Questions To Ask Before You Build
02/13/2015 08:52AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
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By Jessica Andrus
Take a moment, if you will, and imagine you and your partner are holding a small seed capable of producing something life altering. That seed is the question, “Should we build our own home?”
Now, plant that seed and watch what happens. A bevy of branches sprout out, all holding a new question or concern that needs to be addressed. Can we afford it? Do we have the time for it? Can our relationship handle this? Will we have enough room if our family grows?
Stop. Breathe. The building process can send anyone into a whirlwind. Let this Q&A compilation help you on your journey to answer the small, seemingly simple question. All prospective homebuilders should ask:
Can we afford to build our home?
It should usually be the first question asked and answered. Prices regarding labor and supplies fluctuate throughout the year. For example, if you decide in the spring that you want to start building in the fall, keep in the mind the costs may have increased in the span of a few months.
Along with building costs, you should take into consideration how much it will cost for land appraisal.
“The bank will require a land appraisal and will order it for you,” states Jim McDuff, a home lender at Teche Bank & Trust Co. McDuff has been working in banking for 28 years, with the last five at Teche Bank.
McDuff uses the example of building a 2,000 square-foot home in an up-and-coming neighborhood with a land value of $130 per square-foot. Altogether the land appraisal will value at $260,000. Homes in older neighborhoods will have a cheaper square footage cost.
A good practice to take on is creating a budget estimate. Your budget should include two categories: hard costs—labor and materials—and soft costs—everything else. Items like home furnishings fall into the soft cost category. By doing so, you can plan and control your costs, possibly creating a cushion just in case you run in a problem.
Where should be we build?
The old cliché is true. Location really is everything, especially here in Louisiana. Things to consider are the type of weather the area frequently experiences and your proximity to common amenities, such as grocery stores and schools in the area. Taking the time to research the area you’re interested in will save you the pain and heartache when you realize you built your dream home in a flood zone.
Should we build ourselves or use other builders?
An “owner builder” is an individual who takes the reins of constructing or remodeling their own home. Some people may feel they can handle this task where others feel better relying on a professional. If you want to be an owner builder, keep in mind you’ll be in charge of subcontractors who have years of experience under their belts and different, possibly controlling, personalities that you aren’t accustomed to. Being an owner builder will also be more expensive than just relying on a general contractor. Taking on the role will likely mean dipping heavily into your savings and taking out more loans.
“There are Louisiana state laws that kind of guide people,” states Christin Sellers at Teche Area Builders Association. The organization is a non-profit created to suggest to people and help the public understand about licensed builders.
“There’s a lot of things to be careful about,” warns Sellers. “It’s always best to hire a licensed builder and you have to check and make sure the builder is licensed with the Louisiana State Licensing Board and is insured.”
Just as there are worries about doing this alone, be wary about the professionals you hire. With the same importance that you perform intensive research on the location you want to build, do some research on your builders. Popular and reliable websites like Angie’s List and Yelp give great professional reviews to help you decide who should build your dream home.
Do we have the time to build?
Most custom and elaborate homes take up to a year to complete. Whereas standard cookie cutter homes that we see pop up almost every day take at most eight months. If you’re being kept to a tight schedule, it will probably be in your best interest not to go too wild when building or better yet, rent or buy a home and save the plans for when your schedule has more flexibility.
Can our relationship and lifestyles handle this?
Sometimes the pressures of building a home can delve into personal territory. When deciding to build, both you and your partner need to be on the same page and understand what you both want in your home. Your relationship should be built on a strong foundation. A life-changing project requires a high level of stability and maturity. If it seems like your significant other or even yourself isn’t taking this seriously, it would be best for you to put the idea of building a home together on the back burner for just a while.
Also take into consideration your lifestyle. You may feel comfortable in a small, intimate setting, but your partner may want a large area. Where you feel OK hosting small dinner parties, your partner may enjoy a Great Gatsby-esque bash. Before contacting a contractor and drawing up the plans, try to work out and compromise how the space will be utilized and what will go into your home.
What do I want and what do I need?
Do you need Rachel Zoe’s closet space? Do you need both a gym and sauna room? Do you need a master bathroom that could rival the New Orleans Saints’ locker room? You can live without the extravagant designer bedrooms you have pinned to your “Home Sweet Home” board on Pinterest. When drawing up your house plans, be realistic. There’s nothing more wasteful when building than an under-utilized room.
You and your significant other should go over the plans with a contractor and properly plan out your space. Take into consideration your future plans, and if they include starting a family.
What about our family?
Speaking of family, that’s always a great concern. You may have started having children already or you plan on it after finishing your home. Whatever the case may be, you should plan accordingly. Draw your plans to include ample space for your children, their friends and events they’ll likely have.
Should I take suggestions from friends and family?
As much as we value the opinions of our friends and family, it’s not such a great idea to take their advice on what you should include in your design plans. Where your parents may suggest you build a more traditional-style home and your friends want you to build something more modern and up-to-date, do what you feel is best for you and your family. This is your dream home, not your parents’ or friends’.
Hopefully these questions have helped making your decision to build a little bit easier. So care for your seedling and watch it grow into the home you’ve always wanted.