It might be easy to say that the general contractor over your home building doesn’t do all that much, especially in some cases. Some of them don’t even have a crew and hire subcontractors to do the entire job. Others do have a crew, and make out payroll to carpenters and etc. The general contractor’s crew often builds the shell, for example, if the builder has a crew. Some small building contractors actually lead their crews and work on site themselves, but this is becoming increasingly rare. The fact is that general contractors vary quite a lot in the amount of effort they directly put into your home. Subcontractors do most of the work, so why does the general contractor get such a large share of the profit?
The most important single decision you will make is selecting your general contractor over your home building. The general contractor at the very least, interprets your explanation of your dream house, locates a house plan to fit it, finds and organizes competent and qualified subcontractors to build the home, and insures that the job is done properly. Home builders usually have someone on staff to help you solidify your design, and decide on adapting the floor plan to suit your needs. They help you deal with the loan company, obtain the building permits, and explain your dream home to city zoning officials, loan officers, subcontractors and building inspectors all along the process of building your home.
There are many difficulties you will encounter if you decide to be your own general contractor. While it seems that you would save 25% of the cost of your home, this is rarely the case. What the home builder does for you costs money and has worth. If you don’t have a home builder you may need services from an architect, and that is expensive. You may have to pay extra for permits because you don’t understand the process, and you may also have trouble getting the loan. Many lending institutions do not like to loan money to home owners who plan to do the work themselves. This frightens them, because all they have for collateral is the home you will build. Unless you have some experience they are not likely to lend you the money. Even if they agree and you manage to get a loan and a permit, you will have to search for, schedule and check behind at least some sub contractors, and do the rest of the work yourself.
The only thing worse than trying to do it yourself without the necessary skills and experience, is hiring someone who is less competent than you are, or who is out to take advantage of you. While most building contractors are very competent, there are a few bad apples out there who really do not care about your home, or your happiness, and only want your money while giving as little in return as possible. There are also home builders who lack the skills, or who are so tied up in corporate red tape that they can’t give you the house you deserve.
• Individual Spec House Builders – Sometimes a local carpenter gets a few of his buddies together and says, “Lets build a house and sell it for money.” Then they build another, and another. They usually do a very nice job. These guys build homes one at a time, and if you approach them and ask them to build your home, they will be delighted to build it. You will save money and headaches while getting a great home.
• Local Home Building Companies – Established local builders, who have been in business for twenty or thirty years, are usually a safe bet, especially if you investigate them and see some of the homes they have built throughout the years. Generally they are fair in price, value their reputation, and will deliver a good home.
• Huge Corporations that Build Homes – The trend now is towards huge corporate home building. These corporations have offices in every major city either regionally or nationally. The people you will speak to are employees of the corporation. Quality varies by location, but all the big decisions are made in a huge office in a city far from yours. Personally this trend makes me nervous, but many people get good homes that way. Other people get horrible lemon houses which are completely unlivable. Then they go on the internet to complain about their experiences. There are many sites devoted to complaining about these homes. About 70 percent of the homes built in the U.S. today are built by about twenty different corporate home builders. In fairness the 20 home builders who build 70 percent of all homes have more complaints against them than your local home builder who builds at most a couple of dozen homes a year, simply because they build more homes. Still buying a lemon from them leaves people with little legal recourse and requires them to pay a mortgage on a home that is unlivable. They rarely get real compensation. Local home builders tend to make it right if their clients have a problem.
• Affordable Home Builders – A rare breed of home builders pride themselves on keeping prices down. There are a few corporate affordable home builders, some are non-profit organizations and others make a little money. There are also a few individuals who work with affordable homes. They are rare, and you’d be really lucky to find one.
• Budget Home Builders – People who build cheap homes of cheap materials, but they do offer an adequate home for a really cheap price, at least usually. Budget home builders meet a definite need in society, and while they may not be quite as altruistic as affordable home builders, they do have the same basic aim in mind. They keep costs down, and still build a livable house, which may not be luxurious, but does keep your family dry and warm. Budget home builders come in all sizes and corporate structures from individuals to massive corporations.
• Quality Home Builders – Quality home builders are usually local home builders. They have years of experience and take pride in their work. They usually have great local reputations to uphold and they take their work very seriously.
• Luxury Home Builders – Just like budget home builders, there are many types of Luxury home builders. Some are huge corporations who build Mc-Mansions, but others are similar to local quality home builders, and do an incredible job of building wonderful and unique homes. Being a Luxury home builder is a tremendous responsibility, because when people pay $300 to $1000 per square foot, they want the best. That does not mean however that all self proclaimed luxury home builders actually build true luxury homes. If you are considering spending that much on a home, I highly recommend you investigate your builder thoroughly. Your general contractor over your home building should be someone you can hold accountable.