You’ve been dreaming of building and owning your own home for a long time. The picture in your mind is clear – your home, built in your unique style, on your own land.
But the harsh truth is that building a home on your own lot can be difficult.
There are so many unanswered questions and steps to take to make your custom home come true!
We get it.
That’s why we’re here. In this article, we help you think through all the important steps of building a house on your lot. As a bonus, we give some tips on choosing the right builder to work with during the whole process.
And the best part? This all comes directly from our 20 + years of first-hand experience in the construction industry. In other words, these aren’t textbook theories – they are tried and true, proven methods that come from our field experience at Design Tech Homes.
Ready to go? Let’s get started!
What to Look For in a Home Site
Quality Deed Restrictions
Deed restrictions, often called “restrictive covenants,” are contained in a deed and limit how a piece of real estate can be used and what can be built on it.
Rule #1 concerning deed restrictions is simple: Read them!
If you fail to read the deed restrictions about your home, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.
For example, if you would like to build a 2,500 square foot home but your deed restriction limits you to a 2,000 square foot home, you will want to look elsewhere for a lot to build on.
If you don’t like deed restrictions, it would be best to buy a lot in a neighborhood that does not include deed restrictions.
Let’s begin with some simple definitions:
A subdivision is a parcel of land divided from a larger area. Its purpose is to split a large tract of land into smaller ones that are easier to develop.
When choosing a lot, make sure that your subdivision has a good plan in place for development.
What does a good subdivision plan look like?
It should certainly include the following:
- A geotechnical study – In other words, make sure the land has been studied and approved for foundations, roads, etc.
- A phase 1 or phase 2 environmental study – This means that the developer has made sure there are clear titles on all the properties and that each piece of land is environmentally clean. (No former oil wells, dumps, etc. on the property)
- Drainage plans are laid out ahead of time.
- Water, sewer, and septic plans are clearly laid out ahead of time. (Take note: water wells and septic systems can’t be placed within 200 feet of each other. If a good subdivision plan is not created, certain lots may not have a water well or septic system.)
Just make sure you ask about all of these things before you purchase a property. The last thing you want is to pay for a lot that ends up being useless!
Flood Plain Locations
A flood plain is an area that is subject to natural flooding from a nearby waterway.
When you choose a lot to build your home, make sure you ask for a flood plain certificate. The certificate states the lot’s flood zone status and allows you to know if you are in a flood zone or not.
If the lot you are considering is in a flood zone, it’s best to look elsewhere.
After looking at a flood plain certificate, make sure to check with long-term neighbors about the property’s flooding conditions.
Sometimes, even if a lot is not officially in a flood plain, the land still floods. Long term neighbors are almost certainly aware of this, and they can help you decide if the lot you are looking at is a quality lot.
Another thing to look for is good drainage away from the home site and property. Standing water on your property is sure to have long term adverse effects. In fact, the number one reason for concrete slab failures is inadequate drainage.
You almost always pay for running utilities to your home.
For example, in Texas, an overhead electricity wire to your home is free (up to 150 feet), but an underground electric feed costs money to install.
That means that the further you have to run utility lines, the more you pay. In the end, lengthy water, sewer, and power lines can significantly add to the cost of your house.
Often this boils down to your preference. A house 200 feet off the road is quieter and more private than a house 50 feet off the road. However, a house 50 feet off the road costs less when it comes to running utility lines.
The important thing is to make an intentional decision. Make sure you know how much utility feeds will cost you, and make an informed decision about how far you want your home from the main lines.
Driveways and Roads
Driveways, just like utility lines, grow in price as they increase in length.
It’s worth plotting where you would like to see your driveway and seeing how much it would cost.
What to Look For in a Custom Home Builder
Finding the right contractor to build your home on your lot is almost as important as choosing the right piece of land.
Choose the wrong builder, and you’re in for a serious headache.
Choose the right builder, and the process of constructing your home gets a lot easier!
But how do you know what you should look for when you are choosing the right builder? Let’s take a look at a few things to consider.
Full Service, One-Stop-Shop Contractor
Some builders offer only limited services.
For example, they might expect a paid off lot that they can build a house on – but they won’t install a septic system or water well.
If you can, find a builder that will help you through the entire process from beginning to end.
Here are a few things in particular that you should make sure your home builder is equipped and ready to assist you with:
- Lot site evaluation
- Lot site preparation – road, septic, wells, lot clearing, and building pads
- ACC approval (architectural control assistance)
- Permit acquisitions
- Design center – this allows you to pick out your home selections before you start building and stay within budget.
- Mortgage services
In short, a full service, one-stop-shop contractor takes ALL the processes of building a custom home and makes the process easier for you.
Lot Site Evaluations and Preparations
We already mentioned that a builder should assist you with lot site evaluation and preparation.
But what exactly does that look like?
First of all, your builder should meet with you on the actual physical location of your lot to evaluate your needs.
While looking at drawings or renderings of the lot is helpful, seeing the lot is essential. When your builder sees the lot, they should be able to give you valuable advice for the specifications you want.
They could help you with things like home placement, outbuilding placements, or where to put a pool. They should also help you plan the best location for your septic, water well, pool and utility line placements.
Home Quality Standards
Quality standards may end up being the most important thing to look for in a builder.
What are the standards the builder holds themselves to? Are they going above and beyond, gifting you with an amazing home, or are they doing the bare minimum, so you get an OK home?
Here are a few things in particular that prove a builder is operating by quality standards. It’s a good idea to ask your builder if they do these things.
- Performing a soil test. A soil test is a process in which the builder collects soil samples and sends them away for testing. This allows the structural engineer to design the foundation of your home in a way that is compatible with the soil present there.
- Has options for energy-efficient homes.
- Uses quality materials and workmanship
- Utilizes independent inspections by third parties
Good Customer References
Getting ripped-off, whether it’s with money or faulty equipment, is always infuriating.
But sometimes, it’s doubly exasperating.
Because you could have avoided being cheated.
As the lot owner, you bear some responsibility when it comes to finding a good builder. Unfortunately, you can’t simply snap your fingers and have the best builder in town at your doorstep.
You have to do some research.
First, check the builder’s references. This is a quick way to see how others have experienced this builder and the work they do.
You can also visit homes under construction by the builder. Observe the quality of work that is being completed, and visit there model homes or homes they have under construction.
Finally, check to see if the builder is a member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). A builder that is not a member of the BBB is not necessarily a bad builder, but those who are members of the BBB are held to higher standards.
Energy Efficiency Home Construction
Everyone wants an energy-efficient home – and every builder in the U.S. is supposed to construct houses according to the national energy code. Make them prove that to you.
However, a builder doesn’t build energy-efficient homes just because they say they do, or because they try their best.
There are actual steps a builder should take to make sure your home is energy efficient.
For example, your builder needs to complete a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) test. This means your builder sends the house plan to a HERS rater, and they score the energy-efficiency of your home. The lower the HERS score, the better.
Unfortunately, most builders do not abide by the national energy code unless they are building in a situation where they know they will get checked.
Because building to Energy Star standards is extremely difficult.
That’s why you want to find a builder willing to put in the hard work and make your home energy-efficient.
So, please be careful.
If your builder isn’t testing and inspecting your home to certify that it is energy-efficient, you have no way of knowing the truth.
At Design Tech Homes, we guarantee that your home will be Energy Star certified. When we’re done, you receive certifications from the Environment Protections Agency and The Department of Energy, proving your home is energy-efficient.
Full Disclosure Practice
A good builder should have a full disclosure practice.
In other words, you should get a contract that includes specifications and options in writing.
“In writing” is the critical part of that. Every builder technically has a contract, but if it’s just in their head or in your head, you aren’t guaranteed anything. You’re setting yourself up for a “he said, she said” kind of argument, that often results in hiring a completely new builder.
A full disclosure practice also means that a builder should clearly show the options you have chosen on the house blueprints. If, at any point, changes are made in the house blueprints, you should receive an entirely new set of plans showing these changes.
Before you close your loan and start building your home, arrange a final meeting with your builder. It’s important to make sure you are on the exact same page.
And finally, make sure there is a clear understanding between you and your builder on what you have purchased and what you are expecting of them. To be fair, this should also be an opportunity for them to articulate what they hope to get from you.
Compliance With Applicable Laws
Compliance with applicable laws comes directly on the heels of full disclosure practice because your builder is required by law to give you a full disclosure statement.
There are other laws that a good builder should be following as well.
For example, builders are required by law to give you a list of suppliers and subcontractors that they utilize during the building process. If any changes are made, the homeowner must be notified.
Make sure to inform yourself on local laws and codes and check with your builder to make sure they are following the laws.
The Right Home Warranty and Customer Service
Always make sure you get a copy of your home builder’s warranty before signing a contract. Then, carefully read the warranty – even the fine print.
Not all warranties are created equally. If you aren’t happy with the warranty your builder provides, ask for something different, or look for another builder.
Note: Every builder in the state of Texas is responsible for your slab and structure for ten years after construction.
Here’s the tricky part – if your builder goes out of business, you no longer have a warranty. Some builders change the name of their business every couple of years so that their warranties are voided.
You definitely want to make sure you avoid builders that operate under those kinds of standards!
Also, when it comes to customer service regarding warranties, check to see if your builder has a 24-hour emergency warranty service.
In other words, will your builder fulfill their warranty obligations anytime, anywhere? Or, is the warranty based on a “when we get to it” kind of agreement?
Hire Quality Licensed Contractors
Your builders will utilize a variety of contractors to complete your home. It is important that they are hiring competent and qualified people to ensure your home is built to the best quality.
Believe it or not, homes that are built outside city limits do not require licensed and insured contractors.
That’s why many contractors refuse to build any homes within the city limits – because their contractors are not licensed!
At Design Tech Homes we make sure all of our contractors are licensed and insured – so we can build your home anytime and anywhere.
Yes, there are a lot of daunting questions when it comes to building your home.
And even though building a brand new house on your own lot is never easy, knowing what to do, and having the right builder, makes it much easier.
We utilize our years of experience and work hard to build the home of your dreams – walking with you from the beginning to the end of the process.
We look forward to meeting you. Get a quote today to get started!