Can I Legally Build My Own House?

Do you own a piece of land, want to build your own dream home but are wondering whether you can legally do this? Yes. You can be an owner-builder if you have some skills and experience in the construction industry, but you need to be aware of its risks. You are likely to run out-of-control of building costs and also fail to adhere to local codes.

Before you engage in building your own house, it is necessary to understand your area’s legal requirements. You will also want to put the right measures in place to come up with the best outcome. 

Construction-Related Laws

Before you can embark on building your house, make sure that you are familiar with the laws applicable in the construction industry. This knowledge will help you get your desired outcome as well as avoid problems with the authorities. The following are worth knowing;

Lot Approval

Owning a piece of land does not give you the green light to do anything you want with it. Everyone needs to be careful before putting up a structure since laws can change over time. Before building your home, you need to get the records on the parcel of land. You can get the map, the assessor’s parcel number (APN), and ensure that the land is approved for building. 

If you do not know where to get the records in your area, you can search online. However, you can find them from the county recorder’s office, city hall, county courthouse, or tax assessor’s office. 

Building Codes

It would be best if you familiarized yourself with building codes to know the details of the physical structures that are ideal in the land. In most countries, including the U.S., the codes are contained in IBC (International Building Code). These codes include fire prevention, National electric code, and also international plumbing codes.

Areas that use the International Building Code (IBC) also adopt other included regulations. Your project’s contractor, engineer, or builder helps ensure that your structure does not violate the code. It is, however, important for you to search these codes to understand them. You can get them from your town or city’s building codes department or get to search them online.

Zoning Laws

Zoning laws deal with land usage and the kind of buildings that are approved in the area. You can access this information from the city hall, local zoning office, or any other local planning board. Ensure that there are no regulations or restrictions that prohibit you from constructing your desired structure on your parcel. 

Plans And Permits

Before you can remodel or build a house, you need to obtain a building permit. Make sure that you submit your plans to the local code office for approval. These plans will include measurements, drawings, floor plans, elevation view, and the exterior’s proposed materials. You can obtain the checklist from FEMA to learn more about the approval process and also the permits.

When you obtain the permit, the laws consider you as the project’s contractor and therefore liable for any building-related damages.   Ensure that your team knows their responsibilities such as filing the permits and when this needs to be done. Don’t allow a contractor to mislead you about skipping this step. 

If you are building a new home, you will require different permits for each system. You may need a plumbing permit to replace old pipes or install an underground sprinkler system. You may also require mechanical, grading, and electrical permits based on what you are building. Make sure to hire a skilled contractor to help pull all the necessary permits. 

Covenants And Ordinances

When building your house, you don’t want any regulations and rules to interfere with progress. Make sure that your proposed structure complies with the local covenants and ordinances. While your zone may approve a certain kind of structure, the local ordinances could restrict the building’s height and size. 

You will need to get written approval from your local municipal planning commission. You can visit the department of housing or any other local government office. If there is a Homeowners Association (HOA) in your area, make sure that your building complies with the neighbourhood ordinances. You can obtain a copy of the agreements from the office of the local county assessor. 

Which Is Better To Buy Or Build A House?

Buying a house may be easier than building one. But it requires one to have adequate time to search for the perfect home. You need to factor in the price, property taxes, location, market trends, home condition, and the homeowners association fees. You may also need time to look for a home that has your specific features.

Advantages Of Buying A House

Buying an existing house has two primary advantages, i.e. cost and convenience. 


After your lender pre-approves you for a home loan, you can search around for the right home and make an offer. You can decide to use the services of a qualified real estate agent to help you look for the right properties. They will also guide you through negotiations and assist with paperwork. If the seller accepts your offer, you can close on the deal and move into the house within a short period.

While the home buying process involves several steps like searching, financing, making offers, inspection, and closing the deal, the convenience of buying a house is greater than building one.

Cost And Schedules

The desire to purchase a ready home may be high, especially if you are relocating for a new job or have a tight schedule. According to the National Association of Home Builders data, building an existing home is cheaper than building. 

Freedom Of Choice

Buying a ready house will also give you the freedom to choose where to buy. You can move into an established neighborhood near your workplace, your kids’ school, or friends/family. You can buy a home with mature landscaping where you will not need to start a new lawn or plant trees and wait for them to grow. 

Disadvantages Of Buying A Ready House

Buying an existing home has its downsides as well such as;

Limited Options

One of the major disadvantages of purchasing an existing house is that there are limited options. You may not get a property with all the features that you want. You may also not get a house that is in perfect condition and will, therefore need to do some repairs. You may be required to spend extra money to remodel the home to your specifications. 

Benefits Of Building A New Home

While purchasing a ready house may be safer than constructing one, there are some benefits of building. The advantages include;

You Get What You Want

One of the major advantages of building your house is that you will get what you desire. You will the desired number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and other facilities that may not be available in an existing property.

You Can Create An Energy-Efficient Home

You can build an energy-efficient home that meets new heating, cooling, ventilation, air filtration, and insulation codes. An energy-efficient home helps you to save on utility bills, and it is also environmental-friendly.

Unlike older homes, a new house does not contain lead paint, asbestos or mould, which can be harmful to your health. You can also build it with specific materials that make it better for the environment. You can use ‘green’ appliances, such as more efficient plumbing fixtures, toilets, and electrical fixtures to make your house more sustainable over time. A new home gives you the option of installing sleeve and wire to allow for future technological upgrades like solar and home automation. 

You Can Recoup Your Investment

While the initial building costs can be higher, you can easily recoup your investment. If you are planning to sell your property in the future, you can get significant profits. Buyers are more attracted to new homes than older ones. A new home does not require many renovations and is less costly to maintain. You will therefore save on both time and money since the home has a warranty.

A new home gives you some emotional and psychological satisfaction more than you get from buying a house. You have the feeling that it is your invention that matches your personality and style. 

Risks Involved In Building Your Own Home

While building your own home has some advantages, such as saving on costs, it also has some associated risks that you should never ignore. You need to be aware that building a custom home will take more time, cost more, and the architecture may be poor. The venting and heating systems could also not be up to the required standard. 


You can legally build your own house, but there is a need for caution. Make sure that you are familiar with all the regulations and codes in your area. Ensure that the structure you intend to construct is compliant with all the laid down conditions in size, height, and usage. 

Leave a Comment