Young couple at the construction site.

How to Be Your Own General Contractor and Build Your Own House

No matter if your dream home is a cabin in the wilderness, a farmhouse in the country, or a luxury beach house, you should be able to have it without getting into debt until you are 120 years old. Unfortunately, most dream homes are too costly for many families to attain. But, what if you could save thousands and thousands of bucks on your dream home by becoming your own general contractor – have you heard that a general contractor usually charges 10%-20% of the house cost for their services? Here is some food for thought.

The trick is to research what you don’t know, plan every little detail, go shopping for everything, not rush things, negotiate prices, and find the right people for the right job. Below are the top 3 things to bear in mind, before you get down to pouring concrete footings.

Plan Every Detail

Don’t just jump into hiring a general contractor if you don’t have a clear idea of exactly what you want; all the little things involved in building a home, from the flooring and the style of the shower head in the master bathroom to the number of outlets you need in your kitchen. For a general contractor to be able to give you an accurate quote, it is important to know all the details. Otherwise, they will choose the safe road and give you a higher estimate so that they have room for profit should you decide to replace linoleum floors with hard wood.

Being your own general contractor is exactly the same thing. You want somebody to draw up the plans of your own house, somebody to wire your house, lay your flooring, etc. So, make the decisions mentioned above and let these people know what they are called to do (imagine the money you will lose if, say, your house designer, charges by the hour and you still don’t have a clear plan as to what you want when you meet with them!).

Planning (and planning ahead) also has an added advantage. Since you will know what you need many months before you buy the home, you can benefit from limited-time clearance sales on must-haves for a household (i.e. electric appliances). And, if you don’t have any space available to store these items, there are many stores (i.e. Home Depot) that will hold them for a few months.

And, here is a handy checklist to help you build your own house!

Shop Smart

The goal here is to compare and negotiate prices so that you, eventually, get a killer deal. Before you move into more details, here is something worth noting: people that sell on Craigslist never offer their bottom line rather than what they hope to get. So, feel free to offer a lower price (even half price) for something you know is a good deal (i.e. brand new tiles, at the right color, style, etc.).

Also, remember that when you are negotiating lower price, it is always best to “prepare the ground” before you offer half (or any) price. You could, for example, tell the supplier why you prefer them over other similar companies and that you have budgeted a specific amount of money for their product. If they can give you their product at the price you are asking for, then you will save some good money. A little bit of saving here, a bit of saving there, and it ads up pretty fast!


  1. To make sure you don’t pay full price for anything in your life, go to stores that have a clearance section and make an offer for the item(s) of your interest (could be anything from a driveway entrance to greenhouse windows). Since all of these companies want their clearance items gone fast, they will accept your offer! So, do your research and dig up such stores.
  2. Sometimes, it is cheaper to shop hard, buy your own supplies, and then hire somebody else to do the work. Just weigh things and see if this idea is indeed a better deal for you.

Find the Right People

You don’t need anybody that does less than great job or people that take advantage of you. However, to be able to decide on who to hire for what job, you first need to know what a great job looks like. To achieve that, do some homework on the subs that are necessary (and which are not) and try to find the types of people that you could trust to help you with building your home, way before you start building it. Some great candidates are friends that have built a house recently, family members with special trade background, or neighbors that do construction for a living. It is the people that could answer your questions if something comes up that you are after.

If your list ends up a bit short, the next best thing you can do is start calling around and asking questions. Do call as many people as you can. The more you talk to them, the more details you will learn about the specifics of the job/task you are interested in doing. Concentrate on one topic at a time (i.e. installing a fireplace) and move to another one only when you feel you have all the information you need. Take note of the people that were impatient with you and cross them off your list. At the end of the day (or week or month), you will have found just the right person to hire for the particular job you have been calling around all this time!

Note: When you are managing a lot of people, you may be need to give somebody the sack. So, it is important to be capable of handling such cases. What you need is to make sure those working for you are efficient and do the great job they have been hired to do. In any other case, you lose money. So, keep a close eye on what is going on with your new home, who is working on what , how these people work on what is going on with the home at the time, etc.

You hear a lot that time is of the essence in everything you do. When about to build a home, though, do take your time. Take time to shop around, to compare prices and offers, to find the best deal, the hire right people, and so on and so forth.

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