Welcome to my new series on what it’s really like to build a custom home. I am going to walk you through the entire process from start to finish. I’ll be sharing with you the good, the bad, and the ugly! I learned a lot building this house from the ground up. It’s been a lot of fun for me and I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned!
The first question I get asked a lot is where do you even start? When we were in the process of moving down to the Gulf Coast, I came down to look at houses. We knew we wanted something with a little bit of land but it had to have high speed internet. I quickly realized that this was going to be hard to find down here. The houses that did meet these requirements needed a lot of work!
I knew that it would cost anywhere from 50-100k to modernize these houses and the prices they were asking for were already high. So we quickly decided to start looking at some land and talk to a builder.
Our realtor, Merry Guttierez, actually introduced us to our builder David of McKee Homes. I immediately liked David and knew that he was a good guy and he was willing to work with us (read a picky designer who would have an opinion on everything that went into this house!!). We found a 2.5 acre lot in a neighborhood we liked and the building process began.
** A little note on lots. We chose a lot that is below the flood zone after hurricane Katrina. Because of this we had to build our house up 6 feet. That ended up costing us an extra 25,000. We weren’t expecting that but I would rather pay to built the house up now than pay a lot of money in flood insurance every year! So just be sure to ask your realtor and builder if they for see any problems with building on that particular lot!!**
Over half of people looking to build a custom home already have their own land. Whether that’s family land or somewhere in Arizona where they have been planning to retire! Either way, really understanding the land you own and what entails building a house on it can really help avoid any budget surprises later on.
Now that we had a lot and a builder, the real work began. In the Interior Design world, the first phase of any project is called Programming. That’s just a fancy word for figuring out who we’re designing for and what they need!
This is a very important part of the process and shouldn’t be skipped. You really want to sit down and think about these things.
I know what you’re saying now-that’s great Mandie. I know what I want in a house but how in the heck do I design a house??? We drove around and visited several other house’s our builder had built. We fell in love with one style and floor plan in particular. He gave me a copy of those plans and then I went and changed everything! :)
Seriously, this is a good time to hire a designer if the house doesn’t exactly meet your needs. I liked the overall feel of the house but knew we needed to make some changes. I spent 3 months redoing the floor plans. It was truly a collaborative process between me and the builder.
You should never end up with the original plans you start with. The whole point of building a custom home is to make it custom to you! You need to keep imagining yourself in the space. Think about what purpose that room needs to serve. Where do the windows need to be? How high should the ceilings be? Is there an adjoining bathroom? What about closet size?
It’s a lot. I know. Which is why this part takes so long. You really should spend a lot of time thinking about this. It’s way easier to make changes in this phase than it is once framing has begun!
I also get a lot of questions on how much does it cost to build a custom home and how long does it take? The cost really comes down to your budget. You can build a 200,000 dollar home or a million dollar home. The average cost in Mississippi is around 150 sq/foot. Now is that expensive to build a custom home? No, I don’t think so. Now, if you’re someone who doesn’t really care about finishes or you’re fine with a track home that looks like everyone else's then no it’s probably not worth it to you.
As far as how long it takes to build? It can take anywhere from 7-9 months or in our case a year. It honestly depends on mother nature. We had a very active hurricane season this past year and it delayed us quite a bit. I do however recommend that you insist the builder give you an end date in any contract you sign. We had originally said we would be in our house 7 months after building was supposed to start. Of course, like I said, mother nature had other plans so we had to push that back two months.
These things happen and that’s okay. What you don’t want to end up happening is there is no end date and you’ve got a builder who’s just dragging out the whole process and there’s no end in sight.
Once plans have been finalized and contracts have been signed and permits have been issued, the foundation can be poured! That’s a happy day! Stayed tuned for next months post on developing the overall concept for your house as well as construction tips!