Hey everyone! If you've been following along for a while, you've probably seen that my wife and I are in the process of building our first house. I know a lot of Millennials are trying to navigate the rent vs. build vs. buy resale question right now, so it's been fun to share the home building process on Instagram and this site.
A few months ago, I outlined several things to consider at the beginning of the build process, and now that our house is almost done (closing in less than a month), I'd like to share what I've learned so far.
Currently, our house is about two weeks away from being completed! Really all that's left are small things like finishing touches, some flooring in the main area of the house (which we went outside of the builder to have installed because it was 50% cheaper), and landscaping.
Here are 9 tips to consider when your house is being built:
1. Your personality and attitude can determine your building experience
Anyone who has built a home knows that the first thing that you'll come across are endless horror stories about the building process. When we were choosing our builder, it seemed like every company we researched had terrible reviews.
It was definitely tough to wade through, but ultimately we relied on our realtor (who was very experienced and had built a home before) to give us recommendations on the best builder in our price range.
What I've realized throughout this process is that the way you mentally approach the build will determine a lot about how positively or negatively you'll feel about it.
The building process isn't perfect. There are so many crews that come in, things get damaged, sometimes they do bad work, gross stuff (I'll get to that shortly), etc.
If you're OCD and get frustrated easily with mistakes that seem like they should be a total no-brainer, building might be a little stressful for you.
If you're a little more relaxed and patient, communicate regularly with the builder, and realize that hand-done work isn't going to always be perfect on the first go around – you'll probably really enjoy it.
2. Go to the home site as much as possible
I'm not sure the builders were quiiiiite ready to deal with a professional blogger on this one. 🙂
Fortunately, because of my job I was able to check the home site at least once a day. When I knew big things were coming up I'd go even more often.
While obviously everyone can't go as much as I was able to, I'd highly recommend that you make as many trips as possible! It's important that the builder knows that you are likely to catch mistakes.
The phases of the home build typically go something like this:
- Lot preparation
- Framing, cornice, and roofing
- Mechanical installation (electric, plumbing, and air conditioning ductwork)
- Tile and countertops
- Final paint and clean
In my opinion, the most important phases to really be present at the home are during the framing, mechanical installation, insulation, and sheetrock.
This is where you can catch some of the strange things that the guys who work on the various trade crews do, and also see the “guts” of the house before they get closed up behind drywall.
Unfortunately, this is also where some weird/gross stuff happens too. Don't be surprised if you find random drawings or bottles of pee hidden behind things. Or just…pee on the walls.
We had one situation where a crew working on the house next to ours decided not to use the port-a-potty literally ten feet away and used one of our walls instead.
I walked in to check things out that day because I knew that the drywall was going up soon…and happened to find some very soaked insulation.
Our construction manager is really good and stays on top of the crews as much as possible, but the unfortunate reality is that sometimes people just do dumb things. If I hadn't caught it, I'm sure the drywall crew would have just closed that up in our walls and called it a day.
The builder replaced all of the insulation twice, bleached everything, and went well out of their way to make sure it was cleaned up and that I was happy.
Construction is kinda gross sometimes. It just is what it is haha.
Again – go to the construction site as much as possible. Just…trust me.
3. It's easier to go through your realtor when issues pop up
If you're planning on going into the building process without a realtor, I'd highly discourage it. An experienced realtor not only helps you put your money in smart places during the design phase, but they also mediate issues that come up on your behalf.
For the pee issue mentioned above, I asked the realtor to handle it. I don't know what she called and said, but the builder instantly took care of everything.
Anytime I saw something with the house that I didn't like, I made sure to have the realtor involved even if it just meant adding them in on an email thread.
You're indirectly paying realtors a lot of money to make sure that the home is what you want, so you need to lean on that resource as much as possible.
4. Always be cool to your construction manager
This can't be stressed enough – you need to maintain a good relationship with your construction manager at all costs.
They already have a job that's very similar to herding cats with keeping up on all of the crews at multiple houses. The last thing you want to do is be rude to them because they wield a lot of power when it comes to getting things done with your house.
Want to make simple changes to the home like moving the thermostat or have extra nails added to door frames? If you're cool with the construction manager, they'll hook you up.
If you're a jerk, they can ignore you because they don't have to make any changes (unless it's a custom home).
5. Take tons of pictures
Pretty simple here. If you see something on the house that you don't like, take a picture.
You also want to take plenty of pictures during the framing phase so that you can see where all of the wiring, plumbing, and natural gas piping is later down the road if you are doing some work on the house.
Also…it's just cool to look back on the progress. My wife and I have really enjoyed that so far.
6. Don't sweat the little things
There will be a ton of dents on the walls and scuffs on cabinets and doors before the house is finished.
The builder will give you an opportunity to point out all of those things before you close on the house, so don't freak out when you see little construction mishaps.
Just make a note of anything you see and take a picture of it so you don't forget when the time comes.
7. Hire an independent inspector
You can either use the builder's inspector, or you can get your own. We opted to hire an independent inspector to see all three of the main phases of construction: the foundation prep, the framing, and the final walkthrough.
In my experience so far, the independent inspector was 1,000 times more detailed with their reports. I spoke with the builder's inspector one morning, and he literally told me that our guy gets paid to find more stuff wrong than he does.
If you get a really good inspector, they'll provide detailed documentation for any issues that they see with the home.
Also, it's a great time to ask questions about certain aspects of construction that you may not be familiar with. I've learned quite a bit about how a home is built just by going to the inspections and speaking with the person we hired.
8. Get ready to spend some serious money
You can't just assume that everything will be cool if you can come up with your down payment. There are so many extra expenses with a new home that you may not even think about when you're renting or considering a resale home.
Here are just a few things you'll possibly need to buy with a new build:
- flooring (if you go outside of the builder)
- garage door opener
- ceiling fans
The point here really is that you can't decide to buy a new home just based on the initial costs like the monthly payment, down payment, and taxes and insurance.
You'll need to take all of the extra costs into account when you're making a decision as well.
9. Be prepared for your closing date to change at any time
Fortunately, our closing date was actually moved up 6 weeks from the estimated date they gave us when we signed the initial paperwork.
That isn't always the case though. We know people who signed to have their house built around the same time as us, and their closing date was delayed by several months.
If you're renting, you may have to go month to month on your lease (read: more expensive) or end it way earlier than you were planning.
The bottom line is that you have to be flexible and prepared financially during the home building process because it can change very quickly based on crew availability and the weather.
If you choose to build, try to enjoy it
Overall, my wife and I have had a lot of fun watching our future home go up. I'll have another post about the closing process and more of the costs associated with moving in the next few weeks. If you want to keep up with the home build, you can always check out my Instagram stories here.
Here are some pictures of the process from the beginning: