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Building a Home

8 Crucial Tips for your First-Time Home Build

Published on:

4/15/20

written by:

Carrie Barker

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Building a home will likely be one of the largest projects you ever take on. It can be emotionally and physically DRAINING. I know this from first-hand experience, and I’m making it easier for you by sharing my 8 CRUCIAL tips for your first-time home build below.

Not gonna lie … building a home is an emotional roller coaster. HOWEVER …. don’t let this scare you. Just like pregnancy and childbirth, building a home is ALL worth it in the end (and you’ll eventually block the process from memory). PROMISE!

Updated April 2020.

8 CRUCIAL TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST-TIME HOME BUILD

1. HAVE AS MANY FINISHES PICKED OUT AS POSSIBLE BEFORE YOU BREAK GROUND

Choosing finishes (e.g. home exterior materials or flooring) early will keep your build process on time and running smoothly. You will find that some finishes are on backorder or have a long ship time. Other finishes may no longer be available, so this allows you time to go back to the drawing board and make a different selection.

Picking out items early allows for the products to be in your builder’s possession as soon as the subcontractors are ready to install. Believe me … you want things ready to go when your subs are ready to work on your home. Otherwise, you might wait a long time while they complete another project.

RECOMMENDED READING: 4 THINGS I WOULD DEFINITELY CHANGE IF I BUILT MY HOME AGAIN

helpful tips for first-time home build

2. BE PREPARED TO GO OVER BUDGET (BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A LOT)

Everyone says ‘YOU’LL GO OVER BUDGET’ … and I agree to some extent. HOWEVER, I was able to stay VERY close to budget because I was extremely clear with my builder about the caliber of finishes I wanted BEFORE he priced our custom home.

Here’s a truth bomb … it’s nearly impossible to stay on budget because your allowances (e.g. appliances) will be ridiculously low. I mean, RIDICULOUSLY low. I don’t remember exact numbers, but our appliance allowance was enough to cover maybe two appliances. Needless to say, we went over the budget here

Just keep this in mind … if you are 100% honest and upfront with your builder about EXACTLY what you want BEFORE he or she prices the house, then you won’t go over budget very much. You just need to be very clear about the level of finishes you want (e.g. custom trim work throughout the home).

The people who say ‘I was 50% over budget’ likely had many change orders and ‘upgraded’ their home WHILE they were building (as opposed to knowing how nice of a home they wanted before they started).

RECOMMENDED READING: 8 EASY WAYS TO STAY ON BUDGET WHEN BUILDING A HOUSE

3. IF YOUR BUDGET IS TIGHT, LET YOUR TOP PRIORITY BE YOUR GUIDE

If you have a tight budget, focus on elements of your future home that are most important to you. If you are more interested in fancy custom details in your home (e.g. window seats, crown molding, high-end appliances, custom cabinets, etc.), then focus your budget on the finishes rather than square footage.

If you have a large family and need more square footage, focus your budget on the size of the home rather than the level of finishes. That is, opt for stock cabinets, laminate counters, inexpensive carpet, low-end appliances, etc. You can always upgrade finishes in the future … but it is much harder and more costly to add square footage after your build.

4. DOUBLE CHECK ALL INVOICES … EVEN IF YOU DON’T CARRY THE LOAN

Double-check all your invoices … even if your builder is carrying the construction loan! Let me say it again … DOUBLE CHECK ALL INVOICES!

Many builders carry the construction loan so homeowners don’t take an active role in reviewing invoices and making payment. If this describes your situation, make sure to include yourself in this process!

We carried our own construction loan so we signed off on all invoice payments. My husband diligently checked all invoices before signing off on draws. He didn’t find many errors, but there were some errors that may have been overlooked by our builder.

5. MAKE SURE TO INCLUDE ROOM (LOTS O’ ROOM!) IN YOUR BUDGET FOR WINDOW TREATMENTS 

It can be insanely expensive to do even basic window coverings when you are talking about covering an ENTIRE house of windows!

People budget for new furniture and accents post move-in, but privacy via window shades is VERY important to consider too!

6. BE ON-SITE DURING INSTALLATIONS

I learned this lesson the hard way. My electrician hung my kitchen table pendant where HE thought it should go … it was not centered over the future table. I had him move it, but my ceiling still has a scar from this change. I can still see where the ceiling was patched and re-painted.

Electricians and other subs will make decisions FOR you if you aren’t on-site! You do NOT want them to make the decisions for you. TRUST ME! Really you should be on-site for all installs to answer questions.

helpful tips for first-time home build

7. YOU CAN HIRE A DESIGNER TO HELP WITH DECISION-MAKING

There will be sooo many decisions … decisions that you didn’t even know existed (for me, this was choosing my grout color and my doorbell).

You CAN hire an interior designer to help with decision making, and this can significantly decrease your stress and overwhelm. It is best to work with a local designer who can be on-site and has an understanding of local building codes.

8. DON’T STEW OVER IMPERFECTIONS DURING YOUR HOME BUILD

If you are a perfectionist and detail-oriented (like me), you will stress over all the imperfections during your build. No need though! You will forget about these imperfections (and they won’t be so obvious) once you move furniture in.

CONCLUSION

I hope this list of 8 crucial tips for your first-time home build is useful to you as your embark on your building journey.

If you are preparing to build or already in the thick of it, I think you’ll love my absolutely *FREE* Custom Home Build Prep Guide to help you build your dream home with less stress, more confidence, and a strategic plan to stay on budget!

  1. Myan says:

    Thank you thank you THANK YOU for this post! My fiancé and I are planning to custom build in the next few years and even though we’ve done a few multi-room renovations, we are still super nervous about building from the ground up. I shared this post with him & we both agreed that these tips are supremely helpful.

    Thank you!

  2. […] You might enjoy reading 8 Crucial Tips for your First-Time Home Build. […]

  3. nancy atz says:

    My husband and I are in process of building a semi-custom home. Framing is being done now. I have met with two designers for kitchen and vanity cabinets. The meeting also included selecting hardware for cabinets. I haven’t gotten the estimate yet, but I am concerned the cost of hardware will be higher than what I can find on-line or at Lowes. I am thinking about just purchasing my own hardware if their cost is high. Does this seem reasonable? Thanks, Nancy Atz

    • I purchased some of my hardware on my own (i.e. not through our builder). It really depends on the hardware you want. You could price what you can find online vs. what the builder will charge you. The builder’s discount could make it less expensive than online.

      • Erin says:

        You also should think about the amount of holes you will have to drill or pay someone to drill for you if you decide to install after the build. We are building now and that was one of the biggest points they made is making all holes perfect and lined up is really difficult.

  4. I liked what you said about how the sooner finishes are in the builder’s hands the sooner they can work on their home and the less distracted they will be. My mom has been thinking about building a home so that she can have it made so that it is really accessible and there won’t be any problems for a wheelchair to move around. She really wants to get a professional to help her design it so that it can be done better.

  5. My fiancé and I are planning to custom build in the next few years and even though we’ve done a few multi-room renovations, we are still super nervous about building from the ground up. I shared this post with him & we both agreed that these tips are supremely helpful

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