If you love a project you should build a house. It is the mother of all projects, and as with any big project there are lots of things to consider, review and coordinate. The list below is actually a list of categories, within each category there are plenty of decisions to make, but this list will give you the big picture view you need to build a home.
If you are planning to build a house you will need a design. There are two routes to finding a good design. The first is to find an architect or designer that you like, the other is to shop for house plans online. Design is very personal and what works for your neighbor may not be right for you. Listen to your gut and find a designer or plan that feels like a fit. If it’s not a fit, you will likely always feel that something is out of whack.
If you are building you either have a site or will be shopping for a site. Whether it is the middle of an urban neighborhood or in a rural area, make sure the location is right for you, since it is something that can’t be changed. Make sure that it is near the people and things that you want to be near. Being close to people means you are much more likely to see them and being near the things you need means an easy commute, maybe even by bicycle.
3. Additional Structures
When looking for a house plan, think of additional structures you may need and how they might fit on your site. A garage, shed, carport, playhouse, garden or pool will take space. Best to know what additional structures might be in your future so that you are sure you have enough room and can reserve a spot.
Landscaping is one of the items that tends to fall to the bottom of the priority list because it can always be done later. When money is tight, as it often is in a building project, landscaping is usually the last thing on everyone’s mind. The fact is that landscaping can go a long way to helping your new house feel like a home. Getting plants in the ground, with irrigation if you need it, is the finishing touch to a project. If money is tight, consider starting with smaller plants, even if they look tiny today they will be bigger next year and the year after that. You may actually save money by growing them to the larger size you might otherwise have paid for.
5. Aging in place
Most of us would like to age gracefully and die at some far off date. We imagine living in our own homes and never having to move to a place that offers assistance. For some of us, that fantasy isn’t reality because most homes aren’t designed for aging in place. A home that is built for aging in place is easy to navigate and is in a location that makes the daily experience of living easy, or a least doable. Examples of easy navigation include a house without stairs, and doorways that are wide enough to let a wheelchair through. Things that are external to your home that make living easier might include being near a bus line or other forms of public transportation, being near shopping and entertainment, and having helpful neighbors. Simple things can make a big difference.
Houses come in all sizes from big McMansions to tiny little huts. Most of us don’t need or want either, rather it’s somewhere between. Of the two extremes, there is a lot to be said for building a smaller home. On the practical side it costs less to build smaller. That means that being a slave to the mortgage will end sooner than it would otherwise. It might also allow you to buy that nicer lot that you’ve had your eye on.
Building a house is expensive. No ifs, ands or buts, it just is. Each construction project is unique and things don’t always go as planned. Consider holding 10% of your total budget out of the “house budget” for the unexpected. This will give you some cushion and if all goes well it is 10% in your pocket.
8. Find a Good Team
A good team is probably the most important thing for a successful project. A good team will certainly include your contractor, it can also include designers and engineers. Make sure that you are comfortable with all team members and they have the right experience to build your new home. Interview several team members to find the best fit for you. Get recommendations and trust your gut.
Building a durable house costs more money…initially. However, spending money up front for good materials and a good builder who understands how they should be put together will save in fewer repairs down the road. A durable house that lasts 100 years is a sustainable house.
10. Energy Efficiency
It is just as easy to build for energy efficiency as it is to ignore it. Homes that are energy-efficient save you money every day and are more comfortable to live in. Terms to look for when searching for a plan include net zero energy (a house that makes as much energy as it uses over the course of a year), high performance, andpassive house.
This may not seem like a bonus, but it’s offered in the spirit of one. Ask yourself if your marriage or partnership can handle a project this big. With endless decisions to make, money on the line and schedule over runs, building a home can get stressful. Make sure you have a solid foundation, that you can discuss money issues openly and that you have mutual regard and respect for each others decision making ability.