Counting the cost

One of the reasons given for building your own house is saving money. That entered into my thinking and I thought it only fair to make a report of how it actually worked out. My goal was to put no more than $50,000 into building this house.

My house was built between 2003 and 2008 with minimal labor costs, owner built without financing. It is 1200 sq ft on the main floor and has a few unnecessary features, like an unfinished attic, under floor radiant heat and brick siding. I paid extra for high wind (100 mph+) resistant shingles and don’t regret it.

For just this house, not including the infrastructure that was required to build it (electricity, water, septic and land) The materials cost was roughly $43,000. Labor was under $7000 paid to a roofer and bricklayer. By not including appliances or infrastructure costs, I met my goal. So even owner builders can fudge the numbers to meet a goal. πŸ˜‰

Savings could have been made in the following areas:

  • Forget the brick siding, use Qbond instead. – $6000
  • Do the roofing yourself. -$2000
  • No exposed beam construction. -$500 – $1000
  • No extra support for rafters. -$800
  • No Attic. -$2000
  • No radiant heat – $500 +

So by doing the few things mentioned above, I could have reduced the cost by roughly $12,000. I personally like strong structures with evenly laid brick and shingles. I also like extra storage space and exposed beam construction so I was willing to spend extra to have things the way I wanted. Saving money isn’t the only criteria for building your own. Having it your way is at least as important.

A fair amount was saved by purchasing many items at auction (windows, doors, bricks, lamps etc.) . Even so, there was more money wasted than need be. Most of the materials, and thus the majority of the cost, were purchased new. As is the case for most housing. Obviously scrounging more could have saved more money, but I feel there is a diminishing return on time spent scrounging. You have to decide when to quit and just buy that new 2×4.

Beyond your control

There were some factors that made this particular time period a bad time for materials costs. There was a housing boom driving demand for building materials. The war in Iraq and the subsequent reconstruction was blamed for construction materials (wood products, Cement and steel) tripling in value. If that wasn’t enough, Hurricane Katrina also occurred during this time pushing prices even higher. Had the building started 5 years earlier, I believe the cost could have easily been $5,000 less.

I intend to offer a set of plans which take advantage of these tweaks to lower material and labor costs as well as a set for the house as built.

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