Labour of love
Time is money, and when you have everyone from a general contractor (GC) to a landscaping team on the clock, the cost of building a new home adds up quickly. One creative way to control the bottom line is by taking on part of the labour yourself.
“Industrious and creative people have many paths to the home of their dreams,” says general contractor and real estate agent Janie Coffey at The Coffey Team – Compass. “You will always want to have licensed professionals for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEPs), but a DIY effort for the non-systems parts of the home can go a long way to stretch a budget.”
This approach is especially doable if you’re building a smaller, more manageable cabin or second home, where stretching out the project over months of DIY-dedicated weekends is less disruptive.
The key to a successful DIY approach is to think things through and know when you may be getting in over your head, warns Tom Kraeutler, host of The Money Pit podcast.
“Sometimes tackling a project yourself saves money and time, but in other cases, it can end up costing you more all the way around,” he says.
“When trying to decide if you should hire a contractor or do it yourself, the first step should be an honest evaluation of whether or not you’re the best person for the job based on your level of skill and experience, as well as how much time you have available.”
If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work, here are some ways you can save money on your new home build by hiring yourself.
Choose stock house plans
You may not be a professional architect or engineer, but you can eliminate the extra expense of custom blueprints by browsing premade house plans to find one that best fits your vision and budget.
Choosing a stock plan is a great option if you have a natural eye for design and can visualise two-dimensional floor plans in three dimensions. You won’t have complete control over your home’s layout, but many blueprint companies offer limited customisation services for an additional fee.
You can also hire a professional to make adjustments to the plans, meeting your most important specs while sidestepping the premium price of a fully customised design.
Be your own general contractor
Managing the project yourself as an owner builder can save more than 10 percent of your total building cost, although you will require an owner builder permit and may need to attend a course if your renovations will cost over a certain price.
You will need a basic understanding of the construction process, because hiring and coordinating expert subcontractors will be your biggest responsibility. If you’re a natural problem solver, a people person and good at tracking expenses and timelines, you likely can manage a straightforward cabin or home build.
Keep in mind that when you act as your general contractor, you’re required to provide a safe work environment, supervise other contractors working under you and ensure they are licensed and insured, seek required council approvals, manage the site and order materials.