowing us to focus on the main things that demand our attention.
Do we self-contract or hire a builder?
The answer depends on an individual’s preference, and for us, we decided to hire a builder.
Have you had a home built? Which route did you choose?
Feel free to share your story and top tips below 🙂
Note: Please do keep in mind that every situation varies! This is a no judgment zone, so please do share what worked for you without prescribing it as the “right” or “only” way. 🙂
Next in The Story of Our Homestead: Designing Our Home