Editor’s note: Robert Bruss is temporarily away. The following column from Bruss’ “Best of” collection first appeared Sunday, July 16, 2006.
If you are thinking about building a house or renovating your current home, first read “Be Your Own House Contractor, Fifth Edition” by longtime home builder Carl Heldmann. This very valuable new book explains, according to the author, how to shave at least 25 percent off construction costs of a new house. More important, it goes into great detail of what is involved with being your own home contractor.
Having been involved with renovating many houses and always hiring a remodeling contractor, I closely related to Heldmann’s explanations of how to build a new house to save money or renovate an existing house without hiring a general contractor. The author explains how a general contractor’s job seems almost easy (which it really isn’t) and virtually anyone can save by being his/her own general contractor.
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A unique aspect of this new book is Heldmann refers readers to his Web site for additional resources to make the home construction process almost simple. He compares today’s procedures with those available 35 years ago when he built his first house and then built many more. “You won’t believe how easy it is to save money and get the house you want,” Heldmann says.
An especially enjoyable advantage of this book is the author simplifies the home construction process into bite-size pieces that any reader can understand. He doesn’t go into great detail, but just enough for the reader to know if becoming a do-it-yourself contractor is right.
Even if the reader decides to hire a general contractor to build a new home or remodel an existing one, Heldmann explains how to keep costs down and to understand the home-building process.
Will this book make the reader capable of building his/her own home without a general contractor? Possibly.
But more likely, it alerts readers to what is involved and if they need to learn more before going ahead, such as by reading more advanced home construction books or taking courses at local owner-builder centers.
Heavy emphasis is placed on construction financing, with fewer details about arranging home-improvement financing, which is generally easier to obtain. Heldmann encourages do-it-yourself home builders to arrange construction loans by comparing several sources, especially community banks. Although it used to be virtually impossible to obtain a home construction loan without having a general contractor, the author says banks have become much more liberal in recent years.
Chapter topics include “Be Your Own General Contractor and Save”; “Where to Start”; “Cost Estimating”; “Financing”; “Further Preparations”; “Subcontractors”; “Suppliers”; “Building the House”; and “Add On, Remodel, or Tear Down and Start from Scratch.”
This longtime best-seller home construction book is even better in its latest edition, which includes the author’s Internet Web site resources. Readers might conclude, as I did, that being their own contractor is not for them even if they can save 25 percent. However, reading this book made me a much better consumer when dealing with general contractors. On my scale of one to 10, this outstanding, easy-to-understand book rates a solid 10.
“Be Your Own House Contractor, Fifth Edition,” by Carl Heldmann (Storey Publishing, North Adams, Mass.), 2006, $16.95, 101 pages plus Appendix; available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and www.Amazon.com.
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Real Estate Center).