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Want to build your dream home? Learn from a DIYer who has

You have been dreaming of this moment your entire life.  You have been scrimping and saving, waiting until the time is right to finally build your dream home.

It’s an exciting prospect. You envision yourself finding the perfect piece of land, customizing your home to fit your family’s unique needs, and living happily ever after. But what about all that stuff that has to happen in the middle?

The endless list of decisions to be made, tasks to be accomplished, and the stress that often accompanies a large building project can be frightening. Is it possible to navigate these rough waters without drowning before you reach your goal?

I believe it is! With the right planning and preparation, careful selection of your team and a little bit of faith, anyone can build their dream home and live to tell the tale.

More About Me


I am not a builder. I am not even an expert. I am a stay-at-home mom who is living her own version of happily ever after. My husband and I built our dream home a few years ago and I am so excited to share our unique experience with you.

In the span of 8 months, our dream of building our own home became a reality. The first 5 months were spent planning. Our actual building project took less than 3 months to complete. Our friends and family were astonished at the speed which our property was developed and our home was built.

We live out in the country in Rapid City, South Dakota, but we had to construct 100% of the infrastructure before we started building the house. We had to put in our own road, bring in water and electricity and build our own drain field. That was just the beginning!

We did not hire a builder to do this project for us because we wanted to be involved with every decision. Instead, we chose a qualified construction manager to guide us through the process and we got our hands dirty!

Over the years, I have heard many horror stories from individuals who decided to build their own homes. So many people sabotage their own building projects due to naiveté, lack of planning and choosing the wrong building partners.  Don’t be a statistic!

Here are my top 10 tips to help you avoid unnecessary delays on your next building project!

1. Location, Location, Location

Be strategic when you pick a piece of land to develop. Ask the right questions and make a list of potential delays that might develop. Are there trees that need to be cleared? What are the chances of running into rock? Where will my drain field go? If you want your building project to move quickly, then pick a piece of land that is easy to develop.

2. Know your Budget

The first thing you need to do is figure out what your top dollar amount is for the building project. Don’t just guess at this, go to the bank and figure out exactly how much you can afford to spend. This is your top dollar number on the build! Once you have that number, you can set your project budget. I recommend you set your budget at no more than 60-75% of your top dollar amount.

3. Start Planning Early

By the time you break ground, you want to have 3 things 100% decided. You want to know where you are going to put the house on the property, have the house plan finalized, and know your kitchen design. Don’t leave these things to chance – they will come back to bite you if you do. I ordered my kitchen cabinets before we broke ground on the house, and they barely got here in time.

4. Choose the Right Builder

For us, the choice was not to work with a builder at all. No matter what you choose, make sure it fits your personality.  If you want to maintain 100% control, then you will not be happy working with a builder who wants to do things their way. As you interview builders or construction managers, keep these 3 crucial things in mind:

  • Is this person trustworthy? Talk with several people who have worked with them.
  • Does this person listen to me? Tell them what you want and then ask them questions about what you just said. Are they truly hearing you?
  • Do I actually like this person? You will be working very closely with this individual for the next 6-12 months, so make sure you can at least tolerate their personality.

5. Understand and Take Control of the Permit Process

I set a personal goal that our project would never be held up because of permits and was able to accomplish that goal. I spent more time than I would like to admit at the county office dealing with paperwork and pushing them to make my project a priority. It was so worth the effort!

6. Have Clearly Written Contracts

Our construction manager had a contract that he required each and every sub-contractor to sign before they ever stepped foot on our building site. We promised prompt payment and they agreed to a set timeline. There were clear expectations and no money was exchanged until the contract was met (YES! We built our entire house without paying upfront for services).

7. Don’t let the Site Sit Idle

There is nothing worse than an inactive building site. Sure, a few weather delays are inevitable, but that should be the only reason your site is inactive. Managing a building project is like directing a symphony! Communicate clearly and continually with your sub-contractors.  Have a master schedule and update it daily.

8. Choose the Right Materials

When you are picking out the finishes for your home, take into consideration the time it will take to install each product. Some things are worth a little extra time and effort, but make sure you know exactly what you are choosing and why.

9. Be Involved in the Process

Building a house is fun. There are so many decisions to be made and you are the one who is going to have to live with the results. Make it a priority to know exactly what is happening on-site so you can redirect as necessary.

10. Budget for Landscaping

This may seem like an afterthought, but that is exactly why I saved it for last. Most people forget to budget for landscaping and hydro seeding their property once it is complete. Don’t let your beautiful home be surrounded by dirt and gravel and weeds for a year while you try to find a little extra money for landscaping. Build it into the budget from the start!

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Are you feeling inspired to tackle your next major home renovation? No matter how big or small your home project is, we understand it’s important to you. Consider speaking with industry experts to have your questions answered and make your home design dreams a reality.

About The Author

Sarah Koontz is a stay-at-home wife and mother of 2 beautiful little girls.  She is passionate about writing and loves sharing her advice and experiences with anyone who will listen. She has a blog with her best friend Sammi at Grounded and Surrounded where they write about all things Healthy! Hearts, Homes, & Habits. Find Sarah on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

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