I often encounter people who believe that carpenters were born carpenters and plumbers were born plumbers. Regardless of my encouragement, there are many folks who don't think they have the ability to build their own home.
I always give them all the same talk. We as human beings have the ability to learn new things and expand our horizons. If this weren't true, none of us would be able to walk, talk, drive a car, or even tie our shoes.
As a parent, I have helped my children through some of the most repetitious acts of learning. As a teacher and a mentor, I have taught people how to ride horses, program computers, speak Spanish, build houses, peak satellites, hold a newborn baby, raise a garden, the list goes on and on.
My point is that I have watched every type of person learn in different ways. I have noticed that we all have different levels of intellect. Some people are sharp as a tack and others are really quite thick. The truth that I have learned about most things in life is that a person with average intelligence has everything he or she needs to get by and even succeed with flying colors. Even those with fairly low intelligence have adequate learning abilities to do just fine.
So when people tell me that they aren't smart enough to build their own house, I just have to remind them that they are probably smart enough to do much more than just build houses. Some of the most intimidating projects in building a new house can be figured out with a little concentration. Electricity and Plumbing scare some homeowners into hiring the work done, when in truth, anybody can do those things.
I see all around me, examples of able-bodied people that choose to hire contractors to do work for them. This is just fine if the people have more money than time. If however, they have more time than money, they could really benefit from doing their own labor and saving thousands of dollars. In most cases the money saved by doing ones own labor translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That's worth learning how to do something new. Anything in this world that will save us so much money and time over the long run is definitely something valuable to know.
Unfortunately, the majority of homeowners don't see it that way at all. To them it's acceptable to pay someone else to do all the work even if it means they will end up working almost a decade of their work life to make nothing but mortgage interest payments.
To me it's simple, work for three hours a day after work for one year to build my own house, or work for eight hours a day at a job for ten years to pay the interest on hired labor. If more of us could see the reality of hired labor, we would be more likely to make better choices.
I strongly believe that we are intelligent beings made in the likeness of fully intelligent beings. We have power to learn and overcome so that we can find happiness. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of that.
Larry Angell is the author of Sweat Equity, building a house at half cost. He runs an instructional website about how to build homes that are strong financial tools, not financial burdens. He counsels low-income families how to obtain affordable housing and reach goals of home ownership.