Building Series Part 1: Where Do I Start?

One of the most common questions we get about building a home is Where Do I Even Start? I feel like I could write a book about the building process & the things I’ve learned as we’ve walked clients through it with different builders, because there is soooo much to take into consideration when you are planning on building.  

#1-Building Location - Where are you going to be building?  Are you buying land with lots of acreage? A large or small lot?  In a master planned community? Do your research on where you are building.  What are the building restrictions? HOA restrictions? Does the community or subdivision restrict or have to approve your builder?  

#2-House Plans -You can’t build a house without architectural plans, so this is where you need to start. If you are building in a master planned community or subdivision, this may be where you are a little restricted on your plans & can’t go fully custom. You might have to choose between the floor plans that the builders in that community offer and you’ll want to narrow it down to the plans that fit your lifestyle the best. Check to see if you are able to adjust the plans for your own home or if they have to be built exactly like they are presented. For those of you building with a preferred builder, don’t let the perfect floor plan be the only reason you decide to go with a builder. You’ll want to keep reading to make sure you ask all the right questions to ensure you get exactly what you want.


If you’re doing fully custom, then before you even meet with an architect, do your homework. Ideally, would you like a one story or two story? One stories tend to cost more because the amount of concrete. How many bedrooms/bathrooms? Do you want a true entry at the front of the home or do you want to walk into the main living space?  Are you wanting a true open concept? Start looking at floor plans online to see what you like & don’t like (don’t tell my husband, but I have a Pinterest board full of floor plans for our dream home for when we are able to move out to our ranch…10-15 years from now. Hey, it’s never to early to start planning). With these floor plans, make specific notes of what you like about each. Then start looking at front elevations of homes to see what you like—a big front porch or wrap around porch? Stone? Board & Batten? Once you have everything all lined up, then start looking for your architect. Get referrals from friends, family, neighbors, builders that you are looking to interview.  Call the firm & ask questions about their process, pricing, and timing. Try to plan ahead and be patient because getting custom plans take time. There is a lot involved from the initial interview, site visit to look at the land, planning, revisions, planning, revisions, planning & revisions. Make sure your plans are exactly how you want them. These plans aren’t cheap & this is your home—make sure you get it right.

Many of our clients have hired us while they are in the middle of getting plans drawn up so that we can look at their plans to make suggestions & give them ideas before signing off on them.  Can you call a designer in after you have plans? Absolutely, but if you are unsure about things, and plan on working with a designer throughout the building process, I think it’s a good idea to bring them in at this point.  They may give you some ideas that you never even thought of with your floor plan.

#3 Your Builder - While your plans are in the works, now is the time to start doing your research on builders.  Again get recommendations from family & friends or your designer, if you are working with one. Ask why they liked working with them, how were their processes, do they like the finished product?  Ask all the questions to these people that have used the builders. Look at their work online. Read any reviews they have online on Houzz & Google these are going to be great indicators of whether you want to move on to interview these potential builders.  Start your list & then you’re going to start narrowing it down. How? Make some phone calls to ask questions. What questions should you ask? We’ll give you a few to get your started.

  1. How many years have you been in business? How many homes have you built?

  2. Do you do fully custom homes or semi custom?

  3. Can you give me references from prior home buyers?

  4. Do you have finished homes that I can tour?

  5. Can we tour a job site?

Do not ask, what their price per square foot to build is, because you are going to get numbers all across the board from different builders & 9 times out of 10 they won’t that be accurate. Start with the 5 questions above. If they give you references, call them & ask questions. If they have homes or job sites you can tour, go tour them. Yes, it’s a lot of homework, but you are building your home & it’s worth it.

In the next part of the series, we are going to dive deeper into finding the right builder. What to look for, more questions to ask & more specifics on why not to ask what their price per square foot is to build.