Can I Build My Own Home in California?

Many ask the question. But are you ready to go the distance?

Frankly, we don’t recommend most people build their own homes, but if you have the skills, the savvy, and the dogged determination required, maybe you can pull it off and build your own home in California.

We’re here to help – we see the vision! But it’s only fair to tell you to expect a long road with lots of (possibly costly) bureaucratic red tape along the way.

Here’s how you build your own home in California.

Learn About Contractor Licensing (And Learn If You Need A License)

The first items you probably already have on your mind are the necessary licenses and permits you’ll need to get the job done. Before you do another online search about the matter, do yourself a favor and browse the California State License Board website – that’s the place to go for any and all state-level licensing requirements and legal information.

Whatever kind of construction work your home-building process requires, the licensing and permitting information that you need will be available for you on the CSLB site.

If you’ve already started getting a construction crew together, you can look up their licenses on the CSLB site as well and learn more about their qualifications and work history. In general, you will find that your contractors are all Class B license holders.

Do you need a license to build your own home? Check out our article on that very topic.

Studying Up on California Building Standards

California’s Building Standards Commission is your BFF if you want to build a safe and compliant house. You can join their mailing list to keep up with all the new building codes and standards throughout the construction of your new residence.

Remember – knowing the building codes on both a state and local level is your job as the builder. Do your diligence upfront and make sure you stay compliant throughout the process.

Gain Purchase in Your Process

You’ll want to learn quite a bit about the California Department of Real Estate and what it takes to buy land and sell a self-built home eventually. Sure, your plan is to build your own home today and live in that self-built home tomorrow, but later down the line, this residence ought to be fit for the California real estate market as well and the DRE can help with that.

Another reason to learn the real estate regulations and licensing details now is that you often need that information to buy the land your home will be built on in the first place. The California Department of Housing and Community Development can help you sort out which land ordinances and zoning laws pertain to you and your process. This department can also help you find out which permit applications you need in your county, city, and neighborhood.

Expect Inspections

As you build your strategy for building your own home, take the considerations of the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) into account.

The state of California is serious about environmental conservation so check to be sure that your construction project isn’t a hindrance to any protected species or elements. If your project requires special permits or approvals, keep all the paperwork squared away so that later down the line all building inspections go smoothly.

Even if you don’t have any special permits or anything like that, you can expect, especially in the case of a builder-owner, for the state to make sure that you’re staying compliant with environmental standards.

Build an Airtight Strategy

Keep everything mentioned above in mind as you design your home. Create detailed blueprints and if you can, hire an architect or a professional drafter to help you. A project manager or construction manager can also help lighten the administrative load.

Make a realistic budget for yourself. If you qualify for a construction loan, that is a common route that many others have taken before you. Then secure a suitable plot of land for your dream home in California and be sure that your build complies with local zoning regulations.

Before you break ground on construction, you’ll need all those permits we talked about earlier. Building permits, grading permits, electrical permits, plumbing permits, mechanical permits — the whole nine.

When you’re ready to begin construction, consider hiring a team of contractors. Because you’ll need licensed experts to take care of tasks like excavation, framing, plumbing, and electrical work. These aren’t things you can DIY — you need special licenses for all this work.

Throughout construction, you and your team need to make sure that all of your work holds up to California’s building codes and regulations. There will be multiple inspections throughout the process and more once the project is complete.

Home Sweet Home!

If you follow all the necessary guidelines throughout construction, you will be ready to move into your new home once the structure is complete! From there you can get a Certificate of Occupancy from your city that proves you can live in your new home legally! Alright!

There you have it! Building your own home in California is a significant undertaking, and complying with all legal requirements is a full-time job all on its own. Always consult with professionals and the local governing bodies in charge of the regulations in your area to ensure a smooth and legal construction process.

Our word of advice: staying ahead of problems before they become bigger problems is the biggest thing you can do for yourself to maintain your sanity. Always keep an eye peeled for upcoming bumps in the road so you can take evasive maneuvers. Happy building!

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About CSLS

Contractors State License Service (CSLS) is the largest school in California devoted to the Construction professional. For over 23 years, CSLS has helped its students pass the exam to become licensed contractors in the State of California, licensing more students than any other school. From our main offices in Southern California, CSLS operates over 25 locations with full-service support and classrooms. We have grown to this extent by providing quality, professional services. In comparison, this provides 7 times the number of convenient locations than the second largest contractor school. Contractors State License Services is one of the only contractor schools in the state that is run by educators, not lawyers or people mostly interested in the bonding and insurance business. Contractors State License Services formerly operated under the oversight of the State of California's Bureau for Private Post Secondary and Vocational Education. As of January 1 2010, the new Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) came into existence replacing the BPPVE. CSLS now operates under the provisions of the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 (CPPEA), Article 4 Section 94874(f). Our Mission is simple; We can help you pass your California Contractors License Exam. Celebrating our 25th year, CSLS has helped over 120,000 students pass the California contractor licensing exam to become licensed contractors in the State of California. Additionally, we offer complete home study and online contractor’s license programs to help you pass your California contractors license exam. CSLS offers licensing classes for all types of contractor licenses, including General Engineering Contractor, General Building Contractor, Specialty Contractor, Insulation and Acoustical Contractor, Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor, Cabinet, Millwork and Finish Carpentry Contractor, Concrete Contractor, Drywall Contractor, Electrical Contractor, Elevator Contractor, Landscaping Contractor, Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor, and many others. For a complete list of contractor licenses, visit and tuned for more informative posts.