If you are planning to build a house you will need a design. There are basically two routes to finding a good design. The first is to find an architect or designer that you like, the other is to shop for pre-drawn house plans online. Design is very personal and what works for your neighbor may not be right for you. Listen to your gut and find a designer or plan that feels like a fit. If it’s not a fit, you will likely always feel that something is out of whack.
The Ground You Build On
Whether your site is the middle of an urban neighborhood or in a rural area, make sure the location is right for you. This might seem obvious, but sometimes our heart decides before our head.
If your new home will be a second home out in the boonies away from all kinds of services and you will only be visiting on the weekends, that’s one thing. But, if your new home is far from everything, and it’s your year round home, it may be worth asking yourself if living an hour from groceries is for you. I’ve heard of people building dream homes and then selling within a few years because the lifestyle was better in their minds than in reality.
Codes and Laws
Like it or not your new home will be required to meet codes. The law of the land is the international residential code. It is issued in three year cycles, and your local jurisdiction may not be using the current version because of their own review cycle. I encourage you to build to the current version however, because eventually your jurisdiction will catch up and why be illegal sooner than you have to? Of course, you will be grandfathered in, but it’s important to recognize that the code is only a minimum standard. This is especially true with the energy code, it is probably the fastest moving target in the code update process right now. It’s wise to exceed the energy code by A LOT, it will mean a better built home and one that can be sold as code compliant in the future.
Before you do anything, visit your local building department. Find out what the zoning and code requirements are for your property. It’s also good to get to know the people in the department and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Generally, building officials aren’t nasty, they are just doing their job and it’s good to understand what their job is so that come permit time the sailing is as smooth as it can be.
Find a Good Team
A good team is probably the most important thing for a successful project. A good team will certainly include your contractor, it can also include designers and engineers. Make sure that you are comfortable with all team members and they have the right experience to build your new home. Interview several team members to find the best fit for you.
The Clock Is Ticking
Building a home takes a lot of time. The process might easily take a few years from the sparkle in your eye to turning the key in the door.