While I enjoyed my time living in the big city, MG alway knew that moving back to the tiny little farm town I grew up in was all I wanted. He’s at a place in his career that’s he’s ready for a change, and I can’t wait to be 5 minutes from my mom’s home cooking. We knew that eventually we would want to build our dream home. When people build large, nice, dream homes in the country, they stay for life. So, most of what’s available to buy isn’t suited for our needs, long term. We teetered between buying an investment property and building in a few years, or biting the bullet now. After shopping the market, it was clear we weren’t going to find anything we loved-even as a short term solution. So, we’ve decided we’re going to build a house!
Here are our top three steps for getting started!
Choosing a building site.
The size of the lot. Whether you’re buying 20 acres to spread out on, or 1/2 acre so you never have to cut the grass, this is the time to make sure you’re getting the spot you want. If you’re choosing a larger property, make sure you’re picking the best spot for the house. Had you rather be close to the road or in the back? Remember running utilities to a remote area can be costly, and you probably won’t be able to afford a half mile concrete drive.
Do you want a basement? Not all lots will allow for one. Even the ones who do may have a hefty price tag if blasting rock will be required.
Septic tank or sewer? Natural gas? Power? You’ll need to make sure utilities are available. If you’re buying a lot in a new build subdivision, they’re probably already guaranteeing this. If you’re buying on a lake, the beach, or in the country (like us) you’ll need to make sure all utilities are available. If you’ll be having a septic tank instead of city sewer, you’ll need to have the ground tested to make sure you can install one. (It’s called a percolation test.) Make this a condition of your purchase offer!
Choosing a house plan.
How long are you planning to live here? You’ll need to think about your needs now, of course. You also need to remember what a future buyer would want, or what you’ll need in your next phase of life.
Do you want an open floorpan? Upstairs laundry? Separate tub and shower in the master? Now is the time to really think about what you wish you had in your current home, what you love about your friend’s house, or what you hate about your grandmother’s house. We knew we wanted an open layout but I really wanted to dining room to be offset and feel a little more formal. We both wanted a fireplace, but I nixed the hearth after thinking about how many holidays I’ve spent watching little cousins nearly crack their heads on the one in MG’s grandparents’ house.
Basement? Garage or carport? Bonus room? Two story? Leaving areas that can be finished later a blank slate is a great decision for growing families. For us, that’s leaving the basement unfinished for future bedrooms/playroom. If you’re building a retirement home, you might want to stick with one level to avoid climbing the stairs to clean. A garage is necessary in extremely cold climates, but you might prefer an open carport if you’re in milder conditions.
Don’t forget that any plan can be customized. If you love almost everything about a house, just talk to your builder about the changes you want to make. As long as you’re doing it before any boards have been nailed, chances are it won’t be a problem?
Choosing a builder/contractor.
If you’re buying a lot in a subdivision, you’re probably using the same builder as everyone else in the neighborhood. So, no big decisions there.
If you’re building solo, you’ll need to find a contractor on your own. Searching online, talking to friends, and knocking on the door of a new build you’ve been admiring nearby are all good ways to get started. Set up interviews with a few and go from there. Ask for recommendations from former clients, make sure they’re appropriately licensed, and price check. You don’t want to overpay, but if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is…
Will you be hiring one builder to handle everything-like plumbing, cabinets, floors, etc? Or will you be hiring every contractor individually? It’s a personal preference, and both have pros and cons. I’ll be doing a more in depth post on this later.
There you have it! Those are the big three to starting your dream home build. Stay tuned to keep up with our dream home progress!