BTW – This post is just 1 in a series of Home Design and Build posts. You can find them all right here: Positively Jane's Home Design and Build.
Building a home can be an exciting process. You get to build what you want, the way YOU want it built!
But it can also be stressful, overwhelming, daunting and budget breaking.
Plus – how do you even know which lot to buy when building a home? Which lot is best?
So, let's start at the beginning ok? (you can read about the lot we chose HERE).
First up – and most important…knowing how much money you have to spend for the complete package! This includes (not limited to):
Now you might not need to factor all of the above into your decision. Maybe you will decorate or plant bushes over time. Maybe paper shades are all you need until you save up money for other window treatments. But, if you want to be ‘in and done' make sure you factor in ALL the costs. At the bare minimum you need to factor in the lot + building cost.
Before choosing a lot make sure that it is in a neighborhood that you like and will fit your criteria. If you aren't sure, go on and read ‘How to Choose a Home.‘ This post might help you out.
Once you are sure of the neighborhood take a look at all of the lots that are available to you. Walk through houses that are under construction in that same neighborhood or another. Look at the size of the home. Too big? Too small? Need a 3 car garage?
Look at the quality of the build. Is the molding crooked? Floors scratched? What about insulation – is there any?
And then interview builders. Make a checklist of things that you want to know – and ask every single builder the same questions. I have included a PDF of questions to ask. ‘Questions to Ask Your Builder.' Go on and grab it – it's free. (BTW – I have built 4 homes from scratch and renovated 2. I know the questions to ask!)
In that interviewing process you MUST ask how much a house will cost to build. If you find a floor plan that he/she has already built already ask how much it would cost, in TODAY'S dollars, to build it again. Keeping in mind that what you want may differ from what you see…but that will give you an estimate.
I have seen houses that cost $1000 a square foot (measured in heated and cooled space) to as little as $200. It depends on the style, builder, and finishes you choose. So, if you want a 3000 square foot home – it can range from $3mm to $600,000. That is a HUGE difference.
Drive around with the builder that you have chosen and show him/her the lots you were considering buying. Look at the lots that are available too. He/she will be able to tell you if the house that you would like to build is suitable for that lot. Let's say that you want a basement/lower level in your house. Well, a flat lot won't work out. Or maybe you have small children – a lot on the main drag of the neighborhood might not be ideal for you.
But, on the other hand…if those lots are less money and you can save money on the total build or have extra money for the home's finishes – it might be a good compromise for you. Only you know the ‘all in price' and what you are trying to achieve.
One word of caution. Please don't go over the top and become ‘house poor.' Meaning all of your money is going to the build with no savings left over. OR all of your money is going to your mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance and you don't have any money left over for fun…take it from one who knows from personal experience.
The typical rule of thumb is that your house build can cost between 10-20% MORE than you anticipated. I know – a crazy number. And, if you are as budget conscious as me – that number is WAY too much. Plus, if you are getting a mortgage your loan company will approve you to the maximum price. So, you really can't go over.
One way to avoid the surprises is to go shopping BEFORE you sign your contract. Go look at:
Get a good handle on the REAL cost of what you want. This helps in determining your budget. If you know that you want all Jenn Air appliances and that they cost $22,000 and your builder says that he/she is including $15,000 for your appliance budget – you know UP FRONT that you will be spending $7k more than the quote. Same goes with tile, light fixtures, etc. (PS – don't forget sales tax!)
And compromise is key…sometimes you have to let go of one thing in order to have another.
Don't forget to include ‘extra' cause no matter how hard you try, there are always extras.
P.S. – If you would like to know the process of choosing a lot, finding a builder, designing a plan, implementing the build process – including paint colors, decorating, and my thought process follow along: House Design and Build.