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Hello Everyone!!

I have been reading the different threads on this site and have come to the conclusion to ask for advice...

Hmm..ok..this is how I will start:

I am a 25 year old woman from Chicago with NO personal experience with contracting of any form, but my husband is a framer. Eventhough I was born in the US I have a Polish heritage and my husband is "off the boat" or so to speak, with no knowledge of the way things work here in America...he just knows how to do his job.

I want to build houses!! The first step I am taking is I have signed up for a General Contracting course at our Community College that lasts 14 weeks for 3 hours a week. I believe that I CAN DO IT!

Many of you here that I from Chicago know that Chicago is a very competetive market amoung sub contractors ( and I know this because everyone that my parents know build houses and own their own contracting business etc..too bad my parents went the way of trucking!!). The thing is, I still believe that you can succeed here. That there is an immense value of building a home for someone as if you were building it for yourself.

My question is this, how difficult would it be for a women?? Where would I begin??

I was hoping that since we have some equity in our home, I would be able to refinance and take a cash out so that I can purchase some property. Then I would go to the bank to get a New Construction Loan. I have no idea how difficult this would be , but we have pretty good credit so that shouldn't be a problem. Another thing I have no idea about, is if I can turn around and sell this house after I am done building it? Do I have to BE GC in order to be the Owner/Builder? Should I incorporate, or do it personally see if I can do it, and then incorporate?? I know that I can call my dad's accountant and she can help me with the financial questions, but I feel that I would like an opinion from experience.

Please let me know, and thanks for reading this long post...what can I say, I am a woman--we LOVE TO TALK!!! He he he.. :cheesygri
 

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Dorota said:
Hello Everyone!!
The thing is, I still believe that you can succeed here. That there is an immense value of building a home for someone as if you were building it for yourself.
I understand that you think that there could be or should be a better way, you hear people all the time saying how cheaply everything seems like it is being built today, cheaply meaning lower quality, or not built like they used to.

The extra cost of labor and materials you put into a spec home in order to build it at a level of quality as if you were building it for yourself will most likely ruin you.

There is a reason why today's homes are built the way they are and out of what they are. Be careful thinking you are going to out smart all the other builders by doing everything differently then they are, instead figure out and understand why they are doing things the way they are.

Please be careful and put some careful consideration into basing your business upon building like you were building for yourself. Unless you are dealing with million dollar plus homes, you will either price yourself out of the market or end up going broke.
 

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I'm personally glad to hear that you want to get into building homes, and I think you can do it. Like the others have said, you just need to do your homework, which I believe you know and have already begun. Make sure you understand the process VERY well, including how much each phase of construction costs, because I hate to say that some subs will try to take advantage of a woman. But I think the fact that you are a woman is a plus for you. You will be dealing alot with women, and they will probably feel more comfortable dealing with you than with a burly male contractor (no offense, guys). I've always seen and believed that if you want to do something bad enough and you're willing to put forth the time and effort, then you will be successful--no doubt about it. So if you really want to make it happen, it will.
 

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Dorota said:
I am a 25 year old woman from Chicago with NO personal experience with contracting of any form, but my husband is a framer.
I want to build houses!! Chicago is a very competetive market amoung sub contractors ( I know this because everyone that my parents know build houses and own their own contracting business etc.). My question is this, how difficult would it be for a women??
Let's see...25; no experience; married to a framing carpenter; very competitive subcontract market; lots of other builders; woman.

If you ask me there's only one thing in that list that's an advantage to you; the last. As a woman you can pretty much do whatever you want and you'll be OK wether the business flies or dies. You'll always have your husband out there putting his shoulder to the grindstone, day in and day out, making sure the family can eat and sleep easy at night. Women have lots of options in America - sounds like you're good'n ready to explore some of them. It's probably a good thing your husband doesn't know how things work in America - good for you that is.

What skills do you have? What would you think if your husband came home one day and said "Hey honey, I don't know jack about banking but since you know how to count money, and there's lots of banks around here, and our parents know bankers, and I'm sure I can be a banker, lets risk the little bit of home equity we've managed to accumulate and open a bank."? Does that sound good?

Do yourself a favor and go to work for a builder for a couple of years. See first hand what goes on, who's who, etc. Establish some working relationships with those you'll need to know in order to make it in the industry. One of the things about how it works everywhere, wether here or in the old country, it's often not what you know, it's who you know.
 

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Dorota said:
I want to build houses!! I believe that I CAN DO IT! My question is this, Where would I begin??
Here's a thumbnail sketch of a success that I've witnessed first hand:

During a four year undergraduate program build personal relationships by active participation in the "greek" system. Upon graduation parlay those relationships into a ground level job with a major national production homebuilder.
Learn production home building from the ground up during several years as a laborer, punch out mechanic, superintendent, etc. All the while build relationships with subcontractors and bosses and continue to acquire skills. Parlay good relationships with bosses into opportunities for promotion. Climb the corporate ladder. Work hard. Get in early. Go home late.
During the first 1 - 5 years with the company purchase, lived in, and subsequently sell, two homes through the company's 'employee discount' program. Build substantial equity through a combination of the discounted purchase prices, "upgrading" the homes during construction through the leveraging of subcontractor relationships, tireless DIY self-improvement and favorable re-sale markets.
After almost 10 years with the same company act as your own GC and build a semi-custom, home. Again, use subcontractor relationships and first hand building experience to build at a price substantially less than the appraised value.
After more than 10 years with the same company take a promotion with a different, higher end, national builder and continue to build relationships and gain skills. After another couple of years, meet someone in the 'finance end' of the industry who would bring skills and relationships, that you don't otherwise have, to a business venture. Look at your combined experiences and relationships and identify target markets and investors for your 'break-out'. Once again, sell your home at a considerable profit, build an even more upscale home and use it as a model home upon launching your business. At the same time raise a family, go on vacations, help your aging parents, maintain friendships, etc. That's all it takes.
 

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Mike Finley said:
I understand that you think that there could be or should be a better way, you hear people all the time saying how cheaply everything seems like it is being built today, cheaply meaning lower quality, or not built like they used to.

Mike,

Thanks for the input. I apologize that my message may have come across as if I am trying to do something better to out smart the competition, but I didn't mean that at all. What I meant was that sometimes I see these developements of cookie cutter houses and feel as if the company or person building them are just "doing a job, blah blah blah". They seem to have "no heart put into them. Now I know that not all homes look like this, and that there are many that are very well built, and that's what I meant. Maybe some home owners don't notice these things, but regardless I don't know how to do anything without putting my heart and soul into it. Thanks again for the comments, and hope to hear from you soon!!
 

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PipeGuy said:
You'll always have your husband out there putting his shoulder to the grindstone, day in and day out, making sure the family can eat and sleep easy at night.
Sorry Pipe Guy, but I think that it's not fair of you to assume that my husband is the breadwinner in the family, and that I can do whatever I please because I have a back up system in the fact that I am a woman. Maybe your wife has the opportunity to do what she wishes with your money and doesn't care if it "flies or dies", but I am not so rude as to assume that about you. Opening and operating a business is a difficult and scary decision. As so that you can be informed, I have already managed two succesful businesses for my parents, and so far no one has declared bankrupcy or had to shop at the Salvation Army.
What skills do you have? What would you think if your husband came home one day and said "Hey honey, I don't know jack about banking but since you know how to count money, and there's lots of banks around here, and our parents know bankers, and I'm sure I can be a banker, lets risk the little bit of home equity we've managed to accumulate and open a bank."? Does that sound good?
This also felt like a "low blow comment" because this is not as if I have just woke up one morning and decided "Lets build!! Everyone can do it for me, and if all else fails, Daddy's money will rescue us!!" I am willing to put a lot of hard work into educated my self before I undertake this type of venture. But again, I thank you for your opinion!!
 

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Dorota said:
As so that you can be informed, I have already managed two succesful businesses for my parents, and so far no one has declared bankrupcy or had to shop at the Salvation Army.
That's good to hear. Having some business experience will help you out greatly since you won't be learning how to generally run a business at the same time you are learning how to run your specific business. :Thumbs:

Hey, doing it better and out smarting your competition is all part of the way to make it. Whether it is your marketing, your control of expenses, your orginization skills, your building skills, or your project management skills, nothing wrong with that. My warning is just to be really careful building as if you were building for yourself, its a great way to build a house for yourself that you will love and enjoy for years, but it isn't such a great way to make money. For instance my current house I wired in a ton of additional electrical circuits into the house when I remodelled it. I added not only needed extra capacity for a hot tub, A/C but also about a dozen extra 20 am circuits for stuff like the garage for tools, bringing light to the shed, outlets under the eaves for Christmas lights, outlets outside for plugging in garden tools and lots of other stuff. That retail bill would have been over $10,000 but since I did it myself, it cost maybe $1500 for materials. The point is that stuff was mostly for us for our quality of life and since it only cost $1500 I will get a return on it. But if I subbed it out and paid $10,000 for it, there is no way I would ever see that money again. Because most of it was more of a want than a need. You see, the thing is if I built houses for other people like I want my house I would go broke. People generally don't care what is behind the walls, they only care about the square footages, the living space, the size and layout of the rooms, the fit and finish and the features.

Anyways, so tell us your plan at this point. Doesn't matter how little or totally fleshed out it is at this point. What steps do you see you and your husband taking in the next few months or a year to get you where you want to be?
 

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Dorota said:
I have already managed two succesful businesses for my parents, and so far no one has declared bankrupcy
You are exceptional to say the least. Few 25 year olds will have that sort of experience on their resumes.

Dorota said:
This also felt like a "low blow comment" because this is not as if I have just woke up one morning and decided "Lets build!! Everyone can do it for me, and if all else fails, Daddy's money will rescue us!!"
Written correspondence often leaves much to be desired in terms of fully grasping the nuances of another's situation. I'm sure if I was you I might feel similarly offended. Please forgive me any rudeness my response may have conveyed. As for your dad's ability to lend financial aid, I made no assertion in that regard. [/QUOTE]

Dorota said:
I am willing to put a lot of hard work into educated my self before I undertake this type of venture.
No doubt you are. That's why I followed up with a more helpful post after my initial. Good Luck.
 

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Thanks everyone for your support!!

Mike, as for my plan..here goes.

First of all I would like to complet the General Contracting course so that I have a better understanding of what I need to prepare for. I also feel that knowledge is key. Since the course begins on Feb 3 and runs for 14 weeks, I want to give myself that time to research different costs and requirements in the Chicagoland area. For instance, permit costs, schedules, contracts, etc. Before I begin I would like to have an idea of how long different aspects of the building process take, I have a good idea on the framing part, but I think that was obvious to all of you. Other than that, i already have a few people who do excavation and foundation work very well for very reasonable prices. I also have a few people that do Masonry and finish work that I have seen, and feel that they do good work, also for reasonable pricing. As I am sure all of you know, nothing beats experience, so with this I will learn with time. My family and I personally gutted a real estate office and turned it into a coffee shop, and also have worked on different things in the way of remodeling....So I think I have a good pool of resources to choose from. This and the fact that my brother started a re hab construction business a year ago (it is going quite well for him, so I have a little back up on experience). As for my idea about building a home, I know that right now I don't want to work with a customer and build to suit their needs. I want to build and sell based on my own plan. I have access to good lumber prices and a can do the framing at cost. I have also been friends with a union roofer, who is not doing this for the union any more, and would be able to have this done at a good price. My uncle (god bless him) is an electrician/HVAC guy with 30 years of experience, so that I know I could use him to at least make sure that I don't get killed financially in this department. The only thing that I don't have a good idea about is plumbing, and I know that this is huge, but I have faith that it will come through and that I will be able to find someone with good references and a fair price. We also plan to do as much work as possible ourselves (weighing time and money as factors of what we should put our hands into or not).
Our goal is to be able to have enough knowledge and research done so that we can begin sometime this year. For some reason I have a knack for finding good deals on property (knock on wood). For instance the condo that me and my husband bought last year when we got married was for 65k (and those of you who live in Chicago and know the prices in the SW suburbs, know that we have already doubled our value), but what can I say I found a little old lady who was moving to Alaska....and I have also been lucky in finding property for other family members at great prices!!! Sometimes a real estate deal would come along, and I felt like kicking myself for not having the capital to buy and turn it around for a profit, but that's life, right? I hope that this luck will follow me into finding a nice piece of land to build on, and we are not going to look for anything crazy, just something decent that an average house can be built on. The house that I am thinking about is not some type of mansions, just something simple to start with, maybe 2200-2500 sq ft. with a two car garage. The architect that my brother has been working with is a really nice guy, and he is thorough with his work. I was considering going to him.
I am not really sure how the financials work, so this is an obstacle for me, but I think that I can do some research and learn. I don't know the pros/cons/limitations of being an owner/builder or a GC of my own project. I am not sure how new construction loans work, how much of the property I have to own (30%? or 50%?). I also don't know how they figure out how much of a loan they give you, will I need to do a lot of leg work before I go to the bank?? Like having 3 estimates from each type of sub, and I also don't know how the bank pays out and monitors that money. Do they pay me? and then I just bring back the lien release papers? do I need reciepts? Truthfully, I have no idea, but hope that the class will help, and that speaking to a group of people, like yourselves, will also help. THE END.

What do you think?? Have I lost my mind (just kidding)?
 

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After reading your background and your support group, I think you should start yesterday! Barring some unforseen disaster or mental fart I think you have a great background, it is broad and touches a lot of areas giving you a good basic understanding of quite a bit that you will need to be successful. You certainly know the framing won't be a hurdle.

If you want some resources for finding out some of the answers to your other questions, send me a private message and I will give you some other online sources that might be very helpful to you.
 

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It's out of respect for Nathan. He's got a great site here, and I feel a bit funny posting references to other sites in the same genre. Yeah, its the Internet and all that huggy passing of free information thing (thanks to Al Gore you know) but still as a site owner you kind of don't like to see the hard earned traffic you have drained off to someplace else all the time.

I would love to see Nathan be able to maybe start a section on spec building or something devoted to developers here on this site and attract some of that traffic, that's a topic that really interests me and currently I have to go to other places to talk and learn about it.
 

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14 Week Contractor Course?

I've never met a GC that attended a course of any kind. I do a lot of work for General Contractors, 20% go out of business before I come back to trim out and 50% go out of business before I've known them a year.

I've met a lot of people that wanted to be managers and administrators and didn't feel the need to know how to actually build *anything*.

I hate to be the lone dissenting voice, but you will be competing with people who actually know how to build a house and have done it with their bare hands. "Running" your parent's business isn't good enough. You need to know construction. You need to have been there and done that.

I've had female "project managers" send me out to do rough wiring on houses that haven't even been framed yet. I'm a speciality contractor but am in a very good position to know what it takes to be a good GC as I've dealt with litterally hundreds:

1. Experiance in the trades. Really, no kidding. Sweat, blood, the works.
2. Good business skills. Read the E-myth contractor and Markup to Profit.
3. Credibility.

You have no experience and no credibility. Your Daddy worked hard to build a business that you step into and if you say you're a good businesswoman, I'll take you at your word.

Now, the good news, nobody started out with experience or credibility, that's earned, and not at the local community college, you have to get dirty andpay your dues. The fact that you're here and sincere and are eager to apply yourself is good. But not good enough.

Strap on a set of tools and learn it from the trenches up, it's the only way.

Peace......Richard
 

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You'll get better bennefits due to women being a minority in construction. especially as a GC

Oh and btw; good luck with this :Thumbs:
 
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