Beginning Stages--Need Advice

dreambuilderAugust 30, 2012

What do I do first? I have a plan that I have worked on for many, many years. Do I take that to a draftsman (or an architect)? Or do I find a builder first and then go through their draftsman? Do I find a lot first through a real estate agent or do I work on getting the lot after I have found a builder? Thank you!

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I would definitely go with an architect. We started with a draftsman & I regret every minutes. If we had started with an architect, I believe we would already have started building. As it is, we are just finalizing our plans with the architect.

I would recommend finding the lot first. The land will dictate how the house will be orientated as well as dimensions.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 1:25PM
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I know you're emotionally invested in a plan that you've worked so long on, but the first step I'd take would be to post it here for critique while I searched for an architect. Don't take the critique personally. :)

And not all plans are suited to all sites, so you need some input from the architect as to what type of site would be ideal for your ideas. Don't expect what you've worked on to be fully translatable exactly into something buildable without tweaking. But it will be a great starting point as a communication tool with a professional.

Oh, and the other place to start thinking about building is to make a realistic assessment of your finances. Pull your credit and see if any repairs are needed. Work on paying down your debt. Assess your savings and figure out how to get more. It takes a lot more cash on hand to build than buy. 40% down is a common requirement if you want to do an owner build. Custom builds start at around $150 for a basic home and go up from there. Plus land. Figure out if building is a realistic goal for you given the fact that it is so much more costly than buying existing. It's not for everyone.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 2:17PM
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Start with the lot. The plan should be designed to work on the lot. Of course, the type of house you want will also dictate what type of lot you want to be looking for.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 5:23PM
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It all depends on how ambitious you are about creating a well designed house. You would think everyone wants that but some homeowners are more easily pleased than others.

Whatever your ambitions a good design always begins with an analysis of the site. It can't hurt to have an architect selected and walk the site with him/her before buying it. I just did that recently and I advised my client to wait until a better site came on the market. Kind of regretting it now.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 8:18PM
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I agree that the lot will be the biggest indicator of what you can and can't do with a design. You may be able to incorporate some ideas that you already have, but they may not fit. Definitely don't send the plans to an architect before you get the lot. You would be paying for a bunch of unknowns and will most likely need a ton of changes.

A real estate agent who is used to new construction would be a good place to start. Look up land lots for sale, call the agents and see if you like one. That happened to us. Called about a lot that we ultimately didn't buy. But we liked the selling agent. So when we found a lot we liked we called her. She recommended a builder who gave us advice on the lot. We are using him to build now. Found our architect while visiting a newly constructed neighborhood. Found our Loan officer while visiting yet another new construction neighborhood.

Also wanted to say that not all custom homes cost $150. Mine and several others on here who are building high end are under that price. It will depend on your area.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 8:32PM
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Unless you have a specific house that you just MUST build, without a doubt find your lot first. The first rule for real estate - location! location! location! - applies equally to buying existing and building new. Find yourself a good realtor who is familiar with technology and give them your requirements - how much acreage, general location, price, etc. They can set you up in the local MLS to be notified via email whenever anything meeting your criteria hits the market. You will be among the first to know and you can just drive out there and check it out without even bothering your realtor. If your realtor won't do this for you, find another.

We found our 3 acre lot 2 years ago this way, purchased it, paid off that land loan last year, and have been saving for the house ever since. We have enough saved to get started now, so we're starting to settle on certain floorplans and exterior styles. Once we get our heads fully together and agree on the basics, we will be contacting builders. We have been visiting custom builder open houses and speaking to local builders for awhile now, to shorten our preferred builder list.

Just yesterday though, several new parcels of land hit the market so I checked them out. I am always looking to improve on what we already have - and if I find something better, we could sell our current land at any time as it's in a very desirable location.

Since we purchased our land, 4 nearby parcels in the same neighborhood have sold and houses built on 3 of them. The parcels on each side of us have sold and one house is built (they just moved in last month) already. The owner/builder who just moved in next door told me he would have preferred our lot if we hadn't already purchased. So we're really glad we got our land first!

Another benefit is watching the home styles going up in the neighborhood all around us - we are watching closely to the things we like and don't like, and incorporating these (or not!) into our plans.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 12:59PM
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Lot, architect, builder bids, and this is important, in that order. We wasted 2 years perfecting a plan that would not work for us, you can imagine the frustration when you think you have IT only to find out there are too many issues with the build we had been bidding. So, 2 years later we are working on our plan B. Good Luck with finding the perfect location to build your home.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 12:35AM
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Lot first. It ended up taking us nearly 3 years to find one worth the $.

However, as alluded to above, financing plays an important role in the timeline. Paying cash for the lot affords the most flexibility, but sucks up capital. A land loan would offer the same flexibility (with less capital), but raw land loans often carry nasty interest rates. Closing on the lot with a construction loan would be the cheapest route, but the 12mo clock starts ticking at close (which may lead to rushing the all important design phase). YMMV.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 10:29AM
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I think that all three aspects run parallel. You have a dream plan, but how will you know if you can afford it until you sit down with a builder with fairly detailed specifications to discuss an estimate? On the other hand, how can you get preliminary specifications unless you have gone over the plan with a designer/architect? From the book, What Your Contractor Can't Tell You, the inputs from the designer/architect and builder provide information from different angles with the chance of reaching the balance of design and budget greatly improved.

I showed our plan to our builder early in the design process and he pointed out several ideas to bring the cost down. So it was back to the drawing board to incorporate his ideas. My guess is we will have at least two more passes before we get to the final plan. I will admit, though, that our situation is unusual in that we have our builder chosen early in the process.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 9:37PM
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Yes, the lot should be first. There are many reasons: orientation, view (both favorable things to see as well as things to avoid seeing), climate, energy usage, minimum size of house per CCRs, zoning restrictions and buildable envelope,among other considerations. It really is pointless to design a house without a specific lot in mind.

Second would be to find an experienced and compatible architect who does houses (not all architects do). The architect may be able to suggest a general contractor, which would be the third step.

You will want to be sure that the architect is experienced with successful house construction, and that your contractor is experienced working with architects and their drawings/specifications. Check references!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 12:43AM
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