Building Your Home: How to Manage Expectations (and Stay Sane)


You’ve chosen your builder and picked the perfect floorplan, but your work as a buyer has only just begun. Sure, choosing your plan was the fun part, but building your home requires more input than selecting paint colors. Your builder looks to you for guidance, and you’ll rely on your builder to keep the process running smoothly. Snags are bound to happen, but if you’ve set realistic expectations from the start, you’ll have a better experience.

Knowing how to communicate with your builder and understanding your role as buyer is the best way to stay sane while building your home. By laying the groundwork ahead of time, you can make sure your build stays on track.

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building your home expectations

The success of your build depends on your expectations. Image: Kroiss Development

Focus on the contract

Before you break ground, your builder will present you with a contract. Don’t sign on the dotted line until you (and your agent, if you have one) has been through it with a fine-toothed comb. Your contract provides everything from dates to warranties to cancellation policies. Your builder wants to plan ahead for any contingencies, and the contract will reflect years of working with buyers and addressing their concerns. Take the time to read it and clarify anything you don’t understand or aren’t comfortable with.

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building your home timeline

Estalishing a timeline early in the process of building your home makes life easier down the road. Image: JPM Construction

Discuss the timeline for building your home

Once you have a handle on the contract, it’s time to talk timelines. While your home is being built, you’ll be in a flurry of activity yourself. From selling your current home to calling moving companies, you’ll need to plan ahead. While it’s almost impossible to get firm dates for every stage of building your home, a general timeline can help you be prepared. Your builder should be happy to give you an idea of what happens, when it happens and when you’ll be able to move into your new home. Getting a structured timeline can help you feel more confident in your next steps as a buyer and homeowner.

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building your home questions

Not sure about something? Ask your builder to explain. Image: JPM Construction

Ask questions

You’re not homebuilding expert; that’s your builder’s job. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and foster open and honest communication throughout the process. Setting expectations for better communication before building your home lets your builder know that you want transparency and honesty every step of the way. Ask questions to fully understand your role and what your builder needs from you; then give your builder the same benefit.

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building your home stone front

Stay ahead of the curve by asking your builder for a to-do list. Image: Kroiss Development

Compile a to-do list

Your builder might be taking care of the details, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook. To keep your build on track, ask your builder for a to-do list that you can start on as the owner. It might contain simple steps like signing contracts, choosing finishes and working on any owner DIY projects in the home. Whether it’s sourcing your own countertops or getting your funding in place, a to-do list gives a clear idea of what your builder expects from you.

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building your home design

Your design input can derail a well-planned build. Image: Keswick Homes

Streamline your design

Working with a designer is one of the most exciting parts of your build. It can also be one of the biggest roadblocks to getting the process started. Changing your mind on one small design element could cause a chain reaction that requires redesigns and further delays breaking ground. By coming to your design appointments prepared, you can streamline the process. Work with your designer to come up with modifications and solutions that work for you, but try to keep the process to a couple of appointments. Trust your designer and you’ll love the finished product.

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building your home farmhouse

Keep running lists of meetings and major decisions. Image: Winsome Construction

Document everything

Even if you trust your builder, it’s a good idea to keep all of your meetings and agreements well-documented. The design and build process is made up of many complicated steps, so it’s easy to forget a change or misremember a previous agreement. Keeping documents and writing down agreements ensures a quick resolution to discrepancies. It doesn’t need to be complicated: Just use your phone to snap pictures of changes and contracts and you’ll have them handy for future discussions.

There’s no such thing as a perfect build, but managing expectations to start can make for a more positive experience when building your home. Communicating with your builder keeps the process running smoothly. As an owner, you have a big role to play; honesty and transparency will go a long way for a better build.

Do you have experience building your home? What tips can you add?

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