Building a House -- Advice

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ThisDinosaur
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Building a House -- Advice

Post by ThisDinosaur »

I'm considering building a house. I've never done this before and I have no idea where to start.

If you've done this or you have expertise in land development, architecture, building, or any related fields, what advice do you have?

I've read that its generally more expensive to build than to buy an existing home, but the trade off is new constructions should have significantly less maintenance costs initially than existing structures. Is this accurate?

Real estate prices are still trending up in my area. Does that make new construction costs comparable, economically?

What should I look for and avoid when finding land? Should I use a realtor that specializes in this? How do I find a good one?

My goals with the new place, in no particular order, are cost-saving energy-efficiency (passive heating and cooling, etc.) and yard big enough to grow some of my own food, but still be near a well populated area. I'd like to avoid HOAs as well.

Thanks for any advice.
motleyfop
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by motleyfop »

I haven’t built a house, but just purchased one that is about 100 years old. Finding contractors to do work is a huge pain. If I were to build a house, I’d start by talking to contractors to make sure I had someone trustworthy, reliable, and available. There is also some rule of thumb that things will take longer and cost more than you expect.
ScubaHogg
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by ScubaHogg »

What should I look for and avoid when finding land? Should I use a realtor that specializes in this? How do I find a good one?
We recently bought some land. We knew the general area we wanted and I set up an alert on Zillow to be notified of new listings. Found something that was for sale by owner. Had a real estate attorney do the contract. Easy cheesy.

A realtor would have literally added zero value to the process
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Sandtrap
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by Sandtrap »

ThisDinosaur wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 6:20 am 1
I'm considering building a house. I've never done this before and I have no idea where to start.
2
If you've done this or you have expertise in land development, architecture, building, or any related fields, what advice do you have?
3
I've read that its generally more expensive to build than to buy an existing home, but the trade off is new constructions should have significantly less maintenance costs initially than existing structures. Is this accurate?
4
Real estate prices are still trending up in my area. Does that make new construction costs comparable, economically?
5
What should I look for and avoid when finding land? Should I use a realtor that specializes in this? How do I find a good one?
6
My goals with the new place, in no particular order, are cost-saving energy-efficiency (passive heating and cooling, etc.) and yard big enough to grow some of my own food, but still be near a well populated area. I'd like to avoid HOAs as well.
7
Thanks for any advice.
1. Once selecting the land, then there are 3 paths (yes, more as well) to building a new home.
a) HIre an architect (includes other professionals, design build firms, etc) to oversea the entire project, soup to dessert. Much like hiring a lawyer. He/She is your agent in charge.
b) Do the project as an "owner - builder" and hire G/C, subs, etc. Run your own permits. etc.
c) Anything in between a and b above. Which includes; hiring an architect to do plans/permits. Then hiring your own G.C to do the rest but still needs your daily/weekly oversite, etc.

2. Yes. Retired Lic. Commercial/res. G.C., R/E developer. 3 states.
(your state and county has it's own codes and practices, etc).
(The lot you buy might have it's own CCR's, etc)

3. Yes. In general. You can get more for your dollar and known costs, etc, by buying an existing home. A newly built home does not have the advantages you state (depends), but you do get to build exactly what you want where you want, if a custom home on land of your choice, etc. But, you will pay the price in money, time, stress, etc etc.

4. It depends on the land you purchase, availability, prices (inflated?). Construction costs are highly volatile right now in money and in project duration, when completed (how busy it is in your area), etc.

4b. Another alternative, especially if a UHCOL area where land costs make up most of the value of a home is to shop for a great deal on a "tear down" in a prime location. Utilities are already in place. Then get an estimate from an architect to handle the tear down and a new build to your liking.

5. Location, convenience, "buildability" (how suitable to build on, zoning, "money pit factor" IE: mountain slope that also needs a steep driveway on a slope, impracticality, etc.), IE: 20,000 s.f. lot in the suburbs or near urban, vs 20 acres 50 miles outside of town with a 1000 ft driveway, etc. What do you want? Where do you want to live?
b) Finding a realtor that specializes in empty buildable lots? Drive around in your area of choice, do your homework online, shop listings online. Do your own shopping, then contact whichever realtor is handling the listing for more info and details. Don't pin yourself down to a single realtor at lst. Be flexible.
*Usually: a "good" realtor specializes in what you are looking for, works "full time", is highly responsive, is a top selling agent in her/his brokerage office. IE: do you want someone who sells 1 listing per year or 50 listings per year?

6. You should really nail down where and what you want before and on your own. How much money can you spend? Where do you want to live? What "dream home" do you want? How long are you going to live in it? Etc.
Then. . . have a long sit down conversation with yourself and spend time looking at homes for sale in the area you like, and surrounding areas, go to the open houses, drive around. Do lot's of homework and legwork on your own and get a "feel" for things, and a sense of what things cost, what the market is like, what you want and can or cannot get.
If you have a realtor do all your homework and just go on occasional listings viewing, you will not get a good "feel/sense" of things as much. (just my O2.)

7. Building your own home is extremely stressful, expenses can and do multiply exponentially far beyond projections and estimates, and takes time, requires oversight, transparency and accountability of all you work with and oversee (you must oversee everyone and everything done as much as you can or take more risk that things are not done the way you want, etc. . but, it depends on who you hire, architect, etc. It depends). So, have a talk with your self and figure out if the time and stress and potential larger expenses of building new are worth it for "you".

8. Again, drive around, shop what is for sale now, and might be for sale in the future as far as existing homes, then shop empty buildable land for your dream home. Is the only way to get your dream home on your dream location to build new? If yes, awesome.

9. Realtors are "sales people" who work on "commision", so their point of view and experience is from this point of view. They are not building professionals, versed in building codes, etc. But are familiar with many things R/E.
So, also shop and have initial consults (usually no charge) with various architects.

10. If you are buying a new home in an existing development where the lot's are for sale and there is a developer in charge. This is another matter. PM me as you wish.

PM me as you wish
j :D

dis laimer: there are a zillion opinions and suggestions possible on these things based on each person's experience, etc, and opinonion level. :D
The above missive may have errors, typos, grammer errors, and other errors.

Some examples where a "custom" home built by owner was the better path: (all were architect supervised/contracted).
1. Custom home on a high mountain slope, exclusive development area, owner partially disabled so 1 level, wanted contemporary design and unique. Dream home, retirement home. Cost: 4 mil.
2. Retired physicican/MD. Private gated development. 12 acres. Custom 1 level home to accomodate various needs and hobbies. Sloped high mountain view lot. Dream home. Retirement home. Cost: 2.4 mil.
3. Retired couple. Dream home. Retirement home. 20+ acre mini ranch setup. Dressage facilities. Large flat lot. Views so home had to face a certain direction. Not the street. 200 yard driveway. Custom 3 level 5000+ sf home. Outbuildings. Cost: large.
Last edited by Sandtrap on Tue Sep 14, 2021 8:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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fourwheelcycle
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by fourwheelcycle »

I have done it. My main comment is that is can be a very emotional and anguishing experience. If you know exactly what you want for your house, e.g, the type of spaces and construction, or an actual design, and you have already found a lot you like, and perhaps already bought it, you may be a good candidate to build yourself. From your questions, it sounds like you are not that person. You think building yourself might get you closer to what you want, both for the house and the land, but you do not sound like you are driven to build it yourself.

If you have never contracted and supervised a construction job (I had), there are so may pitfalls in the contracting process and the actual building oversight process (ask me how I know) that I would encourage you to look for an already built house and land that you like. You should work with a good building inspector, early on, before a real estate agent gets you committed to a particular house, if you would not recognize a well-built house vs. a house with various small or large potential problems.

If you really want to build a house, given you are doing it for the first time, I would NOT try to save money by coming up with your own design and then contracting with a builder. I would also not start with an architect, unless total budget and future "problems" between your architect and the builder are not concerns for you. Instead, I would spend more than option one, but less than option two, for a good design builder in your area, if there is one. Check references thoroughly. Get a design builder who has done the type and scale of house you are aiming for and look at past jobs they have done, including talking to the owners of the houses.
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Watty
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by Watty »

Now is a terrible time build a house because the contractors are swamped and there are labor and supply chain shortages. It is just anecdotal but someone bought a house up the street from me and was doing significant remodeling before they move in. They stopped working on the house for several months because there was a delay in getting in new windows and that needed to be done before they could do some of the other work that needed to have the windows installed first.
ThisDinosaur wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 6:20 am What should I look for and avoid when finding land?
Buying raw land and building a house on it is a lot different than buying a developed lot in a subdivision to build a house on. There can be all sorts of complications in developing the land that you might not have even thought about that could make the land difficult or impossible to build on. For example you may need to get permits for all sorts of things like connecting your driveway to the road, which may not always be allowed. Even if you can get permits like that each step requires time and money. You may also find that things like a water main or electric main are already at capacity so you may not be allowed to connect to it.

One other thing to watch out for is that in many areas the most desirable land will be built on first so the raw land that is still available may be less desirable or have some reason that it will be more difficult to build on. You may have to buy an existing house to get something like a view or a waterfront lot on a lake.
ThisDinosaur wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 6:20 am I've read that its generally more expensive to build than to buy an existing home, but the trade off is new constructions should have significantly less maintenance costs initially than existing structures. Is this accurate?
Not really.

1) A new home will typically have minimal if any landscaping and you will need to do most of that after you move in and that can add up quickly to be more than the normal maintenance costs on a existing home. Lenders may not allow you to finance a lot of landscaping in your mortgage since in a foreclosure the landscaping would likely be neglected and add little value to the property. It can also take 10+ years for trees and shrubs to grow enough to even to begin to look nice.

2) With new construction there can be major problems like foundation settling or drainage problems that do not show up until after you move in. One huge advantage of buying a 20+ year old home is that most things like that should have already show up.

3) With a new house you it is almost certain to have delays and cost overruns which add to the costs.

4) With an existing house if it has something like a 15 year old water heater(HVAC, roof, etc) that will be priced into what you are willing to pay for the house. Sure you might have a $5,000 (or whatever) repair bill three years after you move in but some things are predictable and in theory you would have also paid $5,000 less for the house knowing that something like that was about due to be replaced.

Don't underestimate just how stressful building a custom home can be especially for a couple.

There is an old joke, "The final step in building a custom home is to file the divorce paperwork."
SQRT
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by SQRT »

I am in the process of doing this now. As most people know, it’s not a really great time to be doing this with the supply chain issues re Covid. I started about 2 years ago by contacting an architect whose style and past projects appealed to us. Next step was picking a local builder and starting the municipal approval process.

They poured the last foundation wall yesterday and framing should start next week. Hoping to instal windows and enclose the place before winter sets in. 18 months to complete. It will be quite a bit more than I had originally planned (maybe 25%) but I can afford it and I think it will be spectacular.

It’s certainly a lot of work. Won’t really know if it’s worth it until it’s complete.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by TomatoTomahto »

I was considering doing this, but decided not to.

There are companies that have preexisting designs to be built in their factory and installed at your site. https://unityhomes.com/our-designs/. If you’re interested in a truly custom build, there are architects who can work with a factory (see some episodes of Grand Design where the British architects have the house parts built in Germany for transport to and build at the site; it seems to work well. The old style of building is akin to buying a car and having the dealer drop off all the parts in your driveway with a few mechanics to put the car together.
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WhyNotUs
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by WhyNotUs »

ThisDinosaur wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 6:20 am I'm considering building a house. I've never done this before and I have no idea where to start.

If you've done this or you have expertise in land development, architecture, building, or any related fields, what advice do you have?
Where to start, answer some questions:
1.) Why do I want to build my own home?
2.) What does that mean to me? Level of involvement, time commitment, skills (carpentry, contract management, design, communication)
3.) What are my/our must haves for a new home?
4.) What are my/our like to haves for a new home?
5.) What is my maximum budget? downpayment, qualify, ability to absorb price increases

Some clarity around these issues will be a fatal flaw analysis for further analysis. A logical next step is to use the results of 3 and 4 to screen home on the market to establish a price comparison.

If you are still moving forward, I would attend open houses for a few weekends and take photos of attributes in homes and properties that I/we love or don't love to create an idea book.

I would then interview a few architects and share the results of 3, 4, and 5 and share my idea book. Ask if they have done any similar projects and if so, ask for an address/es to do a drive by. Ask them if there is a reasonable chance of getting what we want for the budget based on their experience. Ask them for advice on what to look for in a lot to accommodate that home and what percentage of the overall budget would work for the lot.

Then go lot shopping. Many considerations- water, wastewater service, school district, taxes, HOA fees, distance for commute, price, cost of carrying the lot during design and construction, lot orientation and site constraints/opportunities.

If you find a lot that you like and an architect that you like, I would tie up the lot and then meet with the architect there during due diligence to determine the viability of the type of home that is desired on that lot.

If everything is still in alignment, work on getting construction financing and building design. Don't rush design, changes once construction has started are expensive. Not everyone can see a home from drawings, determine your needs to be able to visualize the home and ask the architect to provide that. Once you can "see" it, start to envision landscaping, how it will sit on the site, solar gain, how utility connections and boxes will be place (note: this is a pet peeve of mine- a cluster of meters on the front of an apartment building, an electrical transformer box in a front yard, etc.).

Architect gets to 30% design.

Now you can finally get a sense of what this project will really cost. It will not be bid level but is an off-ramp if the project has left your budget. It is hard to pull the plug a this point due to sunk costs and energy committed but it is a good move in many cases. If you are looking at cutting must haves or all of your like to haves in order to make budget, you need to look at what is on the real estate market to understand the trade offs.

If you are still in the game, then I would move to bid set and then CDs. From that point on, you need to stay on track and build what is in the drawings.

There is reason that custom homes are often built by wealthy people and contractors, it is work.

O
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Californiastate
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by Californiastate »

Don't do it unless you have construction experience. Don't do it unless you have a strong reputable GC with perfect references. Don't do it if you're prone to change your mind often. Don't do it if double your original estimate will drive you to bankruptcy. Don't do it unless you've already dealt with contractors on a 6 month or more remodel project that went south. A strong team will take the problems in stride and make it look easy. A weak team will exacerbate every little hang up. GL
shell921
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by shell921 »

My late husband and I built 2 custom houses. 25 years apart. The first time we found a contractor through a friend - he had built her house and we liked his work.
That contractor knew an architect & we used him.

The 2nd house we built, we found the architect through a friend and that architect introduced us to a builder he liked.
The architect took us to 3 homes he had designed and that that builder built. We loved his work and went with him.
hotscot
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by hotscot »

Building a house is blood, sweat and tears.
And more money than you budget for.
Mr. Rumples
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by Mr. Rumples »

You will need someone who will watch out for your interests, thus a real estate attorney. So many things to consider depending on where you live: mineral rights, water rights, easements, rights of way, zoning and even the soil/land - depending where the property is. New building doesn't guarantee no issues, it doesn't guarantee no settling - it almost guarantees it.

Beware of agricultural zoning. Being next to even a small field where they put down manure once a year, might mean a stench for days. Not being in an HOA has drawbacks. I live in a semi-rural area. My house is not zoned agricultural, but the zoning doesn't stop my neighbor from putting up a bunch of sheds (think Green Acres quality sold by Mr. Haney) which are across the field from me. Its OK, he's a good guy, but I can see where others would hate it - the "tent" he put up doesn't help - its made out of blue tarps...I can't block the view since the right of way for the power company limits what I can do.

Once you decide on the site, then there are the construction issues. Having seen and been through my share of storms and hurricanes I would have reservations about a new house. Frankly, more than once I have seen a tree fall on a house built in the 1950's and before and the house stops the tree; newer construction, well the tree goes through it and the brick is peeled off.

My former boss and her husband built a beautiful home in a rural setting. There are no trees; they didn't want to worry about storms knocking them down, it's next to a vegetable mostly tomato farm. She also insisted on copper pipes for drinking and bathing and a metal roof. A former coworker lives a few miles away, every spring she had to leave for about a week when the farmer next to her puts down manure the stench in unreal...check to see if your state / county regulates this. https://www.wiscontext.org/whose-manure ... or-poultry

One of the best for last...my father bought some land for development...upon cleaning the land, they found graves...it took well over a year to track down the families, and then with the Court's approval to move the graves. By Code, the cost was incurred by my father who sold the land just to get rid of it (VA Code §57-39 & §57-38.1). Burial on private land (restrictions apply) is still permitted in VA.

Get a lawyer.
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retire2022
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by retire2022 »

I agree with others what they have been posted before.

Currently I am retired and my project property is stalled.

You need resources, money and a technical team you can trust, local help may not have your best interest in mind.

Here is my story:

viewtopic.php?p=4447032#p4447032

The latest update is my friend whom I grew up with is a licensed architect and is interested in this project.

I have done development, managing real estate for a living, and this while it seems easy in rural communities obtaining labor is an issue.

A lot of this is local dependent, contingent upon how far this property is from your home/work location.

You are better off with three fund portfolio and stay invested until the time comes to buy.
cheapskate
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by cheapskate »

Don't do it !

Given that you don't have any construction experience, building a house (especially now) is a terrible idea. I bought a home 10 years ago, and foolishly embarked on a major remodel (adding some 1100 sf and a detached cottage). I won't bore you with the details, but it was one of the most draining experiences I have had. I would never do it again.

The only people who should build homes (or even remodel) are ones who have considerable experience with construction and are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work themselves, if it comes to it. The only other way to do a remodel or a rebuild is to quit your full time job and make overseeing your General Contractor and other contractors your new full time job.

Another way to do a build or remodel would be to hire a real estate lawyer before hiring the architect, general contractor etc. And have the attorney be present at every meeting with anyone involved. With the threat of lawsuit hanging over the architect and contractor if they slip up. This might make it harder to hire architects and contractors though :D
RoadagentMN
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by RoadagentMN »

ThisDinosaur wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 6:20 am I'm considering building a house. I've never done this before and I have no idea where to start.

If you've done this or you have expertise in land development, architecture, building, or any related fields, what advice do you have?

I've read that its generally more expensive to build than to buy an existing home, but the trade off is new constructions should have significantly less maintenance costs initially than existing structures. Is this accurate?

Real estate prices are still trending up in my area. Does that make new construction costs comparable, economically?

What should I look for and avoid when finding land? Should I use a realtor that specializes in this? How do I find a good one?

My goals with the new place, in no particular order, are cost-saving energy-efficiency (passive heating and cooling, etc.) and yard big enough to grow some of my own food, but still be near a well populated area. I'd like to avoid HOAs as well.

Thanks for any advice.
If your retired and you have a passion for construction and learning- go for it. I’ve often considered it, but never felt the juice was worth the squeeze.
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4nursebee
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by 4nursebee »

Things that we did:
Subscribed to fine homebuilding magazine, read some of their forums. THis gave us a few good ideas.
Built a long list of ideas that mattered to us.
Visited home builder shows in the area, open houses. Did this for years to discern the builder we wanted.
Options we put off at first due to money were more expensive a few years later, it would have been better to have done them right from the start.
Over time we have paid up for energy efficiency.
Our design was simple which lead to greater efficiency.
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Sandtrap
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by Sandtrap »

Watch the movie: “Money Pit”, with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long?

Remember…..everything takes 2 weeks when asked. But the reality is different. (Per the movie)

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daleddm
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by daleddm »

Unlike a lot of others who have responded, we did this (bought the land, built the house) in a largely rural location (NC) and had a pretty good experience. It was in a county that required normal site mapping for elevation and drainage, perc testing, etc., much of which I was able to do myself to their satisfaction. We found a design from a book of home plans and bought blueprints from the architectural firm that owned said plans. A local smaller building company did the building in about six months once the site was prepped ... their network of contractors handled the things they didn't normally do such as foundation, septic, drywall, etc. We did things like some of the flooring and paint, kitchen cabinets, minimal landscaping, etc., and I cast around locally based on their recommendations for a few other jobs like stairs and drilling the well, and so usually came in somewhat under "allowance" on most items. A local credit union handled "draws" to the contractor as budgeted and needed given where we were in the process.

I do recall being tense about things like getting the final electrical and AC up and running going into a long holiday weekend in the mid-summer heat. And dealing with rain delays and long weekends was trying. The small aggravations were things like routine site clean-up and staying after them to get small but sequential things done. Based on my experience, if a contractor was prone to becoming irritable when pressed a bit, I'd move find someone else. And watching for corner-cutting, which will happen often just in the interest of saving time so they can quit for the day, etc. I was still cutting up trees two years later that they mindlessly knocked down to save themselves 20 minutes on the project.

It was ... educational :-) and we came in about 10% under budget.
daleddm
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by daleddm »

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stan1
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by stan1 »

I'd make sure you think about what you really want. From what I'm reading it sounds like a rural area, 5-10 acres, no HOA, no architectural restrictions on the house or neighborhood, maybe a barn and other outbuildings.

Do you have a specific urban area in mind you want to be near? From there narrow it down to a few counties. In most areas you are going to find that there isn't a lot of vacant land within 60 minute commute of major urban downtown area available to buy. You are either farther out, or near a smaller city. For example in Northern Virginia an hour to Dulles Airport is doable with some $$$. An hour to Pentagon or K Street in DC means a teardown inside the beltway and $$$$$. Now continuing the No VA example if you consider Lynchburg to be a well populated area you have quite a few more options.
chazas
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by chazas »

Hardest thing I've ever done, even though my ex was an architect and I'm a lawyer. Exponentially more difficult and draining than even a gut remodel.

I wouldn't do it again, even if I were still married to the architect. We spent 3 years just before the split dithering on a new build we were going to do on a 50 acre parcel - even though we lost money selling the land I'm very glad we didn't embark on the process again.
milktoast
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by milktoast »

Get an architect you trust. Get a GC you trust.

What is it about building your own house that gives you something you can't get otherwise? If you don't have a clear answer it's probably not worth the premium over buying. This ain't HGTV.

We ended up 30% above budget and final cost was probably 25-30% above final value.

But to us it is something special. In the neighborhood we wanted, on the lot we wanted (tore down existing home), floor to ceiling corner to corner windows looking out to the lake, designed for current teens and aging in place. Super modern style we love which isn't normally built or bought in our area. It is literally magazine quality work (yes it was featured in a magazine) in an older area with big lots, big trees, big lake, etc.

Can't be bought, has to be built. So we paid the financial cost, the time cost, and the emotional cost to build it.
Ependytis
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by Ependytis »

I had a colleague that built a custom house with his wife. What he recommended was to have a project manager manage the project. He also agreed with his wife not to make any changes once they decided on the design. Changes are what help contractors make tremendous amount of money.

He also indicated with the exception of him and his wife, everyone in the neighborhood that built a custom was divorced 10 years later. Apparently, the large number of decisions that need to be made creates friction between a couple. YMMV.
cheapskate
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by cheapskate »

Ependytis wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 4:01 pm He also indicated with the exception of him and his wife, everyone in the neighborhood that built a custom was divorced 10 years later. Apparently, the large number of decisions that need to be made creates friction between a couple. YMMV.
When I started the remodel, someone advised me to hire a divorce attorney at the same time I hired the architect and the GC.

Divorces caused by friction and stress during remodel/rebuild is all too common.
Firemenot
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by Firemenot »

My advice from prior experience is only build if after much searching if you can’t find an existing house that’s acceptable. The building process is a major pain and stressor. And it’s very hard to find good GCs that don’t cost a fortune. Most GCs (and their subs) cut corners and it leads to a lot of quality issues to just swallow and accept or fight about.

If you have tons of money you can pay for the best and make clear you expect perfection and will accept no less. And can even have someone patrol for QC issues.

And you will also pay a substantial premium for new construction over existing.
theplayer11
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by theplayer11 »

wow, lots of don't do it posts. In my neck of the woods, new houses are quite common. There are many trusted builders. We plan to build in about 3 years on a lot we already own. Getting a house exactly as you want is very appealing, IMO.
Firemenot
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by Firemenot »

theplayer11 wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 4:41 pm wow, lots of don't do it posts. In my neck of the woods, new houses are quite common. There are many trusted builders. We plan to build in about 3 years on a lot we already own. Getting a house exactly as you want is very appealing, IMO.
A friend of mine that’s an architect says typically homeowners and GCs generally dislike each other at the end of a house build. There’s a lot of friction in the process and the interests aren’t all that aligned. Make sure you know what your getting yourself into. I’ve done it twice. Swore I wouldn’t do it a second time but couldn’t find anything existing.

And you won’t get a house exactly like you want. They’ll screw up plenty along the way.
DonFifer
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by DonFifer »

My Dad bought two lots side by side. He built a house on the one, lived in a trailer on site, hired contractors as needed, and did a lot of the work himself. His original plan was to build on both lots and rent them out. As he was doing the last finishing touches on the first house a realtor showed up, with clients in tow. Two hours later the realtor came back with a very generous offer on the property, provided that my Dad would include the other lot in the deal. He sold them. He later told me that it was an interesting project, but it was a giant pain and that it was easier to sell the other lot, than go through all the hassles. He used the proceeds to buy a rental closer to home.
gubernaculum
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by gubernaculum »

I built a dream house in Houston, used concrete tridipanels, steel beams, pier and beam construction, many customized elements. I chose unconventional route, away from 2x4 toothpicks. I had sub-contractor run away with 30K of my money, many four letter words when inspecting the job site, it was a hard work, but I loved the end product. I thought I was going to die in that house, but plans changed and we left Houston. That house was my labor of love, unconventional and built to last. Every creation has pain points, so if you want something well done and unique, there will be pain and much pushing to get the job done.
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Matahari
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by Matahari »

We built a custom home, from selecting a lot, to engaging architect, to supervising the general contractor. We signed the construction contract in Jan 2001 and moved in the home in 2003.

Other posters have been more detailed in their advice, so I will simply make a few general points:

(1) I'm glad we did this while we were in the good stage of our lives in which to do this. It's not just a matter of being ready financially, although that is a huge part of it. If you are going to do a full-custom project, it will occupy much of your life. Depending on your personality -- and someone who pursues a full-custom project tends to have certain personality traits -- you will likely spend a great deal of time researching, researching, researching. Obviously the internet was available in 2000 and I spent a great deal of time researching online. However, I still ended up doing a lot of touch-and-feel research for materials , etc. I'm glad this coincided with a time when I had time to devote to this without taking time away from work, from time spent with our child (who was a preschooler and happy to come along wherever I went), or from other obligations.

(2) It is a great asset to be able to visualize things if you are truly building from scratch, even with 3D CAD design (which we did not have). I worked out of architectural and design books, so I was somewhat paleolithic in this regard. Fortunately, I found a couple of people on whose advice I was confident, and this did not turn out to either the architect or the allocated interior designer (whom I ended up largely ignoring).

(3) If you already have some ideas of what you want, tour as many homes as you can, and take photos and make notes. And, because you are working with a clean slate, what you see, like and desire will end up increasing the budget you have in mind.

(4) And I hoarded cash for a year before and during, to make sure we had the funds. The timing coincided with the dot-com/tech bust, so I was so glad I did.
MileKing
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by MileKing »

Before engaging an architect or GC, or buying land, I suggest understanding new home construction costs in your area and whether you can afford to build. Call and/or meet with several GCs and talk with them about what you are looking to do, what their recent new home construction costs ($/sf) have been, and what they are seeing right now. If you have a general idea about the size of the home, location (off-grid vs. in an existing development that is being built-out), features, and level of finishes (Thermador appliances and hand-crafted mahogany stair rails vs. GE and off-the-shelf stair rails), a good GC should be able to give you a range that will help you understand if you have the budget. If the GC tells you to "come back when you have a set of plans", they are likely not a GC you want to be working with.
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dodecahedron
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Re: Building a House -- Advice

Post by dodecahedron »

Firemenot wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 4:49 pm
theplayer11 wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 4:41 pm wow, lots of don't do it posts. In my neck of the woods, new houses are quite common. There are many trusted builders. We plan to build in about 3 years on a lot we already own. Getting a house exactly as you want is very appealing, IMO.
A friend of mine that’s an architect says typically homeowners and GCs generally dislike each other at the end of a house build. There’s a lot of friction in the process and the interests aren’t all that aligned. Make sure you know what your getting yourself into.
I highly recommend reading Tracy Kidder's nonfiction book, House, for a very engaging account of the difference in perspectives between the builders, the architect, and the owners.
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