Jeff Lewis writes: My first house was a simple tract home that did not even have phone lines in two of the three bedrooms. A few months after I moved into this first house, a friend of mine invited us over to the house they were building. For $20,000 more than I had paid to purchase this little 1,500 SF tract home, my friend had built a 4,400 SF custom home. And he had not done any of the work himself." If you're considering home ownership, and especially if you want to design in the things which ordinary houses don't take into account (here are two more related stories: one, two), this sounds like a useful resource. Read on for the rest of Jeff's review.
So a few years latter when I decided that I could afford a new home, I asked my friend how he had built such an amazing house for so little. He pointed me to "The Owner-Builder Book." When I saw the subtitle to the book, I was a little suspicious: "How you can save over $100,000 in the building of your custom home." I had seen a few too many infomercials making similar promises, but my friend had done it, so I figured that I could too.
Now, a year later, I have completed building my $550,000 home for $320,000. Much of my 41% savings can be directly attributed to this book:
Chapter 1: You Can Save $100,000
Chapter 2: Learn The Wealth-Building Secret
This is the pep-talk part of the book written to give you incentive to read the next 300 or so pages. This chapter talks about how custom homebuilders know and use the ideas in this book all the time. Ever seen an ad for a "builder's own home"? Why are they always the upper-end homes? Hmm.
Chapter 3: Contractors Aren't What You Think They Are
Chapter 4: You Can Manage Better Than a Contractor
Chapter 5: You Will Profit By Building a True Custom House
These chapters dispel myths about contractors. Hint: A contractor is very simply a project manager, and usually not a very good one at that. Among other things, they rarely shop around for better material prices. They usually use the same lumberyard that they have always gone to. I saved over $20,000 just by telling my framer that I was going to purchase the materials from a different lumberyard, all he had to do was give me the list.
Chapter 6: Conquer Details Room By Room and Save 20%
Chapter 7: How to Get the Subs on Your Side
Chapter 8: How to Build a Budget That is a Powerful Miracle Tool
Chapter 9: Commando Shopping Techniques
Chapter 10: How to Schedule the Work at a Savings
These chapters talk about how to actually save money: The key points are planning, getting down the details of exactly what you want, (i.e. I want two phone outlets in every room with two strands of cat5 and coax.), and make sure to shop around. As an example, I had bids ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 for my electrical. One would assume that with 5G's you would get less than with 15G's, right? Not necessarily: for $5,000 I got everything that I wanted, plus I was able to add a bunch of outlets that I hadn't thought of at the last minute for free cause the subcontractor was a nice guy. Now I love that TV above Jacuzzi tub.
Chapter 11: How to Make Your Lender Swoon
Chapter 12: Paperwork Before You Begin
Chapter 13: Six Months to Victory
These chapters help you get the paperwork ready that you will need throughout the process. Remember contracts with liquidated damages and lien release forms! I only had problems with one subcontractor that my wife had been responsible to get fill out our contract with and had never done it. But, luckily their own contract, which my wife had signed with them, covered most of what we needed. I even got to keep an extra $2,000 dollars because they didn't have time to come back and stain the stairs. Let's see, $50 in stain and supplies, 3 hours time. Yeah, I'll take the $2,000.
Chapter 14: Smooth Execution Saves Money and Improves Quality
Chapter 15: Mistakes You Can Avoid And Successes You Can Achieve
These chapters drill into your head what planning and details mean. I had one major problem over the course of building my home. The truss company built my trusses wrong. It took them three more tries and fourweeks to get me a completed set. Because of my contracts and planning, I cut the cost of the trusses by almost half, but the time hit was the most damaging. My total time to completion was 7.5 months. I had planned for 6.
Chapter 16: If You Decide to Use a Contractor
The final chapter discusses how to choose and work with a general contractor if you decide that being your own general is too much for you.
Don't leave with any illusions: this book will not build a custom home for you. By planning and following through on the information in this book, you too can build your dream home.
The first page of each chapter is available online at: http://ownerbuilderbook.com/book/Ch1.cfm, and a free CD-ROM with software templates for budgets, contracts, the entire book in MP3 format, and a previous edition of the eBook in PDF format is available. You can purchase The Owner-Builder Book from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to submit yours, read the book review guidelines, then hit the submission page.