After being quarantined and staying indoors for most of 2020, many homeowners realized that the current house they own no longer works for them. Some families will buy a different home and move, and others will remodel. But what if you can’t find anything on the market that’s exactly what you want?
You and your family may consider building a new home – something custom and built from the ground up, so you’ll finally have the home you’ve always dreamed of. It will be in the right location, with enough space for everyone, and include quality finishes and beautiful craftsmanship. But where do you start when you want to build a new home?
Homeowners Make More than 3000 Decisions Before and During the Home Building Process
Building a new home can be a thrilling idea and an exciting project. On the other hand, it can also be challenging and stressful because most clients don’t have any experience with the home building process. Your family may not be prepared for how many decisions they’ll have to make, no matter how many manuals or blogs they read. (By the way, on average, homeowners make more than 3,000 decisions before and during the building process!)
Yes, the process can be complicated, but with a bit of knowledge and a plan, it doesn’t have to be. Everything becomes easier and, frankly, more fun once you know how and where to begin. Rather than stressing over every decision, you and your family can enjoy building a new home.
To help you navigate the journey, here are a few steps to avoid disastrous mistakes.
Make a List of Goals, Needs, and Wants for Your New Home
To begin, gather your family and make a list in three columns: your goals, your needs, and your wants. Decide where you want to build this home – in the suburbs, country, or in town? Think about how you use your house. Do you enjoy large family gatherings? Do you cook a lot or get take-out most nights? Are your kids young or teenagers?
Make a list of every room and discuss what should go in each? What are your “must-haves” versus “would-be-nices.” What finishes do you want? Have you dreamed of quartz countertops and chandeliers? Or wood-beamed ceilings and rustic charm? Have you always wanted a four-poster bed? Plush carpeting on the floor?
At first, think big and go wild. Get a sheet of paper and draw out the floor plan. Layout the rooms the way you think they will work best for you. Don’t worry about the house size or cost for now. Just have fun adding everything you’ve always wanted. Then, go through the list and prioritize. You’ll most likely cross off things and make changes.
Finally, think about what style of architecture you want. Is your dream house something small and cozy with a front porch? Grand and elegant with pillars? One story or two? Knowing what you want in advance will help avoid arguments during the project.
Be aware that once the building process begins, it’s complicated to make changes. Resist the urge to alter the cabinet style, room size, bathroom tile, etc. You may be tempted by a sale or seeing the latest trend, but indecision slows down construction, adds time and stress to the project, and potentially costs you thousands of dollars in change orders, penalties, and extra fees.
This design exercise will assist you in creating your vision and explaining your ideas to your builder later. It will also help you know where you can spend, where you can save, as well as what you will not compromise on.
What’s Your Budget for Building New Construction?
Once you’re done having fun drawing floor plans, choosing finishes, and looking at architecture, it’s now time to get back to reality. Calculate how much you can afford before you contact a builder or look for lots because all final decisions are based on your finances: location, size, quality, etc.
Before building a new home, it’s essential to know what you can afford to spend and be sure it matches what you have planned. If the two don’t match, you might have to change your plans. Sometimes homeowners will wait to finish the basement until a later date. Or they install carpeting in the bedrooms and change it to hardwood in the future. Your builder may also have suggestions for ways to keep costs down.
Your budget will be split into four sections:
1) The Build Budget – This is how much you can afford for the mortgage, land costs, and the down payment on your new home. Depending on how ‘custom’ your home is, how large, and what kind of finishes you choose, the cost can be anywhere from $150 to $400 or more per square foot.
2) The Furnishing Budget – This is something most homeowners forget about. While you probably have furniture and artwork already, more than likely, you’ll want to add some, too. Your old couch may not fit in the new den. Other furniture may look shabby. You’ll certainly need window coverings or want a fresh bedspread. All of these things add up, and you’ll need room in your budget for them.
3) The Exterior Budget – Once the contractor is done building your dream home, you may still be left with a dirt yard. Set aside a bit of your budget for things like landscaping, a deck, a fence, the driveway, etc. Check with your builder if some of these are part of their building package. If not, that will be an added expense.
4) Contingency – This is approximately 10% of the total building cost. With a project as complex as building a house, mistakes and surprises can happen. The Contingency will cover any unexpected charges. The important thing to remember is to stay calm. Everything will work out, even if there are a few surprises.
Best of all, if you don’t use the Contingency, it can be added to the Furnishings or Exterior budget or put back into savings. Bottom line, you don’t want to halt construction because you ran out of money!
Finding the Right Home Builder
Now that you’ve decided on a house design and know your budget, you need to hire a builder. You want one who can take your drawing and wish list and turn it into your dream home. The right builder will ask questions, listen carefully, and make good recommendations. Look for qualities such as honesty, good communication, and trustworthiness, too.
Finding the right builder can take a while. But putting in the effort is worth every minute, and there’s no need to rush. Take your time. With the right builder, the design process and construction will be stress-free, smooth, and efficient.
But how do you choose? The first step is to ask friends, co-workers, family, and others for their suggestions. Take a drive through the area in which you’d like to reside and look at newly built houses. Please take note of the builders who constructed them. If you know any real estate agents, they might recommend a home builder they’re familiar with.
Now, do a bit of research. Go online and type in “Milwaukee Home Builders” or something similar. Review the builder’s websites and watch videos and look at photos. Do they build what you want? Do they have experience in building homes in the same size or style? Frankly, the answer to these questions will also determine which contractor to hire. Some builders specialize in certain houses, while others are comfortable building just about any architectural style.
Set Up Meetings with Potential Home Builders
Whether it’s on the phone, via Zoom, or face to face, contact each builder on your list and talk with them. The right builder will invite you to tour a house under construction (so you can see their quality) and completed model home. They should offer you a variety of floor plans and ask lots of questions. Finally, the builder should walk you through their process, explaining the budgeting, construction timeline, and more.
During this first conversation, don’t be afraid to ask questions and take notes. This will help you keep track of who you spoke to and what they said. Also, if you read a negative review, ask them about the issue. Why was the client unhappy? How was the issue resolved? Frankly, it’s important to know how the situation was handled and how the builder behaved. This will tell you a lot about how things will work with your project.
Also, ask about the start date. Good builders are sought after and are often busy. You may have to wait several months before they can begin your home. Be patient!
Give each contractor a photo, sketch, floor plan, or blueprint of what your dream home looks like. Let them all know how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need, the garage’s size, the type of architecture, the finishes (wood floors, granite counters, etc.), and as many details as you can. This way, you’ll get a complete bid from each builder and will be able to compare them. If builders have to guess what you want, every proposal will be different.
Take Some Tours Virtually or at a Model Home
After you’ve had a chance to talk with each contractor, tour one of their construction sites. Check the quality and craftsmanship of their work, look at the foundation, talk to the crew, and note if the worksite is clean. In the model home, see how well the tile is installed, the paint is applied, the flow of the rooms, etc., not just how pretty the house is decorated.
After these initial conversations and tours, you’ll be able to narrow down your list to just one or two builders. Then ask to speak with a recent customer. These clients can tell you how the builder was to work with if the process went smoothly if they would do it all over again, if they were satisfied with everything, or if there were issues. Past customers can give you insight into the builder, the staff, and the construction crew.
Don’t rush through this process because building a new home is a serious financial investment. You will develop a long-term relationship with this builder. Therefore, look for an honest building contractor who has good communication skills, years of business experience, and a list of satisfied customers. Add to that a company that builds beautiful homes, can customize plans, does quality work, and offers it all at a reasonable price. You’ve found your ideal builder!
Buying Land to Build Your New House
Some homeowners buy a plot of land before they hire a builder; others do the opposite. Either way, before building a new home, you need some land to put it on.
At the very start of the process, at least decide where you want to live. Do you prefer being out in the country with several acres? Maybe you want to live in the suburbs where there is a good school district. Are you downsizing, and a little bungalow in the city would be perfect for you? It’s important to know this before contacting any builders.
It’s not necessary to have the land before you talk to a builder. Frankly, some builders are also developers and may be able to offer you a “package deal” with a price for both the house and the land. If not, look at local listings for lots. Talk to realtors to help you find something to match your needs. They will also know as soon as something goes on the market. If you will be selling your current home, you may be able to make a deal for both transactions.
A builder can also help you navigate the obstacles of choosing which lot will work best for your custom home. They have information such as water tables or ground stability, which may negatively impact the foundation of your home.
If all of this sounds overwhelming, your best move is to contact Cobblestone Builders. Dirk and Stevie Wildt, Cobblestone owners, have been constructing cost-efficient and high-quality homes throughout southeastern Wisconsin since 1990. They design homes with great curb appeal, a distinctive look, and superior open concept floor plans.
Dirk and Stevie are known for their outstanding customer service with a mission of honesty, trust, integrity, and performance. They have been awarded the Torch Award for Ethics by the BBB.
Cobblestone Builders also has the subdivision of Cobblestone Meadows in the heart of Jackson, Wisconsin. Located between the farmland of Washington County and the amenities of Milwaukee, this development is ideally placed.
Dirk and Stevie developed these 22 homesites to create a community with hometown pride, tight-knit friendships, and family-friendly activities.
If you’re looking for the best home builder in southeastern Wisconsin with the best home lots in the area, then Cobblestone Builders is the right one for you. Contact them today!