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12 tips for building your own home

Want to bring in your home-building project on time and close to budget? Here are some tips from the pros:

1. Shop where the pros shop. Professional supply houses will usually offer better prices. The only glitch: They may not want to deal with nonprofessionals. If you shop home centers, skip the retail side and head for the contractors' desk.

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2. Factor in the cost of your time. As a general contractor, you "stand to spend an awful lot of time managing the project," says Don Sever, general manager for Sever Construction LLC.

3. Use licensed subcontractors. Find out who does the licensing in your area (usually the state), and make sure the subs are licensed, says Sever.

4. Think flat fee only. Get subcontractors' estimates in writing, based on the entire job, not a per-hour fee. "I want to know when [they] pull out of here, what it's going to cost me," says Carl Heldmann, author of Be Your Own House Contractor.

5. Match your subcontractor's style to your schedule. Are your hiring small companies where the owner can be reached when you get home at night, asks R. Dodge Woodson, the builder who wrote Build Your Dream Home for Less, or large corporations whose offices might close at 4:30?

6. Protect your interests. Have a lawyer read the contracts before you sign for work and materials.

7. Verify your subcontractor's insurance. Have your subcontractor's insurance company fax or send proof of insurance directly to you, says Woodson. One scam to beware: A contractor pays a partial premium to get an insurance letter, which he uses even after his policy is canceled for nonpayment. If insurance companies are dealing directly with you, they will know to contact you if the policy is canceled, he says.

8. Don't stockpile. Keep a minimum of materials on the site, says Woodson. "Basically, you are ordering what you need when you need it."

9. Think ahead. Calculate links to services like utilities, cable, water and sewer or septic, before you begin building.

10. Verify all inspections. Don't take someone's word for it that the inspection is done, says Woodson. "Get a copy of the slip filled out and signed."

11. Pay subcontractors with lien waivers. You can get these simple forms from your bank or attorney, says Woodson. It shows you've paid your bill in full and prevents a subcontractor from claiming otherwise and putting a lien on your home, he explains.

12. Insure the site. Have an insurance policy to cover the house while it's under construction, as well as any uninstalled supplies at the site, says Woodson.

-- Compiled by Dana Dratch


-- Posted: Nov. 23, 2004

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