Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

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Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by Salmon » Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:20 am

We are considering building a new home from a national level builder. You pick land, and then a home design. The home design has many structural options and then you finish off with internals. One pays a premium for the internal but I suppose the benefit is that it goes in once the home is being built.

I do not anything about construction. On top of that, I have read the large builders usually have very one-sided contracts. All of this makes me a bit uneasy.

From those who have gone through the process, any advice?

What should one splurge on when building vs saving it for when the house is already built?

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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by SteadyWins » Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:39 am

We had a tract home built in phase 2 of 3 in a community last year. Construction noise, such as constant grading and shipments made the first few months burdensome. The folks who moved in last were lucky!

Stretching the budget for structural additions up front paid off. We added a bump out, upgraded house elevation, front porch, and rough in for unfinished basement. These would have cost significantly more if done after the fact. Over the past year, the basement has been finished on our own.

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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by h82goslw » Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:48 am

First rule of always costs more than you thought it would.
When we built our house I started to freak out about how much costs were adding up. In my haste I deleted 3 options that I wish I hadn't.
Not getting Bilco doors in the basement is my biggest regret
To add Bilco doors would cost $10K today.....versus $2K when house was built.

If I were to build again I would do things much differently, with much greater advanced planning being the first order of business. Start with a budget and do lots of research before making decisions.

Lastly, we spent a fair amount on upgrades that couldn't be done after house was built, and cut back on stuff that could be upgraded later. Spent extra on 9' basement, extra 4' on bump out in kitchen, etc. Over time we have upgraded lights, finished an extra bedroom, finished basement and so on.
It's a stressful time but worth it. Good luck!

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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by mouses » Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:59 am

I think any home should have accessibility features - doors wide enough for wheelchairs, grab bars in the bathroom, etc. Even young people wind up with broken legs, etc. and will find these make a big difference.

I live in a snowy winter climate. If I were having a house built from scratch, I'd have those under the driveway and walkways heating elements to melt snow and prevent ice.

I'd want easy to get to utilities. No having to go into the crawlspace or a standup area under the house.

Think about power failures, perhaps prolonged - gas appliances, a natural gas powered generator, etc. options.

If you're in earthquake country, be sure the house is built to withstand those as much as possible.

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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by 1210sda » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:03 am

Hire an inspector. Ours was worth his weight in gold.


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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by Dude2 » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:28 am

To me, talking about the "bones" of the house is square one.

If you're getting a custom build, then you're already miles forward in terms of quality going into it. Most builders that I've dealt with use 2x6 framing in the interior. This helps with sound isolation in the house. If not everywhere, then at least for the laundry room and other key areas.

Today's building is married to what they can do structurally for the lowest cost to meet the code requirements. For example, you may have a large section of a wall, and inside of it are only a few very thin steel columns. Those columns are designed to have great strength vertically to hold weight. (The horizontal component is deemed not important, and you could bend that column over your knee). You see this kind of framing on industrial buildings where they spray a kind of foam on the exterior, and voila you have a building. Living in a house with that is quite annoying. Try to hang some shelves solidly in a wall and find out you have essentially drywall and no 2x4's. (or you have to drill and get metal screws if you happen to hit a column). It is also very poor for sound isolation in the house. But, it meets code, and it's invisible. You can get away with it.

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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by MikeG62 » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:42 am

We've built our last two homes, so lots of experience here.

I second the comment that things will cost more than you think, so be prepared for that. Upgrades will come out of the woodwork once you realize that the home you are looking at does not come with this feather or that feature.

Then once you are in, things that transform a house into a home will cost you a bundle. I'm talking things like landscaping (builders landscaping is usually very modest), painting and decorating interior. I would say we spent ~1/3rd on top of the cost of our most recent home (1/3rd of what we paid to the builder) in upgrades after we moved in (landscaping - hard and soft, built in pool, custom moldings & paint throughout interior, finished basement, etc...). It adds up quick.

It also takes a long time before the exterior looks finished (for stuff to grow in). Same is true of your neighbors houses. Some neighbors will take years before doing any upgrades outside. So you'll be looking at builders crappy landscaping all over when you pull in and out of your neighborhood (for potentially a long time). If I had the choice again and could buy an existing home close enough in design and features to what we were looking for, I'd go that route. Not saying I would not build again (well I won't but I am a lot older than you), just that buying a home already standing has its advantages.
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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by dratkinson » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:49 am

Run NG lines to places you might need them in the future: back patio for home barbecue (avoids schlepping propane tanks), generator, wood fireplace to convert to NG, kitchen to replace electric range, ...

Recall past topic had great support for a multipurpose room between garage and kitchen to serve as: pantry, mud room, laundry room.

Wish my home also had provision for backup NG-only heat source(s) to supplement central heat so it'd run during a power outage. Would avoid need for portable generator if a little extra heat is all I needed. A wood fireplace is okay, but it's less efficient + more work.

(Add) Slope garage floor so snow melt runs out of garage. Put drain line inside in front of garage doors so snow melt does not reach garage doors, freeze, and damage weather strip.

Believe 2 extra garage bays are needed for other projects: lawn power tools storage + workshop + workspace.
Last edited by dratkinson on Sat Jul 15, 2017 5:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by Ready3Retire » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:54 am

I have not built a house from scratch but have done major renovations - e.g. kitchen, baths. I'd recommend adding insulation on interior walls for soundproofing for bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry room. Also, go with solid doors vs hollow core doors for soundproofing for these areas.

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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by gasdoc » Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:36 am

Add one more garage space than you plan to need- for work projects, dogs, storage, etc. Wire walls for whole house stereo. Add some built in cabinetry before the walls are finished.


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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by JGoneRiding » Sat Jul 15, 2017 10:07 am

have them put in the most up to date electronic wiring. It will be outdated in 5 years but at least you will be current!! I don't even know what cable number is current but you still want the house wired for electronics with cable outlets in every major room and decide what you want in bedrooms (my house was brand new but I still wound up adding cable box points and was seriously annoyed the house wasn't wired for computers everywhere though wifi works a hard wired spot in certain areas would have been super nice)

pay for upgraded flooring, pay to have it painted how you want inside. Make sure and pick a design that does good on sound. I was looking at building and was seriously annoyed that they had almost no designs without shared bedroom walls (for big builders with their own designs) My development the builder made almost all the houses (not custom) not share bedroom walls--very nice feature.

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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by Go Blue 99 » Sat Jul 15, 2017 2:27 pm

This topic has come up often lately. Here is one example that will give you ideas:


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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by hushpuppy » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:57 pm

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Re: Tips and advice from those who had their homes built

Post by Hockey10 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:36 pm

We have had 2 houses built. One was done by a large national builder and the other was done by a local builder who built a neighborhood on some old farmland. In both cases, the builders had about 5 different models to choose from. Once we selected the lot, the model, and the upgrades, the price was locked in and it did not change.

The one built by the local builder was done in 4 months from contract signing to settlement (this is unusually fast in the new home construction industry). They did a good job and there were no real issues. The one built by the large national builder took 8 months. The settlement date kept getting pushed back - I think by a total of about 2 months. On the morning of the settlement, the builder had not yet obtained a certificate of occupancy from the town. This took a few hours, and we eventually had the settlement and moved in that day.

The big mistake I made was scheduling the moving van to arrive on the day of the settlement. :oops: The moving van was parked in front of the house for several hours while we waited for the certificate of occupancy.

Also when I did the walkthrough, we came up with a punchlist of about 60 items. This took almost a year to finish and got to be very frustrating. :x

While this was a large national builder with a good reputation, this was a new neighborhood and we were one of the first houses built. The construction manager was fired a few months after we moved in and I believe there were 4 different construction managers filling that role in the first year that we lived there. The 4th one was very good and got the punchlist done. The other 3 were terrible.

In terms of the features of the house, we spent a lot of time researching different neighborhoods and builders and were able to select the type of home that met our needs. Plan on spending tons of quality hours in thinking about the design and features of the home.

One thing we did for the 2nd house was to make sure that the electrical box in every ceiling was capable of holding a ceiling fan. We did not do this in the first house which made ceiling fan installs more complicated.

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