How To Successfully Build Your Own Home
My husband and I currently built our third home. Even after going through the process twice, I still got a bit stressed out about everything it entails. Practice makes perfect, however, and I am feeling much more confident that, by this point, I have "house building" down to a science.
Follow my 10 guidelines, and it will help your home building experience go off without a hitch!
- Get Pre-Approved: This may seem like the most obvious place to start, but there are too many people with the mentality, "shop first, pay later." It is heartbreaking to fall in love with a home plan, and find out afterwards that you cannot afford to build it. Save yourself the tears, and find a lender FIRST.
- Choose A Neighborhood: When building a house, it is natural to be all consumed with viewing floor plans. While it is certainly okay to look for ideas right away, I suggest settling on a neighborhood first. Now days, many neighborhoods have restrictions. You may need a certain style home, or you may need to satisfy square foot minimum or maximums, so it would be helpful to know that before you find your perfect floor plan. Some neighborhoods also only allow you to build with certain companies, so you may be limited to their floor plans anyways. The biggest piece of advice I have for neighborhood selection, is to, if possible, try and think what direction your life is going. Even though that trendy city neighborhood may seem perfect now, you may wish you choose a family friendly location if you are planning for children. Likewise, you may not want to live in a neighborhood surrounding an elementary school if you like it quiet or are concerned about traffic.
- Choose A Lot: Once you know what neighborhood you would like to build in, it's time to narrow down the lot your home will reside on. I suggest doing this before the floor plan for similar reasons as above. Certain lot shapes may only accommodate certain style/size homes. Remember to think about the direction your home will face, if this is important to you. For example, if you love natural light, you may want a lot where your main rooms face to the south. You may also prefer a corner lot, so the light isn't blocked by a neighbor. On the flip side, you may not want a corner lot if you value privacy above all. You should also consider exposure when choosing a lot. Build on a sloping lot if you have plans to finish your basement. Large windows and/or a walkout will greatly increase your property value, however, it will also increase both your initial home and lot price.
- Choose A Home Plan: Once you have a neighborhood and a lot (or a few lots) in mind, you are ready to settle on a home plan. This is the fun part for many, but it can be difficult when you have so many selections. Again, try to think in advance. A 4th bedroom may be a good option to consider if you have a growing family. A main floor master bedroom might not be a good option if you have small children who need you often at night. A ranch home may be more practical if you are planning to retire in your home. What are your storage needs? Focus on things like closet space if you have lots of stuff. Do you use a formal dining room, or would the space be better spent elsewhere? If there is a physical model of the home you can go through, I would recommend this above all else. It is so hard to see on paper the things you can easily pick up when you are able to literally walk into a home. If there is not a model available, then I would suggest very carefully going through the plan on paper. Draw your furniture on it, if you can, and try to imagine a typical day living there. Do you want your walk-in closet inside your bathroom if your significant other typically showers at the same time you need to get dressed? Will 2nd floor laundry make your life much easier, or if you do laundry late at night, will it just wake up those who are sleeping? These are just a few of the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself when choosing a floor plan.
- Choose A Builder: If this is not already chosen for you, per neighborhood restriction, you will need to chose a builder. Really do your research on this, as many feel this may be the most important part of the home building process. Talk to people about what builders they recommend, read online reviews, ask prospective builders for references, and see if you can visit other homes they have built. You may even want to consider interviewing companies you are interested in. There may be no such thing as a perfect builder, but you can narrow the field to the one that best suits your needs.
- Make Exterior Selections: Before settling on exterior colors, first be sure you are able to use them. Some neighborhoods have rules that only allow the same or similar colors to be used a certain number of houses apart. Look at pictures online and/or drive through existing neighborhoods to get ideas. Don't forget to choose accents, like brick and/or stone, if your home plan calls for it.
- Make Interior Selections: In my opinion, this part is even harder than selecting a floor plan. There are so many things to choose (counter tops, carpet, flooring, paint, lights, etc...), and each category has so many options. To make this easier, do lots of research long before the time comes to give your final decision. (This will allow you some time to change your mind if you need it.) Visit paint and hardware shops and ask for small samples of colors from each category. This way you can be sure adjacent items correlate (i.e. counter tops look good with cabinet wood, kitchen floor blends with family room carpet, bathroom tile matches wall color, etc....). Be sure to view each sample in the different kinds of light that your home will be exposed to, if you can. Look in design books and/or online to get options. Be careful not to design colors around things like a piece of furniture or a shower curtain, as those things can change often, thus restricting future options for that room.
- Visit/Walk Through Your Home Site: Be involved in the building process, as much as the builder will allow!! If the company has a strict policy during construction, ask to set up times that you can come and walk through the home. When you are walking through, try to imagine living there. Do you need your light switch on the opposite wall? Do you want extra outlets? What about placement of towel bars and/or the amount of closet shelving?? Home builders are only human, so walking through your home also gives you the chance to catch mistakes or things that are missing. Be sure to schedule enough time so you are not rushed, and make these visits a priority in the process.
- Don't Be Afraid To Change Your Mind: It is everyone's worst nightmare to walk into a home you are designing and hate something about it. While sometimes things cannot be changed (especially if you are building a turn key style home that has a tight timeline and deadlines for selections), many things can be changed if they are pointed out soon enough. Have an honest relationship with your builder. This is your home. Trust your gut feeling and speak up when needed.
- Enjoy Your New Home: No home may ever be completely perfect, but by following the steps above, your home building process can be much less stressful. At the end of the day, you get to live in a result of your own imagination and creativeness. Don't forget to remember that and enjoy the view!!