New home builds require work and patience. It means partnering with all the right entities. From finding a mortgage to that final walk-through, homeowners need to be educated. Factors that can affect the process are type and size of the anticipated home and lot, floor plans, construction techniques, customization, a number of municipal inspections, size of the development, labour availability and material selection.
Every build will be personalized to your needs, but here are the general processes you need to know before you begin your new home build.
The average timeline for a build ranges from 9 to 12 months. This is a loose approximation as there can be unavoidable delays. For example, pouring the foundation may need to be put off if weather conditions are bad or the ground has not yet thawed. While this is not the norm, it does happen sometimes and the timeframe is needed to ensure your home is built properly.
Keep in mind you have to design the home to suit the landscape, not the other way around. The lot will impact configuration of rooms, location of the drive and walkways, where the garage goes and other design elements. Were you hoping for a premium lot that backs on to a lake or park? These are all things to take into consideration when choosing your lot.
Here are some other criteria to consider when researching lots:
Zoning and Building Codes: These can vary from region to region. That’s why it’s good to have a seasoned ear to share questions and concerns with. Zoning and coding can have an impact on budgets and what kind of permits you’ll need. Your builder will be able to tell you ahead of time if there are any conflicts with the perceived home design and the building code or lot size.
Back or Front Facing: The direction your new home will be positioned can impact how the house receives natural sunlight, where windows and doors are located, and how you keep heat and cold in or out of the house. For example, a north-facing home gets more sun towards the back, and can be darker and naturally cooler as a result.
How much you’re expected to pay upfront can vary. You might pay a small percentage and make payments as the build progresses. You might make a payment upfront with the balance due before move-in. The decision ultimately rests with the lender and preferences of the builder. Depending on credit scores, the upfront cost could be large.
In general, if you want to build, it’s best to have a large sum saved up in case a deposit is needed for the lot, or in the event a down payment is required.
Home Model Selection & Options
Showhome models offer the opportunity to make exacting decisions about the build. This is where you compare reality against your visions. Bring floor plans, pictures and sketches. Ask questions about options in trims, cabinets, doors and so forth. Find out if you can take out double windows and go with floor-to-ceiling glass. See if instead of detached, like the show model, you can have an attached garage.
Do not limit yourself to one viewing. See as many show homes as possible with multiple builders. Keep in mind also that many of the features you see in a showhome may come at an additional cost. Most showhomes include upgraded features that don’t necessarily come standard with a new home build.
After verbally ironing out the details, you will need to sign a purchase agreement. This is also referred to as an “Offer to Purchase” or “Agreement of Sale”. You should have legal representation look it over to ensure all your interests are protected. The document will cover any deposits, payment scheduling, the full price of the project, the date the offer expires, requests for land surveys and other specifics such as what appliances will be installed. There may also be terms and conditions regarding inspection reports, appraisals and financing.
Waiving Conditions/Financing Approval/Additional Deposit
The purchase agreement should include conditions if you fail to get appropriate financing. This clause is fairly common in agreements, but you want to make sure it’s included. You would hate to find out you’re still expected to cover certain costs even if you cannot go through with the build. The agreement should also address if additional funds will be included in the deposit and under what circumstances.
You don’t have to be an engineer to read a blueprint. The basic design should align with your vision and the negotiations. There should be varying types of plans available including overhead views and cross sections. Blueprints will use an architectural or engineering scale. This won’t really impact what a layman sees, but try to understand what it means to the physical layout. Do not sign off on the blueprint until you are satisfied with what you’re seeing, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Interior Finishing Selections
Wallpaper, paint colours, flooring, appliances, countertops, hardware, cabinets, windows, doors, light fixtures and much more have to be chosen. You’ll likely have a pretty good idea about what interior features and finishes you want in your new home. Designers and builders may try to guide you toward feasible options based on budget or availability, but the bottom line is that it will be your decision.
Framing is the process of building walls, partitions, and the roof. This critical stage confirms the structure’s safety and performance. An inspection will be required to ensure the build aligns with building code requirements. You want to verify that the aesthetic is to your specifications, i.e., rooms are where you expect them to be and are the right size.
A reputable builder will let you visit the site at your convenience, but there will be scheduled walk-throughs like the pre-paint. The project is in its last stages and it’s important that you’re satisfied with the progress. Take pictures and notes. Bring to light any and every issue that comes to mind.
This is the last chance you will get to make sure all aspects of the build are to your satisfaction. Pictures and notes should be taken. Make sure any issues brought up during previous walk-throughs have been addressed. Have the builder show you how to operate your new systems.
Now you’re ready to move into your brand new home! As the possession date nears, it’s a good idea to review your warranty specifics. Every new home build in Alberta is protected under a mandatory warranty. Some builders are also members of the Alberta New Home Warranty Program (ANHWP), which offers additional coverage.
It’s also a good idea to have the key builder and home-related contacts on speed dial. Review the information package, manuals and other information about how your new home works. If any questions or concerns arise, your builder will be there to help.
As mentioned previously, having a little patience in your new home build will go a long way. Knowing what to expect ahead of time will help prepare you for the journey and make the process a smooth one. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask your builder any questions you might have along the way. A good builder will be happy to address your concerns and should support you every step of the way.