Finding the "perfect" building lot can sometimes be a challenge. The easiest way is to have a realtor sign you up to receive updates thru the Trend service. This service will notify you via e-mail of any available listed building lots that fit within your criteria. The second is to knock on the front door of the home next to the vacant lot you have always had your eye on. It is very easy to do and the worst thing they could say would be no. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Lastly, ask your builder. Often times, smaller builders will not hold onto an inventory of available building lots because it ties up their available cash flow. However most will have ties with developers and other builders for individual lot take down.
I think I have found "the lot", how do I know I can build on it and how much will it cost?
Once you have found a building lot ask a local builder to come out and meet you on the lot. This is a perfect way to interview a potential builder and should be done at no cost. While on site, ask the builder for some general ideas on the cost of improvements beyond the price of their home. Some builders will include excavation for the foundation, septic and well while others may omit it.
Should I list any contingencies when I am ready to make an offer on a building lot?
If it is the "hot" lot on the market and you are afraid that it will get away, make the financial offer that is within your means with only one contingency, "Upon builder approval". This will give you an out after the builder meets you on site. If there is a problem with the lot, you have an escape without losing your down payment.
How do I know if I am paying too much for the lot?
A good rule of thumb that most lenders will use is that the lot cost should fall between 20% - 30% of the entire project. That being said, a building lot for $100,000 (25%) should have a home built on it that will cost $300,000 (75%). This would put the entire project at $400,000(100%). These are all just rough numbers and it is always best to speak with a lender before investing too much of you time and money.
How does construction financing work?
Construction financing is really very simple and common. Before the project begins, the builder will give your lender a copy of the agreement and a copy of the construction plans. The lender will have it appraised; usually by a third party firm to assure that the bank will be covered in case of default. After the appraisal is complete a settlement will take place between the homeowner, lender and builder prior to the commencement of construction. Up until this point the only money paid to the builder is the deposit required to take the project to this point. The rest of the money due to the builder will be paid in draws. When the builder gets to certain points in the project (example: 1st floor deck complete) the lender will send an inspector out to review the work and authorize the release of a certain pre-set amount of funds to pay for the work performed up to that point.
Can the builder take care of all of the financing for me so I can settle once the project is complete?
Whether building on your lot or the builders, most builders are able to offer most any type of financing under the sun, but remember that with any service comes a cost.
How do I choose a builder I can trust?
It is very important to choose a builder that you can establish a rapport with. Keep in mind that the construction process can be both stressful and exciting at the same time. You should always look for a builder that will belong to the local home builders association and is willing to provide references of previous clients when asked.
Where do I look for a qualified custom home builder?
You can always do a local search on the web. Most custom builders will have a web site; the cost of keeping and maintaining a model home is typically left to the larger tract builders. Another place will be the local home builders show and of course the best place to see the type of work the builder will do is the local parade of homes.
How long does the process take?
From the shovel hitting the ground you should expect the construction time to range from five to six months at the very least and longer for larger, more customized homes. Remember that is only the construction. The construction drawings, selections and permitting may take as long as six to eight weeks and if a subdivision of land is required you could be looking at an additional eight to twelve months.
How do I find a plan that I like and will work for me?
I often suggest to clients to spend some time at the local book store or on the Internet. This gives them the opportunity to look at many different designs before purchasing any books or plans, while creating ideas in a very relaxed atmosphere. Additionally, I recommend looking at the way you currently use your home. While the plan that often looks the best on paper may have been the dream all along, it may not fit your lifestyle. A great example is that larger, more open floor plans have replaced individual, sectioned off spaces such as the formal living room. All too often people will settle for a home based on what they are used to seeing and not on their needs. When using a custom builder you can create a home that combines a multitude of plans which includes exterior elevations and interior floor plans thus creating your unique and personalized home.