Builders hear this question a lot. The answer, as with most such questions, is “It depends.” But on what?
People who haven’t built before often have an unrealistic concept of how long it can take to plan, budget, and build a home. Many variables can affect the timetable. Three that stand out are design, permitting, and site work.
A custom home can take months to design and six to nine months or more to build.
Some people see size as the best indicator of how long the project will take. Size is part of the equation. Cost is another. Imagine a pair of 2500-square-foot homes, one for $200,000 and another for $1 million. It’s a good bet that the latter will have a more complex design that will take longer to build.
The legal approvals required before construction begins have multiplied over the years. Signoff will certainly be needed from the zoning board, the building department, the health department, the fire department, road department, ecology and, when building in a planned community, the homeowners’ association. In some areas, design committees, historical commissions, water authorities, or other entities want their say as well. Not surprisingly, the wheels of these bureaucracies can move slowly, but an experienced builder should be able to estimate the time required to negotiate the red tape.
Code requirements also have lengthened the process. For instance, in many jurisdictions, estimates of the home’s heating and cooling loads are now required before a permit is issued.
Is the lot in a flat subdivision with roads and utilities already in place, or is it a sloped rural parcel where the contractor will need to cut a road to the site, then excavate and fill to accommodate the foundation? The second site obviously takes more time (and often requires more permits and approvals).
Keeping on track
Fortunately, there are things the homeowners can do to keep the job moving. These include taking deadlines seriously, providing details on how they will live in the home, and minimizing changes.
Agree on a timetable.
The design process should progress along a prompt timetable. Establishing firm dates during the design is important to assure steady progress. Without firm dates things can slip and moment can be lost. Homeowners should always be sure there’s a date for the next meeting and deadlines for the next steps. Better yet a professional design and build firm will explain the design steps and a firm date when the next will be met. “The plans will be done in a couple of weeks” is vague. Compare that to “The plans will be ready on March 15,” which provides a clear understanding for all parties. Many professional design-build firms will provide a roadmap with significant milestones to help the client to have a better understanding of the design and planning process. The building agreement should also include a completion date for the construction portion of the work.
Think the home through.
The more detailed the plan
, the less chance of hang-ups. For example, vague lighting plans can stop a project in its tracks. If artwork is to be displayed on a wall or above a fireplace, the designer needs to know it in order to specify the correct lighting. If the homeowners don’t drill down to this level of detail until the job is well underway, things can be held up while new wiring is installed or walls and ceilings re-framed to accommodate it. A professional design-build firm will take the time to “walk you through” the plan to help you identify these things, before construction begins.
Change orders are a huge time killer because they require lots of time to plan and coordinate. Changes made late in the design stage can extend design time; those made after project kickoff can extend build time. There are several things a builder can do to lesson the likelihood of needing changes. Read about them here
The bottom line is that, if moving in by a certain date is a priority, the homeowners need to be absolutely clear with the builder about it, and need assurance that the builder is on board. Then the homeowners and builder can plan effectively to meet the date.
Estes Builders is an award-winning design build firm that specializes in custom homes in Western Washington. We have earned more than 130 customer testimonials and a reputation as Western Washington’s most trusted custom home builder. We build custom homes in Sequim, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Port Ludlow, Bainbridge Island, Kingston, Silverdale, Port Orchard and surrounding areas. Contact us for a FREE Project Analysis to discuss your project.