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Five Questions Every Owner Builder Needs to Ask About His Loan

Aug 17, 2008
Owner builder construction loans are complicated compared to simple purchase loans or refinance mortgages. So, you need to make sure you look for financing that has the features you need to make your project as successful as possible.

Acting as an owner builder, you are going to manage the construction of your new home, which is no small job. Therefore, you will need to make sure your construction loan is set up to help you succeed. Always ask these five questions before settling on your financing.

1. Does the owner builder construction loan have any monthly consulting fees?

Some loan programs charge a monthly owner builder consulting fee under the premise that the program will provide off-site guidance while you construct your house. Though you definitely want a loan program that will be available to answer questions while you build the home, you don't want to pay a monthly fee to somebody who will never step foot on your job site.

These monthly owner builder consulting fees are simply a way to extract extra money out of the customer during the construction phase of the project. There are enough expenses involved in building a house. You don't need to spend extra money each month for an off-site consultation that you may or may not ever use.

Obviously, like any other loan program, owner builder construction loans will have fees associated with the program. But, these fees should be a part of the financing, just like other construction loans. You shouldn't have to pay additional monthly consulting fees for the pleasure of being an owner builder.

2. Are there a limited number of construction draws for an owner builder?

During construction, an owner builder will typically take anywhere from eight to thirteen draws to get their home built. Unfortunately, there is no method of truly knowing the exact number you will need until you are done building the home. This is because owner builder construction involves paying sub-contractors as you complete individual construction items.

For example, an owner builder will want to pay the foundation sub-contractor once the foundation is completed. Likewise, you will pay the framing crew once the rough framing is done. As you can imagine, there are countless examples of different steps needed to build your house.

Therefore, you need to make sure that your owner builder construction loan does not limit the number of draws that you can take during construction. Some programs will only allow for five or six draws. That means that you have to get sub-contractors to wait until you have completed large portions of the construction project before you pay them. Or, as the owner builder, you will have to pay them out of your own pocket until the loan program reimburses you.

It is much easier on your wallet if you make sure your loan program provides unlimited draws to allow you to reimburse your sub-contractors as each individual construction step is completed. It will keep your sub-contractors happy and keep money in your pocket.

3. What is the loan's down payment requirement for being an owner builder?

Some owner builder construction loans have excessive down payment requirements for you to build your own home. Often, you will have to make a down payment in excess of 20% to qualify for the program.

With these types of requirements, an owner builder is often left with very little cash in his own bank account. This can mean trouble during construction. No matter how well you plan your project and your budget, there are always going to be some cost overruns here and there.

Overall, an owner builder will save a ton of money, and these minor cost overruns are no big deal. However, if you have depleted your cash by making an excessive down payment, you will be hard pressed to cover the extra amount of funds required to get your home built. This could lead to over use of your credit cards and even hurt your credit scores.

4. How many closings does this owner builder loan require?

You definitely want to make sure your owner builder construction loan has only one closing. It is possible to find a program that has two closings - one for the construction phase, and one for the conversion to the permanent loan.

However, two closings will cost you extra money once your house is built. With two closings, you will need to pay for two sets of closing costs, including points, title work, closing agent fees, recording fees, etc.

But, if you can find an owner builder program that will wrap the two loan phases into one closing, then you can save yourself some time, money, and headaches. In fact, some programs will even finance your closing costs to minimize any money you have to pay out of your pocket.

5. Does the owner builder construction loan require me to have a site supervisor or hire sub-contractors from an approved list?

Unfortunately, there are owner builder loan programs available that will not allow you to hire any sub-contractor or material provider that you would like to hire. By forcing you to hire sub-contractors from a list of approved contractors, the program is limiting the amount of savings you can achieve.

An owner builder saves a lot of money by shopping for the right sub-contractors and material providers to build his house. Sometimes, you will get four or five quotes for a particular piece of the puzzle. For example, you may look at four or five plumbers before you choose the one you want.

If you are limited in the contractors that you can hire, you will not have the flexibility that you need to be as successful financially as you wanted. Similarly, if an owner builder must hire a site supervisor to help manage his project, there will often be a required payment involved. If you have to pay a site supervisor thousands of dollars, then that is equity that you are losing in your home.

By all means, if you need a site supervisor to help you with the construction of your home, then they are worth the money. But, if you can be a successful owner builder without a site supervisor, then wouldn't it be nice to have a loan program that gives you the option?

Therefore, every owner builder needs to ask these five questions when looking for the right construction loan program. Without the right loan features, it will be very difficult for any owner builder to be successful.
About the Author
Chris Esposito provides owner builder construction loans through Owner Builder 101, the nation's premier owner builder program. To learn more about saving tens of thousands of dollars by being an owner builder for your next home, go to http://www.OwnerBuilder101.com, or call (877) 876-3688.
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