Having come from a homebuilding background, I can attest how satisfying it is to build a home from the ground up. After working with an architect to design a great home plan, then building the home, it is a great feeling to turn the keys over to a home buyer and let them make the home their own.
Of course, there are two ways to buy a new construction home. One is to buy a custom home designed specifically for you with a specifically chosen lot location, architectural design, permits and fees, actual construction including the buyer picking specific finishes and colors. The second way is to buy what is termed a “spec,” speculatively built by the builder or developer.
While the process of actual construction of a home for a buyer is similar, the involvement of the buyer is traditionally much greater with a custom home. The primary advantage for the buyer is they get exactly what they want from design to doorknobs. The disadvantage for the buyer is it is a commitment of time and involvement and working around your builder’s schedule to complete your home the way you envision it. Traditionally, the first stop in having a home built is discussing your dream home with an architect. This first stop will give you a feel for how realistic your ideas really are, and a general idea of the ballpark cost to build your vision.
It is not uncommon to also interview one or more builders in your diligence period at the very beginning of seeking to build a home. Your architect can offer some guidance of builders to talk with depending on the style of home you intend to have built. In any case, make sure you and the builder speak the same language — meaning, do you communicate well with them? Does the builder listen to you? Does the builder seem to have the same excitement for your home that you do? Does your gut tell you this can be a good relationship?
Remember, you will be talking with the builder a lot over time and spending considerable time with them over the course of building your home. The relationship can be spread over a two-year period, so follow your instincts here.
Your builder should be an advocate for you and help to educate you over the course of building your home. Many builders work closely with your architect to make sure your vision is within your budget. This can save a lot of time in the process, so you don’t have to ask your architect to redesign the home to meet a lower budget after the home is fully designed. Heard of a champagne taste on a beer budget? Other builders act as design-build contractors, who contribute a great deal of the design from their experience of building certain styles of homes previously. Typically, they will still work with an architect, draftsman and engineer for final plans to mold it to your vision and make sure the design meets code and local design criteria. The latter method may save you some time and money in the entire process if the home design meets your vision for what you ultimately want in the home. It may come down to the amount of detail you as the buyer wants to control in the design of your home.
What if you want to buy a new construction home but don’t want to spend time shopping for a lot, designing the home with an architect and engineer? You may not care to be involved with the builder during construction and making many decisions along the way. Or let’s say you only want to choose carpet and paint colors and be done with it. You also may want predictability in the price of your home purchase. We will explore the process of buying a new construction spec home in next month’s column to help give you some direction.
See you next time. In the meantime, feel free to call or contact me for any specific questions about this column or other real estate questions.
Michael Harper is owner/broker of Michael Harper Real Estate. Contact him through his website, MichaelHarperRealtor.com.