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What Should I Know About Building a New House?

It’s the ultimate American dream, and it may be the biggest financial investment you ever make. For the first time, you’re not renting or buying someone else’s idea of what a home should be. It’s your turn. Building a new house is an exciting time, but it can also be nerve wracking and frustrating as you balance design, budget and building codes. A good building plan is flexible enough to accommodate unforeseen construction and design changes, but firm enough to make sure you get the home you want at a price you can afford. 

Balancing Expectations with Cost
If you’re like most people, you have a home-building budget. Before you start interviewing contractors, talk to your lender about a construction loan and a subsequent mortgage. Based upon your income, your credit history and your current bills, your banker will give you an idea of how much money you can spend. 

Location, Location, Location
A real estate broker will tell you that a desirable location is essential in the sale of a home, so it’s also a factor when you’re shopping for a lot on which to build your house. Talk to a real estate agent about the cost and desirability of various subdivisions. Before buying a lot, find out if the subdivision has its own building codes (covenants), if there is a homeowners association (HOA), and whether you will bear an additional tax burden that supports the cost of the development.

You have a couple of choices in home design. You can purchase a ready-made set of blueprints or you can consult an architect or a home designer about drawing a home plan to suit your specific needs. Hiring a designer is an additional expense, but you may save money in the end by including only the elements you want in the design. 

Interviews and Estimates
The contractor you hire will work closely with you during the construction process, so it’s imperative that you develop a good working relationship. If you already have a builder, great, if you don’t, visit with new homeowners about their building experience and ask for contractor recommendations.
Solicit estimates from three or more contractors, and compare them carefully. The lowest estimate may not be the best one. The quality of materials and the type of construction process used, can affect the cost. (Reference 2)

Expect the Unexpected
No matter how detailed your plan, things change. Your contractor may be unable to locate a desired fixture or material, the cost of the materials may go up substantially, or local building codes may require structural or mechanical changes to the plan. Never tell your contractor to “Go ahead and do it.” Instead, fill out a Change Form that details the extent of the change and the cost for making the alteration. 

Protecting your Investment
Once your new home is livable, you can take out homeowners insurance, but until then, you still need to safeguard your investment. A builder’s risk insurance policy is essential for protecting your financial investment in the case of fire, theft or other damage during the building process.

Helpful References:

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