8 Tips to Consider Before Building a House

Close-up of toy house model on blueprints with ruler and two pencils near by

The road to homeownership isn't always some perfectly manicured path. There are often sacrifices involved, along with saving and more saving. (Did we mention saving?) Should the time come when you're finally ready to get the house of your dreams, there's just one more question you have to answer: Do you buy, or do you build?


But wait, isn't building a home something only the rich and famous do?

No, not really.

Believe it or not, it's not uncommon for regular folks to want to create the home of their dreams brick by brick. After all, we spend a considerable amount of time making sure potential jobs and suitors meet our list of criteria -- so why would our house be any different? (It makes sense.)

Here to help shine some light on the process is Duane Cotton, father of three and founder of Build America Construction. Once lending his hammer and expertise to ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Duane definitely knows his way around the new construction process -- and isn't afraid to share a few pointers.

Interested in having your home built? Here are a few things you need to know.

1. There are more benefits to building a home than just a custom layout. When you make the decision to have your house built, you're investing in more than just a stylish design. Duane notes energy efficiency (can someone say money saver?), better indoor air quality, and the space to harness the awesomeness of new appliances are the standout benefits to building a new home, instead of buying an older one.

2. Not all builders are created equal. "Finding a builder is easy; finding YOUR builder can require a few different interviews," mentions Cotton. Begin your journey to home building by trying to identify companies that share the same design aesthetic as you. (This way, you'll have a better chance of your dreams coming true.) Duane recommends looking at a builder's past projects, driving by the neighborhood if you can, and reading what former clients have to say. You should also double-check to make sure the company is in good standing with local building officials.

3. Focus on what's most important to you. When it comes to the "ideal home," everyone is going to have a different opinion. Do you want to build your house in a specific location? Is there a particular layout you envisioned? What size property do you want to have? "You wouldn’t want to get your heart set on a certain plan and then fall in love with a lot that was too small to fit your dream home on it," advises Cotton. The more specific you get about your home, the faster you can determine what is (and isn't) realistic.

4. There are three questions you need to ask a potential home builder. No matter how fancy a company's website looks, you need to get to the bottom line. Duane Cotton recommends all future clients ask these three questions to a builder they want to use.

  • Can you meet my time line for completion?
  • Are there any concerns you have with building this home?
  • Have you worked with any of the specialty items I want to use in this home?

5. Be on the lookout for these warning signs. "If a potential builder misses your first appointment -- [or] if the company says yes to every request without comments -- they might just be looking for another client, and not be the detailed builder you need," warns Cotton.

6. Time is on your side. "There are a lot of buyers and some agents who think building will take a year or even longer," says Cotton, which really isn't true. In fact, that happens to be one of the biggest misconceptions to building a home. Depending on the type of house you build, you might be able to move into your dream casa within three to six months -- which really isn't that long at all.

7. Financing might look a little different. Rather than secure a mortgage, there are a few extra steps you'll need to take in the finance department. "In most cases, you'll need a construction-to-permanent loan. You begin with the builder's contract, which will state the total build cost for your new home. This will include a draw schedule, which states to all parties at what stages of the project the builder gets paid for the recently complete portion of the build. (The bank will perform inspections at each stage throughout the process.) Once your new home is finished, and you receive the certificate of occupancy, you can now close on your permanent mortgage," Cotton points out.

8. Have fun, enjoy the journey, and prepare for hiccups. As Duane Cotton says, "it's just a house ... If something during the build goes wrong, allow the builder to fix it and move on. Remember, there are thousands of pieces that all have to come together and work in harmony. There's a chance that something squeaks, leaks or just doesn’t work, so give the builder a chance to make it right," notes Cotton.



Image via Pressmaster/Shutterstock

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