- Meet with an architect to design the house and draw plan, or you may choose to use;
- Pre-packaged plans provided by the general contractor
- Selecting a general contractor or builder (many people are opting to take on this duty themselves, but it takes a lot of effort and research, something we’ll be detailing in a future article)
- Create a construction agreement
- Secure a construction loan
Will you need an architect to design “custom” plans for your house, or will you be choosing plans from several choices your builder might already have, or will you be using pre-packaged plans from one of the many catalogs of building plans?
If you decide to build a truly one-of-a-kind custom house, you’ll need an architect to help you design it and draw plans for it.
This would include its overall orientation to your site as well as designing the interior layout and picking suitable building materials based on what your goals are. Now is the time to make sure your architect understands if building green is important to you, if you want the house situated on the property to take advantage of the sun, etc.
An architect will also help you figure out the types of rooms you require, their size, layout and function. Remember if you are retiring in the Carolinas, be sure to think forward and build the house to support you in the future.
In other words, if the house will serve later as your retirement home, make sure you provide for that in the original design.
If you do a lot of entertaining, have numerous overnight guests (family anyone?), or like to make use of outdoor areas frequently, make sure your architect understands your desires and their purposes.
IMPORTANT…Remember, it is worth it to interview several architects and find out the types, styles, and sizes of the houses they have designed before you sign a contract with them.
Once you’ve selected your architect, now its time for the General Contractor.
Selecting your general contractor (builder) is a very important decision. Do not turn to the yellow pages.
Word of mouth is a great way to find someone reliable and reputable. If you have friends in the area, see if they have any recommendations.
If you are relocating or retiring to North Carolina or South Carolina, be sure to ask your architect who he recommends and with the world of internet today, look for a list of the General Contractors in the area.
Another option is to drive around the area in which you are planning to build to see if you like any of the homes there, or even if some are under construction. If you do, ask the owner who built it, or if a house is under construction, speak to the builder.
If you are speaking with the contractor, ask if you can contact the owner, or if he can have the owner contact you. Contact the local Home Builders Association for a list of builders and their qualifications.
Many areas have local Home Shows which you can attend.
Many planned communities require you pick a builder from a list of builders that build in their community. Once you have a list of general contractors, meet with all of them.
This stage is almost like a first date.
Be sure to ask the difficult questions and get answers BEFORE you decide.
- Ask if they have a current builder’s license in their name
- What their insurance limits are
- Inquire as to whether they are bondable and to what limits
- How long they’ve been in business
- If they have experience in building the type and size of house you have in mind
- How often will the builder meet with you to discuss his progress or any problems?
- Does he have a website from which you can monitor the progress of your house?
- Do not ask for references
- Ask them for the contact information of their last three clients, so they can’t stack the deck with only sterling references.
- Visit several of his houses that are 3-5 years old to see how they have held up.
- Talk to the owners
- How long is their work guaranteed?
If you have instant misgivings about a person, it’s a good idea to find someone else to work with.
When you have a couple general contractors you like, it’s time to start asking for construction bids, based on your building plans.
Do not sign a contract until you have received your construction bid, checked it thoroughly and you may want to ask your architect to review the bid to ensure it lists everything you will need.
Once you have decided upon a contractor, you will have to sign a “construction contract.” A construction contract is put in place to protect you and motivate the contractor, so make sure it does.
Critical points should include such things as what the penalties are for not meeting the agreed upon schedule;
- What happens if tools or equipment left on the site are lost or damaged?
- How does he secure the site during construction?
- Who is responsible to get the building permit and paying the associated fee?
- What happens if someone is injured on the site?
- What if you want to change something while they’re in the middle of building your house?
Make sure the contractor provides you with:
- His insurance certificate
- Names you as an additional insured
- Has a valid workmen’s compensation policy
- Valid building licenses as required by each state
Having an attorney review the contract is a must and well worth it.
Additionally, there are plenty of sample contracts online to get you started.
Many contractors will have their own skeleton forms to start with, but you may want an attorney to draft your own contract to make sure your concerns are covered.
How exciting! Enjoy the process as best you can of building your Carolina Dream Home.
I’ll see You in the Carolinas!
Bob Bencivenga is a professional site locator and location analyst for major corporations.Bob researches the growth of NC and SC to find the Best Places to Retire or Relocate that are still affordable. Bob Does Not Sell Real Estate!
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