In the summer of 2004, my wife and I located a piece of property that we thought would be perfect for our new house. We bought the property, intending to build a couple of years down the road. We began doing research on builders and trying to find a floor plan that would fit our lifestyle. We visited builder after builder and found houses that were close, but not quite what we wanted. We also noticed that what we were looking for was going to be quite a bit out of our price range.
While driving to work one day, I heard an ad on the radio for the Owner-Builder Network. The idea sounded interesting to me, so I called to get an better description of what being an owner-builder entailed. After a brief explanation, I set an appointment to take my wife in so we could talk face-to-face with the people who seemed so convinced that, with a little guidance, I could build my own home.
The meeting revealed that after we qualified for a construction loan, we would have complete control of the money. Nobody got paid until we were satisfied and decided to pay them. We could negotiate with each contractor and supplier for the best price. Every decision was ours to make, from the design of the house to the colors on the wall, it was all on us.
After a couple of weeks of discussion, we decided that we would take on the project. We went back to the Owner-Builder Network, signed the paperwork, and we were builders. The people at the Owner-Builder Network were wonderful, and they provided us with a huge manual to guide us in our project. We began immediately having the floor plan we had chosen modified to fit what we wanted, getting the slab engineered and gathering the necessary permits.
Due to some problems (small town bureaucracy) getting a building permit in the town we live in, it was February when we poured our slab. What a great day that was! We both took the day off of work and watched the pour. I had a beer (or two) and my wife did not, as she was pregnant. As a side-note, if you are going to build, doing it while expecting a child might be a bit more than you intended to sign on for.
From that point on, building went as building should. Contractors were late or didn’t show up when they said they would. I spent about 5 hours a week on the phone scheduling, and countless hours at the house staring in wonder at the project that was unfolding in front of me. My wife and I were actually building our own house.
Friends and family stopped by to see what was happening and how things were coming along. I wound up convincing four of them to build their own house, and all of them are happy that they did. My first convert, who actually started building shortly after I did, was so sold on the idea that he now works for the Owner-Builder Network as a consultant.
Throughout the building process, my wife and I had to decide on colors, cabinets, plumbing and lighting fixtures, appliances, counter tops, and countless other things that, we had been told, have caused huge battles between spouses who had built before us. Fortunately for us, our tastes are pretty similar. Where we did disagree, we would usually negotiate a trade: She got to have that color in the bathroom if I got to have these plumbing fixtures.
To sum it all up, the process from the pouring of the slab to the loan closing took us seven months. It was work, and it took a lot of time, but the results are spectacular, both aesthetically and financially. The house itself is a showplace, and the final appraisal showed a value of $85,000 more than what we built the house for. Was it a headache? Sometimes, but I would have put up with a lot more for what amounted to an extra job that paid me $12,000 a month!