want to build a house?
and don’t know dead from doornail?
are you a dummy?
The truth is this: We wouldn’t be building a house if it wasn’t for this book.
As a scientist, the first thing I do before casting off into the great unknown is to do a literature review: A compilation and quality reading of what has been written about the topic of interest. In this way, I can learn what others have already learned and not go down rabbit holes and dead ends already discovered and discarded. Being a scientist, and not being able to help myself, I did the same when we started getting serious about building a home.
The first books I found and read were not promising and, in fact, were frightening. One book on building a custom home simply stated that it was impossible to estimate the cost of building a custom home. While probably technically correct (although I have to believe that there’s at least one home out there that was built for the budget…), that statement was not at all helpful. That book recommended building semi-custom and then went into excruciating detail on working with Generic Homes Inc. in choosing cabinets and paint colors. Unfortunately, Generic Homes Inc. doesn’t build cubist homes. It wasn’t until I picked up this Dummies book that the hammer hit the nail.
The first time I was at the bookstore, I passed over the Dummies tome. “I’m not a dummy…” I whisper-whined to myself so the cute girl with tortoise shell glasses and an Edgar Allan Poe tattoo wouldn’t hear me. After striking out on several other books I was back at the bigbox to anonymously buy the Dummies book. “Would you like a bag, sir?” Why yes, yes I would. And make it quick, please…
The book is written by a banker, a builder, and Ms. Lincoln Logs. I skipped over the log-talk (having grown up in Illinois, I’ve heard my share of log cabins…) and headed straight for the financing and building bits. And my-my are they beautifully chock full of useful information.
The authors wrote the book before the banking crisis, so tread carefully through the financing parts (don’t worry: banks these days will help you by simply saying “NO!”). Nonetheless, there are lots of useful tips. For example, we were thinking that we would put most of our cash into the lot when we bought it. However, after reading this book, we realized that we need our cash for a more efficient build (if you have to wait for the bank to release money from the construction loan, construction can be slowed; if you have cash, you can write checks to keep the project moving while waiting for the bank to “pay” you for the work).
The building bits of the book are likewise horribly helpful. One giant section explains the building process in great detail, the different ways of contracting with a builder, and lists common mistakes, ways to lower costs, and how to resolve problems that may come up.
Building a home is still a leap into the great unknown, but at least with this book weighting us down, we’ll (hopefully) get there faster!