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What is the most cost effective way to build a house?

Over the past few years, I've been researching various ways to build a home...from steel kits to modular homes to buying a pile of wood from Home Depot and attacking it with a hammer.

But I'm curious to learn the thoughts of the Pelican community. Assuming I have a relatively large amount of free time and have decent skills for carpentry, electrical, tile etc etc, what is the most cost efective way to build, say, a four bedroom home with over 1,000 sq ft? I don't care if it is one story or two, basement or slab, cape, ranch, or colonial etc. I figure if anybody can provide good advice on this matter, it will be you guys.

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Janus Cole
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Old 01-30-2007, 06:42 AM
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Have someone else build it and then buy it.
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Old 01-30-2007, 07:02 AM
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If you need to get financing, time is critical. Hire subs. If you've got cash to work with, the more you do yourself, the better.

A friend's dad built a couple houses for his kids. Doing almost all the work themselves, paying cash as they went. When a house is completed, it's easy to get a mortgage for just what dad spent, and pay him back in full, then benefitting from a small mortgage payment because of the 40% loan/value ratio.
Old 01-30-2007, 07:08 AM
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You can save tons of money if you pay someone to do the dry in and you finish the inside like you want. Once the large scale project of framing and sheetrock is complete you can take your leisure to finish.
Old 01-30-2007, 07:14 AM
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Thanks! I guess I should give more details. First, I already have a house to live in. So unless I go with a prefab house, I can likely take my time and pay in cash as I go along. No hurry. If I were to go prefab, then I'd need a lot of cash in a hurry and would likely finance. Again, I'm looking for the most cost effective method. Time is actually pretty flexible. I can also do most of the interior work myself as I have done it before. I've never done exterior work but I can read and follow directions. So I am not against using some sort of a "kit".
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Old 01-30-2007, 07:25 AM
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I think zoning/inspections are going to require that you use licensed contractors for some things (like electrical). A friend of mine built his own house. He and his dad did absolutely everything except drywall and carpet (two things that they said it is just better to hire done). He lived outside the city limits and could get away with doing it himself though. It took a *long* time.

I would pay someone else to build the basic structure and then finish it yourself. There are builders in my area that will build a completed house for around $50/sq ft if you skimp on alot of things like kitchen cabinets, etc. Get in with one of these types and negotiate up front for what you want/don't want and go from there. My wife and almost did this a couple of years ago and were going to get a 2450 sq ft house completely built for around $140k (and we even upgraded alot of stuff).

Mike
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Old 01-30-2007, 07:26 AM
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Sometimes you have to weigh the time & trouble it would take you to do something against paying somebody else to do it. My brother-in-law built houses a long time ago & did a bunch of things himself. He told me he finally realized the difference in paying somebody to do some things vs. him spending the time wasn't worth it. As an example, he would buy baseboard material & install it himself over the course of a few days, but realized he could buy the materials & pay someone $150 (at that time) and have it done in one day. Of course if you have unlimited time to spend, you won't be concerned about those kinds of things. I'm starting on building a house now and am experiencing something I knew, but didn't have a real feeling for. That is you have to know contractors (& subs) will promise you everything, but when the time comes, they will drag their feet & hold up your progress. So you sort of have to make allowances for it and try to manage things to minimize it.
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Old 01-30-2007, 07:45 AM
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My wife and I had planned to buy property and build a new house, with custom plans incorporating what we wanted in a house. For example; about 2500-3000 sqft, one floor, large kitchen-dining area, and more. We found our current house, which fulfilled enough of our requirements to short circuit our new home plans, but we still think about it.

The construction method we liked best is the post-and-beam type rather than the common balloon or stick built structure. I'd suggest a subscription to Timber Homes Illustrated, or a visit to their web site.
http://www.loghomesillustrated.com/r5/cob_page.asp?category_id=30990&p_PageAlias=homeproductsandservices
There are a number of schools around the country that you can attend to pick up the specific skills for this construction method. If we build an addition to this house, timber framing will be used in it.
Old 01-30-2007, 08:20 AM
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Go on Extreme Makeover - Homebuilder Edition.

Saw a show a day or so a go where a 3000+ sq ft house was built from foundation to COA in <60 hours. Cannot speak to how well the house was built but it passed inspection.
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Old 01-30-2007, 09:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by fastpat
The construction method we liked best is the post-and-beam type rather than the common balloon or stick built structure.
Timber frame just like log homes can be the most expensive way to go. Just depends if you want to cut down your own trees and make your own stress skin panels.
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Old 01-30-2007, 09:55 AM
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Old 01-30-2007, 10:01 AM
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Most cost effective (lowest build cost) is stick-built while managing competent sub-contractors. Focus your efforts on the value added tasks (things you can do for far less than farmed out). I know I can build a house from scratch, but I would still hire out the framing, roofing, concrete work, carpet, and drywall. I would, however, tackle the flooring, HVAC, trimwork, and finishing, which can create huge $ savings.

I think you have to analyze your strengths, as we're all different. Years ago, I would never tackle light trimwork, but now, after gaining experience, it's easy work. Same with other tasks. I would not do framing or concrete work, primarily due to the fact it's easiest with more skilled men versus me with a crew of three at best.

Pre-fab, timber, ICU, and all the other modern techniques are great for other attributes, but if cost is your primary driver, keep it simple.

I presume you're considering building rental properties. If you're building a home to live in, then disregard all above.
Old 01-30-2007, 10:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by turbo6bar
Pre-fab, timber, ICU, and all the other modern techniques are great for other attributes, but if cost is your primary driver, keep it simple.

I presume you're considering building rental properties. If you're building a home to live in, then disregard all above.
It's true that timber frame construction costs more, but I believe it's mostly in materials costs.
Old 01-30-2007, 10:31 AM
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Anyone heard of strawbale construction? A co-worker of mine had his dad build him one here in SoCal. The exterior walls are strawbales and thus very thick and supposedly very efficient in temperature regulation. He also did a custom stained concrete pad which acts as the main flooring throughout the home.

Last edited by dmoolenaar; 01-30-2007 at 10:36 AM..
Old 01-30-2007, 10:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by dmoolenaar
Anyone heard of strawbale construction? A co-worker of mine had his dad build him one here in SoCal. The exterior walls are strawbales and thus very thick and supposedly very efficient in temperature regulation. He also did a custom stained concrete pad which acts as the main flooring throughout the home.
Yes, there is at least one book on that kind. Another interesting construction method is rammed earth, a method responsible for homes in europe that are hundreds of years old still in use. There are three or four books on rammed earth homes.
Old 01-30-2007, 10:41 AM
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Old 01-30-2007, 10:41 AM
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