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Be Your Own General Contractor

Should you be your own general contractor? First of all, don’t be intimidated into thinking being your own general contractor is the same as building your own house. You will not be pounding nails or hanging drywall (unless you do have some do-it-yourself ambitions for completing a portion of the work), rather you will be overseeing the hiring and scheduling of subcontractors, and the selection and ordering of materials. If you have high quality standards and intend to be very involved in the construction process anyway, being your own general contractor may make sense as you will already be investing the time required.

You may have heard some horror stories accompanying building your own home. To be sure, headaches and nightmares go along with the territory of home construction. However, headaches and nightmares pop up even when you build with a general contractor or homebuilder. In fact, sometimes more problems arise because you have relinquished control of the project and many decisions are now out of your hands. For every story about the perils of being your own general contractor, there is an equally perilous story involving the use of a general contractor. Expressive Homes recommends carefully weighing out your options to determine if you are cut out for the job.


Benefits of Being Your Own General Contractor

Choosing to be your own general contractor can result in significant cost savings on the total cost of construction. General contractors often command a premium ranging from 15-25% of the total cost of the home, which means by doing it yourself, you can theoretically pocket the savings. Also, acting as your own general contractor ensures you get more of what you want in your home. Construction is completed to your specifications, and the home is constructed without any regrets of what the home could have been.


Are You Cut Out for the Job?

Being your own general contractor may not be for everyone, but anyone can do it if you are willing to invest the time. People who are successful at managing the construction process tend to be very organized. They also exercise a lot of leadership as they negotiate with subcontractors and resolve challenges as they arise. If you are detail oriented, chances are you will be spending a lot of time overseeing the construction of your home whether you do it yourself or go with a general contractor. If you are this type of person, being your own general contractor will give you more control over the construction of the home and ensure it is built to your standards and specifications. For those who don’t have a clear idea of how they want their home to be, or don’t really want to sweat the details, a general contractor may be the better option.


Before You Begin

Most jurisdictions allow homeowners to act as their own general contractors as long as they will be the ones living there. However, it is a good idea to confirm this with your local city officials to before beginning. Some areas require licensed builders to oversee construction before passing the requisite building inspections. You want to know this before you begin. Also, come lenders won’t give construction loans without a licensed builder contracted for the job. Learn your options for construction financing early in the process. Obtaining the required building permits and approvals is also your responsibility. Lastly, if you are your own general contractor, you will need to maintain builder’s risk and liability insurance for the project. Upon completion of the home, this can be converted into a regular homeowner’s policy.


Challenges of Being Your Own General Contractor

Saving money by being your own general contractor does not come without effort on your part. However, if you are committed to the project, and know what to expect, you can prepare for the challenges ahead.


Professional Experience

An obvious challenge for most people when choosing to be their own general contractor is the lack of relevant experience to solve problems and make informed decisions. This is easily mitigated through preparation of your own and consultation with the subcontractors who have vast experience and good ideas for working through challenges.

Scheduling & Hiring

As the general contractor, you are responsible for hiring and supervising all the subcontractors. Learn about what you need to know to find good contractors, as you will be responsible for their work. You will also be the mediator for any disputes between subcontractors, suppliers, and others involved in the completion of your project. Good communication skills are required as you will be exercising negotiation and conflict resolution techniques.

Remember, YOU have the responsibility to hire, schedule, and supervise all subcontractors and all aspects of the project. Having an understanding of the basics of the home construction process is essential. Remember, it will be your responsibility to coordinate the scheduling of all subcontractors and work with suppliers to make sure all materials are ordered and delivered when they are needed.


Time Commitment

The time commitment required may also be a limiting factor when acting as your own general contractor. You need to be available and accessible to visit the site and consult with subcontractors when needed. Inevitably, unforeseen problems arise as construction gets underway. Even the most perfectly drafted set of blueprints and construction documents cannot account for every scenario in the field. As such, you will need to be available to make decisions and find solutions when these occurrences arise.

Final Accountability

Make no mistake, when acting as your own general contractor the responsibility for solving all problems and making sure the job gets done right belongs to you. If you don’t like the end result, you have no one to blame but yourself. This is also one of the most compelling reasons for being your own general contractor—you have the authority and control to get exactly what you want.


Being your own general contractor isn’t necessarily easy, but you will find immense satisfaction in building a home perfectly suited to you—all the while meeting your expectations for design and quality, and saving you money in the process.