Brett and I were recently having dinner with friends who are interested in building a new home. What began as a casual conversation full of hesitation, ended with questions answered, confidence and a list of contacts to get the ball rolling. It was a dinner we have become quite accustomed to in the past few years and rightfully so. There is so much unknown when you start down the path to build - what can I afford? What are my selections? Will I have a huge overage check at the end of the project? How long will it take? And the list goes on. The conversation always begins with a version of – how much does it cost to build? It’s without a doubt the gateway question, but it’s typically not the best starting point and in many ways doesn’t put you in the driver seat. Here are a few tips to get you prepared for your initial builder conversations.
1. What can you afford?
This is a step that is important in setting the tone for your project and creating boundaries for yourself. Will you be going with an interim construction loan, borrowing money from family, paying cash? There are a lot of different financial options. Know yours and take ownership – it will help as you move forward.
2. What is your timeline?
Moving is stressful. We talk to a lot of couples that dream of selling their house and moving straight into their newly built home. If you are in the financial position to carry two mortgages or rent your home - this could be your option. Unfortunately, this "dream" of a single move creates way more stress than it is worth. Plan to move twice. Live with family or rent a small place and enjoy the short season of tight living. Depending on your process, building can take any where from 4 months to a year. Weather, selections & trade schedules can make your project brilliantly quick or slow and steady.
3. Can you make decisions?
As your home goes through construction, one layer at a time, you will begin to fixate on things like - will I need an outlet here for my Christmas tree? Do I need a pot filler? Are these shelves in my closet the correct height for my boots? Some decisions may need to come quicker than others - so if you have decision paralysis, make sure your builder can give you a few options (in and out of price range). Most importantly, find a friend, family member or spouse that will help you pull the trigger on decisions.
4. What are your expectations?
This is a clarifying question that will allow you to flush out any preconceived ideas before jumping into a builder/client relationship. How frequently do I expect to chat with my builder - am I ok with text messages, email, phone calls or in person? Will I see progress everyday or will the house take shape on a weekly basis? Being on the same page is huge. Trusting your general contractor is key to a successful building experience.
We're always here to help - should you need more guidance or just some dinner companions.