Build your Own Home as Owner/Builder in BC

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Posted by Hermann Thoene | Posted in Building A Log Home, Building Code, EcoLog | Posted on 28-09-2018

Vanisle Ecolog Homes is not a construction company. We design your dream log home, and provide you with detailed construction plans and a “shell kit”, which includes the material for all the log home specific parts. 

To erect our homes, most customers hire a builder if they don’t have the experience to build a complete home themselves.

Many years ago British Columbia introduced the Homeowner Protection Act, which mandates that all new homes should carry a Home Warranty to protect buyers of these homes from construction defects. Any builder who acts as a General Contractor has to be a “licensed” builder under this act and has to provide the Home Warranty to the home owner. Of course, this process costs significant money for the builder, which is then passed on to the home owner.

Small builders are often not able to provide this warranty, as the process is too time and cost intensive for them. Therefore they can only work as sub-contractor for licensed builders when dealing with new homes.

An exception to this rule is if people act as “Owner/Builder” to build their own private residence. In this case they can opt out of the government Home Warranty Program, and they can either buy a private construction insurance or decide not to have any insurance. It is important to note that homeowners who built their home as owner/builder are personally liable  for construction defects in their home for 10 years. And this even after they sell their home.

Why would you want to take the risk to become an owner builder?

Careful sign, clipart

As owner/builder you can hire non-licensed companies for your construction project, and often save quite a bit of money, as smaller non-licensed companies can operate with lower overhead, and don’t have to pay all the fees and administration overhead for the home warranty.

If you go through the process of becoming a owner/builder, you will better understand the whole construction process, and you can personally insure the quality of all aspects of construction.

How do you become a owner/builder?

To become an owner/builder in BC, you have to go through an application process and pass an exam at the end of that process. This process is administered by BC Housing, and all information how to get started can be found here.

The owner/builder exam has to be taken in-class, and these exams are offered throughout the year and many cities across BC. You have to answer 70% of the questions to pass the exam.

If you already have some construction background you could do all the training online, and just sign up for the in-class exam. If you don’t feel confident enough for that you can take some additional in-class training, which is offered in many cities by companies like CBT.

Make sure to allow enough time from the moment you start this process until the time you want to apply for your building permit. You will need the certificate you get after the exam to apply for your building permit. Depending on class schedules, amount of registrants and other factors this process can take 3-4 months or even longer.

When should you avoid building your home as owner/builder?

Be aware of the 10 year liability as owner/builder. If you plan to sell your home within 10 years after building it, it may be better if you hire a licensed builder to have the full home warranty. If you sell an owner/builder home you have to disclose this to future buyers, and it may be a disadvantage in the market to sell a home without home warranty.

To minimize such a risk and still have the advantages of building as owner/builder, you can look for a private insurance company yourself to provide similar coverage as the government program. 

Many consumers – and builders – are critical about the government enforced home warranty and think that it doesn’t really protect buyers or builders properly. Many people with valid claims have to file lawsuits to get the insurance companies to act, as some examples in this Global News article show.

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