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Owner-Builder Disaster? Texas Owner-Builder Secrets You NEED to Know Before Breaking Ground

The Lone Star State calls to many people with its wide-open spaces and endless possibilities, and the dream of building your own custom home in Texas is an exciting one. The freedom to design a space that perfectly reflects your vision and lifestyle is incredibly appealing. However, the owner-builder journey in Texas, like any construction project, comes with its own set of challenges, especially for first-timers. This blog post unveils some “Texas Owner-Builder Secrets” – essential information you need to know before breaking ground to avoid potential pitfalls and ensure a smooth, successful build.

Secret #1: Permits?

Texas cities have complex permitting systems that vary by locality. Don’t underestimate the time and effort required to navigate the permitting process. Are you building in the County and not a city? Welcome to the “Wild Wild West” where your septic system is the only required permit. There are no permits or inspections on any element of your home when you build in the County in Texas. Isn’t that a scary notion? We’ll tackle this more later when we get to inspections.

  • Permitting Solution: Start early. Research your city’s permit requirements early on. Contact your local building department to understand the specific permits needed for your project and their timelines.
  • Don’t go Rogue: Don’t attempt to bypass the permitting process. Building in the city without a permit can lead to hefty fines, delays, and even the possibility of having to demolish unpermitted work.
  • Work with the Best: Consider hiring a permit expediter to navigate your city’s permitting process. They can save you time and ensure you have the necessary documentation in order. Also, collaborate with your designer to create detailed plans that comply with local building codes. This will streamline the permitting process and ensure a smooth build.

Secret #2: A Strong Budget

Sticking to a budget is important in any construction project. However, owner-builders often underestimate the hidden costs associated with building a custom home. Unexpected costs can derail even the most meticulously planned budget.

  • Budget Solution: Develop a realistic and detailed budget that includes not just construction materials and labor, but also permits, inspections, insurance, and unforeseen contingencies. Factor in a buffer of 10-15% for unexpected costs.
  • Plan for the Unexpected: Unforeseen site issues, like poor soil conditions or the presence of rock, can require additional engineering or excavation work, driving up costs. Building material costs can fluctuate, sometimes dramatically. Factor in a buffer in your budget to account for potential price increases.
  • Change Orders: As construction progresses, you may decide to make changes to your initial plans. While these customizations may seem minor, they can significantly impact your budget. Carefully track and approve all change orders in writing. So, embrace flexibility, not frills. While customization is a perk of owner-building, prioritize essential features and be selective with high-end finishes to stay within budget.

Secret #3: The Importance of Insurance

Building a home is a significant financial undertaking, and having the right insurance is crucial for protecting your investment. Insurance safeguards you from unexpected events throughout the owner-builder journey.

  • Insurance Solutions: Obtaining Builder’s Risk insurance protects your partially built home and building materials from damage caused by fire, theft, vandalism, or weather events. It’s essential to secure Builder’s Risk insurance before breaking ground. General Liability insurance protects you from financial liability in case of accidents or injuries that occur on your construction site. Imagine a subcontractor falling and getting injured – general liability insurance can help cover medical expenses and legal fees. While your contractors should maintain GL insurance, you may want to consider investing in it as well.
  • Shop Around for Insurance: Don’t settle for the first insurance quote you receive. Shop around and compare rates and coverage from different providers. Talk to a qualified insurance agent to understand the specific insurance needs for your owner-builder project. They can help you tailor a comprehensive insurance package to protect yourself from potential risks.

Secret #4: The Importance of a Team

The spirit of self-reliance is admirable, but owner-building doesn’t mean going it alone. While tackling some tasks yourself can save money, be realistic about your skillset. Building a home is a complex undertaking, and a skilled team can make a world of difference while making the process smoother and less stressful. Finding reliable and qualified subcontractors is vital for a successful build.

  • Teamwork Solution: Identify projects you’re comfortable DIYing and leave complex tasks to qualified professionals. This ensures quality workmanship and avoids costly mistakes. Don’t rush the contractor hiring process. Interview potential subcontractors carefully. Ask for references and check their qualifications and experience. At Built Green Custom Homes, we will do this leg work for you – saving you time and allowing you to focus your energies on other things.
  • Owner-Builder Consultant: Consider hiring an experienced owner-builder consultant like Built Green to guide you through the entire process. They can offer invaluable advice, connect you with qualified professionals, and help you navigate challenges.

Secret #5: Prepare for Texas Weather

Texas weather can be unpredictable and is notorious for extremes. Building a home that can withstand the elements is crucial. The Texas Coast is prone to hurricanes, other areas are prone to flooding, while others experience drought and severe heat in the summers.

  • Weather Solution: Work with your designer to ensure your home meets or exceeds Texas building codes for weather-related factors associated with your build location. Choose drought-resistant landscaping and energy-efficient building materials to reduce water usage and keep your home cool during scorching summers.

Secret #6: The Inspection Non-Negotiable

Remember the “Wild Wild West” discussion earlier – where it was mentioned that there are NO inspections required on any element of your home when you build in the County in Texas? It is a scary thought that code inspectors do not inspect the plumbing, electrical, and other potentially dangerous (fire-hazard and life-safety) elements of homes built in Texas counties. At Built Green, we believe that building inspections are crucial to ensure your home meets safety and building code standards.

  • Texas Inspection Solution: Built Green will pay for up to 25 inspections on your home during construction. These inspections are completed by certified code inspectors through a major Texas engineering firm. We suggest you use all the inspections and be prepared for potential delays if a contractor needs to address an issue. Address any issues raised by the inspectors immediately to avoid construction hold-ups. Code inspections should be a non-negotiable for your build. If your prospective owner-builder consultant doesn’t offer them through certified code inspectors, move on.

Building Your Texas Dream Home with Built Green Custom Homes

Building your own custom home in Texas is an achievable dream, but it requires careful planning and preparation. By understanding these Texas owner-builder secrets and partnering with the right team, you can turn your dream into a reality. At Built Green Custom Homes, we specialize in guiding owner-builders through the process in Texas. We can help you navigate your project with greater confidence and less stress, connect you with reliable professionals, and ensure your custom home is built to the highest standards of quality and safety.

Contact Built Green Custom Homes today to discuss your owner-builder custom home project and learn how we can help you build your dream home in Texas with confidence.

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Dennis Celsor