Whether you’re building a simple starter home or the ultimate abode, new home construction contains many unknowns and can be overwhelming—especially if you’re unsure where to start or experience a hiccup in the planning process. Depending on square footage, weather conditions, and the availability of workers and supplies, the construction of a new home can take anywhere from three months to over a year.
We’ll help you better understand the steps in building a house with a construction timeline, FAQs, and home automation suggestions. From shopping for the lot of your dreams to move-in day, read on to learn about the major steps you’ll encounter while building a home.
Q: Prefer paper? Download a PDF of our New Home Construction Questionnaire.
Things to Consider When Building a New Home
Building a home is a big deal, and from time to time, important notes or questions can get lost along the way. To help you out, we compiled a comprehensive list of things to consider when assessing your new home construction timeline.
Determining What Matters: First Steps
- Determine whether you want to begin with a design or the lot.
- Check your credit score before applying for financing.
- Establish your criteria for an architect, real estate agent, and contractors.
- Always vet and research the teams you might be working with.
- Utilize resources like Angie’s List or your local classifieds.
- Acquire multiple quotes for your dream home.
- Weigh your priorities regarding location.
- Walk the neighborhood that you’re looking to build in.
- Ask your builder if the lot will require additional expenses such as septic, internet, or electricity hook-ups.
- Establish a consistent and easy-to-record way to communicate with your builder, architect, or contractor to ensure they maintain ownership of changes, roles, and responsibilities.
- Safeguard build-related documents. These items may contain sensitive information. Try utilizing any of the Safewise-approved storage solutions.
Communication Styles and Considerations
- Building a new home can be a trying experience. And if you’re building the house with a significant other, make sure the two of you are on the same page in terms of decision making.
- Consider your availability. You may or may not have a flexible schedule, so establish with your agent, builder, or contractor what your availability is to discuss the build.
- If issues arise unexpectedly and require your immediate attention, delegate a specific point person (you or your significant other) who can answer those calls.
- Do you like the communication style of the architect, builders, and contractors? You should feel comfortable voicing your opinion; after all, this is your home! If you don’t, perhaps reconsider working with that team.
- Always hold those involved accountable for actions, promises, or changes.
Setting Your Expectations
- In a perfect world, your house would be built in a timely fashion and no hiccups would occur. However, realistically, the building process is bound to experience some complications, and mishaps can be incredibly frustrating. When you do start, keep in mind factors that could impact the build. For example, is the ground still frozen solid when the foundation is slated to be poured? Or are you beginning to build in the middle of the rainy season?
- Ultimately, local building permits and zoning laws will dictate project specifics and how a contractor can turn your dream home into a reality.
- After considering everything, determine if your completion date is reasonable.
“My best advice to anyone looking at new construction: Stick to your budget, be patient and talk it through.” —Michael Montoya, Zillow Porchlight
Tip: Check the Local Home Improvement Store
If you’re the do-it-yourself type, you can easily get started—or get ideas—by taking a walk at your local home improvement store.
Roles and Responsibilities
Problems are bound to pop up, and those obstacles are often better managed when you understand who is supposed to do what and why.
Homeowners: Visionaries, Decision Makers, and Communicators
It’s your responsibility to know what you can afford and to articulate the aspects of the house you particularly care about, as well as the ones that are less important to you.
Real Estate Agents: Land Wranglers and Closers
Real estate agents assist in purchasing the parcel of land as well as the closing of the house.
Contractors, Builders, and Construction Managers: The Dream Team
These are the folks that make your dreams come true. Not only does a construction manager supervise and guide the build, they also keep the team and build on schedule. However, keep in mind components that might impact the build process—some are just out of your control.
Lenders: Money Movers
This role is pretty straightforward. Lenders ensure you have the money to purchase a lot and build a house.
Architects and Designers: Artists and Creators
This is a multi-disciplinary role that not only designs a house according to the clients’ requests but also ensures that the space and structure comply with local building codes. The architect or designer also coordinates and oversees construction and subcontractors, also known as trades.
Engineers: Logistics Guru
Engineers are involved throughout the whole build, specifically in relation to safety, plumbing, and electricity. They assess limitations and ensure that the structure and system are up to code, cost-effective, and practical.
Specialty Contractors: Tradesmen
These are trade-specific contractors, like HVAC technicians, electricians, painters, roofers, etc. They’ll be handling the particular job you hired them for.
Inspectors: Pretty Important People
Inspectors review the designs prior to the actual build. They also periodically check in to ensure that local laws, codes, and ordinances are obeyed up until the very end of the build.
Enjoy Some Light Reading
SafeWise Top Pick
Best for a simple introduction to home building
Timeline to Build a House
At some point in this process, you’ve probably asked yourself, “How long does it take to build a house?” The timeline largely depends on the different stages, but things like weather, materials, and worker availability can also impact the process. However, if all goes according to plan, your timeline should look similar to the following:
Designing Your Home
Prior to Build
Before you do anything, you’ll need to find a pre-designed plan or an architect to design your home. This is where you’ll see how far your dollars will go and what it will take to make your dreams come true.
In this stage, you should figure out answers to questions like, “How many square feet do we want or need?”, “Should the master bedroom face east or west?”, and, “Do we want all bedrooms on the second floor?” Hammer out all of these details in this phase to set yourself up for satisfaction in your new home.
Keep in mind that custom builds can take longer than a pre-designed house. One way to ensure you don’t get too overwhelmed or absorbed by the design portion of the process is to remember your end goal. Ask questions like “Am I building this home with my family or extended family in mind?” or “Will I want to sell or rent this house at any point?”
Now is also the time to talk to an interior designer if you don’t plan on doing the decorating yourself. They’ll be able to tell you about prints, textures, finishes, and more that will make your home come together. Don’t forget necessary items like carbon monoxide detectors and fire and smoke detectors. As aesthetically obtrusive as they can be, they’re an important safety facet of your home.
Not sure where to start the brainstorming process for your new home? Again, Angie’s List is a great resource as it specializes in providing users with real reviews, background checks, and more about companies. Whether you’re looking for a contractor, designer, or architect, you can count on Angie’s List to find you a reliable person.
Purchasing a Lot
Prior to Build
No matter if you’re going for a lot that’s in a housing development or a piece of property secluded on 100 acres, you’ll need to purchase land before you can build. This can happen during the home design process or before. It’s important that you allocate part of your budget to your land purchase.
In order to budget wisely, shop around for lots. See what the going rate is per acre and by neighborhood. Make sure the house design will fit properly on your lot and ensure your lot is zoned for the kind of property you want to build.
These are all great conversations to have with your architect. They’ll know the zoning laws and building height restrictions of nearby areas and can point you in the right direction. Additionally, this is an opportune time to ask the architect or builder about potential added expenses, like septic tanks or power.
To start shopping, check out real estate websites like Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia. You can search by very specific requirements—including lots of land—so it’ll be an easy place to start.
Once this stage starts, you can pass the torch to the experts. Everything will be set in stone as far as the look and construction of your home, and that barren plot of land you’ve purchased will be prepped and ready to become the site of your new home. Keep in mind that site prep can be impacted by weather conditions and other incidents like added expenses.
It can be exhilarating to see the rough shape of your home on your property for the first time. Expect a lot of back hoes and heavy equipment to come with this stage. Workers will be busy clearing, excavating, and leveling the lot according to your architect’s plan. Then, they’ll outline the footprint of your home with stakes.
The “Three Fs”
The “three Fs” stand for footings, foundation, and framing. You’ll hear your contractor talk about “pouring the footers”, and that entails pouring concrete to support your home’s foundation. Once footers are in place and have passed inspection, the workers will pour the concrete slab of your foundation. Then, your home will have a stable structure for framing.
As the name implies, the floors, walls, and roof will be “framed” out with wood. You can think of this as the skeleton of your home. Once framing is complete, an inspector will come out again to verify that everything has been done to code. After that, exterior finishes like plywood and house wrap will be applied to seal off the inside from the outside.
This stage requires major structural work. Keep in mind that delays might happen if the weather is too wet for concrete to set or failed inspections lead to longer construction time.
Now that your home has its basic structure, workers can begin filling it with the things that make it function and look like a home. Experts will install important mechanicals like heating and cooling units, plumbing lines, and electrical systems. Once that work is done, workers will begin to close up the walls with insulation and drywall. The next time you walk into your home, it’ll look much cleaner. In most cases, the drywall will be sanded and primed, and it might even be painted.
If you’re interested in a home security system, solar panels, or home automation devices (like a smart thermostat, smart outlets, or smartbulbs), this is the time to incorporate them and consider the wiring, voltage, or power system that best supports them. Many builders can prewire your home for a security system for an additional cost. You won’t have to choose a provider when they do so. Opting for this service will simply provide you with the wiring you’ll need to install a home security system down the line.
Flooring and Paint
Up until this point, all you’ll see on your home building site is a lot of concrete, wood, insulation, drywall, and wires. This is the phase where your home will start to look more like one. Flooring will be going in, cabinets will be hung, and the pretty stuff like trim and mouldings will be installed during this period. Most homeowners will smile at this stage since the site will finally look like the drawings your architect showed you months ago.
Choosing flooring is one of the bigger decisions you’ll make for this stage. Determining your lifestyle, style, and budget will help guide you. For instance, genuine hardwood floors are gorgeous but are prone to scratching and staining, and they come with a large price tag. If you like the look but need better durability, then tile or engineered hardwood might be a better bet. There are also funky solutions like dyed concrete that add an artistic and industrial flare to homes. This is all up to you, but consider all flooring materials before you pick one. It’ll be much harder to change your mind once everything is moved in!
Fixtures, Appliances, and Smart Home Additions
Delivery trucks will make frequent stops at your home during this end stage. That’s because now is the time when subcontractors (sometimes referred to as “trades”) install faucets, countertops, light fixtures, plugs, and appliances. The front of your yard will also be undergoing massive transformation if you’ve purchased landscaping services.
You will have been asked to choose these finishings long before they are delivered. Don’t delay the move-in date by changing your mind last minute or waiting too long to commit. There are so many tools out there to help you with the overall design of your home. If you’re doing it yourself instead of hiring a designer, check out HGTV.com or Young House Love for some great ideas.
Here are some other design resources to help you decide what to do with your home’s interior and exterior:
- Pinterest has a whole section dedicated to DIY and Home Décor.
- Apartment Therapy has a lot of user-generated and expert advice about how to transform your home.
- Better Homes and Gardens covers all kinds of design projects, from plotting out an epic backyard garden to setting up a cozy living room.
- Houzz is a one-stop shop for all your design needs. It connects you with designers and other home professionals. Houzz provides you with advice about home decorating. The website even shows you where to shop to find certain items.
As the finishing touches are put on your home, now would be a good time to install specific home automation devices, like smart doorbells or smart locks. Not only will these items help keep you safe, they also provide an element of control, both remotely and while you’re at home. After all, considering how much time and money you’ve put into building your new home, why not take the extra step in home security?
The last few weeks of your home-building timeline will be a whirlwind of emotion and small details. You’ll be excited, but you probably will want to know if it will all come together in time for closing.
Although you’ll be anxious to occupy your home, be absolutely sure all of your questions and concerns have been addressed before you head to settlement. That way, loose ends will be tied up, the small details of your home will be completed, and your home will be cleaned in anticipation of your arrival.
The moment you’ve been waiting for, closing, will be the best. There are just a couple things you’ll need to do before you formally close and move in.
After your home is complete, do a “walk through” of the home. In addition to inspecting it and making a “punch list” of things you want the builder to correct, take note of its features and learn how to work add-ons like the home security network. This is also a time when you can think about how to integrate more safety into your home. Walk the property and view the home through the lens of a burglar, meet your neighbors, and determine where you need better lighting. Consider security additions like security cameras, motion sensor lights, and window and door sensors. Once you’re done with all of this, you can close, get the keys to your new home, and enjoy every last detail.
Now that you’ve gotten a better idea of the home-building process, is it still something you want to do? If you’re open to a flexible schedule and unforeseen incidents, it’s a great option to get a home that is 100% you.
We’ll leave you with one piece of advice: One of the best ways to stay on track with your home-building timeline is to communicate your needs and wants clearly from the start. Before you build, consider if you’d like your home wired for a security system or want to have one installed post-construction. To find out more about home security options, give the SafeWise system finder tool a try.
Q: What comes first: The lot or the house design?
A: The two go hand in hand. We recommend establishing which (the lot or the house) you have more of a preference for since the design and build is dependent on the kind of lot you choose. Remember, what you can afford dictates what and where you can build.
Q: Should I get homeowners insurance before breaking ground?
A: Absolutely. Additionally, make sure that general liability insurance is instated before breaking ground. You can provide general liability, or you can work with a fully insured builder. Check to see if workers’ compensation insurance is instituted too.
Q: Do architects and builders have subcontractors on staff?
A: Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But they’ll surely have recommendations.
Q: I’ve heard murmurings of “tap fees.” What are these?
A: This is a fee that covers the cost of a service installation, such as a water access tap, water meter, excavation, or paving. These fees can be expensive, so be prepared to ask about them upfront.
Q: What’s the benefit of home automation?
A: Home automation puts control directly in your hands, assists in overall efficiency, streamlines your life, and can ultimately save you money. Imagine if you could control temperature, adjust the lights, or start your coffee maker via a smart hub without even having to get out of bed in the morning.
New Home Construction Questionnaire
This checklist will help you stay on track with the estimated timeline when you build a new house. Print it out for a hands-on reference.
- Do you have a filing cabinet or storage space for build-related documents?
- Do you have extra copies your blueprint plan or custom design?
- Have you double-checked your credit report?
- Have you established a lender?
- Have you purchased a parcel of land?
- Does your land require added expenses, such as a water tap?
- Have you identified subcontractors, specialists, and builders?
- Have you obtained building permits and insurance?
- Do you have a start and completion date?
- Do you have a tentative setup date for hookups?
- Have you identified appliances, smart home devices, cosmetic addendums, and other necessities?
- Are you doing any landscaping?
- Do you have an inspection scheduled?
- Have you purchased a home security system?
- Are you doing any home automation?
- Have you researched rebates for home automation?
- Have you notified your internet and other providers of your change in address?
- Have you patted yourself on the back?