Building a new home is a daunting undertaking. It feels like there are decisions to make at every turn and they are usually time-sensitive, requiring you to make quick choices on things that you will have to live with for years to come. Having gone through the process of building a custom home not too long ago, I’ve put together a list of tips to help other would-be home-builders. My list of tips was so long, I’ve had to break this blog topic up into a series!
Determine your budget. You will need to create a realistic budget and go back to it repeatedly during the building process to track your spending. It is rather uncommon not to go over budget when building a new home so you will also want to have a contingency fund in place in case of emergencies. Your mortgage broker or loan officer should be able to sit down with you and help you in the initial process.
Find the perfect property. If you are planning on building your “forever home”, you will want to put plenty of time into finding the perfect piece of land. I suggest putting together a wish list to help you and your real estate agent narrow down which counties or neighborhoods to search in. When my husband and I were looking for land, we had an extensive wish list but we knew the most important things for us were to stay fairly near family, be in a good school district and to find a property in an existing neighborhood with lots of trees and services that we could walk or bike to. We knew we had to be somewhat flexible but this gave us a good starting point. In the end, we got everything we were looking for!
You will also want to find out ahead of time what types of stipulations are in the contract when you buy the land. Are you obligated to build within a certain time frame? Must you use certain builders or general contractors? Are there restrictions on the type, size of house or exterior finishes of the home? Are there any local improvement fees that the county or city will be charging for the development of the property? These are all important considerations as they can drastically affect the outcome of your project as well as your bottom line.
Interview and choose your general contractor. Working with a general contractor will keep your project on course and help you avoid expensive and time-consuming mistakes. Unless you are locked into to using a specific builder due to the conditions of the purchase of your property, it is a good idea to talk to a few different contractors. You will be working closely with these people, possibly on the largest investment of your life, you want to be sure that they are highly competent, licensed, that they understand your vision for your new home and that you can get along with them over an extended period of time.
Make as many decisions as possible ahead of time. When building a custom home, there are mountains of decisions to make from the tiniest detail like door handles to more obvious large-scale finishes such as the type of flooring you want. In today’s market, it is easy to educate yourself and be an informed consumer. For example, if you are looking to install low-flow plumbing fixtures to help conserve water, you can simply do some research online and arrive at the showroom already knowing which features you’re looking for on your showerhead or toilet.
By making your choices ahead of time you will help speed up the building process. You don’t want the construction of your home to stall out because everyone is waiting for you to decide whether you want cherry or maple cabinets in the kitchen. Making your decisions well in advance also gives you the time to shop around and reduces unwanted stress.
Check back soon for Part 2 in our New Home Building Tips series.