Since sharing the news that we are building a custom home I have been chatting with many of you across the country and am learning that how homes are built here in Utah is different from other states. So all my details and answers I share here relate to building a home in Utah in 2022-2023. For the details on how the lot came to be and our feelings read this blog post.
What type of home is it?
1. Be your own contractor
Here in Utah we have a couple different ways you can build a brand new home.
1. Be your own contractor and hire subcontractors to complete the job. We have had several friends and family members go this route because it can save you thousands of dollars in managing everything yourself. But you fall to the subcontractors schedule and many times they are performing your home “on the side” of their full-time job with a builder which means the whole building process can take a lot longer to complete. A longer timeline usually means you are paying more in interest on your construction loan.
Track home & Semi-Custom
2. Buy a new build track home or semi custom home. There are several home builders through the state who buy up large chunks of land and build communities in phases. This is what we refer to as a track neighborhood. The builder usually has 5-7 (maybe upwards of 20-30) different house plans you can pick from. You can make a few customizations to the inside of the home like swapping a bedroom to an open den or adding another garage. Some semi-custom home builders allow you to move walls, and make all sorts of changes (within reason) to their plans. The benefit is you know upfront what your home’s starting price is. The builder already know how much the trusses, lumber, etc are going to cost and the plan is already engineered and ready to order lumber for. This makes the whole process of your home build go a lot faster which is a huge perk. You still have the option to pick your paint colors, flooring, tile and other finishes from their showroom so for many this is the route they choose when they are looking for a new build home.
3. Completely custom – Meeting with an architect to draw up plans from scratch, find a custom home builder to bid out those plans, order materials and manage the entire build process. You are working directly with your builder and architect to design your home. The end result gives you a completely unique, deigned to your specifications home. But that also comes with some additional costs. Similar to option 1, you are involved the entire time, but you are giving the day to day management to the experienced builder. The reason to potentially choose this over contracting yourself is you get the builders subs who work full-time for the builder. No waiting around to be “fit in” to someones schedule on the weekends or after hours. Your home is a priority to be completed. Custom builders are going to vary in their price. Some have a cost model where they bid out the home and then say your home will cost $500,000 in materials to build. I charge 10% so it will cost you $550,000 for your home regardless of upgrades making your home price increase from the $500,000 you will pay your builder $50,000.
Other home builders run on a cost + model which means they bid out the materials and then charge you a percentage usually 10-18% (similar to above), but their numbers are not fixed. You’ll go to a showroom and pick your flooring, plumbing, cabinetry, lighting, etc and everything you pick, your builder will charge you a percentage for.
Which are we going with and why
Originally we had every intention to choose #1 and be our own contractor, but times have changed in the last few years and with all the Covid supply shortages it makes it next to impossible to contract your own build and get materials and subs in a timely manner. This can almost double the length of time it takes to complete your home and in doing so wrack up a TON of interest on your construction loan which means the cost savings you were planning on having by not hiring a contractor is now just going to the bank in interest. PLUS you get all the stress of scheduling and ordering to deal with.
So we decided to find a builder who understood what Honey Built Home is all about and was willing to allow sweat equity and sponsorships happen during the build process and was good with the fact that Christine wants lots of blank walls so she can tackle her own finishing carpentry and not pay the subcontractor to do it 🙂
What's the first step?
Once we secured a lot reservation with the land developer we immediately went to work contacting an architect. Your builder should have a few architects they work with frequently and have some good referrals. Our builder gave us two referrals, and stubborn me went and found another architect who I had seen a lot of their work and was impressed with. TBD how that all pans out!
Completely Custom or Reuse
Not every custom home needs to reinvent the wheel and have a completely custom set of building plans. You can reuse previous plans the architect has designed. In fact, that might help you select your architect. Go on their website and look through their plans and see if there are any you love. That’s how we picked our architect, but in the process figured out there were more tweaks we wanted to make to the plan that it would be starting all over so we are doing a completely custom set of plans.
A reuse can save you a LOT of money. Ballpark #’s are a reuse with a set # of hours allocated to changing the plan comes in between $3000-4000. My current home is a reuse of a plan (we didn’t build it but I know it was a reuse). A completely custom will range based on the size of the home from $10,000-30,000 for just the architect. Yup. I’ve heard in other states it’s a lot cheaper. We are budgeting right now to spend $15,000 for our custom plans which include black and white renderings, 3D renderings, and full set of plans which is considered reasonable here. Our other bids were $20-26k.
There will be a separate fee we will have to pay to the engineer once we’ve completed the plans.
How long does it take?
Architect phase can be anywhere from 2-6 months. This is where you should take your time and make sure you’ve got everything right because it’s so much easier to make changes in this phase vs. when the home is framed.
I would suggest meeting or consulting an interior designer if you are building a custom home. They don’t need to pick out your furniture, but they will be a huge asset as you try and narrow down thousands of paint colors and tile styles. Plus they can find things the builder and architect overlooked like the spacing between island and dining room table, the flow of hallways and also create some really amazing things like feature walls, and architectural details.
Bidding and permitting – takes 1-2 months right now depending on where you live. This is a fun sit and wait time.
Breaking ground to a finished home – this can be anywhere from 6-15 months. As you find a home builder check on what their process is for communicating with you. Do they have weekly checkins? An app/website that gives you automatic updates? Are they old school and will call you when they get to it? Communication is crucial to keep everyone happy during this process. Also ask if they will disclose their spreadsheets to you on the REAL costs. That helps keep them honest and you to know where your money is actually going.
We are still in the very beginning of the architect phase and so this is going to be a long process, but I’m sure very busy and FULL of exciting details I’m happy to share along the way.
Until next time,