How to Build Your First Home
Your home is your castle, so when it's time to leave renting behind and preside over your own kingdom, it's worth it to make sure it meets your expectations - otherwise, the process can become a royal pain. Here's how to kickstart the process of building your first home.
How to build your first home - Discover your design preferences
Either online or on paper, find photos of home designs that you like and group them together by room. What themes do you notice emerging? You may find that you've collected several kitchens with colorful backsplashes, for example, or several ideas for private patios. You'll expand on these later with your builder, but understanding your basic design needs at the start will help steer those conversations and avoid wasted time.
Determine your budget.
Understand what you can really afford and build a budget that covers everything from the cost of the land and local fees to finishes and furniture. Include a contingency of at least 10% in case of weather delays, unforeseen spikes in material costs, and other unpredictable hiccups. Online calculator tools can help you develop an estimate, but you may need to tweak the result to fit your own unique situation.
Get your bank on board.
Once you know your budget, meet with a lender and get pre-approved for an amount you know you can afford. Err on the side of pre-approval for a lower amount, not a higher one, and remember that you don't have to spend the whole thing. Base the number on what you're earning today rather than making assumptions about a higher salary in the future.
Put together your dream team.
Your first home is a major milestone, and that deserves a team of experienced professionals who can guide you through the journey with minimal fuss. You'll likely start with a home designer and a builder, though in some cases, these two roles can be filled by one person. Depending on your needs, you might also decide to add specialists, like a kitchen and bath designer or a landscape architect.
Figure out your must-haves.
As you formulate your list of priorities, determine which ones are absolutely necessary and which ones you could compromise on if you have to. If you're planning to expand your family, for example, you may want to draw a firm line in the sand on the number of bedrooms. Your must-have list can also include smaller-scale items, such as the wooden floors you dreamed of. Not budging on this list means that when you have to cut costs, you can do that somewhere else and preserve the things you really want.
Develop the specifics.
This stage is about taking your early ideas - your favorite design elements and the features your new home absolutely must have - and formulating a solid plan with your home designer to make these ideas a reality. Ask your designer for portfolios of homes and architectural features like the ones you're looking for as a starting point to plan your new house. They may even have stock floor plans you can customize to create your dream home. Work with your designer to create a home that fits both your budget and your needs.
Make sure your builder has briefed you about the timeline and your responsibilities going forward. Remain in contact throughout the process, and if youâ're able, drive by the building site periodically to stay excited while you wait to move into your first home. Before you know it, move-in day will arrive and you'll finally receive the keys to your kingdom.