Home Building Tips
By Timothy Dahl, Originally Published in Charles and Hudson
A new modern home under construction in the Seattle area.
A reader recently submitted this question that we feel could be helpful to a lot of other first-time home builders.
"My wife and I live in a small suburban condo but dream of building our own house someday. We hope that staying here another year or two will help us afford the big move. My question is, and maybe some of the readers have resources as well, how do we go about designing/building our own home? Do we contract an architect? Where do we start?"
Our CharlesandHudson featured writer Deren S. Monday shares 3 things you must consider before building a new home.
Step 1: Do you really want to build?
The current economic conditions (at least in North America) put into question the financial benefit of building a home versus purchasing a “used” home and renovating (or not, depending on the condition). To evaluate this issue, go to zillow.com and find price per square foot costs for buying used homes in your area. Be sure to research comparable homes to the home you are considering building. Similar in size, condition, neighborhood, etc. Then, call a few local custom home builders and ask for an approximate cost per square foot for new custom homes. Be sure to factor in the land cost, as zillow will include the land cost but the custom home builder certainly will not. If you still find building a new home to be your choice, go to step 2. My guess is the cost for new in this market will be substantially higher than used…
Step 2: Get inspired
Collect everything you can find that inspires you to build your own home. Pictures from magazines, websites, homes in your neighborhood or city, etc. Just collect it all. Your eventual designer and contractor will be able to take these “likes” and break them down to the essence of what you like. For example, you may fall in love with a certain picture of a kitchen. You may not know why. A clever architect will be able to extract the origin of your favor, perhaps is the lighting, or the tone of the colors, or the surfaces or the…
Step 3: Stock design or custom?
The fact of the matter is almost every conceivable home design has already been, well, designed. Sure, not to the last detail, but certainly in general. You can find all sorts of plan sets for sale online, or down at your local bookstore, or even in your newspaper from time to time.
These sets contain general drawings (floor plan, framing plan, elevations, etc.) for the home you choose. But remember, these plans will still need to be altered to comply with your local building codes, to place the home on the site, bring utilities in, etc. So really, you will not escape hiring an architect, but will certainly expedite the deign process and likely lower the design fee.
The other design method is to simply hire an architect directly to perform a custom design. This is necessary if you insist upon a completely unique design, have unusual lifestyle requirements (for example, wheelchair accessibility) or just can’t bring yourself to buy an instant set of plans.