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Who has had a house built?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by SuperDuck, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    And what were your experiences? We're just beginning to look at the house-buying process, and there are a lot of great areas to build out here. I'm trying to decide if building is an option worth looking into.

    Did you like/dislike the process? Are there any inherent disadvantages to building a house?

    The main benefit as far as I can tell is that you're buying a new house without the issues that an older house can offer, such as needing roof, HVAC, basement, etc., repairs.

    One of the drawbacks, however, that I have seen so far is that if you decide on a house/lot combination purchase you're stuck in a "used to be a cornfield and now has 80 houses with small yards and no trees" subdivision. For some people that's cool, but not necessarily what we're looking for.

    I have to say, though, it's fun to look through all of the floor plans and imagine what the house would be like.
  2. Framer here chipping in. I have not built my own house, but I used to build custom homes. Advantages to a custom home:
    -you can get whatever you want
    -you have a say in just about everything

    -you find out how much that fancy stuff that you want actually costs

    My plan is to eventually build my own house or buy an old house, completely gut and renovate it. Either way you get way more say in what your house looks like.

  3. TrooperFarva


    Nov 25, 2004
    New City, NY
    One of the downsides, while it may be obvious, is that you don't get a house right away, and you would if you bought a house that's already built. So even though everything is paid for, and you've already started making mortgage payments, you don't actually have anywhere to live yet.
  4. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    I think that a truly custom home is out of our price range. We're probably looking more at the pre-made plans with names like The Churchill and The Westchester or something like that. The builders usually have a selection of 20 or so floor plans.

    There are a few builders that have plans where you don't pay during construction, which seemed like a good way to go as far as I could see. Not all of them offer that, however.
  5. Even with the premade plans you get to pick basically everything. You can even change the size of rooms and whatnot. Make sure you get a list of references and previous customers with any contractor. Call the references as well.

  6. HollowBassman


    Jun 24, 2007
    Hancock, MD
    If you go with a big name builder(which it sounds like you are planning), make sure you research them online.(search for complaints from past customers) We had several big name builders show up around here a couple years ago, and a couple of them do very bad work.
  7. I personally wouldn't go with a big name builder. Go with someone that is actually going to be on the jobsite. Don't get too made when the completion date gets moved back, it happens, just roll with it.

  8. disenchant

    disenchant You can't plagiarize yourself.

    Aug 9, 2006
    Elgin, IL
    I've done both.

    If I could pick which I'm going to do with my next house I'd go with having one built. But there are advantages/disadvantages to both.


    Picking out exactly what you want such as white bathroom tile with blue grout vs. having to live with someone else's choice like white bathroom tile with blue grout and having to replace it with what you want (white bathroom tile with pink grout)

    Choosing the lot, the outside, the colors, the upgrades you want vs. the upgrades you don't need.

    Everything is new, and should have a warranty. Our house settled and they fixed cracks, we found some imperfections and they came and fixed them.

    I liked decorating from scratch vs. scraping off pink and purple paisley wallpaper in the bathroom.

    I liked customizing the layout of the house for our needs. We chose to turn the 4th bedroom into an open loft, and we had a den on the first floor vs. a bedroom.

    The equity goes up fast. We bought ours at $213k and in 3 years there was $80k in equity.


    A lot of the really cool things are extra like bay windows, upgraded carpet, 9 foot ceilings, shower and bath in the master suite, tile, our loft was extra and getting better fixtures instead of polished brass was extra. We still wanted to replace some things.

    The walls are white and scratch easily. And it gets boring if you don't have time to paint right away.

    The house doesn't come with any window treatments, so hello paper shades until you pick out what you want and pay to get it installed.

    Like you said, some developments are built on farmer's fields, so the neighborhood is full of baby trees. Although my friend built his and he has a yard full of full-grown trees. So it depends on the development.

    You have to buy some appliances, like we had to get our own washer-dryer and refrigerator. It came with a stove.

    Overall I enjoyed the building experience. The condo I have now was already built and I bought it and hate the countertops, the carpet, the floors, the appliances and the antique brass fixtures. I plan on replacing all that once I get the money. I also had to paint everything and repair all the nail holes and ugh--tear down the wallpaper. But I got a good deal on it and I don't mind being handy. Mostly I bought it for the location and the great views--and anything inside can be changed.

    I wrote a book--but that's what you get for askin'! :D
  9. lbpark

    lbpark Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2005
    Mobile, Al.
    I've helped my folks build a very custom house and I'm in the process of renovating my newly purchased home. I don't know what the process is with a planned home, but here's my experience.

    My folks designed and built the place from scratch, no pre-made plans. We hired a contractor who did everything for a flat fee (20k, which is cheap imo) and outsourced some misc. labor other than who the contractor used. The house is about 6500 sq ft., two story, 12ft/10ft ceilings, and lots of custom angles, fixtures, etc. It's a very large, very unusual house and is in the best part of town (imo). The total cost after everything, including the lot, was around 320-350k.

    We had problems with workers not showing up, showing up late, or not doing their job right. The house was supposed to be built in 6 months and it ended up taking almost 2 years...that's how bad the workers were about not showing up! We were constantly on someone's case about noticable corners that were cut. It's difficult to manage 10 different crews while maintaining your own life, but it can be done. Although everything was new, the house did settle some and a few repairs were needed, but those were expected.

    The key to getting a good deal is to be involved as much as possible. There are plenty of diy projects when it comes to building a house. We saved probably 50k by doing the floors and painting ourselves. Painting a house is not difficult and I guarantee you'll do a better job than the workers will. We also saved a ton of money by buying most of the fixtures and appliances on sale. We bought our snap-lock flooring from a salvage place and incorporated many antiques into the house. We also did the insulation for about 85% of the house. Buying the expensive R-19 and installing it ourselves in a few days cost a good bit less than having the cheap blown in stuff installed by someone else, and because of that, their electricity bill is under $100 a month.

    Hope all this info helped! Like I said, it was a long and difficult process, but it was well worth it in the end. Also, if you decide to do some of the work yourself, don't expect anyone to help you. I've/we've had about 20 people offer to help, and when the time comes, some terrible issue always came up :atoz: :p.
  10. HollowBassman


    Jun 24, 2007
    Hancock, MD
    This is the problem with some big name builders. Everything is outsourced and nobody has any personal connection to the job. When we build a house, my dad and I are there from the time we drive the stakes in the ground, till the house is finished. Local custom builders will have a personal connection to the house and most will strive to make it the best they can. They literally can't afford to have a bad reputation.
  11. TrooperFarva


    Nov 25, 2004
    New City, NY
    Hire the only people that really know how to build a house. The Amish.


    They don't need no stinkin' electricity.
  12. jobu3

    jobu3 Artist formerly known as Big Joe

    Feb 17, 2002
    Mountain Top, PA
    It now costs a lot more to build than it did several years ago. All materials have gone through the roof price-wise.

    20 years ago you paid little to nothing for land and not too much for everything that went into your house and once you had your final closing and the house is now yours you had instant equity because it was worth so much more than it cost to build.

    Not the case now. :mad:

    The housing market being in the crapper doesn't help but the cost of driving any type of machinery or trucks for delivery is so ridiculously high that it just comes down to the homeowner paying dearly for it.

    My advice/Things to consider:

    Plan ahead and build something you'll be happy with for a looooong time so you only do it once and aren't looking to refi or take out a home equity line to fix/change all the stuff you wish you did the first time.

    Know what you want in advance (flooring, fixtures, hardware, lighting, placement of elec/phone/cable/etc.) to building and get prices on EVERYTHING. See what your contractor's allowances will cover and what they won't before you sign your life away. Get an estimate of the total cost including labor so you have an idea of whether or not what you want is doable for your budget.

    Have the entire project from start to finish outlined in your contract with defined allowances for everything in writing.

    Get all change orders in writing with cost for materials and labor.

    Make sure all these changes are affordable.

    If it's not in the contract, it costs extra!

    The money you'll be paying during the construction phase of your mortgage is interest only so you'll want to get it completed ASAP because it's just throwing money away at nothing otherwise.

    Don't forget there will be significant closing costs and taxes to add on at the end.

    Plan on taking a lot of time off of work to babysit subs and contractors and to coordinate things yourself because your contractor can't or won't.

    Your contractor will always hire his friends/family. They might not do the best or most cost efficient work. Contractors usually tack a fee on for making calls and setting up the subs so it's sometimes cheaper to coordinate things yourself and do some work yourself on the house if you are able. Painting rooms you want painted might save a bundle of money from having hired help do it. Shopping around for subs you know do good work at better prices is well worth it but it takes time which can also cost you money.

    Bottom line:
    Plan on it costing more, taking longer, and not being exactly what you want and you won't be disappointed. :atoz:
  13. peterbright


    Jan 23, 2007
    On The Bayou
    Although it depends where you live & being able to pick all the colors etc. is nice, there are some real steals out there in houses already constructed. Quite a few to choose from as well. See if you can find something very close to what you want. Personally I can live with the blue grout if the price is right. Others have more of a problem with it.
  14. Uhhhh... can you come build me a 6500Sq' home for $350K? Including land? Where did you guys build this place.... 1985? :D

    I live in a smallish town kinda area, where supplies and labor is abundant, and if you were lucky, the stars alligned and so forth, you MIGHT build a 2500sq' home for $350k, not including land.

    Sorry for the derail....
  15. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    My advice

    Know pretty much what you want. Don't change things mid-stream or it causes delays down the whole line.

    Be involved. Stay on top of everything. Stop by often to see how things are going.
    BUT don't be a micro managing pest - just be involved and aware of the whole process.
    Sometimes there are choices and options - it's good to get these nailed down quickly.

    Hire locally. Local guys are very serious about their reps. Get three or four bids once you have a plan. Ask around about which builders have a good rep.
    Local ppl have to be good if they want to stay busy in their community. Plus it's easier to locate and talk to them if they are close by.

    I work for a mason. Tile is nice but it is high maintenance to keep clean. Plan on sealing grout in the shower every year.
    It's also cold unless you have floor heating (electric mats, hot water floor tubes = $$$$ and mats may fail!)
  16. tbrannon


    Jun 11, 2006
    I've built a new home (though it was overseas-NZ). Building is cool for all the reasons that the people above me have outlined.

    Don't forget that unless you get a prepped lot in a subdivision you'll be paying for excavation and trenching costs for sewage, water, electricity and phone. Also keep in mind that if you decide to sell the house in a few years, the $ invested in the utilities is not usually recovered. If the equity in the house covers it great, but if the market hasn't appreciated considerably, you might not recoop the excavation and utility costs.
  17. IconBasser

    IconBasser Scuba Viking Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2007
    Alta Loma, California
    my advice: ask the Qintar
  18. think about Modular homes

    you can design exactly what you want and every thing is prebuilt and wired in sections and usually go up(as in setup/put together) within a week.
  19. Also, look into building a house out of ICF, or insulated concrete forms. It is styrofrom blocks that are filled with concrete and used to build. I recommend building the entire house out of it, right up to the eves. It is more expensive to build with, but it is THE most energy efficient way to build ever invented. A guy that I used to work for calculated the costs of it verses the savings and after aprox 9 years you will get your money back and after that you are ahead. So if you expect to spend a long time in the house consider it. It is also a lot faster. You can go from footings to swinging trusses in a week and a half on a bungalow. http://www.integraspec.com/

  20. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    Here is a view from a sub, and a person who has built a house or three....

    Take care of your contractors. Spent the extra time and $$ each week to have some donuts, coffee, chips, water, etc on the jobsite. If you're building during the summer, do a BBQ a couple times. You seriously need to take care of these guys.

    DO NOT ACT LIKE A KNOW-IT-ALL......do not hover over a sub's shoulder with a list of questions and checklists you printed of DIYNetwork or HGTV. You have hired this sub to do a job for you, now leave him alone while he is working. Don't go questioning his every move...."are you going to fix this?", "is that supposed to look that way?", "any chance you can get done early?".

    As mentioned....everything should be clearly laid out in writing!!!! Such as.....the entire scope of work, the time frame allowed to complete the work, working hours on the job site, your legal rights, their legal rights, punch list responsibilities, if the sub is allowed to sub out your job to someone else, overages, change orders, brands and type of materials, who will supply the materials and how will they get to the jobsite, jobsite conditions while the sub is on site. Any sub who is not willing to work out a detailed contract with you is not worth hiring. Turn and walk away. The days of "handshake deals" are over, I'm sorry to say. Being so detailed may be a new concept to many subs, so stand your ground. Let him know he benefits from a clearly defined contract as well.

    Your jobsite is not a playground for your kids and family. Contractor materials and tools are not there to be played with. Sure, you may have bought all that lumber, but that doesn't mean your kids can build a fort with it on Sunday while the framers are gone.

    Your project will go over budget, deadlines will be missed, something will not fit right or be the right style after all. These are the realities of building your own home. If you can not handle that kind of stress, go pick out a house someone else built.

    The cheapest bid is not always the best bid.

    As for me....I'm done building houses. I'd rather buy one someone else put together. I know what to look for, and don't mind doing some remodeling to get exactly what I want if the house is only missing a couple things I want.

    If you want any more advice, or copies of sub contracts you can use, let me know.


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