Shampoo and Booze Episode 11: Being Your Own General Contractor

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Since we started buying houses, we have, by necessity, been our own general contractors. This means you deal with every detail on a renovation including who does what, budgets, colors, materials, hauling trash, even some demolition and physical labor, etc etc. If you're not willing to pay someone else to do it, you've got to just do it yourself. We do have limits as to what our construction skills afford, but that's when we make sure we have a professional ready and willing. So far this system has worked well for us and hopefully will continue to work for this next big project.

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14 comments:

  1. I had the sense that you would do more remodeling than you had initially planned. It's always that way.
    We've used general contractors for our major jobs, but we have always ordered parts ourselves. In 2000, we redid a kitchen and our contractor could not believe we ordered everything online: potracks.com, knobs.com etc. Buying online wasn't as common then. We were able to source quality pieces at lower prices than buying locally.
    For a major bathroom remodel in 2012, we had a tub and a vanity delivered by freight to the house. By getting the fixtures ourselves we saved the 20% the contractor would have marked up local retail items.
    Craigslist came through again for me this week for my vacation property. I booked 3 nights during Xmas week that looked like they were going to go unrented.

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    1. Yeah, just being able to buy all our supplies saves us money even when we pay other people to install.

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    2. plus we get to be scavengers and find more unique materials rather than just buying everything new. craigslist and our truck are our friends.

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  2. We have finally finished our water damage re-do. It took us over a year for kitchen, family room and laundry. We got quotes from a contractor including the 20% fee...it is 10% Overhead and 10% Profit or O & P. They were even charging us for the granite and flooring that we were sourcing and paying for ourselves. Needless to say, we ended up being our own contractors and WE got paid by the insurance company over $10,000.
    When you do it yourself, you are in control of the quality and prices you want. We got our drawer pulls for $1.19 ea vs $2.99 at Lowe's, just as an example. Question: how large is your new place. Is there just a sleeping loft for 2 people?

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    1. i love to hear this. good for you guys. i think there are a lot of people who don't want to deal with the details so they pay someone else a bunch to do it. our new place is about 880 sq ft with a loft up top for 2 people. but downstairs will have a sleeper sofa for 2 more people or kids.

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  3. You guys rock. we're in the beginning stages of building a tiny house on some land that has just been purchased. The whole process has been an experience, particularly because all of this has been done remotely. The property is in another state entirely. We've just gotten the second draft of plans from the architect. After fine-tuning those, then the building plans will be drawn, permitting process begins and who knows what else after that. What an adventure!

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    1. wow you guys are really doing it. that's great. i would love to hear more. do you have the plans online? i'd love to see what it looks like. that's so cool!

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    2. Hi Ryanne,

      I had replied to your questions earlier, or so I thought, and came back this evening to see if you had replied to it only to discover it never posted. Oh, well. We don't have the plans online. We're currently shopping for bids from contractors and have one bid so far, expecting another one this week hopefully by Friday. It is a lot of work but so fun and exciting. I can't remember anything that has provided more enthusiasm and motivation ever being in the works in my life. Essentially the quarter of an acre property is located on the big island of Hawaii, less than 3 miles to the entrance of Volcano National Park (about a 4 minute drive, easily walkable) and will feature a single unit elevated treehouse that will accommodate 2 people, maybe three. It will be approximately 300 sq. feet and have a lanai on 3 sides with lots of windows, a bedroom, fully functional and plumbers bathroom and fully functional kitchen. The house will be approximately 12 feet off the ground with a wrap around staircase. It should be incredible. Will keep you updated as we progress. Thanks for your interest!

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    3. amazing, i've always wanted to visit the big island. maybe now i'll have a cool place to stay!

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  4. How did you guys find contractors? Did you use any of the websites like Angies list or a company?

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    1. it has been all word of mouth for us. our original contractor came from a friend, then from there he recommended others like our stone mason and plumber etc. if it doesnt work out with them, we ask around to other people who have done renovations or run rentals to see who they use. but that's rural America, not sure how that would work in other areas. when i lived in Boston, it was all word of mouth, friend of friends as well.

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  5. Hi Jay and Ryanne - how hard has it been to get mortgages for these properties with self employment income? We had to jump through a lot of hoops in the past with eBay/Amazon income as our only proof for our regular owner occupied mortgages and I am just curious how much tougher it is for rental property..... Thank you

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    1. It's a process and has meant creating a relationship with our local banker. I don't think we could have gotten the mortgages if we went through a huge conglomerate like Bank of America that look purely at the numbers. Our local banker takes into consideration the investments we're making.

      When we bought our home, we couldn't get a loan from anyone based on our eBay income. Instead we bought a cheap home in cash since it was in foreclosure. Once we fixed it up, we were able to use this fully paid-off home as collateral for a rental mortgage.

      We also now can show consistent eBay income since 2008. But I cannot stress enough how important it is to work with our local banker who knows the area and knows us.

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