Home Building Tips Before You Break Ground

Home Building Tips by popular Dallas lifestyle blog, Glamorous Versatility: image of a husband and pregnant wife standing together and holding hands.

Building a house is such a learning experience.  When we bought our 1st home it was an inventory home, which means the builder designed everything and we got under contract about 1 month before it was completed. So with our first house I can’t say that we had the build experience.  We got under contract with our 2nd home Spring 2019, and had no clue what to expect.  We didn’t know timelines, didn’t know truly the full expense, and how to be prepared.  As most know that home fell through, based on the builder selling the home from up under us.  You can read more about that here. However, that build process wasn’t a complete waste as we learned some vital information that is helping us on our 2nd build.

We got under contract for our 2nd home a week after we lost the home that we originally built. Now we have completed our last design appointment, and now have our pre-construction meeting scheduled next week.  I am honestly shocked with how quickly everything is going. I am sure we will break great by mid-June.

You can check out our design center appointment and selections by watching our latest Youtube video.  Don’t forget to subscribe.

Even though we have went through this process already with our social media family, we still want to bring you all along on this journey.  As each build process is different, and hopefully we can apply some of what we learned on this new process.

I know so many of you are getting ready to build or have a goal to build, I wanted to share as many tips as possible to help you all have successful builds and to avoid any mistakes or road bumps we have went through.

Home Building Tips Before you Break Ground

1. Use a Realtor

Many think that you should use a realtor when you are selling your home or buying a pre-owned home. However, it is still beneficial to have a realtor on the buying of a new build.  Our realtor was able to negotiate additional structural upgrades in or contract.  Also, they are giving us a percentage towards closing costs.  Not to mention on our last home that fell through their experience was beneficial when working and being our go between with the builder. You will need an advocate in this process.

2. Create a budget

Building a house can get pricey.  It is important to make sure that you establish a budget and stay firm with this, so you can be sure to keep the home price reasonable for you to manage. I created a spreadsheet for all of our structural expenses and design expenses.  Yes the builder will keep track, but you also want to be on top of the expenses of everything.

3. Make a vision list

Of course part of the reason you are building is to design a home that fits your needs and that you will love. In our previous build house I will say there were design and structure aspects that we wish we had done.  That’s why it is important to create a vision/wish list for your build.  If you have the goal of building, start making the list now.  Example of things on my vision list: 5 bedrooms, handicap accessible guest bedroom (For Rick’s mom), cabinetry that runs to the top of the ceiling, extended patio, beams in family room, 4 car garage.  Those are just a some of mine.  Another reason this is important is because it is easy to want to add more upgrades, but that also will increase your price.

Coming in with knowing exactly what you want, is this will be helpful when building your contract and negotiating.  Try to have you or your realtor try to negotiate these in your contract price.  Builder can and will negotiate! Ask your builder what promotions they are currently running.  I’ve seen builder’s pay money towards closing, offer kitchen upgrades, and even outdoor upgrades.  Make sure to inquire because it could be something on your vision list.

4. Plan for design center expenses

When you start the build process you will have the home price, but there will also be more expenses that will be added once you go to the design center.  Maake sure to plan accordingly.  I recommend before you getting under contract ask your builder based on your floor plan what is the average design center expenses.  We also added our wood floors to our home in our contract instead of design center.  Our sales rep added as much as she could to our purchase agreement so there were not as many surprises at the design center.

Before you get under contract ask if the sales rep can provide you general pricing.  We were able to do this with the 1st builder.  The document was called a design center preview.  Some builders will even let you go to the design center as a preview to get an idea of selections and expenses.  Take advantage of this.  You want no surprises on expenses.

As I got pricing I started a design center spreadsheet.  That added all of our selections together.  While you will also get this with the design center, it is helpful for us plugging in the numbers. We would add and subtract design options to get to an expense we felt comfortable. I would play with the numbers and see what our total looked like if we went down or up a level. All of this helps you be prepared.

*Quick tip: In addition to other incentives request that your builder give a design credit.  This will give you a certain amount to put towards your design selections.  

5. Prepare for your design appointment

This is intense, and if you are not good with making decisions this could have your brain hurting.  As I mentioned previously try to get pricing before. However, you also want to have a general idea of what you want your home to look like.  I recommend creating Pinterest boards. Prior to your appointment start pinning what you design aspects you low.  Categorize it based on room to make it easy to show the design rep your ideas of each space.  This will be helpful for them to pull selections that fit your aesthetic.  Also, be transparent with your budget with the design rep.  This will help her keep you within your budget.

It is easy to get out of hand and want everything and every upgraded selection.  However, you have to keep yourself and check and make sure you are keeping yourself within your budget.  Every home will come with standard selections and then when you move up levels from standard there will be a price associated with it.  Make sure to be aware of the standards. This time around we did upgrade more of our selections but it is intentional, you don’t want to be caught by surprise.  So make sure to ask questions and know what is standard.

Be prepared that you will have to go through every design element in your home  For our 2nd build we completed everything in 3 appointment.  2 virtual (due to COVID-19) and 1 in-person.  Come into the appointment in the mindset to be able to be decisive. If you have kids try to get a sitter, so you can think clearly without distractions. Another thing, make sure you love your choices.  If you are already on the fence about a selection it is likely that once it is installed you won’t love it either.

6. Know the Timeline

I know you can be so anxious to start building but know there is so many things behind the scenes that have to be done before you break ground. It is important the builder give you a clear and concise timeline and expectation on the build process.  I say this because we go under contract on our 1st build 5/31/19 and our home did not break ground until the second week of October, which is absolutely absurd.  The builder dropped the ball and did not catch that the developer of our neighborhood denied our design exterior selections.  Which meant this delayed permitting.  Our 1st builder kept saying it is out for permitting, but in actuality it was not.  It had fallen through the cracks and the denied selections were just sitting on someones desk waiting for us to make new selections.

Here is a rough overview of the process before you break ground.

  • Negotiate and align on contract
  • Sign Contract
  • Pay Earnest money – Every builder will require you pay a specified amount to get under contract.
  • Secure financing – Our builder requires you be approved with there lender and underwritten within the first 30 days.
  • Design center appointments – You could have 1-3 appointments depending on the builder.
  • Pay any design center costs.
  • Plan review
  • Pre-construction meeting
  • Permitting
  • Break ground – Once all permits come back then you will break ground.

With all of this be patient, yet be aware.  You need to know that it will feel slow in the beginning but also be aware if anything seems like it is taking too long. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on timeline.

7.  Prepare for Plan Review and Pre-Construction Meeting

Every home will have plans drawn up and you will have to get them back from the builder. This can take 2-4 weeks.  Once you get them back you will likely review the plans with the builder to ensure it is correct. Take your time and ensure the plans are correct.  Make sure every outlet, light fixture, and upgrade is accounted for.  What is on the plan is what will be built, so you don’t want to miss anything and have your home be built incorrectly.  If something does not look right don’t be afraid to bring it up!

8. Avoid changes

Once you have signed your contract and the ball is rolling you want to avoid changes.  That is why it is important to have a list of what you want in the home. Changes after contract and plains could cost you $4,000 in change fees.  Unless it was the builder oversight  Take your time on review everything and make sure nothing is missed.  Additionally, with late changes that also means delays to the build of your home, so it is important to avoid changes if at all possible

9. Consider the builder’s lender

Almost all builders will have a preferred lender.  After our 1st build process I would recommend going with the builder’s lender.  If there are delays with financing when you go with the builders lender it will not put your home at jeopardy as it did for us with the first build.  Going with the builders lender just gives you an added security blanket in the event something happens.  If something were to fall through you would likely get your money back versus going with an outside lender.

Additionally, most builders will give you title or closing incentives when you go with their lender.

Since this is our forever house we did splurge a bit more versus if this was a starter home.  We did almost all of the structural upgrades the home offered, and did elevate many of our design selections from our 1st build.  To be honest after building our first home we felt we were kind of plain jane with some of our selections.  We wanted to elevate the look a bit and live a little.

This time around we know what to expect from the timeline and process before breaking ground.  I hope this is helpful you.  I decided to share tips on before you break ground as there are some crucial things to know before your home even breaks grounds.  I will share more tips on the construction process soon.

Have you built a home before?  Do you have any home building tips I didn’t cover?  Let me know in a comment below!

 

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