If you’ve made the decision to move to a smaller home, should you build it instead of looking for one to buy? Building your own downsized house might give you exactly what you want without compromise. Consider the following advice if this is your plan.
Advantages of building your own smaller house include having complete control over all aspects of the home design and materials, being able to choose that perfect site to locate it, and integrating the latest technologies in energy efficiency. You can choose your contractor and oversee quality. You can insert some of the things you’ve always wanted, like a circular staircase, a rooftop patio, a garage or workshop, a deck, or hidden storage.
Disadvantages can be mirror images of the advantages. If you subcontract the work yourself and do not understand the insurance and legal requirements, you can pay fines. If you do not manage the work properly you can end up with shoddy construction and missed project deadlines. If your design is not carefully thought out you can lose energy savings. It takes time to locate the right building site. Space inflation along with change orders as you build can cause the square footage to expand and expenses can skyrocket.
Don’t be discouraged. If you are confident that a smaller home of your own dream design can work for you emotionally and fit your lifestyle, then don’t be deterred. Think the details through rigorously and then assemble a plan. My advice is draw the home out at the kitchen table, have fun, and then make a list of wants. Prioritize these. For example, “Lots of storage space – 1,” Deck space – 3,” Loft room – 5,” etc. Then find a good home designer. Use the internet and look at their plans. You can save money by purchasing a plan that you like online. Make sure that you have the opportunity to view the plan in 3D and “walk” the home exterior and interior on a computer to make sure it is exactly what you want. Nothing is worse than having a home designed and then finding that the actual layout is not what you thought it would be.
Next, decide where you will not skimp on features. These should include insulation amount and quality, window quality, and appliance efficiency. Use the latest energy efficient bulbs in all lighting fixtures and consider having a blower door test to make sure the home is tight.
Finally, decide who will build it. Unless you are a former builder I recommend against doing your own contracting. You think you will save money by subcontracting the work, but you are well behind the curve that builders have who know what subs are good at any given moment, and have a an established working relationship with them. Builders are up to date on the latest materials and methods and can choose the best suppliers. Unless you spend a great deal of time and effort on this, you will end up spending far more time and far more money than you anticipated.
Building your own smaller home can be a wonderful experience full of reward and satisfaction. With the shift in demand to smaller energy efficient homes in the future, the chances are good that the value of your home will go up, not down.