Home Builder’s Checklist
Checklist for Building a House: What You Need to Know to Get Started
If you’re in the process of building a new home or are looking at options, you’re not alone. The 2014 seasonally adjusted annual rate for building permits for privately-owned houses is just under one million. It makes sense to build your own house to ensure that you get a home that meets the needs of your family and has everything you want.
However, building a home isn’t always a simple endeavor. Homeowners who prepare by doing their research up front tend to have better outcomes. If you’re considering building a home, take a look at this building a home checklist. Learn what you need to be aware of to get started.
Roles and Responsibilities
One of the most important steps to building a house is to understand the various roles and responsibilities throughout the process. This will help you stay organized and keep track of each decision in the homebuilding process. Who will be responsible for what? What items should you depend on your builder for? What falls into your court? Who will make important decisions? It’s crucial to understand the roles of individuals involved in the process and who each person reports to. These professionals include:
- Homeowners – Ultimately, many decisions come down to your vision. As such, you must be available to answer questions as they arise. You must also be willing to do your part while meeting deadlines set by your builder. Make sure you ask questions and clearly state what matters to you. Perhaps you don’t care about which cabinets are used in the kitchen, but you’re particular about countertops. It’s important that your builder understands your preferences, so you can agree about decisions in advance.
- Real-Estate Agents – Real-estate agents may play a role in your decision to build a custom home. Often employed by the home builder you work with, real-estate agents will provide assistance in purchasing land for the build while coordinating the closing.
- Home Builder/Construction Manager — The home builder’s construction manager acts as the liaison between the homeowner and the other members of the team. This construction manager provides assistance in planning the build, ensures the homeowner’s wishes and best interests are considered, and ensures all deliverables are met on schedule.
- Lenders — Just like any other home purchase, lenders work to make it possible for homeowners to purchase their custom homes.
- Designers or Architects —The architect works with the home builder to create drawings and specifications. These sketches ensure the homeowner’s wishes are met from the start. At SDL Custom Homes, our designers and architects use 3D software to provide a unique “walk-through” experience before any building takes place.
- Civil and Structural Engineers – Engineers are involved throughout the home building process. They provide insight about potential problems and unique conditions that may arise during the build.
- Specialty Contractors — Specialty contractors work within specific trades – electricians, HVAC professionals, painters, roofers and more — to fulfill individual pieces of the build. In most cases, home builders have pre-established relationships with these professionals, meaning the homeowner doesn’t need to select their own providers. It’s important to understand, however, that many contractors will work together throughout the home building process.
- Inspectors — Field inspectors are responsible for reviewing architectural designs prior to the build, checking in at various phases of the project, and ensuring that all codes and ordinances are adhered to prior to the final sale.
When you’re building a home, decisions must be made. Quick decisions ensure that projects stay on track and your goals are understood. Include these questions on your building-a-house checklist and make sure you can answer them:
- How will I organize my project? Where will I store all documents relating to my home build? How will I track conversations with my builder?
- Who is my main point of contact with the builder I have selected?
- At what time will I make myself available to answer questions and to make decisions?
- Who is the best decision-maker in my family – myself, my partner or my spouse? Do we disagree on any points?
- What is my goal completion date? Is it reasonable? What benchmarks must be met to make this goal a reality?
Monetary Considerations for the New Home Checklist
It’s important to understand the costs associated with building a home and stay prepared for unexpected expenses. Items for your new home checklist include:
- What you can afford — Speak with a few lenders to ask questions and find out how you can obtain the best interest rates. You should also understand the costs of the home you’re interested in. Because prices for new homes range from $80 – $200 per square foot, it’s important to rank your desired features in order of importance. Talk with your builder to learn about all the options. Try to find lower-priced comps when possible.
- Credit report — Make sure you order your credit report prior to applying for financing. Check for any errors that may exist.
- Down payment — Consider how much you can realistically put down as a down payment.
- Mortgage options — Take the time to learn about various mortgage options – fixed rate, variable, 15-year, 30-year, FHA and traditional. Determine which would be the best option for your financial situation. Obtain prequalification or preapproval from your chosen lender for a mortgage.
Looking to cut costs as much as you can? Check out our tips to building a custom home on a budget.
Home Building Checklist Timeline
No new house checklist can be complete without a solid time frame. To create your timeline, work with your builder and ask the following questions:
- How long will it take to build my home? In general, new home builds take approximately six months. However, homes with multiple custom features or larger sizes may take longer.
- What is my end-date based upon? Are you looking to complete your home to coincide with the end of an existing lease or the sale of your existing home? Would you like to move during the summer due to scheduling conflicts? Prioritize your reasoning for completing your home by a specific date.
- When is the best time to start my home build? Understanding the seasons in your region is critical for building a home at the right time. It’s important to note, however, that a home builder can build a new home at any time of the year. If you have a specific end date in mind, consider any potential setbacks. For instance, if you live in a rainier, colder climate, you may encounter more delays during winter or spring than building during the summer or fall. This should not prevent any major setbacks, but it should be a consideration if you have a strict schedule in mind.
Working With the Right Home Builder
If your team isn’t right from the start, you could be dissatisfied with the final outcome. To be sure you have the right team in place as part of your checklist for building a house, consider the following:
- Your gut feeling — Do you feel confident in the builder you have selected? Do you sense transparency in the process? Do you have any doubts?
- References — Ask your builder for past client references. Call them. Ask about any holdups during the process and if they would work with the builder again. Ask to see pictures of completed projects.
- Trust — If you trust your builder, you can trust their subcontractor selections. If any problems do arise, reach out to your builder immediately for remediation.
- Questions — Ask your builder for information about anyone who will be working on your home. It’s within your rights to request background check information. Run an online search to see if anything questionable arises. Ask your builder how long they have worked with each subcontractor and why they’ve chosen these professionals for his or her team. In this case, experience matters.
Buying Land: What to Look For
Your home’s physical location is just as important as the features in your home. Add these tasks to your new house checklist, so you can get a feel for the location:
- Ask your builder about extra expenses related to your lot – Will you need a well or septic tank? Will you need to create new power, phone or cable hookups that could increase expenses?
- Talk to locals — This will help you understand the neighborhood, and find out if it’s a good fit for your family.
- Walk the neighborhood — There’s no better way to understand the potential of a given piece of land than to understand what surrounds it.
- Consider your family’s interests — Are you looking for extensive outdoor space for recreational activities? Does soil type matter for gardening? Would you like room for outdoor entertaining? The size, shape and location of your chosen lot affect these factors.
Obtaining Building Permits and Insurance
Your building-a-home checklist isn’t complete without taking the proper steps for insurance and permits. Once you have chosen your lot and secured financing, obtaining building permits and insurance is critical. Add these steps to your new house checklist:
- Become familiar with the building permit process — In most cases, builders will reach out to your local municipality to ensure all permits are in place prior to starting a build. It’s important to make sure this happens, or take steps on your own to make sure your permits are in place.
- Ensure general liability insurance is in place — This can be provided by you or by your builder. Working with a fully-insured builder is always the best course of action.
- Ensure workman’s compensation insurance is in place — This type of insurance ensures that you and/or the builder are not held responsible should any workplace injuries take place on your job site. If you’re working with a homebuilder who manages employees, this is required.
Custom Home Design Steps
When working on a custom home design, consider the following steps in your building-a-house checklist:
- What features are most important to me? What can I not live without?
- What features would be nice to have — if the budget permits — but I could do without?
- Will there be any potential issues or expenses? Ask your designer about any potential issues in your desired design.
- Are there ways to cut costs? Be clear with your designer about what your budget is and where you have flexibility. If you’re not clear from the start, this will lead to disappointment in the long run.
- How should you prioritize? Custom designs are costly. Because of this, focusing on one or two rooms – master bathrooms or suites, kitchens or sunrooms – and incorporating existing designs into the rest of the home, is generally the most cost-effective option.
Making Custom Selections
There are plenty of features you can add to your home. Custom selections could include the following:
- Actual building materials – lifetime warranty roofing shingles may be the most costly up front, but they can add more value to your home in the future.
- Location of outlets – outlets within 6 feet of water sources must contain specific safety measures. Outlets should be near cable hookups and phone lines, especially in entertainment settings or offices. Make sure you clarify your needs during the design process.
- Location of laundry rooms — Upstairs laundry rooms may be more practical than carrying loads of laundry through multiple floors.
- Kitchen features – Cabinets, flooring and appliances all come with a variety of options, finishes and materials. As the homeowner, you have complete control based on your preferences.
- Flooring – Which flooring suits the look you’re going for in your new home? From carpeting and hardwoods to laminate and tiles, selections can vary from room to room and are completely up to you.
- Framing — Sidewall insulation is critical, as well as galvanized nails and floor joist screws. When you use the best materials, your home will last longer and need fewer repairs.
- Color selections — When building a new home, you select your features based upon your preferences. Select colors that fit your family’s personality for both inside and outside of your home. Unsure of where to start? Ask your builder for ideas.
- Indoor and outdoor lighting — A well-lit home is important. Make sure your outdoor lighting selections provide adequate coverage for entering the home at night or outdoor entertainment. For indoor lighting, make sure the lighting needs of each individual room will be met without the need for floor lamps.
- Safety — Hardwired smoke detectors are generally required by law and are important for protecting your family. Sprinklers may be a viable option, especially in the kitchen. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes or flooding, additional safety measures should be in place. Speak with your builder about these features.
Water, Sewer Hookup Checklist for Building Your House
Your home cannot run without proper water and sewer hookups. This process includes:
- Setting a date for the hookups — Talk to your builder to understand what role you play in this process.
- Getting proper inspection — Make sure the proper installation inspection takes place to look at water and sewer hookups, footings and plumbing.
- Understanding potential additional fees — Look into any additional fees that may appear during the process or any special exceptions that may exist on your land.
Landscaping and Final Cleanup
- Plant choice and upkeep needs
- Neighborhood friendliness
- Native selections verses exotic plants and grasses
- Overall curb appeal
Make sure your home looks move-in ready, so there is no final clean-up needed prior to closing.
Once your home is built, congratulations! It’s time to move in. During this process, it’s important to take care of the final steps:
- Decide whether you’ll hire a moving company or handle the moving on your own. This is entirely up to you and depends upon your desired timeline.
- Plan it out. Consider where you plan to place your furniture by drawing rough sketches in advance. There’s never a better time to buy new furniture than when you’re moving into a new home.
- Take your time. Rushing adds nothing but stress to the process. Take the time to enjoy the process rather than to rush. Choose one room that can wait (an office or extra bedroom) and use it as your base. Focus on unpacking a certain number of boxes per day until complete.
Most importantly, enjoy your new home! Consider throwing a housewarming party to welcome friends into your new home and get to know your new neighbors.
Now is the perfect time to get started on building your new home. Follow the checklist above for best results!