Q: I'd like to build a house but I don't know where to start. I thought about having a contractor build it for me but heard that I can save 30 percent if I did all the hiring of subcontractors. Is it true about the savings? Any help you give me will be greatly appreciated.

— Carla, Simpson, IL

A: Tom Silva replies: I bet if you asked ten people who built their own house if they would do it again, seven of them would say no. First of all, being your own general contractor takes a lot of time. You have to make sure the subcontractors you hire are right for the job. You have to make sure they're doing the job right and not cutting corners. Then you have to schedule them at the right times. Having the insulation company come before the plumber or electrician has completed their rough-ins can cause headaches. Or what if the tile guy comes in and the showers aren't connected?

You may have to be there in the mornings to meet your workmen and set them up before you go to your own job. If they don't show or they're late, then you'll be late, too. These are just some of the problems that can come up. If you are willing and ready to spend long days and late nights on the phone and at the job site, go for it. If not, hiring a general contractor may cost more but it will save you time and energy. They have well-established relationships with subcontractors and familiarity with the time it takes to get different parts of the job done. Remember your time is worth something and, in the end, a savings of 30 percent may not be worth the personal investment that you'll have to make.
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