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Building Tips

Before You Start:

  1. 1. Get pre-approved for a construction loan so you know what your budget will be before looking for land or deciding on a house plan. Meet with lenders, banks and mortgage companies to get the best deal for you.
  2. 2. Decide on a budget for your project then put together a design team that will help you make it happen. Interview and choose experienced professionals to help you with your project. When done properly this team will pay for itself with a product that you will be proud to live in.
  3. 3. Decide where you want to live, and get that property under contract. Do your due diligence by checking for easements, overhead utility lines, sewer depths, water rights and if the lot is sloped, etc. Consider tearing down an older existing home in a nice neighborhood.
  4. 4. Get a plot plan from city or county and determine buildable area. Have your design team meet with you on your land to discuss views, slope, how the house will set, and other options so that your dreams can be realized.
  5. 5. Sloped lots may cost less to begin with, but may require retaining walls, longer driveways or sewer pumps that may cost thousands to implement.
  6. 6. Decide what type of home you want to build, starter home, retirement home, investment, or somewhere in between. Also, consider neighborhood resale values and planning for future space needs, such as older family members moving back in.


Choosing Your Lot:

  1. 1. When selecting a lot, a nice lot reasonably priced for your budget may not be the best value for you. For example, if you have school aged kids, and live several miles from the school, you may wish you were closer with all the trips you will make.
  2. 2. When selecting a lot, a nice lot reasonably priced for your budget may not be the best value for you. For example, if you are an empty nester, having a home a little ways away from traffic and noise may be more attractive than being close to a school and/or shopping center.
  3. 3. Also when choosing a lot, consider the surrounding area. Many, after moving in realize they are in the path of air traffic headed to the airport, or they didn’t notice the dairy farm a half mile away until the wind shifted.
  4. 4. Trees are a very good asset when buying property. If your lot has trees, and especially large or older trees and you plan to save them, you may want to have them checked by a professional. If they turn out to be diseased or need to be removed, it is much easier to remove them before construction begins.
  5. 5. You would be well advised to research your lot for flooding history. Even higher ground can have flooding issues, especially if they are near a river or at the mouth of a canyon. Many times flood insurance is required by financial institutions.
  6. 6. Research carefully any rural lots/acreages. If it is obvious that you will need a septic tank, check county records to make sure your lot is approved for a tank. Also that water is available.
  7. 7. Speaking of rural lots, generally homeowners insurance is based on the distance a residence is located from the nearest fire station.


Designing Your House Plan:

  1. 1. What is the difference between an Architect, Home Designer, Draftsman, Engineer and your friend that owns drafting software? There are pro’s and con’s to each, so meet with a few and determine who will provide the best experience and value for your project, in a timely manner.
  2. 2. The cost of architectural services may not cost you at all. A good home design will pay for itself in savings during construction, no matter if you are building a starter home, vacation retreat or dream home.
  3. 3. The square footage of your home may not always determine the cost of your home. Footage of the home, finishes, lot slope and plan design will all factor into the cost to build. Homes can be designed with more footage and less cost per foot if the right architect or designer is used.
  4. 4. Stock plans vs. custom home designs??? Stock plans may start out less expensive, but some plans may cost extra for engineering, adding a basement or making other changes. A custom home design that is created specifically for your family may be the best value in the long run.
  5. 5. When imagining your new home, make a priority list of “wants and needs” for the way your family lives. The designer should be able to implement your ideas in a way that will give you all you want in a cost effective plan.
  6. 6. Ask your plan designer about value engineering. Value engineering is way of creating your plans in a way to save costs during construction. Some examples are eliminating unnecessary foundation corners, and planning ahead for plumbing and HVAC locations.
  7. 7. Smartly designed foundation plans can save you a lot of money. For example, if your home requires hurricane straps, verify that they are dimensioned and located. If not, retro fits will be required costing more time and money.
  8. 8. Examine samples of the working drawings of your architect or designer before you hire them. All plans are not created equal! A good set of plans means they are easy to build from, communicate details and make the builder’s job easy.
  9. 9. Have your home designed to be economical to build, functional to live in, and attractive to look at. Use a professional that can combine all three and you are on your way to a timeless design that is fun to come home to, makes living easy, and is truly a world class house plan!
  10. 10. Consider the cost savings of a two-story home instead of a rambler. For example, if you are going to build 2,000’ of finished space, then the foundation and roofing costs for a rambler style plan will be twice that of the two-story home with the same finished footage.
  11. 11. Think about using bonus space above a garage or in an attic. This space can be built right into the roof truss system and can be a very inexpensive way to get more room.
  12. 12. Consider the space underneath the garage for additional low cost square footage. Pre-cast concrete panels can make this space cost effective for all homes, but ideal for those homes on a sloped lot.


Building Your Home

  1. 1. A good interior designer can be an asset when designing the details of your home. This will help you stay on budget and keep the project on schedule. They can also help you save time, using their resources and experience with color selection and finish materials.
  2. 2. If using a builder, choose one that has a good reputation, good systems in place, and works well with your architect/designer and interior designer. Ask around and get references from friends, go to home and garden shows or contact your local Home Builders Association.
  3. 3. Get everything in writing since communication is the key! Contracts are an excellent way to make sure everyone is on the same page. A project of this magnitude will cost extra if there are misunderstandings or changes made after construction is started.
  4. 4. Building “GREEN” doesn’t have to cost a lot of “GREEN”. Insulation, home wraps, windows and HVAC systems can all be designed for long term savings. It’s important to be educated on the value of building “green” and how its techniques can be implemented in your project.
  5. 5. Consider the value of solar energy, geo thermal and other technologies and how they can play a factor in your new home. There are many different options involving these technologies that will work with all budgets, from the starter home to the “million dollar” home.
  6. 6. Save some money by doing some of the work yourself. Many builders will allow you to do some “sweat equity” or allow you to hire friends that are subcontractors. When hiring friends or family, keep in mind that the lowest price isn’t always the best value.
  7. 7. Even if you have hired a competent builder, sometimes mistakes happen. Communicate on a regular basis to verify your expectations are being met. Don’t be afraid to go out and “pull a tape” on the jobsite. Attention to detail can be a lifesaver.
  8. 8. Framing can be exciting because you can really see spaces start to take shape. Request walls to be blocked or cross braced in areas where you are going to place future items such as pictures, towel rods, and toilet paper dispensers.
  9. 9. Electrical design can be a fun part of building your home. Be sure to hire an experienced electrician. It’s beneficial to do a “walk through” with your electrician to visualize lighting switches and fixture placements.
  10. 10. Plan for future electrical equipment by running a 2” or 3” pipe from your mechanical room up to the attic. This makes it easy to run wire between floors. Also don’t forget outlets in the soffits for outside holiday lighting.
  11. 11. If you don’t plan to do your full landscaping right away, at least consider what you may want in the future. Laying down some water pipe or power cables now can save digging into your new lawn later and is inexpensive
  12. 12. Consult with a specialist, not just an electrician, when designing in home audio or theaters. An audio/video specialist will be educated in the latest sound technology and installation methods. Even if a theater isn’t in your budget now, you will be happy you planned ahead by pre-wiring.
  13. 13. Many people like to have soft water in their homes. Consider keeping your salt reserve container in the garage and running a tube to the softener inside. This eliminates carrying 40 pound salt bags down to your basement where the salt container is typically located.
  14. 14. Make a video walkthrough of your home before drywall is installed! Often vents, outlets and switches get covered by drywall and flooring. The video will help you know where to start looking when you need to uncover them.


Other Things To Consider:

  1. 1. If your budget is tight, spend more of your money on things that are difficult to upgrade, and spend less on items such as counter tops, flooring, light fixtures, etc. that can be upgrade as time, and budget, allow.
  2. 2. Search interest rates, or be in close touch with your banker, so at a moment’s notice you can lock in a good rate. They can fluctuate greatly in a short period of time.
  3. 3. Exercise patience. Better decisions can be made when cooler heads prevail.
  4. 4. Just like buying a car, don’t be blind to “other choices”. Whether it’s your lot, your footages, your finishes, or whatever, consider all options.
  5. 5. Listen to, or solicit advice from others who may have already built a home. There are so many situations and circumstances that can combine to cause you headaches that the more you know and can be aware of, the better.
  6. 6. Get extensive referrals on all sub-contractors. You may want to resolve issues long after your builder has left and you will want someone you feel comfortable talking to whether the plumber, the electrician, or the cabinet maker.
  7. 7. Keep an ear tuned to the economy. A booming economy is usually great but that means building material costs are climbing.
  8. 8. The lowest bid for anything isn’t necessarily the best value. Be sure of what you will receive as well as quality in determining the best use of your resources.
  9. 9. It was mentioned earlier, but GOOD COMMUNICATION from start to finish is the key to a successful project. Don’t trust that since “it was mentioned”, that it has been remembered. Write it down and revisit your important points often.
  10. 10. You have hired a good electrician. That’s great! However, it’s very likely that there will be an apprentice wiring your home. Most are well qualified, however, keeping a close eye on things may save some rework, or things being missed.
  11. 11. If you have a friend building at the same time, you may be able to lever a better price from your builder/subs by offering them both jobs.
  12. 12. Have your builder give you copies of receipts for materials used on change orders. There will most likely be a mark up, but you deserve to know how much.
  13. 13. Geo-thermal heating and cooling is worth looking into. Depending on where you live, it can give you a good ROI (return on investment or, when initial investment is returned) A good gage for determining whether to invest is an ROI of 5 years or less.
  14. 14. If you can begin construction in mid spring through early fall, you can avoid pouring your concrete slabs in freezing weather, which is the main cause of chipping, cracking, or sloughing.
  15. 15. When designing your landscape, consult a professional landscaper. Designing a low impact ‘scape can save you water and money.
  16. 16. Talk to your builder about using a product called Radiasource. It’s a heat reflective wrap that can significantly reduce your energy expense, and lighten the load of your mechanical equipment.
  17. 17. Glass and skylights can be designed to maximize natural light while minimizing artificial light. Reflective glass, or that with a high “E” value can reflect ultra violet rays to let light in but reflect heat away.
  18. 18. Keep a running log of events, conversations, dates, and deadlines. Changes that were made, problems that were experienced, and anything you can think of pertaining to your project. Put this together with you video you made at 4-way inspection. This information can prove invaluable in the case of a dispute or misunderstanding.