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March 3rd, 2024 at 11:00 am

Updated March 3, 2024

When it comes to getting the home of your dreams, many people go through the task of going through listings and finding the right home that might fit most of their needs. That always necessitates some level of compromise. For others, instead of finding the right house, they build the house of their dreams from the ground up.

The home building process can seem like a daunting task, and it certainly comes with a longer timeline than just purchasing a home. Depending on the extent of the build and the type of home you want, you could wait more than two years to even move into your home. The costs of building a new home can potentially add up a lot more than a home purchase.

At the same time, home building assures that you are getting exactly what you want out of your new home. There’s also a distinct emphasis on “new.” Nothing about the home has ever been used, and you are the first person to have ever lived on that property.

If you have the budget and the timeline, building a house is the perfect option for a new home, but knowing the process is a big help. Read on to learn more about the process of building a house.

1. Determine your financing

The first step to building a house is determining if it’s something you can even afford. Obviously, cash is ideal, but it’s not always feasible. You will likely have to get a construction mortgage, which can be decidedly more difficult than a typical home mortgage. You’re borrowing money for a concept, not an existing, physical piece of property. That means a higher risk for the lender, so you’ll have to provide all the plans, budget, timetable, and other details.

2. Finding and purchasing land

Before you can even think about breaking ground, you have to find and purchase a plot of land. This mainly applies to custom homes. With tract homes and spec homes, the lots have already been bought and planned. 

How much does land cost? Keep in mind that the costs for land are separate from the actual construction costs. Costs will vary from location to location. Land mortgages are available, but they carry high risks similar to construction mortgages. Expect high down payments and high-interest rates. Another option is the construction loan, a short-term loan meant to finance homes, other real estate properties, or other necessary aspects (e.g. exterior finish, plumbing fixtures, interior walls, concrete footings, interior finishes, foundation walls, etc.). But they, too, have high interest rates.

Finding the right plots can take quite a bit of shopping around. Consider where you want to live and what you actually want in a location. Do you want to live in secluded farmland? Do you want a home close to the beach? 

It’s also important to consider the features of that land. It may pose an extra challenge if the land doesn’t have existing plumbing lines or access to the electrical grid, as you will have to pay to have those systems installed. As you find a spot that fits your needs, talk with your architect and contractor to make sure the land can actually accommodate the floor plans. It’s also important to keep in mind that one of the benefits of working with a real estate agent is that you will be guided through the process in order to make informed decisions.

3. Approval and permits

Prior to the construction process, the local municipalities have to approve the home design and provide permits for essentially every part of the build, from the construction to the plumbing to the zoning and grading. That can take time, but you have to get permits before you can even start construction. Granted, hiring the right people can expedite the process and make for a smoother experience for everyone involved.

4. Breaking ground and laying foundation

At long last, your team can begin construction, or at least prepare the site. Whether you’ve been looking up tips for building a spec home, tract home, or custom home, almost all of them require site preparation. Site preparation involves clearing the land and digging up any rocks, trees, and debris that may be in the way. The team levels the site and erects wooden forms that act as a template for the foundation prior to the concrete getting poured.

This is also when the team will dig the septic system, basement, or well (if applicable). If the home has a basement, the team will dig out the hole, add support structures, and form and pour the foundation walls. If it’s a flat slab foundation, the team will form and pour the concrete.

Once the concrete has been poured, it will take time to dry, or cure. During this time, the team can’t perform any other activities to ensure a flat, structurally sound foundation. As the concrete sets, the construction crew applies a waterproofing membrane to the foundation walls. Any plumbing that needs to be in the basement or first-floor slab gets installed as well.

This is also when your site gets its first inspection. A city inspector makes sure that the foundation has been installed properly and otherwise up to code. Once the foundation has been approved, the team removes the wooden forms.

5. Putting up rough frames

Atop the foundation, the construction crew begins the process of putting up the house’s framing. This is like the skeleton of your house, creating the basic structure while providing support. This includes the floor, walls, and roof. The team also applies plywood sheathing to the exterior walls and roof, and if you are building in an area that gets rain, the team may also install the windows and exterior doors. The sheathing is wrapped with a protective barrier to prevent water from getting into the frames, reducing the chance of wood rot or mold.

6. Installing plumbing, electrical, and HVAC

As the framing finishes, the contractors will also begin installing some of the plumbing and electrical systems. They will run wiring and pipes through the interior walls, floors, and ceilings, along with sewer lines, ventilation, and ductwork. Bathtubs and shower units get installed at this point because there is more room to maneuver.

Once the roof is on, an electrician can install wiring for phones, cable, and music systems, along with receptacles for switches, lights, and electrical outlets. Note that electrical systems usually come after installing the ductwork and plumbing.

There are also three separate inspections for the framing, the plumbing, and the electrical system to ensure safety and compliance with building codes.

7. Installing insulation

Insulation improves a home’s overall energy efficiency and makes for a more comfortable indoor climate. Most homes contain insulation in the exterior walls, attic, and floors that are above basements.

Insulation comes in numerous forms, including foam, cellulose, and fiberglass. New home construction will typically use blanket insulation that comes in rolls or batts, but your contractor may also use blown-in or loose-fill insulation. Liquid foam insulation is becoming more popular as it can easily fill small cavities and is more efficient at resisting heat transfer, but liquid foam also tends to cost more.

8. Completing drywall and starting exterior finishes

The team hangs the drywall using screws, and it’s then taped, mudded, and sprayed to add texture. Drywall essentially acts to hide all the insulation, wiring, and other components in the walls. Once the taping is complete, the team will typically apply the first coat of primer paint.

Along with drywall, your contractor will install exterior finishes, like the siding, brick, or stucco features on exterior walls.

9. Completing interior finishes

This is a fairly prominent step that will get the inside of this structure looking a lot more like a home. Your contractor will add most of the interior finishes. That includes baseboards, interior doors, windowsills, and counters. Cabinets and vanities get mounted, and the walls get a finished coat of paint or a bit of wallpaper if applicable.

10. Installing exterior surfaces

As the inside of your home gets more done, your contractor will also install many of the exterior components. This includes forming and pouring the concrete for exterior walkways and driveways. The timing of this can vary from team to team. Some builders prefer to wait until the very end as delivery trucks, and other heavy machinery can potentially damage concrete, while other teams may pour the driveway immediately after the foundation is complete so that you and the construction crew don’t have to walk in mud.

This is also when the team may work on landscaping and other exterior decorations.

11. Installing interior fixtures

As the construction of your dream home reaches its final stages, the dedicated construction crew meticulously installs a range of interior fixtures, marking a pivotal point in the home building process. This includes the placement of essential elements such as toilets, sinks, and faucets, ensuring functionality seamlessly blends with the aesthetic appeal of your custom home. The integration of light switches, light fixtures, and electrical panels is a carefully orchestrated step that adds both practicality and ambiance to your living spaces. 

Glass fixtures, encompassing mirrors and shower doors, contribute to the overall style and appearance of your new home. This phase not only signifies the completion of the construction phase but also sets the stage for the finishing touches that transform a house into your personalized haven and sanctuary. As your custom home takes shape, the precision and craftsmanship applied during this step exemplify the dedication of home builders committed to delivering a residence that aligns with your unique vision and preferences.

12. Completing flooring

In one of the last phases of the home building process, the construction team turns its attention to the installation of flooring. The selection of flooring materials, such as vinyl, ceramic tile, wood, and carpets, contributes to the overall aesthetic and functionality of different spaces within your new home. While vinyl, ceramic tile, and wood flooring may find their place earlier in the construction timeline, the installation of carpets is deliberately reserved for the late stages, just prior to the meticulous final cleanup. This approach ensures that carpets remain pristine and untouched during the preceding construction activities. 

13. Final cleanup and inspection

With construction done, the team will do a final cleanup to prepare for the last inspection. If the city inspector notices any defects or problems, you can typically schedule a follow-up inspection once the problems have been corrected. Once everything checks out, the inspector provides a certificate of occupancy, which essentially says that the property is safe, complies with all guidelines, and is ready for move-in.

14. Final walkthrough

Even with the certificate of occupancy in hand, you will typically go through a last walkthrough with your contractor or builder. This essentially comprises the contractor giving you a tour of the completed home, acquainting you with the different systems. They will also give you the rundown on any technical things, like warranties and maintenance procedures.

This is also your opportunity to point out any problems that should be adjusted or corrected. This can include missing fixtures, damage to drywall, chipped paint, or any electrical defects. It’s important to speak up to get these issues fixed now rather than later. One of the benefits of owning a home is you can be very hands-on when it comes to particular concerns about building your house. 

Building your dream home

The construction process is long and involved, but the end product is the home of your dreams. But after reading this you might be having second thoughts. You might even wonder if it is better to buy or build a house. If you need any help or more information about the process (or have other questions about the, consult with the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. Our team of California REALTORs offers years of experience, specifically in markets in California, and we can guide you through the process of finding the perfect home that works with your budget and personal needs.

Sources:

  1. Homelight. The 35 Steps to Building a House: Your Start-to-Finish Guide. https://www.homelight.com/blog/buyer-steps-to-building-a-house/
  2. Zillow. Steps to Building a House. https://www.zillow.com/home-buying-guide/steps-to-building-a-house/
  3. New Home Source. A Step-by-Step Guide to the Home Building Process. https://www.newhomesource.com/learn/step-by-step-guide-to-home-building-process/

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