Building a house tailored to your vision of what a home should be won’t be as intimidating when you understand the process, plan thoroughly and enlist experienced professionals.

This step-by-step guide to custom home building walks you through the process from planning your dream home to moving in!

The guide begins with an outline and moves to a more detailed description of how to build a custom home.

Big Picture Planning and Land

Spacious three-bedroom home by Turner & Son Homes

There are four questions to answer in the first phase of the project.

The answers will give you a clear path to designing and building your home.

  • What is your home building budget?
  • When do you want to break ground?
  • What style home do you want?
  • What parcel of land has the right location, features, size and cost?

Creating Home Design to Fit your Lifestyle

When designing your own home, every option is on the table. That’s one of the daunting aspects of the second phase of home building.

But it can be very exciting too – choosing all the details from room sizes and floor layouts, to cabinets and countertops to the way you want to heat and cool your home.

And remember, there are pros in every area of home design and building to help you make decisions you will be happy with in the years to come.

Here are the considerations for home design:

  • Determine the home size and structure you want – a decision impacted by your budget and land costs.
  • Choose floorplan layout, open vs. segmented or a blend of both
  • Decide on the rooms you want
  • Select an HVAC system type

Choosing Professionals and Bringing your Dreams to Life

This phase includes hiring the right people for the project plus all the steps from breaking ground to moving into your completed custom home.

  • Hire a custom home builder/general contractor
  • Hire an architect to get the plan down on paper
  • Get needed permits and insurance
  • Finalize a construction loan, if needed
  • Monitor the building process
  • Hire a landscaping contractor for sod, trees and bushes
  • Plan a move-in date, and line up the mover if needed
  • Get the Occupancy Permit once the final inspections are passed
  • Convert your construction loan to a mortgage
  • Move into your new home

Now that we have an outline of the process, let’s fill in the details step by step.

Phase 1: Planning a Custom Home and Finding Land

Success in this phase will result in building a home on time, within budget and in a location that fits your home and lifestyle.

There’s more on timeframe below, but you should begin this planning phase 9-18 months before you want to move into your completed home.

Taking time to explore options and get comfortable with what you really want in a custom home will result in decisions you’re happy with once the home is complete.

Your Budget and How it is Allocated

Your budget will cover all aspects of the planning and building project. This includes:

  • Land: The spectrum of average cost ranges from $10,000 for an acre or two in the country to $20,000 to $100,000 for neighborhood lots. Parcels with significant acreage can come with even higher price tags.
  • Engineering fees: $1,000-$5,000 or more. If needed, an engineer will determine the proper location for the home, well and septic and what type drain field is required given the soils and water table.  The seller often has this work done prior to listing the property.
  • Site plan fees: $100-$750 based on who creates the site plan. A site plan shows where the home, driveway, walkways, well/septic or water/sewer lines will be located and other modifications.
  • Building permit: $1,000 to $4,000 or more depending on location and the size of the home you’re building.
  • Architectural fees: $2,000 to $4,500 for most projects.
  • The home builder/general contractor fee for overseeing the project: 10%-15% of the total budget
  • Materials and labor to build the home: $90 to more than $225 per square foot based on construction factors, the quality of the materials and the cost of living in your area.

Financial experts have modified their recommendation of spending about 30% on housing to spending 50% all fixed costs like mortgage, car loans, phones, cable/dish and other monthly bills.

  1. Determine your available cash resources or equity in a home you’re selling.
  2. Meet with a loan specialist, if getting a loan, to determine what size loan and monthly payments you can afford.
  3. Get pre-approved for the loan. Ultimately, the building loan will be converted to a home mortgage, unless it is paid off by the equity in a home you sell.
  4. Allocate your total budget. The more you spend on land, the less you’ll have for a home. Evaluate your priorities. Is it more important to be in a neighborhood close to shopping, work or schools, so a small lot is OK? Or would a larger spread outside town fit your lifestyle better?

Consider your Timeframe

A few timing considerations include:

  • Freezing  or wet weather: If severe cold or heavy rains are an issue where you live, delays are possible. If the home is dried in (framed, roofed and sided) before bad weather hits, the builder can complete the inside regardless of weather.
  • Kids: If you have kids that will be changing schools, moving during summer is less disruptive.
  • Leases: If you’re currently leasing, moving into your home near or at the end of the lease is best. If you’ve rented for more than a year and can’t perfectly time the move-out date, ask if you can go month to month until your custom home is ready.

Decide What Style Home You Like

Long before you meet with an architect, start exploring your options.

This can’t be stressed enough. The longer you’ve pondered the “perfect” home for you, the easier decisions about style, materials and components will be. And the more likely it will be that you will be happy with the home you eventually build.

There are ways to review home styles and floor plans to get a feel for what you want.

  • Check out a local Parade of Homes
  • Drive through neighborhoods in your area
  • Browse home plans on Pinterest or on websites dedicated to plans – search “home plans” or “house plans” to find them
  • Have a design consultation with an interior designer
  • Take a Style Quiz like this one from Bed, Bath & Beyond

Choose and Buy Land

The land must accommodate the style of home you desire, or you’ll have to modify the design.

Important considerations include:

  • Is it large enough to accommodate the size home you intend to build?
  • Is it close enough to work, shopping, schools, recreation, etc.?
  • Does its contour allow a walkout basement to the rear or side?
  • Are homes in the neighborhood or area on par with the one you’ve planned?
  • What direction does it face – where is the sun – and how will that affect home design?
  • Are neighboring homes too close? Too far?

Phase 2: Decide on Home Design Essentials

Attention to detail is important in this phase. Success will result in the design of a home tailored to your decorative preferences and the way you live.

Here is where you narrow your design choices before meeting with an architect and perhaps an interior designer to create plans the builders will use to construct the home.

Decisions to make involve:

Total square footage vs quality of materials: Given the same budget, you can build a larger home with more affordable materials, a smaller house with premium materials or a home somewhere in the middle.

Design upgrades including skylights, fireplaces, bay/bow or oversized windows will impact this balance too.

Home levels: Two-story homes give you the most bang for your buck due to less foundation and roofing for the number of square feet. Disadvantages include stairs and overhead noise on lower floors. The opposite pros and cons are true for single-story homes.

Number and type of rooms:

  • Number of bedrooms needed now and with long-term family considerations
  • Will one bedroom be a homeowner (master) suite?
  • Number of bathrooms and half-baths
  • Dedicated rooms such as a formal dining room, home office, den, bonus room above the garage
  • Laundry room/area location

The type of HVAC system you prefer:

  • Do you want a ducted or ductless system?
  • Do you like in-floor heat?
  • Do you have access to cheap and plentiful wood?
  • What system is most efficient in your climate?

Now is the time to decide, so the system’s mechanical components can be integrated into the design.

Phase 3: Hire Professionals to Finalize Plans and Build Your Home

Success comes from doing your due diligence to interview and hire proven professionals with a track record for quality work and responsive customer service.

Everything has been about planning to this point. Now, it is time to put the plans into action.

Here are the steps:

  1. Hire a custom builder: A custom builder is usually a general contractor. They typically have a crew that does much of the work, but might hire subcontractors for non-carpentry jobs like electrical and plumbing.

Talk with several custom home builders to learn about their experience and the experience of the crew that will do the work. Ask if they work with reliable subcontractors and get a few names to investigate.

We recommend this step at the beginning of this phase for this reason: An experienced custom home builder knows the ropes.

Tim Turner of Turner & Son Homes puts it this way:

“You need someone to act as your guide, just like an expert mountain climber will hire a local guide to help find the best route up an uncharted peak. That guide is from someone who has done this before—someone who… knows all the pitfalls and dead ends and can help you navigate through them successfully.”

It’s also true that experienced builders will know architects and interior designers worth trusting with your project.

Could you hire a builder in Phase 1? Many do. But if you’ve followed this guide, you will have a very clear understanding of what you want in a home, what size and quality home you can afford, and you’ll have a good idea of what style fits you best.

If you hire a builder first and skip the planning, you might end up rushing all the decisions discussed above about home style, decor, floor plans and more. Rushed decisions are often regretted decisions.

It only makes sense to hire a custom home builder in Phase 1 if you do it 3-6 months before you hope to break ground and then take that time to do the thinking and planning recommended for Phases 1 & 2.

  1. Hire an architect: When you meet with prospective architects, have sketches, pictures or printed floor plans to work from. For example, you might really like a floor plan you found online but want a handful of modifications. If you don’t have firm ideas, a good architect will know the questions to ask in order to design a home that fits you well.
  2. Hire an interior designer (Optional): Many homeowners have great instincts about materials and colors that work well together. If that’s not you, a skilled interior designer will help you discover what you love, not what they’re pushing this year as trendy. Talk with several before you hire one to turn loose on your interior design scheme.
  3. Get your site plan completed: A site plan is part of applications for a building permit, mortgage and approval from a homeowners association. Your architect can supply one, but at $500 or more. A high-quality site plan drawn by specialists like start at about $100.
  4. Apply for a building permit: This is really a packet of permits – Building, electrical and mechanical. Permits are needed for well and septic, it they’re part of the plan. Each approved permit includes one or more inspections to ensure the work is done according to code.
  5. Get homeowner’s insurance: Make sure your property and home are insured right from the start.
  6. Hire a landscaping contractor (optional): This contractor installs seed or sod, bushes and trees according to a design you sign off on.

8+. The last steps are to receive the Occupancy Permit once the final inspection is completed, walk through the home yourself with the builder to ask any questions or raise any issues, and make the final payment to the builder once there are no issues to resolve.

Once construction starts, you’ll want to stay in touch with the builder on a weekly basis. You might want to periodically visit the site, too.

You’ll also set up a payment plan once you hire a builder. Turner & Son builders have a schedule similar to most: 5% due upfront, 20% due at completion of the foundation, 25% due when the framing, roofing and siding are completed, with additional payments due when major construction phases are completed.

Now it’s time to move into your new home and enjoy the fulfillment of all your dreaming, planning and patience!

Note: When you need a permit, you probably also need a high-quality site plan produced by professionals is essential. We deliver professional site plans starting at about $100.

24hplans is here to help. Contact us today at 347-708-0105 or use our convenient Chat option. Or order a site plan, and we’ll deliver a professional product that will meet the requirements for site plans in your county and state.

Here’s how we can help: 24hplans has team of highly-trained, professional architects and drafters who can prepare any kind of site plan in the shortest amount of time possible, so that you can easily obtain that building permit and get on with your project. Use the promotion code: 24hplans-20off to get a 20% discount off any package. — Please note this is a limited time offer, exclusive to the readers of our blog. This offer is not being advertised anywhere else.