Pitfalls in Selecting a House Plan
There are many mistakes you may overlook in selecting a house plan from anyone. As a veteran in home building I'll try to address just a few on this page. It's said in selling property there are three main and most important things to note, one is location the second is location and the third is location. Well here we go, my special wisdom is this, don't assume anything will be free, don't assume anything will get changed by itself and lastly don't assume your builder can read your mind. As smart as he or she may be they can't know what's in your mind.
I started drawing house plans to solve this problem and found it to be very effective. If everybody knows what the finished product is supposed to look like, it most likely will and with a lot less confusion and hurt feelings. Simply put - set all feelings aside and start the project with the knowledge of what the finished product should be.
Pitfall: I'll just tell the builder to build me a house like the one on his street and be done with it.
Misunderstandings are the major reasons for problems between builder and customer. As a customer, never "just assume" that anything will be added that is not included in the house plan. Since, the builder did not know and cannot read your mind, he most likely did not include such items in his initial bid and certainly does not want to provide anything he has not figured in his cost. After all he is not there to serve you, he is trying to make a living like you. If you begin by changing something and assume "foolishly" that it will not cost more you will put your builder in his defense mode and from there on it only gets worse. If he thinks your are willing as should be to pay for extra's he probably will not charge as much for them. Remember nobody wants to be used or thought of as ignorant and open to any kind of abuse. I know you have read all these stories about some builder who really did somebody wrong and I also know it happens. I could also tell you of terrible things that have happened to builders by customers.
My point is, select a good quality house plan and educate yourself on what you really want in the home and convey that to the builder. If you have proper plans and specifications included as part of the contract with the builder you have put yourself on solid ground and he upon entering the contract will have to perform all that is Included therein thus eliminating your stress and anxiety.
Therefore search carefully for a house plan that would come as close to the quality of home you want to have built. For instance you may have once owned a very nice home but the floors had a troublesome squeak that really annoyed you so if a quite floor is a mandatory feature you should make reference to it with your builder. There are a number of ways to install a floor and a number methods used. Talk to your material supplier for suggestions and cost factors and then talk to your builder about it. That way you will alert him or her to the potential problem and they will most likely prepare for it and protect against it.
Pitfall: My builder typically builds the type of home I want so I don't need to get into a lot of detail about particulars.
There again if you assume he understands what you want in the home of your dreams and we both know this is the last home your are going to build and move into, because it's so much work, you will be disappointed. In your meeting with your builder be prepared with all the information you have.
- Make a list of topics to address about your new home
- Make a list of topics to leave with all builders you select to bid your project
- All builders should have the same topic list identifying the particulars of the house, otherwise you will get differing bids and possibly reject the builder you really liked You can cut photo images from home magazines to help get your point across
- The more prepared you are the better prepared your builders will be to meet your need completely and without corrections and costly change orders
Pitfall: My selected builder seems like he will build exactly what I want into my new home.
Many of the following items should be addressed in a well prepared set of house plans. I offer the following list as part of the items you should look for and discuss with your builder to assure success with your project. You must have everything in writing because people forget. You should insist upon a complete, detailed set of specifications along with an up to date blueprint outlining every thought you have in regards for items to include. Discuss the items carefully and make sure your builder understands exactly what you want. Listed below are some of these items:
- Type of foundation, brick finish or selected type
- Concrete footings, concrete strength and size, reinforcing steel if needed
- Soil treatment inside and out, and can you upgrade to annual termite contract with the supplier
- Landscaping, area to be addressed, shrubbery type and allowance
- Floor system type and materials to be used
- Wall framing, material and size, grade of materials
- Roof sheathing type
- Roofing type and style, will felt be applied underneath, metal edging material
- Exterior boxing and style, exterior finish
- Exterior wall finish, brick veneer or siding cost and allowance established
- Garage, interior finish, window and door quantity and style, overhead door style and type
- Crawl space door and finish
- Special outside lighting and locations, gas lighting if desired
- Porch and deck materials used and sizes
- Like crown molding and it locations, specify rooms
- Chair rail molding and it locations, specify rooms
- Wallboard materials and their locations
- Ceiling surfaces and materials
- Exposed ceiling beams
- Interior door styles and material type
- Will all interior trim and doors be paint grade or stained
- Floor materials and their locations
- Ceramic tile, type and location
- Window type and style
- Interior and exterior door styles and material type
- Insulation and R Values to used in the new home
- Paint quality, number of coats, preparation between coats
- Roofing type and style
- Electrical outlets if special locations are needed
- Plumbing fixtures, specify brand and finish
- HVAC, specify brand and size, do you need anything special in this area, if so list it
- Does any location in the home need to be handicap equipped
- Bath accessories, who pays for what and is it enough to provide desired styles and finishes
- Kitchen cabinets should be selected and classified for price, grade and especially layout
- Counter top materials and cost
- Kitchen accessories and hardware should be classified
- Kitchen appliances to be provided by builder should be classified and priced
- Hardware should be selected, brand and style established
- Closets and shelving materials to be used, wood vs: other types
- Bath cabinets and hardware, mirrors and towel bars selected
As you can see there are many specific items you need to address so your builder will know exactly what you want. Careful planning will really put your builder on notice that you are knowledgeable concerning the structure and its make up. With everything itemized and selected before biding is made you will most likely get the better price because your builder knows the cost and doesn't have to guess and allow more than is necessary for him to complete the project and make a profit. If he has to guess it will most likely cost you in the long run.
Pitfall: know I will not forget what he quoted for the extra items I changed and most of them are small anyway so they won't cost much.
Change orders should be used on any item changed or added and should be signed by both parties, cost established and agreed upon and payment procedure and date and always do this beforehand. Over a period of six months anyone can forget small items that will show up as unexpected cost at closing time. No doubt you will want to upgrade some items as you begin construction, you change your mind perhaps. Establish how your builder will charge for upgrades beforehand. Will he charge a reasonable hourly rate plus materials or does he have a very high upgrade minimum he uses to cause you not to upgrade anything. I have heard some builders don't allow changes at all.
Pitfall: My new home will be built right because of Local State and City building codes.
Maybe not, remember the residential home building code states it is the minimum building code. Meaning that it is the very least your can get by with. Floor systems stretched to the maximum will usually cause your home to have squeaky floors. Most reputable new home builders will exceed this code for several reasons. First of which is to insure that you as the home owner will be happy. With a good understanding everyone is on a level playing field and your project should turn out well. I would offer one last suggestion on the builders behalf.
If and after you have completed all the items suggested above remember that your builder however large or small has feelings. If you treat him or her with due respect and not as some rough uneducated heathen who makes his living digging in dirt and eating lunch with dirty hands and from a brown paper bag I promise you that you will get a lot more out of him. Don't worry the man to death, by standing over him all the time. He has a schedule to keep so try to keep all meetings as brief as possible. In the case of a small builder who works on the job site in his effort to build a quality house, time is very important especially if his crew happens to be waiting on his leadership. If you continue to repeat the same conversation and linger longer than is necessary you will only agitate the work crew and thereby cause them to care less about the quality and workmanship. They soon will drop quality and increase speed to avoid you. As the old saying goes you will catch more flies with honey.