Recently we covered all you need to know about buying your own parcel of land. Today we’ll be going over how to plan and start building your dream weekend home. For many New Yorkers, this is the ultimate dream. But it’s a dream that takes a lot of planning, time, and, of course, money. That said, building your own home from the ground up can be an easier way to achieve your ideal living situation. Everything will be designed to meet your unique requirements and provide a safe retreat for you and your family at any time.
Let’s get into the steps on how you can make this difficult but rewarding dream a reality. If you haven’t already, make sure you read part 1 in this article series, as we’ll be starting here from the assumption that you’ve already purchased the land you’ll be building on.
Assemble Your TeamAssemble Your Team
For any build, you’ll need to assemble a team of tried-and-true professionals. Foremost among these will be the architect and builder (if not the same). These people will be your guide throughout the journey. They can point out what’s possible on a given piece and what the difficulties might be. Ideally, you’ll already want to have an architect or builder by your side before you purchase any land. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible as most tend to be booked out well in advance. The sooner you can hire one, the better.
Later down the road, you’ll want to add further members to your team. For instance, you’ll need a kitchen and bathroom designer, maybe an interior designer, and probably a landscape architect who can oversee the creation of a beautiful yard that will compliment your home. Seek referrals and choose your team members carefully. When you start to hit roadblocks, as you inevitably will, you’ll be glad to know you have a competent team in place that can handle any challenges.
Plan, Plan, and Plan Some MorePlan, Plan, and Plan Some More
Anyone’s who’s gone through a build before knows that it’s a lot cheaper to move walls on paper rather than after they’re built. Take plenty of time to develop your plans for the build with your architect. This will mean having to make many decisions along the way about how you want the home to look. Your architect can offer suggestions and draw up plans based on what he thinks you want. But at the end of the day, you have to decide what the final plan will be. Remember, the Devil is in the details, so take your time with this and don’t settle on anything until you’ve explored all the possibilities.
Much of your planning will be based on what the land you’re building on is like. Things like the sun’s orientation, natural views of the surrounding area, proximity to the nearest road, and whether the land is level or sloped will guide the planning stage. Good architects know how to incorporate the natural elements of a site into the build.
Develop a BudgetDevelop a Budget
This step will be worked out in conjunction with the planning phase. The scope of the project must align with the budget. Start with what you can afford and how that fits in with your overall plans for the future. Once you get down to the details, include everything, such as the cost of the land, local fees, taxes, design and engineering fees, materials, labor, and furnishings. Remember to have a sizable contingency to cover those unexpected costs that will undoubtedly appear once construction starts. You will continually return to your budget to update and modify it as you work through the project.
When choosing a contractor to carry out the project, walk a careful line between picking someone affordable and doing excellent work using quality materials. Get references from people who have been satisfied with their contractor and interview at least three of them. From this, you can get a rough idea of what the building costs will be.
Get Your Planning Permits and Building Contracts in OrderGet Your Planning Permits and Building Contracts in Order
Once you have your design plans drawn up, you’ll need to apply for a building permit with your local municipality. In addition to state building codes, each municipality may include its own zoning codes. It is strongly recommended that you contact your local Codes Enforcement officer before you start on any construction. You should also check out the NYS Division of Code Enforcement, which acts as a local government’s model when drawing up their own zoning codes. Your own one may differ in requirements and application process, but this will give you an idea of what to expect.
Some other important paperwork you’ll need is your building contracts with the professionals working on your project. Make sure to get a written and the signed contract made out with each one. This will, at the least, mean a contract with the general contractor/builder, the home designer, and the architect. Each contract should describe the project in detail and include a listing of all the parts that will be used in the construction, known as the “specs.” Spend plenty of time negotiating these specs with your contractor before signing. If any changes are made later to the project, this will require an amendment to the contract.
Survive the ConstructionSurvive the Construction
By now, you’ve probably spent a year or more planning the build, getting your permits, and securing financing. Now it’s finally time to start breaking ground and beginning the construction phase. But don’t think for a second that all your careful planning will save you from all the hiccups and roadblocks that are sure to appear along the way. This is an unavoidable aspect of every build. What’s important is how you and your team react to them. If you’ve done a good job selecting the right team members who can work together and share ideas without criticizing, you’ll already have half the battle won.
Some other tips for staying sane through the construction are:
- Don’t change your mind on a whim – Remember all that careful planning you did? That was all so that you won’t feel compelled to change your mind once construction starts. It’s normal to have doubts as construction proceeds but don’t let them change your design plans on a whim. All it usually leads to is lost money and a few sessions of therapy.
- Accept that mistakes will happen – Houses are a bit like sausages in that they’re not something you should ever want to see made in front of you. It’s a messy process, and there will be mistakes. Unless they’re of dire nature, trust that your contractor will be able to rectify them and deliver a glossy new home at the end of the job.
- Take breaks from the build – Give yourself permission to decompress from the project and take some time away from it. Unless something totally unforeseen pops up, your builder can handle things for a day or two. Use this time to do something fun or relaxing that will take your mind off things.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
The ordeal of buying land and building your own home will tire out even the most committed people. It brings a great deal of disruption to your life and the lives of those around you. You’ll spend many long nights going over design plans for the hundredth time, dealing with sudden emergencies, and, if you’re married, overcoming the marital disputes that always come with a home build. But if you can get through all that, you’ll have something to truly call your own by the end, a weekend home designed to the unique specifications that will serve you and your family well for many years down the line. With a prize like that in-store, nearly any hoop is worth jumping through.
Just be sure that it’s something you really want before you start. On doing some research, you may decide that it’s less hassle to buy a pre-existing home or a newly constructed one that’s been built “on-spec.” Either one can be an easier solution to having your own weekend home. Take all the time you need to decide on what’s best for you and your family.