Most people either have a great experience because they got the right builder, specified everything correctly and the entire build went smoothly or it’s a nightmare with the money running out early, the builder not finishing the job or nothing seems to come together. You can protect yourself by doing plenty of homework while in the planning stages of the home you want to build.
Find the Perfect Location
The first step for building any home is to find the place you want to live. You need a desirable location that appeals to you and your family but you also want a location that is not on the verge of going the wrong way. The location should be on the upswing with home values increasing to ensure your new home’s value increases as well. A big mistake is to build in a neighborhood where you lose value.
Plan for the Future
Once you know what your location looks like, you can plan for the home to put on it. Consider all your options such as if you want to build a family in the future or might have aging parents move in. You’ll want to plan the house size to match those possibilities if they are in your future or you’ll be moving or building a new home sooner than you expected to accommodate growing changes. In the same token, if you have children who will be moving out in a couple of years, it might be better to wait to build a smaller home.
Understand the Costs of Homeownership
Just because you were approved for a large amount of money, doesn’t mean you have to borrow it all. The banks give you a loan amount based on your current financial situation. You need to consider that owning a home costs more than the mortgage payments. You also have homeowners insurance, property taxes, maintenance and unforeseen issues. If you borrow the max, you may not have the money to afford these must pay for expenses, so borrow as little as possible to keep yourself in good shape.
Background Check Your Builder
Do diligent research on the builder for your home. Get references for previous homes he or she has built and check them. Find out about his or her experience with building. Do a background check. Contact the city, county and state building inspection or contractor offices and licensing boards to see if they know of any issues with this builder, such as not finishing a job or having a lot of less than savory completed work. Make sure the builder is insured. If the builder is in financial trouble or has any issues, he or she will walk off the job taking a good share of your money with them.
Ask for an Allowance
Understand exactly what fixtures such as windows, light fixtures, faucets, tubs, etc. that the builder is budgeting into your home. Most builders price for contractor grade fixtures and those might not be to the standard you are wanting. Have your builder to include a substantial upgrade allowance in the home pricing to ensure you get the quality of items you want. Doing this ensures you have the money available to get the upgrades.
Upgrades Cost Less While Building
Many upgrades don’t cost much more during the building process but can cost thousands of dollars later. Generally, it only costs about $300 to $500 more to upgrade the wall insulation during the build and the energy savings alone will quickly make up the extra cost. Insulate the interior bedroom walls to provide sound protection for better sleeping. Put in the best windows you can afford. Wire your entire home for cable, Internet, and music during the wiring phase, even rooms you might think you don’t want it in but that could change later. Make the rooms you use the most, larger by taking space from the rooms not often used.
Leave Time to Make Decisions
One thing many people don’t realize until into the building process is how many decisions you have to make. To reduce stress, plan on needing plenty of time throughout the process to make decisions on paint colors, flooring, exterior finish, light fixtures, even the switch plates and where you want the electrical sockets are all decisions you’ll have to make. While many builders will help with the process, it is your home, so the final decision rests with you.
Doing your homework, planning well and being flexible will help to make your home building experience a great experience instead of an event from hell.
Martin Alexander is an independent urban development researcher. He has been extensively involved in townhome community planning and enjoys sharing his insights on various blogs. Visit the website of Mahogany in Calgary to find out more about townhome communities.
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