Many of our clients are very excited at the idea of building their own home; they can get exactly what they want. Building a home to order is an incredibly fun process; just be ready to spend the time and make some decisions.
How It Starts
From the time that you first decide you want to build a home, you’ll need to determine where you want to be, and how much you want to spend. This will often determine your options for builders, depending on which builders own lots in each area.
You’ll want to meet with your realtor to start discussing your wants and needs in your house (floor plan, lot size, price, basement, etc.).
Also, speak to a local lender and get a pre-approved for your loan. This ensures that you know what you want to spend on a home, which is key when building to order and reviewing possible upgrades. If you’d like recommendations to a lender, click here.
Researching the Builder(s)
Once you and your realtor have identified potential developments and/or builders, you’ll want to tour any available homes from that builder. Look specifically at the style and quality of the finishes; are you seeing that the trim carpentry is well done? Do the floor plans work for your needs?
This is also a great time to ask about materials you don’t see: what siding is being used? What about brand of house wrap?
Finally, research the particular builder. Is it a local builder, or a national builder? How many years of experience do they have? Will they survive a housing downturn and be around to work with you on warranty items?
Initial Meeting / Writing the Offer
Once you’ve chosen your builder, you’ll want to meet with the builder’s representative to review the initial pricing for the lot you prefer, your desired floor plan, standard finishes, and any upgrades you will want to add to the plan.
Again, assuming you’re comfortable, you’ll work with your realtor to write the initial offer for the build-to-order home. Some comments on the purchase agreement:
- Your realtor should be able to tell you an approximate closing date and required earnest money; builders can vary in what they require.
- Your initial offer may be just the base price + lot price (including charges if the lot is a daylight or walkout lot), but it’s great to have an idea of what you can expect.
- You’ll want to know which appliances are included so you can put those in the offer. Most builders include an oven/range, microwave, and dishwasher (though some also include a refrigerator).
- Many builders have a preferred lender who will offer a closing cost credit when you work with them. It’s a good idea to also call the preferred lender and compare against your current pre-approval so you can make the best decision for you.
- Typically, a one-year builder warranty is included, with no deductible and no cost.
- Selections will generally need to be made within 2-3 weeks to finalize the home being built and the price. This timeline should be included in the offer.
After you have an accepted offer, a selections meeting will need to be set with the builder’s representative. Expect this selections meeting to take about 1-2 hours. During this time, you’ll make quite a few decisions, such as exterior color, countertops, cabinets, and flooring. Have fun with this process!
Afterwards, you will be provided with a selections sheet from the builder and a purchase agreement amendment showing the new price (if applicable).
Pre-Drywall Electrical Walkthrough
When the house is framed and the builder is getting ready for the electrical installation, you will receive a call asking to schedule a Pre-Drywall Electrical Walkthrough. This will take approximately one hour and will be held at your house (while under construction). This gives you a chance to specify placement of outlets, light switches, or other requirements.
Be prepared: most clients do end up adding some cost from the pre-drywall electrical walkthrough, typically from adding additional wiring or outlets.
Setting Final Closing Date
When the house is at drywall stage, the builder will notify your realtor of the finalized completion date. This will occur at least one month prior to closing. You can take this to your lender and schedule the closing time / place. Start packing!
We always recommend our clients get an independent inspection, even for a new house. You’ll want to schedule this about 7-10 days before closing, so that your builder has time to resolve any issues.
Blue Tape Walkthrough / Warranty Meeting
Your builder will also want you to meet for a “blue tape walkthrough”. This allows you to mark any issues on the finishes with blue tape, and also gives the builder a chance to walk you through the warranty process. Keep in mind that you’ll want to stand about 6’ away from the wall to look for paint issues; anything visible from there should be marked.
You can request a final walkthrough within the last 24 hours prior to closing. This ensures that the builder has been able to fix everything noted during the inspection and blue tape walkthrough. Anything not yet resolved should be documented on a walkthrough form to be resolved after closing.
You’ll meet with your realtor and lender, deliver your down payment and closing costs (in a cashier’s check) and receive the keys to your new home. Congratulations!
One Final Plug
If you’re interested in building your own home to order, check out Benchmark Builders! We’re happy to help you throughout this process; you can see their homes in Norwalk beginning March 29th!