Welcome back to the Before You Build Podcast! I’m your host, Carrie Barker (a.k.a. Caroline on Design), and today in episode 19, I’m giving you seven specific steps to help you prepare for a productive first meeting with your builder so that you feel confident and organized when your builder fires questions at you about your design ideas and your budget for your future home.
Tell me if any of this sounds familiar (just give me a virtual hand raise) …
- you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed and unsure about what you should do BEFORE you meet with your home builder for the first time
- you have a million thoughts running through your head but you have no clue how to organize them so that you can communicate your ideas to your builder, and
- you don’t even know where to start when it comes to designing your future home so there’s no way you can tell your builder how you envision your home
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry … I’m going to guide you through this.
Honestly, going into your first planning meeting with your builder can be very intimidating. Your builder is going to ask you LOTS of questions about how you envision your future home, what your budget is, what your must haves are, what you’re thinking for your floor plan, and SO. MUCH. MORE.
So you really should start thinking about these things and getting your thoughts and documents organized before that first planning meeting.
Just to be clear … I’m not talking about the initial meetings when you’re interviewing various builders (although following the steps in this episode *will* be useful for those meetings too). In this episode, I’m focusing on the first time you sit down with your chosen builder and you really start to hash out your future dream home.
By the end of this episode, you’ll have a solid plan to help you prepare for a productive first meeting with your builder.
If you follow these 7 steps (in no particular order), you’re going to go into that first planning meeting feeling confident and super organized because you’ll have an idea of how you want your house to look, what your must haves are, what questions to ask, and what your realistic budget is.
7 STEPS TO A PRODUCTIVE FIRST MEETING WITH BUILDER
Alright, let’s cover the 7 steps to help you prepare for your first planning meeting with your builder.
These steps may seem a little time-consuming, BUT I *promise* that doing a little bit of ‘homework’ before meeting with your builder will save you time, money, and frustration down the road. Believe me!
The more open, honest, and clear you can be with your builder BEFORE construction starts, the more accurate they can quote your future home (which makes it FAR easier to stay close to budget).
Quick side note … you do NOT have to follow these steps in order. You can go in any order you want :).
STEP 1: CREATE ‘HOME BUILD’ FOLDERS
Step 1 is to create home build folders.
I recommend you create the following folders to get yourself organized right from the start:
- a physical folder to file any printed (physical) documents (e.g. construction drawings if you already have these)
- a ‘Home Build’ email folder to organize any (and all) emails related to your build, and
- a Google Drive folder to store any notes you type up or any Google Docs or Google Sheets that are shared with you
If you want to dive deeper into getting organized for your build, be sure to listen to Episode 12 of the ‘Before You Build’ Podcast because it is allll about how to get (and stay) organized during a custom home build :).
STEP 2: GET (VERY) CLEAR ON YOUR BUDGET
Step 2 is to get VERY clear on your budget for your new home.
If you haven’t already gone through the loan preapproval process, I encourage you to do this BEFORE you meet with your builder so you know EXACTLY what you’re working with financially.
It’s important to be very honest and clear about your budget with your builder because hiding anything from them can be detrimental. A builder can’t keep you on a budget if they aren’t entirely sure what your true budget is.
Related Post: HOW TO FINANCE YOUR HOME BUILD: TWO LOAN TYPES
STEP 3: FLOOR PLAN BRAINSTORM
Step 3 is to brainstorm your future floor plan. If you’ve already created or purchased a floor plan and you don’t need to make any more tweaks to it, go ahead and skip this step!
If you don’t have a floor plan yet though, but you do have an idea of your desired house layout swirling through your head, get it on paper before you meet with your builder.
You don’t have to be a fabulous artist … you just need to sketch out a general drawing of the plan you want for each level of your home so that your builder has an idea of what you’re thinking.
If you have no clue what you want in a floor plan, go ahead and scroll through Pinterest and floor plan websites to get ideas. Be sure to save any floor plan inspiration images either on your phone or on Pinterest so you can show your builder what you’re envisioning.
Hopefully, your builder will be able to sift through all of your inspiration images and help you create the best floor plan for your family :). It’s totally fine (and encouraged) to pull ideas from several floor plans and morph them into a unique plan that is perfect for your family.
Psst … if you have no idea where to start in creating a floor plan, we’ve got a great (FREE) resource for you. Download our *FREE* Guided Floor Plan Creation Questionnaire here.
STEP 4: GATHER DESIGN INSPIRATION
Step 4 is to gather design inspiration.
It’s important that you have at least a rough idea of the caliber of finishes you want in your future home. Without an idea of what you want, it’s going to feel very intimidating designing your home AND, even more crucial, your builder won’t be able to provide an accurate quote for your home.
How do you go about gathering design ideas for the interior and exterior of your home?
My personal go-to for design inspiration is Pinterest because: (a) there is SO much fantastic inspiration, and (b) you can easily save ideas in organized boards.
Instagram is another great place to get inspired … and you have the option to save Instagram images in organized ‘collections’ (which are basically the equivalent of Pinterest boards … but in Instagram).
You’ll want to gather ideas for exterior materials, interior materials, trim work, closet systems, bathroom ideas, floor plans, and finishes (e.g. flooring, counters, etc.).
Make sure to share these inspirational photos with your builder so they have a VERY good idea of the style (and the caliber) of the home you are going for because this info is crucial when it comes to creating a realistic quote for your home.
STEP 5: CREATE A LIST OF MUST HAVES IN YOUR NEW HOME
Step 5 is to create a list of ALL the things that you MUST HAVE in your new home. It’s also helpful to create a list of things that aren’t that important to you (but that’s not as important as your must-haves at this point).
Luckily, Step 4 (i.e. gather design inspiration) will help you to start thinking about the things that are most important to you in your future home. In other words, the things that you can’t live without.
Consider your lifestyle and what’s most important … do you need a large kitchen because you love to entertain? Do you have a large family and require at least three bathrooms? What rooms are most important to focus your square footage?
Also, think about things you LOVE about your current home and things you do NOT love about your current home. All of this brainstorming will help you create a list of must haves … and if you need help, tune in to next week’s podcast episode because we’re talking about custom home ‘must haves’.
STEP 6: CREATE A LIST OF QUESTIONS FOR YOUR BUILDER
Step 6 is to create a list of questions for your builder.
Your first meeting with your builder will probably be pretty long and overwhelming, so Step 6 is to create a list of questions for your builder ahead of time. Write the questions down (or type them in a Google Doc) so that you don’t forget any of the questions you want to ask your builder during your meeting.
Psst … if you want some help coming up with questions, check out episode 13 of the ‘Before You Build’ Podcast. This episode walks you through how to choose a custom home builder and it includes a list of 10 questions to ask.
STEP 7: BRING ALL RELEVANT DOCS TO FIRST MEETING
Step 7 is very simple … bring all relevant documents and inspiration to your meeting.
This is when those folders you created (Step 1) and your Pinterest inspiration boards (Step 4) really come in handy.
If all of your design inspiration and documents and lists are organized into virtual or physical folders (or Pinterest boards), you’ll have everything you need with you at the first meeting.
Just be sure to bring physical documents with you and be sure you can easily access any online documents and your Pinterest account from your phone (or computer if you bring one).
Some things you’ll want to bring (if applicable): your loan pre-approval letter, sketches of your floor plan (if you have them), printouts or saved images of floor plans you love, land records, and the size of the lot you’ve purchased (or intend to build on), photos of the caliber of finishes you want in your home, photos of the design aesthetic you envision, etc.
All right, I hope you feel a little bit more confident and prepared for a productive first meeting with your builder.
It might take you a few days to go through these steps, but it’ll feel SO good to walk into that first meeting with all the info you need at your fingertips. And believe me, your builder will be THRILLED that you have done your homework!
If you enjoyed this episode and you want more guidance on how to prepare for your home build, I’ve got a great resource for you! 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 close to budget.