Courtesy Handy Canadian, www.handycanadian.com
Building a new home, for many people, is a dream come true. What could be better than watching the construction and helping in the planning of your very own new house? While this process is undeniably exciting, unfortunately it’s also full of potentially costly mistakes.
During home building, most, if not all, of the work is done by hired professionals. However, during the planning phase of home construction, there are many common mistakes made by individuals with the very best of intentions. Unfortunately, these mistakes are easy to make, often go unnoticed by the pros you’ve hired, and can ultimately end up being extremely costly to correct.
Here, we’ll review some of the most common mistakes made during this exciting and nerve-wracking time. We’ll also let you know how to avoid these mistakes, saving yourself from big headaches and big bills down the road.
Home Building Mistake #1 – Attempting Too Much DIY
For many prospective homeowners, the ability to purchase ready-made house plans and perform other planning and building activities yourself is very attractive. These options save you the money spent on professional services, and it all looks fairly simple. Don’t be fooled. Professional home builders and designers (architects) exist for a reason. It’s their job to build you a solid, dependable and enjoyable home, taking every single aspect into consideration. Their years of experience may come at a price, but its money well spent. All that experience translates into a high level of attention to detail; catching potential problems you may not have noticed or even been aware of.
If you really fall in love with a home design you find online or in a catalog, have a professional look it over before you purchase the plans and begin construction. This will ensure that you get the home you want, and that the home will stand the test of time.
When considering tackling a home building project on a DIY basis, think twice. Then, think another few times. This is not a leaky faucet or a creaking door hinge … this is your future home. Pitching in on smaller jobs is one thing, but unless you are experienced (and licensed, in some cases) leave the bigger, more fundamental jobs to the professionals.
Home Building Mistake #2 – Scrimping on Fundamentals
While your contractor will have suggestions as to the materials used in your new home, you as the future homeowner have the final say. After all, you’re the one paying for it all. While purchasing the cheapest possible options in building materials will save you money upfront, you’re almost guaranteed to pay for it down the road. Extremely inexpensive materials are inexpensive for a reason. In most cases, it’s because they’re made cheaply, using poor quality ingredients or base materials. Is that really what you want your home to be made of? Of course not.
There’s no need to go with the highest-priced option. Your contractor will provide you with several options which they feel are dependable, ranging from moderately priced to high. Consult with them and find out how they feel about each product. Have they used it in the past? Would they use it to build a home for themselves or a loved one? In most cases, a middle-range product is all you need to ensure that your home is built with lasting stability. Remember that it’s one thing to cut corners on cosmetic items, but quite another to construct a shaky structure. Foundations, walls and flooring, as well as things like wiring and plumbing, should always be as solid and sound as possible.
Home Building Mistake #3 – Poor Financial Planning
When it comes to home building, some financial aspects are fairly simple. However, even the simplest details can get ignored in the excitement of building a new home.
Having a budget is your first and most important step. In today’s economy, it simply doesn’t make sense to plunge yourself into debt building your dream house. After all, you want to enjoy living in the home, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more if it’s not dragging down your credit rating! Create a budget as soon as you decide to build, and stick to it. While creating your budget, do some research to find out just how much your home is likely to cost. If you discover that you can’t accommodate the price, wait a few years to build.
If you discover that a new home is within your budget, research the style and size of house you plan to build. Calculate the median price range. You should also check into individual job pricing. For example, consult with an expert to determine what type of foundation you should install, then research the average cost to install that particular type of foundation. It may seem tedious to research every aspect in this manner, but the results are well worth it.
Once you have real-world figures of what the average rates are for each job, you have figures on which to base your negotiating. Nobody wants to haggle with a contractor, but if yours offers you a bid which is higher than the going rate in your area for the same work, you can show them the figures and ask why theirs are higher. They may have a very good reason, such as highly experienced workers. Or, unfortunately, they may be counting on the fact that most future homeowners don’t do this type of research, and hoping to squeeze a few extra dollars out of you. If the latter is the case, strongly consider finding a more reputable contractor to build your home.
Home Building Mistake #4 – Accepting a Too-Low Bid
We’re all trying to save money these days, and so an extremely low bid from a friendly contractor may seem like the perfect way to shave a significant chunk of money from your budget. However, a smart consumer is always wary of a too-low price.
There are a few different reasons why a contractor may offer you a very low bid, and none of them are good. One common reason is inexperienced or unlicensed workers. The contractor doesn’t have to pay these workers as much, and he’s passing that savings on to you. However, this is not an area where you want to cut corners. In fact, having unlicensed workers do certain types of work, such as electrical wiring, is illegal and will cause problems with your building permits and your future insurance coverage. Insist on licensed and experienced workers; they’re well worth the extra cost.
Another common reason for a low bid is even more frightening than poor workmanship. In many cases, a contractor will offer a low bid, demanding upfront payment in order to seal this “limited time” deal. Walk away! Contractors offering this type of deal, in many cases, are not reliable. Many lawsuits have been filed against contractors who offered these deals and then simply didn’t show up for work. Taking a higher (yet still realistic) bid from a reputable contractor is the smart way to go. If anything seems too good to be true, or if you feel pressured to sign a contract, don’t be afraid to follow your instincts and look elsewhere.
In some cases, a contractor will offer a very low bid because they plan to save in other ways. Unfortunately, none of these saving methods are good for you or your future home. Common savings tactics include scrimping on material quality, underpaying workers (which often results in poor workmanship), or by failing to obtain proper permits. Follow your gut, and be very cautious with any bid which seems too low. Don’t be afraid to ask exactly how the contractor plans on delivering a quality home at the price they’ve offered, and if you don’t like their plans, seek out another contractor.
Home Building Mistake #5 – Poor Location Choice
It’s not realistic for most future homeowners to have endless options when it comes to a building site. However, it’s important to consider some key criteria before you purchase property. These criteria will affect the building process itself, the future value of your home, and your quality of life as a resident.
Busy streets might seem convenient if they’re close to your job or your children’s school, but they’re almost always a negative. Not only is it harder to perform any construction job with vehicles flying by, but the value of the completed home will be much lower. Very few people actually want to live on a busy street; most home buyers are seeking peace and relative quiet. For future sales and for your own enjoyment, look for properties which are convenient while still being relatively peaceful.
Terrain plays a big role in how quickly and easily construction can take place. This includes things like hills, soil conditions, bodies of water on the property, the slope of the property, the underlying water table and any wooded areas. In essence, anything which will impede the movement of workers could end up costing you more in time and labour.
Nearby structures can cause you a lot of headaches down the road. If you’re purchasing land in a development, you’re fairly certain to end up surrounded by residential homes. However, in many areas, your neighbours may end up being much less desirable. Many properties are priced below market value due to unwanted neighbouring structures. Sure, it’s convenient to live near a supermarket … but do you really want a 24-hour grocery right next door, with all the lights and constant traffic? Likewise, any large open expanses of land attract people who want to party and dump trash … not things which most people want to live near. Consider all the adjacent properties before making a purchase.
Utilities aren’t an option, and so it’s a good idea to find out the cost to connect before you buy. Prices vary wildly, even in neighbouring towns, so call to get the figures before you fall in love with a piece of land.
Instinct and Common Sense
As you can see, avoiding some of the most common and costly mistakes of home building is simply a matter of following your instincts and thinking each decision through logically. It may take a bit more time, but it’s time well spent.