Getting Ready to Build

As I prepare to build my dream home from researching to interviewing builders, I realized there are very few resources available which explain the gap between “thinking about building a house” and “breaking ground”.

While I still have a long ways to go, let me give you some insight into my planning process:

  1. Buy land – I was fortunate to purchase a great 30 acre site which has a phenomenal view.
  2. Determine budget – I determined roughly how much I could borrow and how much I was comfortable spending
  3. Develop the design – I started with a rough design and learned quickly hiring an architect is both critical for accurate quotes and essential to a well laid-out plan and stunning design.
  4. Collect quotes – Going into this project, I thought a turn-key quote from a builder would be sufficient. I very quickly learned that if you want average quality a turn-key quote is okay; however, if you want superior quality you need to do some legwork. I tried to get hard quotes for major and specialty items upfront, including:
    1. Site Work – I secured a quote for the driveway, site clearing, foundation excavation, and septic system (all one contractor).
    2. Windows and Doors – I wanted very specific high-performance windows and wanted to hand my builder a quote from the dealer to ensure the right items were purchased
    3. Water Well – Being an engineer, I did some preliminary research to better understand the most likely ground conditions for my well and handed that to a few contractors so I could select the most cost-competitive.
    4. SIPS – The SIPS shell is another item that was worth shopping. I had several manufactures quote the project and was able to select one which met my cost and schedule as well as would support my builder during the structure assembly.
    5. Kitchen & Bathrooms – Typically a builder gives an allowance for your kitchen and bathrooms. I felt it was important to make the decisions for these two areas early-on and simply plug-in hard numbers to my budget spreadsheet.
    6. Lighting – Lighting is one of those areas that you can spend a little or lot. Again, I wanted to ensure I had hard numbers to plug into the budget spreadsheet.
    7. DIY Items (HVAC, Audio Equipment, Alarm) – All of the items on my “DIY List” I needed to come up with accurate shopping lists for in order for the bank to accept them on my loan application.
  5. Builder Quote – With all of the big-ticket items decided-upon and hard quotes in-hand, the actual construction of the house needs to be quoted. I elected and would recommend selecting a builder who agrees to be transparent with his pricing (Time + Material + Material Mark-up).
  6. Mesh Your Quote & Builder Quote – With most of the project firm-quoted the next step is combing all of this information. I put together a multi-tabbed spreadsheet which provides an overview of my project and has detailed information on each choice.
  7. Bank Financing – With the project carefully quoted you are one step ahead of the typical homeowner/builder. The next phase involves taking the detailed information and going to the bank. As part of the financing process, you will work out a draw schedule which supports your construction schedule so the builder, subcontractors, and suppliers can all get paid.
  8. Order Long-Lead Items – This includes the SIPS and Windows for me, but may differ on your project.
  9. Build the House!