“Visit any bookstore and you’ll discover dozens of “do-it-yourself” house books. These books passionately try to convince you that building a new house yourself will be the most-rewarding, least-expensive method of getting a new home. Pound the nails yourself and you could save that fat 15% profit the builder is charging.
Add to this the large number of do-it-yourself home centers that have sprung up across the country and the home-building shows on TV-the mantra of do-it-yourself building is mind-numbing. However, there are many aspects of doing it yourself that get scant attention from doing it yourself books. Slick salespeople and TV hosts don’t always reveal potential problems for the do-it-yourselfer.
For example, you can’t build most houses in Kansas City (or the rest of the country) without a building permit, obtained from a local building department. Many building departments will only issue permits to licensed contractors. Do-it-yourselfers don’t count.
Lenders are often unwilling to lend money to an unlicensed contractor.
One aspiring do-it-yourselfer wrote to syndicated columnist Robert Burs about this problem. “I can’t find a bank which will make a construction loan to a do-it-yourself contractor such as myself,” the home buyer said, adding that the bank gave as its reason that virtually their only foreclosures on construction loans have involved do-it-yourselfers. And, can you blame the lenders? Would you lend $100,000 or $200,000 to someone who’s never built a home before? And with new banking regulations now in place, it’s even tougher today than it used to be to find a lender that will lend to a do-it-yourself home builder.
Along with the technical and financial difficulties of building your own home, there is another big roadblock: TIME. Do you know how much time it takes to build a Kansas City home? To get bids from sub-contractors? To schedule workers and deliveries of materials?
Building a home is a full time job and the average Kansas City house can take anywhere from three to six months to construct. If you have another full-time job and expect to work on the home on the weekends, your home building project could last a year or more.
Among the biggest risks of doing it yourself is Murphy’s Law of Home Building:
Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. You are on the hook if a problem with the home’s construction occurs. By contrast, if you hire a professional builder to construct your house and an unforeseen problem occurs, it is the builder’s responsibility to solve the problem. With few exceptions (soil problems, to name one), the cost will be absorbed by the builder (if they are working on a fixed-price basis). And builders get contractor discounts which the do-it-yourselfer may not be able to qualify for.
Finally, the best sub-contractors like to work for professional builders, not do-it-yourselfers. The prospect for repeat work motivates the subs to do the best job possible. When you’re building a home by yourself, the electrician, plumber and roofer all know they will probably never see you again.
As book authors we may be blasphemers to say this, but we believe no book can teach you how to be an expert plumber or electrician. It takes years of experience to be a good builder-you can’t just substitute a 250 page book or a 2-hour video tape for this level of expertise.
While building a home may not look that complicated, you also have to navigate a minefield of regulation, building code requirements and other laws. The bottom line: leave building a home to the professionals.”
Ask T. J. Lamb, T.J. Lamb Real Estate, about
professional home builders in Kansas City.
This Home Buying Tip was excerpted from:
Your New House: The Alert Consumer’s Guide to Buying and Building a Quality Home, by Alan and Denise Fields, Windsor Peak Press, 2002.