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10 Things to Know Before Building a House

10 Things to Keep in Mind Before Building Your Home

 

Building a house is definitely not for the faint of heart, no matter what architectural style you choose.

There are so many different moving parts to the process of pulling off a successful construction that the whole ordeal can be exhausting and frustrating for many. However, when it’s all over, and you finally get to move into the home of your dreams, there is simply nothing like it.

When thinking back on the building process, most homeowners can recall plenty of life lessons they had to learn the hard way. This is normally due to poor planning, being ill-informed, or sometimes, just bad luck of the draw. The great thing, though, is you don’t actually have to go through these negative experiences yourself if it’s your first time building a home. This is because we’ve spoken to seasoned home builders on your behalf to round up the best “know before you start” tips on a pain-free construction process.

 

1. Expect the Unexpected

This is advice all homeowners living in a custom build will tell you. There is so much that can happen during the financing, planning, construction, and decorating stages of building a home. Because of this, there is no way that you are going to be able to plan ahead and think of every single thing that will come up.

So, to avoid surprises and the onset of decision fatigue, before you even begin, just know that things are going to go wrong. There will be major delays, especially as supply chain problems continue to be an issue. Pipes will probably burst, and mold might be discovered in the worst places. You might experience delays obtaining your building permits and can even become frustrated with the quality of your contractor’s work or communication style. Remember: it’s going to happen, so it’s best to prepare mentally (and financially and emotionally) ahead of time.

Image of rustic farmhouse with stone, board and batten and covered front porch

This beautiful rustic-style home with farmhouse influences would be perfect anywhere you'd like to build. With three bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a 2-car garage, and over 2100 square feet, this one-story home has plenty of space. Whether you are entertaining family or friends, the large kitchen island and front and rear porches make a wonderful place to gather. Plan #142-1465

 

2. Set Aside More Money Than You Think

With the ups and downs of interest rates and our economy, the cost of materials and labor needed to build a home is rising, too. The process takes a little bit longer and is a little bit more expensive than it was a few years ago. That said, building your own home is a worthwhile endeavor that costs you less in the long run, as you won’t need to do extensive remodels or updates to it.

But, to maintain your sanity and stay on track for an on-time finish, most homeowners who have already been through the process will tell you to set aside a special emergency fund. This fund can be used to deal with the “unexpected” hiccups that pop up along the way, like repairs, permits, specialist labor, etc. Even if you read our other post on how to save money when building your home, an emergency fund is still something we highly recommend.

Image of 2-bedroom modern small house plan with 2 balconies and a rooftop deck

This wonderful modern-style house plan offers two bedrooms, one bath, a tandem 2-car garage, and 740 square feet. This stylish small house plan with multiple balconies would make a great vacation home whether at the beach or in the mountains. The true gem of this home is the rooftop deck, where you can enjoy your morning coffee and take in the views. Plan #196-1187

 

3. Interview Multiple Builders

Selecting the building company for the home of your dreams is no small task. To ensure that you choose a builder who is within budget, matches your style, and has a personality you can handle, it’s important to reach out to at least three different firms for an interview and a quote.

This way, you can begin to get a better picture of the average price for a service. If the bids are vastly different, one contractor is likely an outlier, but if they are generally in the same range, then you're getting a more fair market deal. Remember, however, that cheaper doesn't always mean better. If one company has a price that is way lower than all competitors, consider what sort of cost-cutting measures might make this possible.

Image of farmhouse plan with wrap-around porch, 2 stories, and over 3500 square feet

Plan #178-1398 is a gorgeous farmhouse plan with 4/5 bedrooms, 5.5 baths, a 3-car garage, and over 3500 square feet. Some other wonderful amenities in this home are a main floor owner's suite, a huge kitchen island, a walk-in pantry, a mudroom with lockers, and a game room. Relax on the wrap-around porch or rear patio. 

 

4. It’s Going To Take Longer Than Expected

Things happen that cause the timeline to get pushed out when you build a house. Sometimes there is a delay in getting materials to the site, sometimes, bad weather means your team can’t complete the required work on schedule, sometimes, labor shortages put you in a pickle. Whatever the reason, just knowing ahead of time that things will come up (and planning for them!) can save you a lot of stress.

Those who have been through the process before will tell you that putting tight deadlines on the building process typically never ends well. If you're not quite sure what a good timeline would be, here are some tips on what to expect when building your home from the ground up that will help.

Image of modern, barn style home with gorgeous sunroom and open floor plan

This stunning modern home with barn-style influences offers 2-4 bedrooms, 2-3 baths, a 3-car garage, and 3551 square feet when you include the optional finished basement. The open floor plan includes a spacious kitchen with a breakfast bar, a mudroom with a large closet, and a gorgeous sunroom. Plan #168-1148

 

5. Have an Iron-clad Contract

When you build a house, it’s a business deal, so you need to have a  written contract to protect yourself. This can be tough, as plenty of contractors operate on a more old-school gentlemen's agreement type of contract. This is especially true if you are working with a friend or relative.

However, an extensive paper contract doesn't mean you are suspicious or don't trust your contractor. It just means you are trying to protect all parties. The contract should include things like terms of payment (how much, when, in what way), all insurance information, as well as a projected timeline.

Image of 4 bedroom, modern farmhouse with 2-car garage and large rear porch with fireplace

This four-bedroom modern farmhouse offers many great amenities, including a large island and walk-in pantry in the kitchen, a split-bedroom layout, a large rear porch with fireplace and grilling area, and an open floor plan. Three baths, a 2-car garage, and over 2100 square feet round out this fabulous home. Plan #204-1037

 

6. Say Everything Aloud, Then Write It Down

In addition to a contract that covers all the larger legal things, those who have been through the home-building process before will also warn that little bits of information need to be included as well. This means that change orders (seen and unforeseen) can be discussed verbally but always need to be written down and signed after the fact. Change orders can be as small as choosing a  different roofing material or as large as adding a mother-in-law suite. When things are written down, there is less chance of conflict.

You can also think about making an agreement for the state the builders will leave the construction site in. That is, will they sweep up all the dust, haul away all the trash, etc? Writing down each detail will save each party a lot of strife.

Image of beach house with four bedrooms, screened-in porch, wrap around deck, balcony and rooftop deck

This fantastic beach house with craftsman influences offers four bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a 2-car garage, and 3479 square feet. From the patio, the screened-in porch, the wrap-around deck, the balcony, or (my favorite) the rooftop deck, there are so many wonderful places to relax and enjoy the views. Plan #168-1143

 

7. Consider Working with a Designer

Once your custom-built home is finished, it’s time to think about the interior. Will all your furniture and decorations from your previous home still serve you in this new space? Sometimes, it can be a good idea to bring in a home designer to advise you on the best way to outfit your new home.

This doesn’t mean you have to throw everything away and start fresh, but it’s a regret of many that they spent so much time and effort building the “bones” of their dream home but didn’t dedicate the same energy to decorating and furnishing it.

Lovely craftsman inspired cottage with metal roof, board and batten, 2 bedrooms and covered rear porch

This lovely cottage-style home with craftsman influences would make a perfect vacation home. With two bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and 1846 square feet, there is more than enough space to relax or entertain family or friends. The bunk/tv room is a great place to relax on a rainy day or enjoy the views from your covered porch. Plan #193-1289

 

8. Remember To Be Kind

Building a home is a long, tiring journey. It’s likely one of the biggest financial investments you’ll ever make in your lifetime. On top of that, the stakes are very high because it’s your home–your safe place. Because of this, homeowners warned us that it’s easy to get lost in your emotions during the process.

While advocating for yourself is certainly appropriate if things aren’t going to plan, are costing more than you thought, or you are being disrespected, it’s important to remember to be kind. Be kind to yourself, be kind to your family who is going through the build along with you, and be kind to your builders and their entire team.

3-bedroom ranch plan with welcoming covered front porch, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and 1400 square feet

This three-bedroom ranch plan boasts a covered front porch, spacious dining and kitchen area with a breakfast bar, living room, and two baths. This country home offers 1400 square feet and great curb appeal. Plan #138-1429

 

9. Don’t Move In Until It’s Done

We have heard horror story after horror story of homeowners who decided to move into their new build home as soon as it was “habitable” and not wait until it was truly finished. They’ve told us that living in a construction site was one of the most chaotic, stressful experiences they’ve ever been through, and they don’t recommend it for others just starting out in the process.

Instead, consider staying in your current home as long as possible. If you’ve sold it already, consider a short-term option like a nearby apartment, vacation rental, or even a hotel if you prefer. Living off-site is more restful and makes for an overall easier building process.

 

10. DIY Where You Can - But Don’t Go Overboard

If you enjoy a good DIY project, then it’s perfectly reasonable to want to get more hands-on in your new home. Many homeowners have a sense of pride looking at the cabinets that they installed, the walls they painted, or the tiling that they laid themselves.

However, these are what we can consider “finishing” projects. This means it’s easy enough to come in behind a professional craftsman and put in DIY touches yourself if you want sweat equity in your new home. However, if you aren’t licensed or don’t have extensive renovation experience already, there are other aspects of homebuilding that are best left to the professionals, like installing sewage systems, electric wiring, or working on the foundation.

 

If you have any questions about things to consider before building a house, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have thousands of customizable plans available, and our customer service team can help answer any questions you may have, whether you are just starting out or have already broken ground.

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