You wouldn’t take a cross-country road trip without a good map and a destination in mind. The same holds true when building a home. Don’t jump into it blindly. Take the time to review your current home situation, and plan out some goals for you new home. Make a list of the features that are most important to you, and keep it handy. You’ll be surprised how much easier the decisions will be when you take a few moments to prepare your plan.
You can expect three basic areas to make up the bulk of your new home investment; the cost of the land, the cost of the home, and the cost of site improvements-such as clearing the land and building your home’s foundation. Don’t forget to include the costs that come into play after your home is built, such as sod and landscaping, window treatments, appliances, and additions like patios or decks. If they’re not included into the price of the home, you’ll want to make sure you have enough left in the budget to cover them.
Unless you’re planning on paying cash, you’ll want to get pre-approved with a lender early on so you’ll know exactly how much you can afford to spend. When it comes to financing, it pays to do your research and compare all of the financing options that are available. Some of the best loan programs will finance your land purchase and construction costs, and then convert into your mortgage loan once construction has been completed.
Now that you’ve identified your needs, and have an idea of what to expect on the financial end, it’s important to know which home style will work best for you. There are literally thousands of home plans available, and the many choices can be overwhelming. Before starting to look at home plans, it’s often helpful to narrow down your options by deciding on the type of home style you like best: Ranch, Cape Cod, or Two-Story. Each offers distinct advantages. Deciding on your preferences upfront can make the daunting process of choosing a home plan so much simpler.
You don’t necessarily have to own your land before you start looking at home plans or meeting with builders, but it does help to have a good sense of where you’d like to build in mind. Do you prefer a country setting with lots of acreage, or would you prefer a traditional subdivision that’s close to shopping and major highways’? What areas are most appealing to you? What do you like about your current neighborhood? What would you like to change? The answers to these questions can have a great influence on where you decide to build.
Once you’ve selected an area where you’d like to live, it’s time to find the perfect lot. Just because a lot is available, does not mean it will be suitable for your preferences or the style of home you would like to build. Don’t feel as though you need to purchase the first piece of land you see. Take the time to ask the right questions. Make sure you know how large of a lot will you need for the home style you prefer? Should the lot be narrow or wide? What about the direction the lot faces? Will you have morning or afternoon sun? Do you want a special view? Most importantly, do a reality check. Is the land worth the price you are willing to pay? If it’s not, keep looking.
If you’ve planned out your wants and needs, prepared a budget, and decided on a home style, you’re ready for the best part-selecting a home plan. Although most builders will have a selection of completed homes on display or pre-built for purchase, you can expect to make your purchase decision by looking at printed home plans. Fortunately, these layouts are not complicated to understand. They’ll provide you with a simple overview of the home, the number and arrangement of rooms, and the estimated size. When reviewing home plans, you’ll want to refer frequently to your wish list of desired features. Not only is it important that your new home meets your needs, it should also match your lifestyle.
Selecting the right builder is by far the most important step of the entire home building process. After all, you’re placing your confidence in someone who will be responsible for making sure your home is built exactly the way you want it, at the price you expect, when you want to move in-all while coordinating with the building facility and an army of contractors responsible for bringing it all together. Choose a knowledgeable builder with a helpful attitude that has your best interest at heart. Do your research, too. Ask for a list of homes they have recently completed. Get names and phone numbers of their past homebuyers. A good builder will be happy to provide as many references as you want.
Even if your builder says they handle everything from start to finish, it doesn’t hurt to do some research on the contractors that will be involved in the construction of your home. How long has your builder worked with these contractors? Can you see examples of work they have done before? Don’t be afraid to ask to speak with the contractors directly. If they ignore your request, that’s a pretty good indication of how responsive they’ll be if problems arise. Ask for a detailed listing of all the costs involved with the building of your home. As a general rule, the cost of site improvements should be no more than 20 percent of the home and land cost combined. If something seems out of line, get an independent estimate or ask your builder to explain the additional cost. Don’t get rushed into making a decision, no matter how much in demand their services may be. And never, ever pay a deposit on the first meeting.
Even the best made plans often go astray. Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate. Contractors get delayed. Mistakes happen. Unforeseen problems creep up. Patience and understanding is vital if you are to make it all the way to completion in good spirits. If something can go wrong, it usually will. Keep things in perspective. And no matter what happens, always have a sense of humor!An award-winning builder, BJ Krol has been involved in the planning, implementation and marketing of award-winning residential developments for over 25 years. As president of Marketingenuity Inc., a sales and marketing consulting firm specializing in the housing industry, Mr. Krol helps builders and developers enhance the buying experience and achieve greater success.