I firmly believe that everyone should have the possibility of having the home of their dreams.
For some people that’s a tiny home, for others it’s a cabin in the woods, for others it’s a mansion on the beach. Whatever your dream is for a home, I think you should be able to make it happen!
For Farmer and I, that dream home was a farmhouse in the country. It has four bedrooms, a big open great room with vaulted ceilings, a rock fireplace in the center, and a huge wall of windows overlooking our land.
Do you know what our home appraises for?
That number was unattainable for a family like ours, unless we wanted to go into some serious debt.
Does this sound familiar?
Well, I have a secret …. actually, I have A LOT of secrets. And I want to share them with you! So sit back and get comfortable, because “a mountain of information” is an understatement for this blog post! Keep reading to learn how to be your own general contractor, the #1 way to save thousands on your dream home, how to find people to hire that you can trust, and how to negotiate ALL of your prices down ….. politely.
Farmer and I have figured out how to build our dream home for a fraction of the price
and when I say fraction, I mean hundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper.
Here is how you do it:
- Be your own general contractor
- Plan and plan and plan before you start building anything
- Go shopping…. for EVERYTHING
- Buy your supplies separate from your labor … sometimes
- Give yourself plenty of time
- Learn how to negotiate prices
- Hire the right people
I don’t want to scare you off before you even consider what I am saying. So let me give you a little background information about Farmer and I.
Farmer is 30 years old and I am 25. We have four kids ages 6, 4, 2, and 9 months. Neither of us have a college degree. Farmer started working on the family farm after a year and a half of college. He has no construction experience, although he is really good at figuring things out.
I was fresh out of high school when we got married. I went to one semester of college to play basketball, and then we moved back to be on the farm and raise our family. I have no construction experience, unless you count holding the hammer and nails for my dad.
We are regular people, with big dreams, and no construction knowledge. But everyone THINKS you need to know all the in’s and out’s of construction in order to be your own general contractor. That’s just not true. And I am living proof of that. I am our general contractor. And I have figured out ways to save thousands of dollars by doing what a general contractor does, which is schedule, shop, and plan. To be your own general contractor you don’t even have to pick up a hammer! Except maybe to hand it to your framer.
Here is what you DO need in order to be your own general contractor:
None of the things listed above require you to build a wall or wire a light bulb right? If you are willing to learn and research what you don’t know, you will be able to quickly make up for your lack of knowledge. And if you DO have experience with any aspect of building a house, that’s just going to make you a step ahead. Give yourself a round of applause and move on to the next step.
Communicating is a huge part of being your own GC. You have to make phone calls, write emails, and talk to people about each job you need done and the supplies you will need. There are people out there who would love to help you, as long as you are willing to talk to them.
I am guessing about half of you reading this already know how to shop for a good deal. If you are like me, and you’re not a huge fan of shopping, you can still learn the tricks and at least pretend to like it while you shop for materials. This has actually been the most exciting part for me. I will tell you all about the deals I have found, and how I got them in just a second ….
You are going to need to pay attention to what is going on with your new home, and what the people working on it are doing. Basically your a glorified babysitter, but your entire dream home depends on how closely you watch “the kids”. No pressure.
One last thing to consider. Are you capable of firing someone if they needed to be let go? It’s a very real possibility when you are managing so many people. Think about it.
There is one thing that will save you more money then anything else you do when building your own home.
Most people decide to build a house, and immediately start looking for a general contractor. How can you hire someone to build a house, when you haven’t even decided what you want? I’m not talking like what style of home you want, or what colors you want throughout. I mean what kind of flooring do you want in the laundry room, how many outlets do you need in the kitchen, what style of showerhead are you putting in the master bath?
If you go meet with a general contractor before you have made every little decision, you are asking a complete stranger to give you an estimate on a general idea of what you like. How can he quote you an accurate price? He can’t! So instead, he is going to be forced to quote you high in order to give himself a cushion when you decide you want hard wood floors instead of linoleum.
It’s the same thing when you are your own GC. You are trying to hire someone to draw up your house plans, someone to lay your flooring, someone to wire your house, etc. How can they quote you a good price if you don’t know how many outlets you want and where you want them?
It will also require more time if you haven’t made these decisions. And time is money. Especially when your getting charged by the hour to meet with your house designer.
The other HUGE advantage that planning has, is that you know months in advance what you need to buy for the house. If you go shopping at home depot and they are having a one day clearance sale on all appliances but you don’t know what fridge you want, you have to let that money saving opportunity pass. If you had made the decision before hand, you could have had your dream fridge for half the price. And Home Depot will hold it for you for a few months until you need it too!
Planning ahead is the #1 way we have saved money building our own home.
The art of shopping. How to compare and negotiate prices when building your own home.
Like I said earlier, shopping has been the most exciting part of building our own home. It’s not because I like to shop. It’s because when you “shop hard”, you know when you’re getting a killer deal. And when you find something you need for 75% off, how can you not be ecstatic??
I knew exactly how much tile we needed for our bathroom…. because I PLANNED AHEAD remember …. so when I spotted some BRAND NEW tile on craigslist, I knew it was the right color, style, and amount of tile that we needed. The guy was asking $200 for it, still in the boxes. Now I have learned that on craigslist, you NEVER offer full price. People selling on craigslist put what they HOPE to get, usually not their bottom line. So I offered the guy $100 and he said yes! So a few days later I went to pick it up. After I loaded my car, I drove over to the flooring supply store. They had the exact same tile, in the exact same boxes. It would have cost me $700 to buy the tile there! I just saved $600 on tile because I planned ahead and shopped for it.
Almost every price you find, is negotiable. You just have to know how to ask for it in a way that they will take you seriously. If you were buying from a supplier, you wouldn’t just offer half price. They would think you were crazy. But they will listen if you tell them why you like working with them, why you have chosen them over every other company, and then tell them you only budgeted a certain amount for their product. Can they do it for that? Some of them will say yes and you will save some money. A hundred dollars here, and two hundred dollars there, ads up quickly.
Numbers 4 and 5 are pretty self explanatory
4. Buy your supplies separate from your labor … sometimes
At limes it’s cheaper to buy your own supplies and then hire someone to do the work. If you shop hard, you will know when it’s a better deal.
5. Give yourself plenty of time
Similar to planning ahead …. giving yourself time to shop, time to compare, and time to find the best prices will save a lot of money. You won’t be rushed to “just pay whatever it costs and get it done”. You will also be able to walk away from purchases when they are not a good deal because you won’t need that material right that second.
How to haggle down prices …. politely
There really is an art to haggling. Different situations call for different techniques. Once you figure out how to do it the right way, you will never pay full price for anything again.
Today I haggled a price on tile from $2.50 all the way down to $1. I just bought all the tile we need for our bathroom, brand new from the store, for $35.
This particular store has a clearance section that is quite large. I know from experience that they want their clearance items moved out quickly. They have yet to refuse an offer that I have made because they want to see this stuff gone. But I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t do my homework. I would have never saved over 60% if I just walked into the store and paid the asking price.
I could go on and on about ways to save money by negotiating prices, because we have already saved thousands by doing just that! Like when we saved $800 on house plans, $400 on greenhouse windows, and $200 on our driveway entrance. Or how about when we saved $925 on our septic design and over $1500 on the installation.
A big chunk of these savings have been from knowing HOW to ask for lower prices. And I am just dying to write it all down!!!
Hiring the right people couldn’t be more important than when your being your own general contractor. The last thing you want to deal with is someone who takes advantage of you or does a less then stellar job. But how do you do that when you don’t know what a stellar job looks like? Here is where learning comes back into play.
As the general contractor of your home you need to educate yourself on what your subs should and should not be doing. The best way to do that is to make friends with people. Sounds easy right?
It is for the most part! One of your greatest assets will be finding a few people that you trust to help you out when you don’t know a “take-off” from a “blue print”. Long before you start building, you should be looking out for these types of people.
- Do you have a good friend who has built a house in the last few years?
- Does anyone in your neighborhood do construction for a living?
- Do you have any relatives that have special trade experience?
Start a list of people that could answer questions for you when they come up. It’s going to happen a lot so you might want more than one or two acquaintances on this list. If you are having a hard time filling that paper, don’t worry, there are other ways to solve this problem they just take a little longer.
The second solution is to make more phone calls and talk to everyone you can.
When I first started calling around about septic systems, I didn’t even know what I should be asking. I was nervous and stressed out dialing that number. I know I sounded like a complete idiot when I had to ask what the words he was saying to me meant. But he calmly explained it to me all over again with simpler terms. By the second phone call, I was feeling a little better. I had written down everything the first guy said and now I knew a few septic terms like “pressure system” and “reserve” and “test holes” and “chamber”.
Don’t worry, I will gladly explain what they all mean to you too!
Anyways, my second phone call was slightly less terrifying. By the third, I knew exactly what questions to ask, and I understood what they were saying to me. Then phone calls 4, 5, 6, and so on were much more productive.
Once I had talked to a few people, and knew what was going on, it was easier to tell which people were trying to help me and which people were impatient with me and didn’t want to deal with someone that didn’t know anything.
I was able to narrow it down to a few designers, call them again, and make a decision based on the service they had already provided to me which was teaching me about septic systems.
When I finally hired our guy, I was thrilled with our choice because I had done my homework, and made sure to hire someone who was going to be honest and up front.
And you know what? I ended up saving a few extra hundred dollars because this guy corrected someone else’s mistake for free.
So you bet I am happy with who we hired!
So now that you have a little taste of HOW to be your own general contractor, I just want to tell you WHY you should.
Let me hit you with another one.
If you general contract your own home and save $100,000 your net worth goes up by that much
If you make $100,000 at work, you save less then $10,000
would you rather have $100,000 of tax free money, or $10,000 to pay taxes on?
Let’s break it down even further ….
The average American saves less than 10% of their income
If you make $20 an hour, only $2 is going to savings for every hour of work you do.
Every time you save $16 on your house, your making up for an ENTIRE day of work.
Be your own general contractor and save 12,500 days of working!
These numbers have helped me look at being our own general contractor from a whole different direction. When I put in the time and research it takes to find the best deals, I am not just saving $5 here and $20 there. I am saving my husband hours and hours of work. Now instead of only caring about the big savings, I care about saving those 2 little dollars.
How many hours of work would you save by being your own general contractor?
I also want to tell you that over the past two years I have rented at least 20 books from the library about building your own house. Only one of them was worth buying and that book is “The Owner Builder Book” by Mark A Smith. I still use it almost every single day for a reference and a guide. It has everything in it that you need to build your home from how to get a loan, to what insurance you need. It walks you through the whole process and even includes specific things like what questions to ask your sub contractors, sample contracts, and lists of what you need to do and when. I can’t recommend this book enough if you are building your own home. CLICK HERE to buy or learn more about that book. *affiliate link
So here is the deal. My head is chucked full of all this new information and I want to share it!
I want to tell you every time I learn a new secret or a new trick.
I want to tell you how to plan your home so you can save more.
I want to tell you how to read the building permits that seem to be written in a different language.
I want to tell you what stores have the best deals and the best service.
I want to tell you exactly what questions to ask the septic designer.
I want to tell you what a good price for cement is.
I want to tell you what things you can DIY and what things you need to hire a professional for.
I want to tell you how to save thousands on lumber.
I want to hold your hand through the entire building process so you can build your dream home too and save hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It doesn’t take a construction genius, it just takes someone who is willing to make it happen.
You want your dream home more then anyone else in this world. You care about it more, and you will do whatever it takes to shave off $200,000
Your just like me!
On August 12, the website will launch. Sign up now, and you will receive my article what you MUST do before building your dream home, so that you can be preparing for this awesome adventure.
This is not your average website guys, this is teaching you a legitimate way that you can be hundreds of thousands of dollars richer, and it’s absolutely free to sign up! Most owner builders save between 15-50% on their house. I know a guy personally that saved over $100,000. Is that worth it to you? That’s up to $250,000 on my home. What’s 50% off of your dream home?
ATTENTION all Real Farmhouse subscribers! This is NOT the same subscription as my farming/gardening/homesteading blog. If you want to be subscribed to the new house blog you need to click on the link above.
Let’s start saving money! Woo hoo!