I still vividly remember planning out my dream home on graph paper as my toddler played next to me. We were living in a poorly built house, in a bad area.
What was supposed to be a “starter home” had served its purpose and it was definitely time to move on.
I had no intentions on going back to work, but man, did I want to build our custom, dream home!
Four years later, we FINALLY broke ground on our new home. I was elated. But, I knew that we had a very specific budget that we needed to adhere to so that we could afford our home.
Building a house on the cheap isn’t difficult to do, it just takes time and some resilience. And you can’t be super picky. Being picky just busts your budget before you even get going.
If you are intentional and patient, you can build a house inexpensively, without compromising the beauty of your home.
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How to Build a House on the Cheap
1 | Check Amazon to compare prices on finishings.
Amazon was a HUGE part of us staying on our written house budget. Any time we needed to purchase something (if I couldn’t buy it used), I checked Amazon’s pricing against the big box stores in our area. Most of the time, Amazon came up much cheaper AND I could get the item shipped straight to my door, in 2-3 days, with my Amazon Prime account.
No perusing the aisles for HOURS with my two little kids. It made building a house on the cheap so easy!
Some of the items I found on Amazon were almost half the price I found in our local stores. This stainless steel, large basin sink was under $140 when we bought it! That’s HUGELY discounted from what they sell for in a store. We also found these gorgeous, oil rubbed bronze, outdoor lights that have been the perfect touch to our outdoor spaces. For under $40 a piece, we could not beat the price!
2 | Buy used whenever you can to save money on building your house.
I am the first to admit that I am hugely frugal. Not only do I love to save money, but I also get really annoyed when I feel like prices are ridiculous on certain items.
I made it my mission to buy as many used things as possible in order to build our house on the cheap.
But, nothing I bought LOOKS cheap, and that is the key!
Some of the things I bought used were:
Kitchen faucet: Paid $80, retails for over $400, savings of over $300
2 bathroom faucets: Paid $60 each, retail for over $150 each, savings of $180 total
2 outdoor sconces: Paid $12.50 each, retail for for over $80 each, savings of $135 total
foyer chandelier (not actually used): Paid $40, retails for over $200, savings of $140
stairway chandelier (I refurbished): Paid $10, plus $30 for new globes and $7 for spray paint, similar one retails for over $60, savings of $13 (plus mine is a touch fancier!)
That is a savings of over $700 on just those items!
These items were found on a local buy/sell group on Facebook, and at our local Habitat for Humanity. Craigslist is another great place to shop for used building supplies.
I did not wait for our house to get started to begin buying used items. Any time I saw something that would fit with our house, I bought it. Most of the time it was so inexpensive, that if we didn’t use it, it didn’t really matter. Or, I could easily resell it to recoup our money.
Related Post: How We Sold Our House in 1 Day
3 | DIY as much as possible to spend less on your home build!
My husband and I are not afraid of work. Neither are our families. And actually, we are all pretty handy. We took advantage of this.
We knew that we would be doing a ton of work, in order to save money.
But, we only took on what we KNEW we could handle. We didn’t do anything that was over our heads. Because then you just end up paying someone extra to fix your mistakes. DON’T DO THAT!
We left all of the structural type jobs up to the professional contractors, but when it came to the interior, it was game on.
We did the following:
exterior trim paint
interior wall/ceiling/trim paint
floor trim and caulking
wrought iron balcony railing and stair rail
creating and installing concrete countertops
shower and bath tile
closet rods and shelving
upstairs luxury vinyl floor installation
garage door and opener installation
interior and exterior door installation
put in ducts for bathroom vents
final house clean up
If there is something you know, without a doubt, that you can complete, write it on your list! Labor is expensive and you can cut costs by not having to hire someone.
Disclaimer: it takes a lot of time and patience to do DIY projects on a new home. There were many nights that we wished we would have just hired someone. Make sure this is something you can handle physically and time-wise! Also, make sure your builder will allow you to do some of the work on your home. Some won’t.
Related Post: How We Paid Off $26,000 in Debt in 5 Months
4 | Get multiple bids on contract work to cut costs on building your home.
When you are trying to build a house on the cheap, you HAVE to get more than one bid on your contract work. There is just not a way around that.
In the construction world, pricing can vary a lot, and a higher price does not always mean higher quality (though sometimes it does).
Get bids IN WRITING, and keep them organized in a binder, or folder. This will help you access your bids quickly when you are talking to different contractors.
Make sure you get customer recommendations and testimonials on all of your contractors. You don’t want to be working with someone that doesn’t make their customers happy. That is a recipe for disaster.
As you get your bids back, check them to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Are the contractors all using the same material? Or is the price a little higher because the quality of material is better? In some places the quality is going to matter, but sometimes you can take the short-cut and it doesn’t matter. Resarch, research, research.
If there is a certain contractor you want to work with, but you have received lower bids, talk to the contractor and see if they will give you a price-break. A lot of times, you can find a contractor that will price match in order to get the job. Don’t undercut, but do talk to them about if they can lower their price at all.
5 | Design a simple house.
When you decide to build your home, keep in mind that the design of your home can drive up the price.
Any time there are decorative inlets in walls, trey ceilings or a lot of angles in the framing, your pricing is probably going to go up.
There are ways to design a simple, yet beautiful home, if you just take the time to look at what you want. Always check with your contractors on the price increase, if you just can’t live without a certain feature.
A few things we did to design simple and build on the cheap:
no trey ceilings
no decorative inlets
no fancy porch ceilings (read: cedar tung and groove)
simple 1×4 floor trim (looks beautiful and costs less than normal floor trim)
simple wrought iron railing (no scrolls, just straight pickets)
same flooring throughout (1st and 2nd stories have different flooring than each other)
If you can sacrifice in some areas, you will be able to build your house on the cheap. There are some fancy things that just aren’t needed, or can be added after the house is built.
You do not have to sacrifice beauty when you are building a house on the cheap. There are several ways that you can cut your expenses and still have the home you have always dreamed of. These tips and advice will help you figure out where you can save and where you can splurge.
Home building is a fun process, but should end up a blessing and not a curse, so spend wisely and build on the cheap as much as you can!