Thinking about building a custom home on Florida’s West Coast, or just thinking about building one in general? If you’re like most people, the idea sounds wonderful—a dream come true—but it may also feel somewhat overwhelming. You probably have many questions about the planning and development process and the amount of time it will take to finish your new home.
In a quick overview, the whole design–build process typically takes 12–15 months, including design, permitting and construction. Construction alone typically takes 7–9 months, with design time being 4–5 months. Here’s a quick overview on the timeline.
If you’re not a cash builder, you’ll need to secure a construction loan. You don’t actually need the money up front to begin the design process, but it is smart to get prequalified with an experienced lender before you set off on your custom home building journey. Meet with a few lenders and discuss your goals and your budget. Let them know that you’d like to purchase land, secure a construction loan, and then finally obtain a permanent loan for your home after the construction is complete.
Your lender will let you know what information is needed for you to prequalify for a loan and will also help you determine how much money you can borrow and how much cash you’ll have to contribute to your upcoming project. Depending on how quickly you can compile the data and documentation for the lender, most banks can issue a pre-qualification letter within a matter of days or in a worst case scenario, a few weeks. If you’re not sure how much a custom home costs or how much you should budget for your project, check out How to Budget for a Custom Home.
Once you have financing in place, you can then really begin searching for the perfect piece of land to build your new home on. Finding the right lot for your dream home could happen in as short as a month, or you could be on the hunt for months, or even years, before you find “the right one.”
We suggest hiring a real estate agent who is familiar with the land market in your area and who has access to unlisted or pre-listed parcels. If you are working with a good agent, you could be looking at land within a few days and maybe even making an offer or writing a contract in the first few weeks. This is the main reason that you want to have your financing secured before you start looking for land—you will be able to act as soon as you find the right lot without the risk of the right one getting away.
A typical escrow period for land (the time between going under contract and closing) is about 30 to 45 days. Make sure that you negotiate enough time to do proper due diligence (soil testing, well permit, utilities and easement assessments, etc.) before closing. Involving your builder is highly recommended in this process because then he or she can advise you on the site conditions, utility infrastructure, and overall suitability for building. If you’re starting to look for land but not sure how to access a buildable lot checkout our Land-Buying Checklist to help you know what to look for and what questions to ask. It would be a horrible scenario to close on a lot only to find that it’s unbuildable for your budget.
Now that you have financing lined up and the perfect lot to build on, the next step is to come up with the perfect design. The planning and designing stage can be broken down into floor plan design, site planning and engineering, materials and finish selections, and lastly, estimating and budgeting. The truth is, the planning process is probably more important than the building process. A detailed, well-thought-out project will be easier and faster to build and will result in fewer changes and fewer time-consuming mistakes or costly redos. Our planning and design phase typically looks like this:
Step 1: Needs and wants discovery meeting, resulting in a project summary (1 to 2 weeks).
Step 2: Sign the design agreements.
Step 3: Floor plan and architectural phase reviews (6 to 10 weeks).
Step 4: Site planning and engineering along with materials and finish selections (4 to 6 weeks).
Step 5: Budgeting and estimating (3 to 4 weeks).
Total planning and design timeline: 14 to 22 weeks (4–5 months)
Our design process culminates with a budget review meeting in which we review the full design package: plans, selections, schedules, and budget. As soon as we sign the construction agreement to build what we just designed, two things will then happen simultaneously: 1) We provide the plans, specifications, budget, and contract to the lender, who then orders a pre-construction appraisal. The lender will then do their final underwriting and prepare the loan to close. 2) We submit for all permits, including the building permit, demolition permit (where applicable), and the septic permit (where applicable). This process usually takes 30 to 45 days.
The building timeline can vary depending on the season, weather conditions, site conditions, along with size and complexity of the project, but is typically 6 to 9 months from breaking ground to moving in depending on supply chain performance and overall macro economic environment.
Delays, both avoidable and unavoidable, can occur during any construction project. Although we plan our schedule carefully to minimize delays, the timeline for your new home might be extended due to:
Changes are a natural part of the building process. After all, it’s not always easy to imagine how a certain feature will look or fit into your new home, even if you’ve seen floor plans and drawings. Although most builders are typically happy to make any changes you want (for a fee), change orders delay the building process and add to your costs. The more change orders you place, the longer it may take to finish your home. Always be sure that your builder includes any additional time needed in each change order proposal. Time is money and a few extra months of paying on your construction loan or renting a home while waiting for yours to be move in ready should be taken into consideration with change orders. Seeing this time delay on the change order front end helps mitigate blame and friction for potential project delays.
Location is the one thing you can’t change about your new home. If you decide you need more space five years from now, you can always add on to your house. Upgrading the style of your home is just as easy. Should design trends for kitchens in custom homes change in a few years, it will be fairly easy to renovate the space. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do if you decide you don’t like your home’s location. If you have very specific requirements in mind for your new property, it may take a little while to find a lot that checks all of the boxes on your list. Find a real estate team that enjoys a challenge and will work tirelessly to help you find the perfect spot to build your new home.
Financing troubles may delay the start of the building process. Problems are easy to avoid by making sure that you have a good credit score before you start talking to home builders. Realtor.com offers a few tips that can help you improve your credit score in the months before you plan to buy a home, including fixing credit report errors, paying debts and opening new lines of credit.
Despite satellites and modern weather forecasting technology, it’s not always easy to predict the weather, particularly months in advance. Drenching rains that cause flooding, or snow, hurricanes, rain and wind storms could delay the construction of your new home by a day to a few weeks or more. Luckily, most of our homeowners are never affected by prolonged weather delays.
Your new home might also be delayed by manufacturing or transportation issues and or freight delays. Depending on just how important the delayed product is, construction may only be minimally affected. For example, if the special order sink for your guest bathroom will take longer than expected to arrive, work can still continue on the other parts of the room. Unfortunately, if your kitchen floors can’t be installed as planned, the installation of the cabinets, counters and appliances will also be delayed. It’s important that your builder properly forecasts all materials orders and while having their mind wrapped around product lead times from the start to keep you on schedule.
If you’ve ever lived in a cookie-cutter home that looked just like the other houses on the street, you’re probably already convinced that building a custom home is a good idea. Although cookie-cutter homes can certainly be comfortable, they’re designed using the one-size-fits-all approach and the trouble is, your idea of the perfect home may be very different from your neighbors, and personally, we don’t believe in living the same exact reality as everyone else in the neighborhood.
When you live in a newly built or existing home that’s just like every other home in your neighborhood, you learn to make life compromises. So maybe the kitchen is bland or the family room only offers an impressive view of your neighbor’s backyard, at least you’ve got a huge walk-in closet in your bedroom, right? We believe that every single life is unique and that every life experience too, is unique.
Compromises are unnecessary when you build a custom home. You can get every single feature you’ve been envisioning since you first started thinking about your dream house. Do you want a two-story family room with a stunning stone fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows? Maybe you’d prefer a home that’s big enough to fit your entire family for the holidays yet still feels cozy. No matter what your preferences, your design–build team should help you turn your visions into your reality.
Are you ready to make the move to a custom home in the Tampa Bay or St. Petersburg, Florida area? Contact us today to learn more about our design and build process.