Congratulations, you have taken the first step in building your new custom home, the research step! The process of designing and building a custom home is both thrilling and life-changing. Unfortunately, it can also be overwhelming and frustrating if the proper research and explanation of expectations is not done beforehand. The team at DCarson Construction has created a list of tips to keep in mind before building a house, to provide a successful enjoyable experience for you and your loved ones. The goal of these tips is to help ensure your dream home is aligned with the actuality of the custom home building process. With over thirty years of experience here is a list of the most common pitfalls that first-time home builders experience, and how to steer clear of them.
First, let’s talk money. Everyone will warn you to have a “realistic budget,” but what does that actually mean, and how do you calculate that? Don’t worry when they say “realistic budget” they don’t mean down to the penny. What they do mean is a rough price per square foot. During the design process, the general contractor will create a price per square foot based on the type of home you would like to build. This is to help budget the cost of the entire project. The first pitfall that first-time home builders usually experience is not realizing how many design decisions they have to make before they can create an accurate budget. Some examples of these design decisions are:
- Size of the home- the number of stories, what type of roofline, square feet of living space, etc.
- Style of the home- the height of the ceilings, Craftsman, Spanish, Modern, Mediterranean, etc.
- Materials- types of roofing, types of windows, stucco vs. siding, custom cabinets vs. standard, countertops, flooring, plumbing fixtures, etc.
(check out our other articles on design decisions to learn the pros and cons between them)
You may be thinking, “Do I really need to decide on my plumbing fixtures to have an accurate budget?” The answer is yes and no. No, you don’t have to decide you want a white faucet with an oval shaped bowl, but you do have to decide if you want the high-end faucet, for example the “French Country Widespread Faucet” by Elements of Design that is $467 (yes faucets can cost that much) vs. the standard faucet from Home Depot that is $65. If you are building a 5-bedroom house with 7 sinks, that is almost $3,500 for faucets which in turn will raise the price per square foot. The moral of the story is that it is important to know your taste. Do you want the standard appliances, the high-end, or a combination of both? Do you want a single light in the middle of the bedroom or 8 canned lights? Having an idea of what your expectations are for style will help ensure you have an accurate and realistic budget aligned with your intentions.
Next, let’s talk about the timeline. It is important to understand there are three main phases to the custom home design and building process. One, the design phase which includes drawing up the plans, and designing the home from the ground up. Two, the permitting phase, this includes city and county permits. Third, the construction phase, this is the process of physically building the house. In our experience, the first phase, the design phase, usually takes the longest. Deciding on the specifics we mentioned earlier, as well as pricing tends to take the longest amount of time. We have created an average timeline per square foot to give you a ballpark idea. But we do have to preface this by stating that every home is different, some may require much more time due to the local permitting processes, clients deciding on design specifications or other location-specific parameters. But in general, here is a good baseline to start with:
- 2,500 sq. ft. = 4 -5 months
- 5,000 sq. ft. = 10-12 months
- 10,000 sq. ft. = 2 years +
CONSTRUCTION BUDGETS – WHAT’S INCLUDED AND WHAT ISN’T
Another common pitfall first time home builders often experience, is realizing what is considered common items to include in a custom home construction budget as well as considering which items are outside the normal scope of work. The following are items that are not typically considered in a new home construction budget. If you would like your general contractor to also cost out the following items, be sure to have a conversation about that beforehand:
- Site improvements to the lot
- Swimming pools
- Tennis courts
- Indoor and outdoor furniture
- Window coverings
CHOOSING THE RIGHT CONTRACTOR
In addition, we want to stress the importance of researching and choosing the right contractor. Building a new custom home is a time consuming and sometimes stressful experience. So you want to make sure you pick a general contractor that you trust and connect with on a personal level. Not only do you need the interpersonal connection, but the contractor also needs to have the correct skill set for the project. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best contractor for your project.
- Does the contractor have experience and knowledge in all aspects of the project?
- Is the contractor licensed to handle the full scope of the project?
- For example, many general contractors only have their Class B General Building Contractors License and cannot handle the engineering side of the project and have to bring in another team member to draft and approval of the plans. Learn more about the license classifications here: http://www.cslb.ca.gov/Resources/GuidesAndPublications/DescriptionOfClassifications.pdf
- Does your contractor use 100% subs? Self-perform a portion of the work? Or self-perform all of the work? Do you have a preference?
Finally, the last important aspect to consider before building a custom home is how you want to set up your fund control. Setting up reasonable fund control can be complex, we recommend you speak to your general contractor, financial advisor, or a professional you feel comfortable with, to ensure you are aware of all the options and the pros and cons of each. The main question to consider is, are you going to have a bank loan or be self-funded? Also, we recommend requiring proper construction inspections, proper lean releases, and thoroughly understanding the advantages and disadvantages of payment terms.
The process of designing and building a custom home is very exciting and we are happy to be a part of the process with you. Keep in mind the list of things you need to know when building a custom home throughout your design and building process. Our goal is to ensure your dream home is aligned with the actuality of the custom home building process and that you are able to avoid the most common pitfalls that first-time home builders experience. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here.