So... you’ve been dreaming of building your dream home for quite some time. You’ve saved your money, you’ve been looking at lots, and your Pinterest board is fully stocked with brilliant photographs showing exactly how your kitchen is going to look. But how do you get that beautiful Pinterest kitchen to have that perfect view of the lake on your perfect lot? How are you going to make sure that you have all the rooms and storage space that your current home is lacking? And how are you going to make sure your project meets code and local restrictions while still creating the ambiance you’ve dreamed about? There is a process to getting there and following these steps will get you there and keep a smile on your face.
1. Buying a plot of land
The first step is to pick your plot of land. A few things to look for before you sign the dotted line.
a.) Check with the local municipality to determine the buildable footprint, setbacks, height restrictions, and zoning for your lot. These restrictions are useful when determining if the lot is buildable.
b.) Is there Code Covenants and Restrictions (CC&R’s) that cover this property? Is there a strict Home Owner’s Association (HOA)? Often properties with strict CC&R’s or HOA restrictions have a significant impact on the way the home is designed and the way it will look. HOA’s often contain restrictions on building heights, paint colors, and materials that are allowed on your home.
c.) Your property with all it has to offer and with all of its limitations serves as the canvas for your new home. Your design team should take advantage of its views, topography, and setting to create a space that works for you but that stays within the restrictions set by the local authorities.
2. Obtain a survey and geo-technical report
An alta survey of your lot will give both you and your design team a lot of information about your property. A survey shows the existing property line (which isn’t always where the neighbors fence is built). It shows topography, site features, and easements that have been placed on your lot. Easements are areas which you will not be able to build for various reasons. If there are easements they are typically utility easements which are necessary for utility workers to service above ground or underground utilities.
Obtain a geo-technical report. A geo-technical report shows the local soil conditions. This allows your design team to best locate the home on the lot by avoiding unsuitable soils. A geo-technical report is also used by the structural engineer to size the structural footings appropriately.
If you’re buying from a developer chances are they already have a survey and geotechnical report for your lot, but you might have to ask.
3. Consult with an architect
Find an architect that will work with you, your schedule, and your goals. The design and construction process is often a very long process and can be bumpy at times. Make sure you feel comfortable with your design professional, their ability to solve problems, and their design approach.
Make sure you hire a qualified and licensed architect. A good resource for locating local licensed architects is the American Institute of Architects (AIA) www.aia.org. Licensed architects and those that are a part of the AIA go through rigorous training and are held to the highest level of quality standards. Your architect will become your go-to-person for everything regarding your project. Architects are well versed in local code restrictions and are experience with working within them. Your architect will work with you to design a home that fits your physical and financial needs and that works with your lot and your goals. A good architect will care about the small details, even the view from your kitchen window.
4. Find a contractor
Your Architect should also be able to point you in the direction of qualified contractors. After the design and construction drawings are done, your architect will send the drawings to at least three qualified contractors to obtain competitive bids. Like with your architect, interview your potential contractor’s, walk through one of their projects, make sure you are comfortable with them and that they understand the vision for your new home. Sometimes the lowest bid isn’t always worth the “potential” cost savings. Often the low bidder will find ways to make up for his low bid through change orders once the construction has started. Choosing a qualified and quality contractor will be a decision you will not regret.
5. Build your dream home
Every project is going to have its ups and downs but if you have a good design team and a great contractor your dream home should come into reality with little to no hiccups. Throughout the construction process your architect, you, and your contractor should meet and discuss the project regularly to avoid cost and schedule over runs.
You’ve worked hard to obtain your dream home and the process of designing and building it should be just as wonderful. A good lot and qualified professional are the key to making that dream home a reality.
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