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Podcast

How Long it Takes to Build a House

Published on:

10/26/22

written by:

Carrie Barker

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Welcome back to the Before You Build Podcast! I’m your host, Carrie Barker (a.k.a. Caroline on Design), and today in episode 17, we’re discussing how long it takes to build a house. 

I’m not going to lie … this is a tricky one to answer (especially in our current home-build climate)

I can tell you that six months is the average for how long it takes to build a house. However, the length of time depends on MANY factors and we’ll cover these in this episode.

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In this episode, we’ll talk about the many factors that can affect how long it takes to build your home … from breaking ground to move-in day.

Unfortunately, you have very little control over *some* of these factors, but there ARE things that you DO have control over (and spoiler alert … these are the factors you should focus on).

Note: In this episode, we are talking about the length of time it takes to build your house. We aren’t taking into account all the pre-work or the steps you need to take before you even break ground.

So, how long does it take to build a home?

The average length of time to build a house is six months BUT, as I mentioned before, the actual length of time depends on many factors. 

Let’s talk about these factors and we’re going to start with the NUMBER ONE thing that contributes to the length of time it will take to build your house.

Drumroll … this factor is whether you choose to build a custom or production home.

HOW LONG IT TAKES TO BUILD A PRODUCTION HOME

Let’s start with production homes because you might not even know what I mean by this term.

A production home is the type of home that you see in a community owned by a builder. You know, those neighborhoods that are planned and usually include a park and maybe a swimming pool … and all of the houses look pretty similar. Do you know what I’m talking about? Maybe you have these in your community.

These planned communities are usually found in suburbs or large cities and you typically can walk through the various model homes and choose which floor plan you would like to build. 

So how long does it take to build a production home?

A production home takes about 4 months to build but can take longer if the weather is an issue or you consistently change your mind on finishes or tweaks you want to make to the plan.

A production home is faster to build than a custom home because the builder is familiar with the floor plan specs of their model homes. They build these homes over and over, so they’re easier to build and usually much faster to get permits and materials than if you were building a completely custom home.

It’s also faster to select finishes for a production home (as opposed to a custom home) because the builder offers a narrow range of options for you to choose from. The builder has easy access to get finishes and fixtures since they only allow certain options. 

Production builders also tend to have better access to construction crews that are readily available and willing to start building your home as soon as you’re ready. This likely happens because construction crews gravitate toward the steady income of working with a production home builder who usually has several homes going up at a time (whereas a custom builder might only work on a handful of homes in an entire year)

HOW LONG IT TAKES TO BUILD A CUSTOM HOME

How long does it take to build a custom home?

The average length of time to build a custom home is 10-16 months from the time you break ground until the day you move in. However, some custom homes take years to build whereas others can take as little as six months.

Side Note: It took us seven months to build our custom home from start to finish (i.e. breaking ground to moving in). However, before breaking ground, we spent several months creating, modifying, and perfecting our floor plan before we could even think about breaking ground.

The two biggest variables that contribute to how long it takes to build a custom home are:

(1) the size and complexity of your home

(2) YOU! The more you change your mind (and this inevitably happens), the longer it will take to complete your home.

Just know that there are MANY decisions to make when building a custom home, so it generally takes a few months longer to build a custom home than it takes to build a production home that is built multiple times and offers limited design options.

COMMON ISSUES THAT CAN DELAY YOUR HOME BUILD

What are some common issues that can delay your home build?

There are several things that have the potential to slow down your build which isn’t great news, but I do have GOOD NEWS also :).

We’ll start with the ‘bad news’ … since 2020 when Covid started, there have been a bazillion (if that’s a word) delays with home build materials (as well as just about everything in life). It’s still affecting our home build market two+ years later and I’m not sure when the end is in sight. 

Luckily there IS some good news … you might not have control over material delays, but some common delays are within your control! 

I encourage you to take full advantage of doing whatever you CAN within your control to keep your build moving smoothly.

Three variables that you DO have control over:

(1) Construction Type (Custom vs. Production)

(2) Selecting finishes in a timely manner

(3) Reducing change orders 

CONSTRUCTION TYPE (CUSTOM VS PRODUCTION)

As discussed above, whether you choose to build a custom home or a production home plays the biggest role in how long it takes to build your house.

A production home is generally much faster to build than a custom home, so if time is an issue for you, then you’ll want to strongly consider building a production home.

SELECT FINISHES EARLY IN THE BUILDING PROCESS

Your builder will most likely give you a timeline of when you need to have various finishes selected. However, it’s really important that you select your interior finishes (as well as exterior finishes) early in your home build.

I know it seems odd to choose flooring (or other materials) so early in the process, but there’s always a possibility for unknowns when you order your finishes (especially post-pandemic).

REDUCE CHANGE ORDERS

A ‘change order’ refers to making a change to any specification as written in your construction contract.

Changes can be to your floor plan, design materials, or any other items that are different than what you originally asked for when your contract was drawn up (e.g. changing your ceiling height).

Aside from weather (and construction type), change orders typically are the greatest factor in delaying a home build. And news flash … change orders are usually within your control!

As the homeowner, it’s up to YOU to make your decisions and stick with them (unless the selection is no longer available). The less you change your mind, the smoother (and quicker) your home build will go.

This is why it’s so VITAL that you really think about your home design before you even break ground.

Psst … I have a great training that teaches you the 3 keys to confidently design your dream home (without making costly mistakes you later regret) and it’s FREE! See the image below or click here to learn more.

Unfortunately, there are some variables that are simply out of your control. Don’t be discouraged … just stay focused on the things that you DO have control over.

Factors outside your control include:

(1) Permit Wait Time

(2) Weather

(3) Availability of Workers

(4) Availability of Supplies

PERMITS

Your builder will most likely be in charge of getting permits for your new build, and they’ll let you know if there are any steps you need to take in order to get permits.

The length of time it takes to secure permits is highly dependent on where you live. In my small Midwestern city, it’s very quick and easy to get permits.

However, I had a student building a home in New York City a few years ago and she waited over a year to get her building permits. 

Talk to YOUR builder to get a firm idea of how long it will take to get permits in your city.

WEATHER

Weather can be a huge factor in slowing down home builds. Depending on the climate in your area, chances are you’ll have some type of weather that gets in the way (here in the Midwest we deal with snow in the winter and rain/storms in the spring/summer).

There’s nothing you can do about the weather, so just try to stay positive and focus on the variables you do have control over :).

AVAILABILITY OF WORKERS

There are times during the year when construction workers are readily available; other times of the year they might be swamped with jobs if it’s prime time for home construction in your area.

The availability of workers circles back to your home-build construction type. Typically, production home builders have a group of subcontractors that work closely with them, so it’s not as much of a problem to have subs on hand as it can be with custom home builds.

AVAILABILITY OF SUPPLIES

Some design materials that you choose might have a long lead (delivery) time. This is EXACTLY why you should choose materials before you even break ground (if possible)

Also, in our post-pandemic world, there are times when certain supplies just aren’t available. It’s almost become the norm for me to not find everything I need in stock at the grocery store. This is the same in the home build arena.

Another issue is that design finishes can sometimes be discontinued during your build or can get caught up in customs, so you’ll have to go back to the drawing board and choose something different. This certainly affects your timeline.

NEXT STEPS

So, the big question … how long does it take to build a house?

Six months is the average for how long it takes from breaking ground to moving into your new home. However, as we discussed in this episode, there are many factors that contribute to the length of time it takes to build.

Some of these variables (i.e. weather, permitting, worker availability, and supplies availability) are out of your control, BUT you DO have control over other variables that influence how long your build will take.

Focus on those variables that you DO have control over to keep your build moving along smoothly. These variables include your home build type, choosing design finishes early, and minimizing change orders.

In this episode, we covered the amount of time it takes to actually build your house, but there is an entire pre-construction phase that can take time as well. And I would LOVE to help you prepare for a successful home build (before you even break ground).

If that sounds good to you and you’d like a little guidance, I invite you to download my *FREE* Custom Home Build Prep Guide and learn the five steps to prepare for a home build with less stress, more confidence, and a strategic plan to stick to the budget.

  1. Viggo Crowe says:

    It makes a lot of sense that the custom home would take a lot longer to build because the builders aren’t familiar with the floor-plan. My sister is trying to build her own home this year and she wants to do something custom. That way, she can get all the features that she wants and build it to her specifications.

  2. Carrie, thanks for informing me that it would take approximately 10 to 16 months from the time I break the ground of my empty lot until I move into my newly-built custom home. My family has always lived in this one-story home in the city, and I’m planning to have a custom-built home constructed soon in the lot I bought just along the outskirts of the city. Perhaps I should start looking for design-build home service soon, so my family can hopefully move into our brand new house by the fourth quarter of 2021.

  3. As you mentioned, the more the homeowner changes their mind, the longer it will take to build the home. My sister is wanting to have a custom home built, so she can have her forever home. Would it be a good idea to have all the house plans before she hires the builder?

    • Hi Shaylee! I personally think it’s important to hire all of your building professionals at the same time if possible. This way your builder can ensure the architect is working within what is realistic for your budget.

  4. Jesse Ford says:

    I like how you mentioned that building a custom house can take anywhere from roughly six months to possibly even years. My wife and I are thinking of looking at lots for sale because we’re considering building are dream house since our family has outgrown our current living space and we both received promotions at work. It seems like a good idea for us to think about getting a reputable lot and hiring a great contractor to help us build the home we want to best fit our family’s needs.

  5. I’m planning to have a modern house built this coming year, which is why I’m currently looking for reputable home builders that may execute my plan successfully. I agree with you that it would be best to select the right finishes and do it as early as possible. Well, thank you for also sharing here that a change in weather may delay the construction.

  6. it takes atleast 6months to build a proper house. It also depend on the contractor who is building the house. Some time it takes less then 6 months.

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