For some, the dream of custom homeownership is realized in a very hands-on manner.
Rather than let someone else oversee the project, the future homeowner takes the lead and serves as the general contractor (GC). When the build is finished, there's very little uncertainty about what was done, by whom, or why to make the home a reality.
This isn't unheard of with building a Barden custom home.
if you're wondering, “What’s it take to build my custom home?” while acting as the GC for your project GC, there's plenty to be aware of and consider.
In this article, we'll look at:
- What being a GC means
- Your role as GC
- The biggest challenges in being your own GC
- & much more
Build Your Custom Home | Being Your Own GC
To be up-front, being your own GC does not eliminate working with a Barden Independent Dealer from your project. Put simply, to build a Barden home, you’ll need a Barden Independent dealer involved (the extent of which, we’ll dig into more below).
Clients acting as their own general contractors isn't new at Barden. Plenty of Barden homes have been built this way.
However, this isn’t an easy path, and it’s one that has become more difficult over the years. Both lenders and insurers have put more stringent requirements in place that make this option difficult for the average person to pursue. Navigating these standards and cutting through the red tape can be a nightmare (something an Independent Dealer can help you work through as they have experience with this element of custom home building).
Before we go any further ... We'd like to clarify one thing: Being your own general contractor does not mean you'd be the person literally building your home.
Rather, serving as your own general contractor means you’re taking on the responsibility and liability for your project – which includes things like obtaining proper insurance coverage. Certainly, if there are some tasks with your project that you feel confident taking on, (say, painting, for instance), there's nothing stopping you from doing so.
However, custom home building is a major undertaking that requires a wide variety of skill sets and expertise, as well as equipment and tools, and you'll undoubtedly rely on others to help make the project happen.
Again, for anyone considering being the GC for their Barden project, you'll still need to work directly with an Independent Dealer. And not all Independent Dealers who are builders or GC’s may shy away from working with clients who want to act as their own GC.
Responsibility & experience.
As we'll get more into later, there's a wide variety of permits and liability insurances that need to be in place for a project. If everything isn't handled to the letter, things can get very complicated should something go wrong or an issue arises. In addition, the assumption is often that the builder takes on the responsibility of the project, and thus it can become difficult to draw that line and separate their own liability from the project.
And without experience in managing a build, clients acting as their own GC may run into all sorts of issues that can cause delays and increase expenses quickly.
Being Your Own GC: What the Custom Home Building Process Looks Like
While panelized construction does help simplify the custom home building process, it's not a silver bullet in the sense that it makes it possible for anyone to oversee. A homeowner acting as GC needs some level of project management under their belts – and that's in addition to the resources and expertise the Independent Dealer provides.
So what does being your own GC look like?
Let's dig in:
The Homeowner's Role
In a very general sense, as GC you are taking on responsibility for everything with your project.
As your own GC, you’ll need to:
- Secure all permits
- Obtain insurances, such as general liability, workers' comp, and professional liability
- Oversee building design work, adjustments, and approvals
- Make sure the design complies with local building codes
- Arrange site prep work
- Hire, manage, and pay general and specialty contractors
- Secure any specialty equipment not provided by contractors
- Manage day-to-day project logistics
- Arrange inspections
- Obtain a "Certificate of Occupancy"
While this list may seem manageable, keep in mind that it's a high-level overview of what goes into building a Barden home. Like all construction projects, the everyday oversight of a project is full of minutia and the (hopefully) occasional unexpected. We could write volumes on exactly what that looks like.
The Independent Dealer's Role
Under what we now see as more routine circumstances, your Independent Dealer would handle the above list, working closely with you at your level of desired involvement.
With you completely in the driver's seat as your project's GC, an Independent Dealer still has a role to play in making your custom home a reality. The extent of that role does depend on the dealer.
Some dealers are happy to limit their involvement to being the intermediary between you and Barden, and simply sell you your custom home package as we do not sell directly to customers.
Others, however, have as much active involvement as possible, being a right hand of sorts.
In addition to providing counsel and expertise, an involved Independent Dealer assists with almost every element of your project, including:
- Floor plan design
- Interfacings with our Drafting & Design Department
- Supplying the framing package
- Recommending contractors and trade workers
- Managing payment schedules
- Facilitating inspections
The level of involvement of your involved Independent Dealer is ultimately meant to help you realize your dream home with as few bumps in the road as possible.
The Challenges of Being Your Own GG
Though managing a major project is a challenge in and of itself (quite frankly, it's a lot of small challenges combined), there are two issues that regularly come up for homeowners acting as their own GC: financing and insurance.
If you've ever been through the home loan process, you're well aware that it's ... not something that happens in a day. There are credit checks, inspections, and mountains of paperwork. And you'll likely end up working with a lawyer, too.
That process only becomes more complicated when you're acting as your project's GC. In the eyes of a financial institution – be it a local bank or a third-party lender – your project and your lack of experience is viewed as a negative. You’ll like face a deeper dive into your personal finances and likely a larger initial investment or collateral.
In addition, you'll be applying for a construction loan (which is eventually converted to a traditional mortgage).
Your Independent Dealer can make recommendations for local lenders that have programs in place for owner-builders, helping you avoid some of the headaches of obtaining financing.
Another major stumbling block for would-be homeowner GC's is obtaining insurance.
Put simply, you can expect the same high level of scrutiny from an insurer for your project.
The last thing any insurer wants to do is be a safety net for a project that's managed by someone with little-to-no experience. In a certain respect, it's no different to the insurer than providing coverage to a teenage driver – it's a high-risk venture that has premiums that match.
And remember you'll need at least three types of insurance: general liability, professional liability, and worker's comp. Without them, there's no way to move forward on building your custom home.
Bonus Challenge: Resources
As building a custom home requires workers of all sorts and access to reliable suppliers and vendors, finding these things on your own takes time & ample investigation. Knowing where to look in the first place or what other options are available doesn't just happen – usually, they're the result of a long career and established relationships (something an Independent Dealer has).
How to Build Your Custom Home With as Few Headaches as Possible
As we've mentioned, building a custom home is a major undertaking. Managing all that goes into taking your dream home from concept to reality is in many ways a full-time job. Most custom homeowners only go through the process once in their lifetimes.
There's an alternative that's a proven method to getting your home built without shouldering more than you can handle: working with an Independent Dealer who is a GC.
Not all Barden Independent Dealers are GCs, some act as project managers. You’ll need to talk about this upfront to see if the Independent Dealer in your area offers services as a GC. Generally speaking, working as your own GC can make your project more affordable, as you eliminated some of the work of a “middleman.” However, you get what you pay for, and having someone take work and responsibility on for you will cost you. Depending on your needs and capabilities, that may be money well spent.
Remember, managing custom home projects is a Barden Independent Dealer's 9 to 5. They have a full understanding of what it takes to get the job done. And that's not to mention the resources, established relationships, and insurance coverage, too.
Even if you're not the GC, you still remain in the driver's seat, working closely with your Independent Dealer through the entire process. Or, you can opt to have a limited role, leaving your independent dealer to complete the project to what you agreed upon. The choice is absolutely up to you – it is your project after all.
Building Your Barden Home
In the world of custom home building, there's no one way to build a house that's tailored to you. And while working with an experienced Independent Dealer remains the go-to option for future custom homeowners, being your project's GC is indeed an option.
But choosing that option should be done with eyes wide open and a realistic set of expectations.
Want a Complete Look at Building a Barden Home?
Our Ultimate Homeowner's Toolkit has the answers. Download your copy now: