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Our Debt-Free Dream Home – How to Build a House Debt Free

Have you ever wondered if you can build a house debt-free? Well, building your own house debt-free is definitely possible because we did it!

How to Build a House Debt-Free

It was a hot summer day. I was wearing one of my husband’s big t-shirts to cover my round, pregnant self because I didn’t want to tear one of my nice maternity shirts in the woods.

We had just bought 5 beautiful, wooded acres and we were marking trees to clear so we could build our dream house. We had saved for 6 years so we could buy land and build our dream house (ourselves) with cash.

Why Did We Choose to Be Our Own General Contractor?

The answer is simple: money. And we saved loads of it.

It would have been difficult to build a house debt-free if we had not been our own general contractor AND looked for ways to save money.

In addition, we were able to customize the house exactly how we wanted down to the last detail and have complete control over the entire building process.

Big House in the Woods Specs

Our house is 2300 sq. ft, with 5 bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and an attached 900sq ft garage. (We use it as three bedrooms, a sitting room and a man/game room.) The house includes 5 walk-in closets, a FEMA approved concrete safe room, a clubhouse under the stairs for the kids, an area for homeschooling, and a screened-in porch overlooking our land. 

It appraises for OVER DOUBLE what we spent on the house and the 5 acres together. We could sell it today and make a HUGE profit!  

We didn’t have any experience building a house when we started. My husband works in a cubicle on a computer and I’m a homemaker. (I built a doll house once but I don’t think that counts.) 

Being your own general contractor just takes planning and a lot of determination. You can build a house debt-free if you put your mind to it.

How Much Does a Professional General Contractor Make?

General contractor management fees generally total 10 to 20% of the project cost. The rate can get as high as 25% depending on the size of the project.

Read more about Professional General Contractor Rates Here

Generally, homeowners finance that amount into their mortgage and pay it off over the 15 or 30 year loan period. However, we were paying cash for our home.

Being our own general contractor and saving all that money meant that we could put it toward doing other things we wanted like: more square footage, custom trim work, sidewalks, concrete fire pit, etc.

We did get a bid from a professional general contractor who was going to cut us a little bit of a deal but it was still more than we wanted to pay. Plus, we’re just really picky people (and why shouldn’t we be? It’s OUR money!).

We knew we would constantly be coming over to the house checking on it, talking with the general contractor or wondering why he had stalled. So, we decided it would be better to just do it ourselves. 

Why pay a general contractor when we were going to be so involved anyway? 

Our House is Custom

We drew the plans out ourselves on graph paper. We planned every window, every door, exactly how we wanted cabinets placed, the size of the walk-in shower, how wide we wanted the foyer, etc.

We designed every wall and corner down to the inch. We knew it better than anyone. Being our own general contractor was a perfect fit.

Plus, we were going to save TONS OF MONEY. 

Can You Build a House Quickly on Your Own?

Our house was built and liveable in 6 months, which is the same length of time that it would have taken a professional general contractor. We accomplished all this while my husband worked full time and I continued my homemaking tasks while caring for a 5 year old and our infant son.

I’m not saying it was easy. Don’t be disillusioned. I’m just saying it’s very doable.

Now, to be clear, the house wasn’t fully complete when we moved in. We finished it up once we got here.

We did that for two reasons: #1- We were anxious to get out of town. #2- We didn’t quite know what all we wanted until we moved in and got a feel for the house.

Things to Consider Before Being Your Own General Contractor

There are a couple of things to consider before you decide to become your own general contractor: Are you organized? Can you handle some pressure? Do you like babysitting? 

“Babysitting?” you say. “Why do I have to babysit?” I’ll tell you why. It’s because this is YOUR house and no one cares about it like YOU do. Now, I don’t mean EVERYONE who works on your house will have to have a constant eye on them but there are plenty who will.

Think about it, this is YOUR dream house, not theirs. They don’t have any love invested in it like you do. It’s just another house to them.

Sometimes they don’t pay attention to the plans and completely forget to frame the 7 ft. by 7 ft. window in your master bedroom (which happens to be almost the entire bedroom wall). You might tell them you need a 2 ft. x 2 ft. window space framed for a beautiful antique window you already bought, and they will most definitely leave you an 18 in. x 36 in. hole.

You may send them 10 pictures and diagrams of how the foundation blocks need to be laid for the concrete safe room to sit on PER THE MANUFACTURER, but they’ll just nod enthusiastically and then do it according to the way Builder So-And-So does it across town, I promise.

This is what I call babysitting. I’m just saying. 

Despite the babysitting, there are plenty of rewards to contracting your own house.

Rewards From Being Your Own General Contractor

#1: The biggest reward is the TONS of money you’ll save. 
#2: You will gain lots of life experience.
#3: Also, it is such a reward to see your dream house become a reality.

I still remember the feeling of walking through the house after it had been framed and thinking, “Wow! We drew this on graph paper and now it is three dimensional!” We were actually kind of surprised that it worked! 

I know all of this can sound daunting. You see other people who have done it and you think it’s just too big of a task for you. Well, here’s the truth. We thought the same thing going in to it.

We had NEVER built a house before or been involved in any type of house construction. The most we had ever done was buy (then sell) two houses and do minor work on those (like painting). 

We set out to build a house debt-free and we did it!

What If You Have Never Built a House Before?

Here’s the deal. You don’t have to know everything. All you have to do is find people who know what they’re doing and hire them in the correct order.

It’s just like any other seemingly over-whelming task you’ve experienced before (college exams, losing weight, potty training your child, teaching your dog to not eat the quilt your great-grandmother made you); just take it one step/day at a time and all those steps/days will add up to your dream house in the end! 

Here’s what we discovered: once you find that very first subcontractor you need (in our case, it was a guy who did dirt work), just ask him if he recommends anyone to frame the house.

Does he know a good plumber? Can he recommend a good electrician? These people are all in the same business and, most of the time, have met or heard of each other because they have been on the same job sites.

They know who Mr. Big Time Builder in the next town uses as a roofer, and they can get you his number.

I would say that most of the crews we hired to build our house were not listed in the phone book. They were too busy to be in the phone book.

We learned about them through word-of-mouth. We talked to everyone we met and asked them their recommendations. 

We also discovered that most of the people in the building business are quite friendly. They can point you in the right direction if you get stuck or they know a guy who can. 

Big House in the Woods Real Life Example

When we were in the insulation phase, we came out to check on the house and and discovered that the company we hired was doing a pretty sorry job. I didn’t have any other leads about who could replace them so I just called a number out of the phone book.

I looked up “insulation” and found a family-owned company with a nice looking ad that had a picture of the whole family. They looked nice so I called and explained my situation. I told them I was pretty sure our current company was doing it all wrong and I needed advice.

One of the owners came out to the house and looked it over. He was kind and explained how it SHOULD be done. We needed the insulation installed between our rafters in the second story before we could get the sheetrock put up.

He said it would be too expensive for us to hire his company to do it because it was too small of a job (since we were just trying to finish what the other company did wrong).

So, he sent out one of his crew members to do the job on his own time and we paid him directly. He had the job finished and correct in a day.

He even texted us pictures when he was done.  As a result, when we needed a company to spray insulation in the attics, we knew exactly who to call. 

What Should You Do When You Need Advice?

It is also helpful to find someone who has built their own house before so you can ask them questions when you get stuck or bounce ideas off them if you need to.

Maybe you have a neighbor or relative who has built before. Or maybe you could bounce ideas off the guy who owns the hardware store down the street.

You will most likely find that there are lots of people around you who can give you valuable advice or contacts. 

We also had a book that we referenced every now and then to make sure we were on the right track: “Housebuilding: A Do-it-Yourself Guide” by R.J. DeCristoforo.

One of my husband’s coworkers brought in a stack of books he didn’t want anymore, and this book was in the stack. We found it to be a great resource to go along with the advice we got from other people; it saved us from having to bug people a few times when we had questions. 

Build a House Debt-Free Conclusion…

We have experienced all the highs and lows of contracting our own house and I can tell you that it was worth it. I’m so glad that we saved up the cash to build it instead of getting a mortgage. Now, we have a beautiful place to enjoy our debt-free life!

We Are Debt-Free!

If you are wondering why we were so determined to build a house debt-free, it’s because we are debt-free and taking out a mortgage was never in our line of thinking.

In fact, we have been debt-free and mortgage-free since we were 25!

We had saved and lived frugally for 6 years so we could build our dream home debt free. We were excited, determined, and stubborn.

Sometimes, stubbornness pays off. 😉

Want to Know How to Be Debt-Free?

Becoming debt-free is simple…in theory. It’s about spending less money than you make then applying that saved money toward your debt.

It’s a lot like losing weight.

To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you intake.

But you must move beyond the theory.

You must be diligent because the journey may test you.

Basically, you have to make a plan of attack and put it into motion.

Everyone has different situations with different amounts of debt. You must determine the best debt-free path to take that meets your needs.

I’ll help you.

Start here: How to Become Debt-Free

What is it Like to Be Debt-Free?

Do you ever ponder about this? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to not have to divide your paycheck so many ways?

I know the journey to becoming debt-free can be a long one but there is a happy ending waiting at the end of that road!

Read: What is it Like to Be Debt-Free? I’ll give you the full scoop!

We are Living Debt-Free, No Mortgage.

We have been living debt-free with no mortgage since 2011. We were 25.

We paid off our first and only mortgage in 13 months then saved so we could build our dream home with cash.

Now, we save like millionaires so we can retire when we’re 45.

Do you want to build a house debt-free?

We would love to talk! Leave us a comment below.

All the best,

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