Building a House: Frequently Asked Questions Part 1

January 19, 2016

You know what makes me happy? The fact that so many of you are just as excited as I am about my new house. I'm thrilled that it's almost done and that I get to share it with you! I thought I'd take some time to answer some of the frequently asked questions about the building process. Feel free to ask any other questions you have in the comment section and I'll be sure to answer them in my next post!

Also, keep in mind that everyone has a different experience depending on where you live, your preferences, budget, and your builder. This is just mine.

1. How did you know building was for you?
For us, this process started several years ago. My husband and I LOVED our neighborhood and our school district, but didn't love the layout of our house. We talked about moving but our school district was so highly coveted that houses were selling fast. So fast that we often couldn't even get in to see a house before it sold. We looked for about a year but never found the right house for us. It was then that we started talking about building. Flash forward a year later and we started talking about building a house with a guest cottage for my mom to live in. I grew up with my grandma living next door and wanted the same for my kids. My mom loved the idea and jumped on board.....yep, that's right, we are building with my mom! I'll share details on her space in an upcoming post.

2. How do you start the building process?

Oh goodness, this part has many steps:
Step 1: Decide on a budget. My husband is a numbers guy, so he crunched the numbers to determine what we could afford in a monthly mortgage payment. If you need help doing this there are a lot of mortgage calculators online. We also spoke with a few realtors to figure out the approximate value of our current home, which we figured we would have to sell first in order to pay for the new house. For us, the steps to figuring out what we could afford to build were the same steps we would take if we were buying an existing home. We set a budget range we were comfortable staying in and tried to stick to it as best as we could. Basically everyone we know who has built a house told us they spent more than they had originally planned.....and we sort of did too. I recommend having a range and trying to stick to the low end of it....but create a cushion in case you end up spending a little more. We stayed within our range but we did get close to the top of our budget. But the good news is we didn't go over it!

Step 2: Research builders. We did A TON of research on builders. We went to a home show where several builders set up booths and we spent the day talking to all of them. We made a lot of phone calls. I even drove by subdivisions that I liked and then googled around until I found out who built the homes and then gave the builder a call. We took recommendations from friends. We also toured homes that each builder had built because seeing their work in person made a huge difference! You name it, and we did it. Ask each builder their average cost per square foot and use that number to figure out if they are within your budget. We narrowed it down to three builders and then started more serious discussions. When it came down to deciding on the right builder we just went with our gut...and thankfully we all liked the same one! 

Step 3: Decide on your "Must Haves." Sit down with your spouse and write out what your dream home would look like. Does it have an open floor plan? How many bedrooms? Bathrooms? From there, discuss what you each MUST HAVE in your home. If you are anything like us, you probably can't afford your perfect dream home. So take a look at your list and pick 3 things that you must have. These are the things that you will have to look out for when selecting your property location, builder, and floorpan. For me, my must haves were: school district, an open floor plan where I could see my kids while I was in the kitchen, and a walkable neighborhood. My husband's were: at least 1 acre of property, school district, and natural gas. Since school district was really important to both of us, we knew we had to focus in on a certain area. So we kept all of our must haves in mind while we shopped around. (spoiler alert: I ended up compromising on one of my must haves....finding a property that was large enough for my husband to have some land yet was also in a walkable neighborhood really didn't exist in our price range.)

Step 4: Find property. This was probably the most challenging part of the process. Some properties restrict you to working with certain builders, and some builders only work on properties they already keep this in mind when selecting your builder. Since we knew we wanted to work with our builder we only looked at properties that didn't make you work with a particular builder. We looked FOREVER. My biggest advice for this is to ask your builder if they know of any land for sale, check online resources every day, use the map on zillow to find properties, and drive around and look for for sale signs (we found a lot of property for sale that wasn't listed online). We had our builder meet us at several properties to evaluate them and see if they would work. Sometimes we would love a property but after walking it with our builder he would point out things we didn't know to look for that would make us change our mind. Again, picking a quality builder you can trust is key!

Step 5: Draw up plans. This stage took several weeks for us. Our builder had some pre-built plans that we used as a guide to custom build our home. They had the base plans loaded in to a computer system that allowed us to move walls around, make things bigger or smaller, and basically customize it to our needs. Do your research online (I recommend pinterest!) to help you figure out what you want. Also, go to open houses or a parade of homes to get the feel for what types of layouts you prefer.

Step 6: Re-evaluate the budget. Once you have your property, house plans, and an idea of the types of finishings you want in your home (hardwood floors, tiled shower, fireplace etc.) your builder should be able to give you an estimate on your final costs. You may have to sit down with your lender to review the costs and make sure everything is in your budget. 

3. How long does building take?
It depends! For us, the whole process took about a year. Keep in mind that includes the time we spent researching builders, deciding on our must haves, finding land, drawing up plans, and, you know, actually building the house. 

Dang, that was a lot for only three questions. I'll start working on part 2....but be sure to drop your questions in the comments!

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17 Responses to “Building a House: Frequently Asked Questions Part 1”

  1. I am saving this post for the near future. We are really looking into building our home. Thank you for sharing! xo

  2. Love this! Building is something my husband and I want to do eventually - but not until he is finished with residency and we can pick a place to settle for a while! Until then, I love learning about the process and thinking about how fun it will be for us one day. Can't wait to hear more!!!

  3. Loved reading this! We're in the plans stage right now, and I'm anxious to get to the next part. Just curious- how long did it actually take to build your home in terms of months?

  4. Love that y'all put so much emphasis on the builder! Being a builder's wife, so many people I talk to don't even think about that, but rather just go with the cheapest or the ones that build the "prettiest." I love the house!

  5. I grew up next door to my grandparents too and it was such an awesome experience. I love that your mom will be on the same property. Can't wait to see her cottage!

  6. This post is SO helpful. We're military so were hoping to buy land somewhere, pay on it and then eventually build on it (with a place for my mother as well!) so this helps A LOT. Super excited to see the cottage and end result!

  7. I would love some nitty gritty details on how you chose your interior finishings! Cabinetry, floors, etc 😊

  8. This is awesome! It is absolutely my dream to build some day but it definitely seems like an overwhelmnig task! This makes it seem more manageable- sometimes super stressful I am sure - but manageable! :)

  9. This is fascinating! I don't know if I will ever go through a new build but it is such an awesome process. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  10. Thank you for sharing and being honest/down to earth about all of your answers!

  11. This is my dream but I feel like I would have SUCH a hard time deciding on all the details! Like designing the kitchen and bathrooms and everything. Such a hard but good problem to have I guess :)

  12. What a great post full of info! My parents built our house but it was just a brand new neighborhood being built so there wasn't all this prep work, more just customizing it with the builder. I would love to build a house but where we live that would be crazy expensive! I'm excited to follow along with you though!!!

  13. Great info! I love your new house snaps!! It's going to be so beautiful.

  14. I hit publish too quick...I love all of your built-ins. So fab!

  15. This is such a dream Julie!! I hope that one day we can build our dream home. I am so excited for you all and I love the sneaks on snapchat!! (PS obviously this loaded for me now!)

  16. All great tips for anyone wanting to build. So interesting to see how the process differs in a different country! x


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