I have built a mortgage-free home. And even better than that, I have so far taught more than 500 people how to build their own!
I live in South Africa and built a log home (and all the furniture, fittings, etc.) using Eucalyptus trees, which are an invasive alien timber species from Australia. So not only is my house mortgage-free, but it’s also environmentally sustainable and helps our local biodiversity.
Here are some of the tactics I used to avoid a mortgage:
• Always ask for a discount, and always pay cash. While you are counting the notes, you’ll still have a chance to bail out of the purchase if it feels too expensive.
• Get the structure up as fast as possible and move in, and then do the finishing while you are living there. This saves paying rent and means you are always on-site. You won’t have to pack away tools every day, and there won’t be any theft. No one minds a bit of discomfort if they are working toward a goal. Probably 90 percent of the work is finishing.
• Do a time and money study on everything. Often it is much cheaper to build your own stuff than it is to buy the overpriced junk in the shops, particularly when it comes to furniture.
• Use quality recycled items. Often the quality from yesteryear does not exist anymore.
• Avoid fashion. If you don’t make stuff fashionable, it can’t go out of fashion.
• Always try to get as close to the source of your materials as possible. Avoid the middleman — buy your logs from a farmer, not a dealer.
We did a time and money study on all items. One example would be floorboards: By purchasing a secondhand log saw and cutting our own wood, we created our boards for a fraction of the cost of buying them from a dealer.
The materials cost about $25,000, which included everything: plumbing, electric, glazing, furniture, etc. — you name it. The house is 3,600 square feet. We did almost all our own labor (we got some help to dig the foundation holes). We had no problem with building codes or inspections. I will certainly do it again.
Advice for people considering doing this: Plan, plan, plan. Work everything out in advance. Live a life that matters.
If you would like any further information or to see more pictures, go to South African Log Home Builders Association.