what to know when building a new home

What Does A Homeowner Need To Know When Building Their Own Home? An Interview with Karen

As 2015 ended and 2016 took off soaring, I sat back to think about what my clients, future clients, and every homeowner might like to know about building their own home. As the Architect, I'm here to help you every step of the way with charts, lists, project schedules and whatever you may need.  However, I think it's just as important to hear it from my clients.  So I sat down with one of my current client, Karen, to get her feedback on the process of building her own home.How many builders did you interview before you selected your current builder?"One!" Karen had intended to interview three different builders.  She got referrals, asked her friends, and had every intention of being her own general contractor for the projects.  She thought, with her connections, she could get great pricing and save money.  When her excavation contractor, who she knows, likes, and trusts, recommended a builder to her she thought, why not, let's hear what he has to say.  Karen says "He pulled into my driveway and starts  chatting with me. I immediately tell him that I want to GC my own project because I'm well connected and I know people.  To which he responded that he too knows people, and because he does repeat business with them, they give him even better pricing.  When I found out he could do the project as the GC for the same price that I could I was shocked. And it turns out he was right. I had friends in the trades that I thought would help with our project that never even called me back to give me a bid. It simply isn't worth their time for a one-off project. Honestly I don't even think we made it into the house. We talked for 10 minutes and I hired him on the spot without ever seeing his work. When you know your supposed to work with someone, you just go with your gut. I never interviewed another builder".What's so great about working with this builder?"As I mentioned, I wanted to GC my own project.  So I went to the builder with spreadsheets and cut sheets on everything I wanted.  Then he explained to me his perspective with other clients as we moved through the process. There were definitely glitches during the project, but my husband and I try not to sweat the small stuff.  We either fixed it if we could, or we lived with it and let go of it if we couldn't. Communication is definitely key" And from experience I can tell you that Karen and her husband are constantly on site, just like every homeowner will be with their project.  In Karen's words. "There needs to be an established trust.  You need to pick someone you can work with and he was willing to work with me"What has been the hardest struggle with building your own home?"Hmm, that's a tough one. It's all gone so well.  I guess that I wanted to be in by December 31st.  Everything was ahead of schedule and under budget, but now that we are getting down to the finish level we have had coordination issues.  The doors were backordered and won't come in for 6 weeks, but then we couldn't complete other finish details without the doors and that's when the schedule went right out the window.  When something doesn't get installed on schedule it affects other pieces of the puzzle. When other trades can't come in on the scheduled date you get bumped to the back of the line.  Our contractor is actually finishing today and going to another job.  He'll be back to finish the finish carpentry when the doors come in"What's you're advice for other homeowners who might deal with a similar situation?"Add 4 weeks to your move in date just to be safe.  And be realistic. I know my contract says December 31st, but I'm not going to hold my builder to that when this delay was out of his hands. Lots of things happen that are out of your control"What other advice would you give to homeowners? "If you're building on your own property check your homeowners insurance will cover the cost of the new build especially if you're financing it yourself. I woke up one night with a near panic attack that the new house might burn down. I called the insurance agent and had coverage the very next day. When I checked what our homeowners insurance covered it was only 3/4 of the cost of the build. Also, make sure everyone signs lien waivers so you're covered in the event of an incident. And on top of that, document every conversation so when someone gives you a quote and it comes back double you can say: What changed here? I kept a little journal though the whole process." said Karen.  As an Architect I often follow up meetings with my understanding of the scope and the next steps.  This helps to reduce confusion and gives everyone a hard copy to go back to incase there is a discrepancy.  I don't believe it is legally binding, but it's a great paperwork trail to figure out how you ended up somewhere.What was an interesting piece of advice that someone shared with you during the process?"I thought it was funny at the time, but someone told me: When you pour the foundation it will feel big, then when you frame the walls it will feel very small, but then when you put up the drywall the space will feel big again, but then you'll paint and it will feel really small, but when the furniture comes in and fills the space it will feel just right if you planned it right.  I thought that was unique, but it was definitely true during the build"What last words of wisdom would you give to other homeowners?"Building should be fun! It's the single largest investment you're going to make and you're going to spend a lot of time with the individual you picked to build your home.  So make sure you pick someone you can work with.  And lastly, this is your dream, do it with a grateful heart. You have a opportunity that lots of other people never will, so be grateful."