A new-home buyer who, like Steve Schulman, wants to work part-time on the construction site would have to shop around for a builder who would agree to the idea. Among reactions from Washington-area home builders:

Chris Clore, Montgomery County division manager of Ryan Homes : "That's sweat equity [in which, for example, a buyer's labor could cut the sales price]. We used to do it in the old days. If I were a small builder, I think I would consider it," particularly if the firm was "having difficulty in today's tight-money market." However, as a large builder, Ryan has no need, he says, to consider the option.

John Conrad, vice president for construction of Costain : A working buyer like Schulman "would drive me bananas. There are a lot of techniques in building a house that would not make sense to a lay person." A novice might question "mud" or a "knothole" on a stud that would be covered when the home is completed without affecting the building's "integrity."

Hugh Gordon of Kettler Brothers, Inc .: The company position is that "it would not be something we would do in the normal course of our business."

John Tipton, president of Koury/Tipton Homes, Inc .: "We have not done it before. But if a man had the time, I would not have a problem as long as I needed good labor." However, "we would be responding to a lot of questions" about what was being done. "OJT (on-the-job training) -- that would be time-consuming."

Henry Cushing, president of Triangle Development Co : "No, no, no. I definitely discourage buyers" from visiting the building site. "They're too emotionally involved. They don't understand the process.It's a big hassle to have them call up asking. 'Why isn't this done?' Every builder is proud of the homes they build.They can't cut corners and stay in business."

Charles Bowie, operations manager for Washington Homes, Inc.: "I'd have to think about it. Off the cuff, I have some reservations. I'm not sure of the practicality." One problem, he suggests, might be the "authority relationship" between the home buyer and the site foreman. "It's a tough situation for a supervisor." Meanwhile, "from a purely economic point of view," his firm currently doesn't need hourly workers.