Building Your Own Home, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
American Community
Housing

Building Your Own Home
This section provided courtesy of Southern Homebuilding Seminars.

It is the American dream to own a home of your own. Most people that are really interested in getting the home of their dreams build their own. Building your own home or having a home built for you is definitely an adventurous, but most rewarding task.

As with any project or new career that you're interested in exploring, the more education you have and knowledge you obtain before inception, the more rewards and less risk will be involved.

There are many good, honest and ethical home builders. But how do you know if the builder you select is doing a good job and if he's charging you appropriate sums of money? What do you look for when selecting a lot? What amenities are available in a particular subdivision? Should you pick the high ground or the low ground; a sloping lot or a flat lot, a rectangular lot or square lot? Do you choose stock house plans or custom house plans? How do know if the house plans you choose will be appropriate for the lot that you purchase? What about financing? How much house can you afford?

Do you want a separate construction loan and then get a permanent loan later or do you want to start out with a construct to perm loan? How much money will you save by building your own house? How much money can you earn as a professional home builder? How do you get your home builder's license or certification? What are lien wavers? Why do you need them? This is just a very, very small sampling of the questions that you should have answers for before making the decision to build a house. The more prepared you are the less intimidating and frustrating this experience will be. If you're armed and ready, this will be a very rewarding experience.

Below are some abbreviated answers to some of the above questions.

Financing - As you would prepare to tackle a project of any size, being prepared could save a ton in lost time and money in the long run. When building your house, you wouldn't call up a local lumber yard and have materials delivered without a plan in mind. Financing is the same way. Sit down and determine what your financial limits are, then determine if what you desire is what you can afford. A good rule of thumb is to have a house payment 28% or less of the combined gross monthly income (before taxes).

Choosing A Lot - When choosing a lot or placing your new home on the site, it is usually advantageous to pick the highest point that is practical. If selecting a lot in a relatively flat subdivision try to get one near the top of the grade if at all possible. It is no accident that the “house on the hill” is usually the most expensive in town. This is partly due to the view, but also the fact that they will have no drainage problems even if the rest of town is under water.

House Plans - The simplest way is to find and buy a set of stock floor plans or blueprints from a magazine, a home center, the Internet or some other source. All plans should conform to one of the national codes such as UBC or CABO or IBC. You may need to alter your plans to conform to your local code or the amendments to one of the aforementioned codes.

Utilities - After you have located your lot and selected a home plan, the next important step is to check the availability of utilities. Do not assume that the availability of utilities to service adjacent properties will make them available to service your lot. Most areas will have power, phone and water service. Most urban areas will also have natural gas, sewage and cable TV available, however, some will not.

Lien Waivers - A contractor, sub-contractor or material supplier has the right to place a lien on your property if they do not get paid for labor or material. A lien waiver is a release signed by contractors and suppliers stating that they have been paid for all labor and material that they have supplied on your project. By signing, they relinquish all rights to place a mechanics lien on your property.


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