How to be Your Own General Contractor When Building a Home

Building a house sounds exciting and exhilarating. Almost everyone, if not all, desire to have their own house. It is a place where you create your home. It is where you build and grow together with your family. Some people dream of mansions while others prefer small, yet elegant and stylish houses. However you want it to look, may it be small or big, we all call it a house.

There are a lot of things that prevent people from building their own house. One of the many factors include insufficient funds. This may be true, but let us not forget that for every problem, there is always a solution to that. One way of reducing your expenses is by being your own general contractor when building your house. Did you know that you can actually build your house without hiring a general contractor, at least in a lot of states? Yes, that’s right. Nevertheless, you just need to be mindful of some things in order to become a good general contractor.

smiling contractor

On top of everything, you need to believe that you can achieve your goal of building a house. In that way, you are able to see the bright side on every challenge that may come along your way while building your house. For sure, there will be a lot of difficulties, but you just need to learn how to deal with them the right way. Now, let’s build your house.

Building a house is never magic. It takes time, effort, and dedication to achieve your goal. To help you get started, you should understand the things mentioned below:

  • Believe that you can be your own general contractor.
  • Begin with a good and solid plan.
  • Buy all the things you have laid out on your plan.
  • Never be ashamed of negotiating prices. It .
  • Choose the right people who can get the job right.

Believe in yourself. Know that you are accountable being the general contractor of your project. You can never blame other people on errors the are actually end results of our decisions. We always have a choice between what to do and what not. It is important that you believe in yourself because without having the confidence that you can achieve your goal, then you can never do it. Why? Lack of self confidence is one of the many reasons why people get easily frustrated when problems arise. There will definitely be points of argument along the way and they come in different forms — they may be financial, conflicting ideas, miscommunication, and all others. But when you are optimistic, you will try your best to get things right and focus on your goal of building your house. That’s why you would traditionally otherwise hire a construction company to take this stress of your back.

Plan. This part is crucial to begin with. An smart person, especially one who prefers to be his / her own general contractor, normally starts with a good plan and does not immediately dive into building his or her own house without any plan. You need to know what you exactly want so that you will determine which direction to take, which store to choose, what type of materials to use, how much money you need to have available, and who you will work with, since you won’t be able to do the work that electricians and plumbers will usually do, since those trades are licensed in most states, even if you’re working on your own home.. These are just some of the important things you need to consider when planning. A lot more may arise as you go through the process, but when you have these things figured out in the beginning, you are off to a good start and there is a lesser chance of encountering hurdles and surprises along the way. Planning is therefore a must.

Oftentimes, people look for and talk to a general contractor right away once they’ve decided to build a house even without establishing any plan at all. It’s simply requesting an absolute stranger to give you an estimated quote without knowing what your house would exactly look like. In turn, that contractor would play safe and give you a higher quote so as to give him a leeway just in case you decide to use high-priced materials. You do not want this to happen, right?

You probably think that it is the job of a general contractor to decide on the details of your house, but it’s not. A general contractor’s duties only include providing an estimated cost of the entire project, drafting the contract, hiring workers to doing the labor, supervising the construction site every day, managing any transaction with vendors, and acting as point of contact in disseminating information to people involved in the project. It is not their job to decide the details you will put into your house such as the type of flooring to use, the number of outlets that should be installed inside your living room, if an exhaust hood is needed inside your kitchen, or if you need a bathtub in the master bathroom. These are all up to you.

The good thing about planning is that you already have a list, or at least in mind, all the things you need to buy for your house. Once you have that sorted out, you can go shopping without wasting time. You see, time is precious, especially when you are paying your interior designer by the hour. If your local HomeDepot declares a sale on all items and you already have that list on your hand, it would save you a lot of money since you are able to purchase your mattress, fridge, sofa, dining set, and all other appliances for half of their prices, or whatever their sale is. If you’re not ready for that one big appliance sale, then you are just letting the chance of saving money slip off your hands. Preparation is key.

Shop. While most of us already know how to shop wisely, there are still people who need to learn how to make a good deal. A lot of techniques are just around the corner for you to learn and apply in order to save a lot of money. After all, this is the ultimate goal of being your own general contractor – save money. How can you not like buying something that is 50% off its original price?

If you know how big your bathroom would be, then you should also know the number of tiles you need for the bathroom remodel. When you know precisely the color, texture, and the style of your preferred tile, then it would be very easy for you to spot it when you go shopping. Remember, there are so many great deals especially when you shop online. You just need to be vigilant and quick to notice them. Do keep in mind that professional tile installers can save you money since you’ll otherwise be prone to breaking them, and suddenly that tile installation ended up costing a lot more than intended.

Negotiate. If you prefer to shop in physical stores, you should always remember that every single price displayed on their stores is definitely open for negotiation. However, negotiating isn’t always as easy as it sounds. You need to make them believe that you are serious about it so they would take your request sternly, as well.

One good idea of starting a conversation with a supplier is by telling them why you choose them over other suppliers. You can also tell them that you’ve heard so many good reviews about them from their previous clients. From there, let them know your budget for the product you are planning to buy from their store. There is a good chance you’ll get a positive response from them which will save you hundreds of dollars. If you do this from one supplier to another, all your discounts will add up and you won’t event notice how much you’ve saved already. We put together a list with negotiation techniques when acquiring a house, and many of these principles still apply in this process also.

Hire The Right People. Working with substandard people is not something that you want. You need people who are skillful and are experts in building your house. If you happen to hire people who only settle for mediocrity just to get their job done, then you are doomed. Therefore, you need to be wise in choosing who to hire.

Since you opted to be your own general contractor, you should also seek to become the best version of a general contractor knowing that you are ultimately building your house. It is important that you learn how to identify the things that your workers should be doing and what not. One very good idea of carrying that out is by learning from other people and getting to know their experiences. This may sound simple and easy but here’s a bit of reality about it.

They say two heads are better than one – yes, this is indeed true. If you are an introvert, then this is the time for you to step out of your comfort zone and make friends with people who you can trust to give you pieces of advice and learn from their mistakes. This is important because these people can share to you and warn you about what they may have done wrong in the past so that you can avoid it or at least be prepared to face them. You may learn and get advise from one of your friends, your relatives, your neighbor, or even your officemate. It might help if you create a list of questions so that you will not be caught off guard once you meet these people.

After doing a research on people who will do the labour for you, shortlist them. From your shortlisted workers, choose who among them have extensive experience, good feedback from previous clients, and who you think are honest and can be trusted to work with you. If you follow this simple guide, you will have a greater chance of saving hundreds of dollars because you are working with great people. There are a lot of questions you can ask contractors who will be doing a lot of the manual labor for you.

three workers seen outside


You might be wondering if you need a license or any other legal requirement to build your own house. Well, the answer is often no. Technically, you are only required to present a license in occupations that require an official permission to do something in order to protect those who are involved in the agreement. Take for example real estate agents. They need to have a license since they work for other people and they represent either the buyer or the seller. Real estate agents act as middlemen and they should be able to represent their clients in a professional manner. In the case of being your own general contractor, you become responsible of the end result of your decisions and actions. You are not representing anyone; therefore, a license is not necessary – in most states. We can only encourage you to look at the contractor licensing requirements in your state to make sure it’s also the case where you live.

However, there are some states who have established a set rules specifically for owner-builders. This set of rules include owning a property. If the lot is not under your name, then it may not be possible for you to build a house. They will require you to present legal documents proving that you are the primary owner of the work site and that you have been a resident of that place for at least 12 months before the actual project is completed. Also, some states would only allow you to build houses or structures up to a certain number and once you decide to sell the house or any structure under your name, you also need to check with your local building department to make sure everything is done legally.

Another rule would be to put into writing that you are declaring your full accountability on the outcome of your house. However, if you choose to hire a general contractor, it is important that you know when a hinky builder is trying to let you sign an owner-builder permit when you do not plan to become one. Make sure you have his/her name printed on the permit so you will have someone to answer for any problem that may come up. To make sure you complete all the requirements, check with you local building department in order to avoid any hassle.


Save money. Among the many reasons of people opting to become their own general contractor is to save money. Removing a general contractor’s fee from the actual cost would make a lot of difference, given that everything goes perfectly according to your plan. After all, a general contractor’s fee comprises about 25% of the total cost of the house and that percentage is quite huge already. That rate may be a bit lower nowadays, but still the cost difference is very evident. This is why most people who choose to become their own general contractors get more inspired and motivated to work on their own. Aside from that, you will also be the one to shop for the materials of your house. Therefore, you have the chance to use your charm in negotiating prices.

However, you also need to know that your real savings may not be what you exactly expect to achieve. This is due to the fact that there are several unforeseen expenses that need to be addressed. Even so, you still get your ultimate goal of reducing cost and saving money. When you hire a pro, you obviously lower the risk of unexpected costs becoming an issue.

Take control. When you become your own general contractor, your primary role is to supervise the people who work for you. Most people feel good about themselves when they are given the freedom to take control over a certain situation, and in this case, building their own house. It’s kind of rewarding in some ways and nothing is wrong with that. Also, in the event that you decide to change some details of your house, then you can do that right away without having to consult someone. You may also opt to postpone the construction if something comes up that needs your immediate attention.

Some people have difficulty expressing their ideas to others. In the case of hiring a general contractor, these people may have a hard time explaining all the details they have in mind which will eventually result to miscommunication and misunderstanding. If you do it on your own, you have the best chance of delivering precisely what you want.

Sense of fulfillment. There are so many ways of getting the feeling of satisfaction or fulfillment and other people get it by making decisions independently. Becoming an owner-builder gives you the freedom to decide on your own, allows you to command other people, and gives you the chance of expressing your creativeness. Furthermore, sitting back and patiently waiting to see how your plans are being laid out and how they are becoming real is definitely one of the best feelings you can ever feel. This sense of fulfillment becomes even more consummate when you realize that you were able to face and overcome every obstacle while building your house.


3 contractors talking

Lack of connections. Licensed contractors belong to a certain group of people who all work in the same level of skills and expertise. They have their own social network which evidently you are not a member of. This makes their job easier since they have established connections with other people who are experts of the same field. Stepping in inside a local permit office may be a bit challenging for you because no one would recognize you. On the other hand, if a general contractor comes in their office, he/she may get immediate attention because of previous acquaintances. This simply means that the whole process becomes faster and stress-free for them because they speak a common lingo and they probably meet once or twice a month during industry events.

Increased stress level. If you hire a general contractor, he is expected to be the boss or the chief of the construction project. If something comes up and when things go out of hand, he is the person accountable for that and not you. While it is true that being your own general contractor sounds interesting and brave, you wouldn’t actually know the reality unless you get to become one. You see, building a house can create a fuss between you and the people you get to work with. What’s worse is when one of your family members gets inside the picture and gives you a negative feedback. The good thing about hiring a general contractor is that he/she will save you the trouble of knowing the hitches along the way; thus, keeping the burden and stress away from you.

Lack of experience. Choosing to become your own general contractor may seem easy and simple. That may be true, but your lack of construction background and experience means that there is a higher chance of getting problems and complications on a daily basis. You cannot compare the level of experience achieved by licensed general contractors to yours since their license is often the result of several years of studies, experiences, and uphill battles. By hiring them, you are actually paying for their decades of experience and expertise shared to you instead of just merely relying on your imagination.

Time and effort. Building a house requires most of your time and effort, especially when you won’t hire a general contractor. It is important that you supervise your people daily to make sure they are doing their job right. It is also your responsibility to address any issue that may arise any time. This entails slowing down your other daily activities in order to accommodate your responsibilities as general contractor. This could work if your working hours on your primary job are flexible. If they are not, then that’s going to be a problem because being your own general contractor will interfere with your actual employment.

When we hire general contractors, they need to keep up with their projects and see to it that they get it done on time because they have other projects / clients on queue. If they take things slow, they might lose other clients. This tells us that licensed general contractors are probably more driven and used to build houses in an efficient manner, than you are.


The rate of a general contractor depends on the overall cost of building your house. It varies between 10% and 25% of the cost, inclusive of all the materials, permits, and subcontractors payments. Others would prefer to be paid a flat fee.

If you are not absolutely sure that the best option is to try and go about it yourself, we very much encourage you not to try given the amount of technical knowledge required to get the job done. If that’s the case, you can easily get quotes using the form on our site. Either way, we hope that your building project turns out a success!

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