Congratulations on deciding to build your dream home! Building a new home is exciting, but it can also be a very stressful time (even if you think you are well prepared). Whether you are going to self-build or hire a contractor, it’s important to do your homework in advance. Below I’ve put together a list of helpful suggestions to help you successfully survive your new home build.
Once you are ready to move forward with building your house, it’s important to be prepared. This requires doing some homework. Make sure that you know your builder and feel comfortable with this person building your house. You can read reviews online and even check your state contractors board to make sure you are working with a reputable and licensed builder. I suggest even going and touring homes that are under construction or recently built by your builder (of course you will need to ask permission to do this). Some builders even showcase their work on Houzz.
Once you have decided upon a builder, you will want to make sure you have a written agreement of what’s included. For our build, we did a custom turn-key home, meaning that our builder carried the finances until the project was finished. Our builder was responsible for all sub-contractors, permits, etc. This meant that it was important for us to know what was included with our new home including our allowances. You will also want to make sure you know what your allowances are (tile, flooring, cabinets, plumbing, electrical, paint, windows, doors, etc.). After getting your allowances, you may need to do some research to make sure that your allowances will actually get you what you want. For example, our allowances were not enough for the black windows we wanted, so that became an upgraded expense during our build.
Know Your Budget
Be sure to clearly communicate your budget with your builder. Do not be surprised if you exceed your budget by 5-15%, this is common. Before building, it is a good idea to have some money set aside for unexpected costs or upgrades. For example, we wanted shiplap and built-ins in the living room, these were both upgrades for our house. If you are building a Modern Farmhouse and you want black windows, this can be a very expensive upgrade if it’s not in the original budget.
You can create an excel spreadsheet to track your expenses. It’s really easy to spend a few hundred extra dollars here and there and then all of a sudden realize that you’re $5k over budget. Keep track of your expenses and be sure to ask, don’t just assume that anything is included.
Create Inspiration Boards
You can find lots of inspiration on Pinterest and Houzz for design ideas. However, it can also be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s helpful to create inspiration boards for your ideas. You can pin ideas to Pinterest Boards (for example, here’s one of my boards: https://www.pinterest.com/mymodernfarmhousehoodriver/modern-farmhouse-bathroom/) or you can save photos on Houzz. I actually went a step further and printed out my favorite inspiration photos so that I could take them with me in a binder to design meetings and refer back to them.
Allow For Extra Time & Have a Contingency Plan
Things do not always go according to plan. Sometimes permits get held up, subs are not available, product is delayed, etc. Be sure to allow for extra time to accommodate unforeseen events. You should have a back-up plan in place should things not go as planned. For example, you may find that you have to be out of your former house before the new one is finished. Where will you go during this gap? Do you have a friend or relatives house you can stay at? Do you have an RV you can camp out in? Is a hotel a good option? These are all questions to ask yourself and discuss prior to building so that you do not find yourself in a bind when things do not go according to plan.
Schedule Your Own Home Inspections
All builders are required to build to certain code requirements, but sometimes things can get missed. You can AND SHOULD hire your own independent inspector to inspect the house. I recommend doing three inspections, a mid-construction rough-in, a final inspection, and then a 1-year inspection.
The mid-construction inspection should be done once the plumbing and electrical are in. You want this inspection to be done prior to the drywall and insulation going in so that your inspector can actually see what’s inside the walls.
Your next independent inspection should take place after you receive final occupancy and prior to closing. This is a time where your inspector can thoroughly look over everything, test outlets, furnace, air conditioner, stovetop, crawlspace, etc. You can use any finds for your final “blue tape” walk-through with your builder.
And finally you should schedule a one year inspection. This should be completed about 11 months after you’ve been in your house. During this inspection, your inspector should look for any items that need addressing before your one-year warranty is up.
Ask questions, communicate, show up and make sure that things are being done as discussed. It is important to stay involved. You can do this by having frequent in-person and online communication. If you’re able to, go by the job site each day and check on the progress. Just make sure you have permission to enter the job site if you show up without prior consent from your builder. It’s also helpful to get to know the team that’s building your house. The more you can be involved with the process, the easier it is to stay on top of things and to catch minor misses (this is especially important if you are adding on or making change orders). Communication is key to having a successful build.
Celebrate The Milestones
Document and celebrate the progress of your house! This is a place that your family is going to make many memories, why not start making the memories now? We even kicked off our ground breaking with our daughter digging the first hole. We took one of our old shovels and painted it gold. It was a fun family event at the job site and we love looking back at these photos. Building is stressful, so be sure to take time to celebrate along the way.
Take Care of Yourself
This one may seem like a no brainer, but actually it can sometimes be hard to make time to take care of yourself. Life is busy when you are building. You are packing, perhaps doing a double move, and maybe even getting ready to sell your current home. In the meanwhile, your normal day to day life continues on as well. Sometimes it may seem like there’s no time for yourself. Try making time to exercise or go enjoy a cup of coffee with a good friend. These things can help relieve some of your stresses. If you do find some time, try getting away for the weekend with your family. You will come back refreshed and ready to tackle your build.
While this may not be a complete list, hopefully this will you plan and prepare for a successful build. I’d love to hear from you. Let me know where you are in your building stages or what worked or didn’t work in your home build.