Building a house or even finishing the last phases of construction on a spec home that you purchased can be stressful if you’ve never done it before. In fact, it’s at least a little stressful every time after that too. But there are a handful of things I remind myself of as I enter the process and I wanted to share them with others that are building a house for the first time.
Before you ever sit with the builder, try to set some general guidelines and boundaries that you and your spouse both agree with. I’m mainly talking about things like size, cost, major features, etc. Otherwise, it’s too easy to go nuts when you sit with the builder and they start presenting you with hundreds of options. One approach is to make Must Have, Should Have and Nice to Have lists before getting distracted with all the details.
Try to establish a good relationship with the building supervisor. He’s the guy (usually a guy) that oversees the various crews that will build the house. He might not make the big decisions. But he can be your best friend or worst enemy. If you hit it off right with this guy, you’ll probably be able to make some minor changes with no extra cost. He can also do things like leave you extra tile, carpet, wallpaper, brick, trim, etc. that ends up left over. Builders do some of this automatically, but I typically like to have as much extra as the builder will give me, within limits.
As the construction progresses, prepare for several things to not look quite right. After building a few houses, I have learned the things to bring to the builder’s attention immediately versus things that aren’t that important and will be corrected later without any need to mention. Your builder won’t want you calling every day with updates on little things you noticed. I recommend keeping a list of everything you notice and asking to have a short conversation with the builder each week. You can cover the items on the list all at once. He will let you know which ones are important versus others that will be addressed later. For the ones he says can be addressed later, make a notation on your sheet and check up to make sure it was eventually done.
Once the building starts, try not to make too many changes that aren’t genuinely important. Almost every change will carry a fee – especially if they have to do real rework.
Moment of Truth
Don’t panic if 3 weeks before closing there seems to be a thousand small things that still need to be done or corrected. Once you get this close to closing, the builder takes special notice – not wanting to have your close date delayed. They often will expand the size of the crews working on your house. And lots of small repair items (called a “punch list”) will be taken care of literally days and hours before closing.
You’re In Control
Do not go to closing with major items on your remaining “punch list” list. Even having a bunch of small items on the list might take your builder forever to get them done after you close. Not because the repairs themselves take a lot of time, but rather because once you close, their focus shifts to the next house that is within 3 weeks of closing. It seems to take forever to get them back to work on your items. Get the important ones completed while you have the pressure of closing hanging over them as well. Also realize that you will likely create another list after you get into the house. The builders typically agree to come back after 30-90 days of being in the house to take care of any other items.
Also see my related blog post titled 15 Easy-to-Forget Things When Building a Home