The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Designing (& Building) Your Own Home 1

Owning your own home in the United States has always been part of living the American Dream, and the trend does not look like it will change anytime soon.

In fact, in a recent analysis by Nerd Wallet, 32% of Americans said they plan to purchase a home in the next five years, and 15% have purchased a home in the past five years.

It is clear that Americans don’t plan on giving up homeownership, and that made us ask:

Are the people looking for a new home planning to buy an existing home, or do they want to design and build their own home?

If you are reading this home building guide, you may be asking yourself the same question.

Is it worth designing and building your own house, or simply purchasing an existing home and moving in?

In this article, we are going to explore the pros and cons of both. We will also look at the overall process of designing and building your own house.

And if you are looking for a custom home builder in Houston, San Antonio, or surrounding areas, contact the team at Design Tech Homes today to start designing your dream home!


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1 – Pros of building your own home

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Building a new home allows you to start with a fresh start and a clean slate. You choose the options, customization, and design that you always wanted in your dream home!

Let’s begin by looking at the pros of building your own home.

Whether you design your own home or use a custom home builder, it is exciting to think about the possibilities when you build your own house!

More location options

Because you are starting from scratch, you have more options to choose from with location. It is important to think about the needs and desires of your family at this stage.

Do you want an urban or country setting? What do you think is an ideal commute for work? Do you prefer a wooded or open setting?

These are some of the questions you should answer in picking your location.

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Customize the home to your needs

The possibilities in customization as you design your own home are limitless. From the floor plan to the size of the closets, you have complete control over every detail of your new home!

And if all the custom options feel overwhelming, don’t worry. We have a blog that can walk you through the process from start to finish: 14 Things To Know When Building On Your Lot In Texas. 

A fresh start to your home

There is no better feeling than moving into your brand new home! You can fall asleep the first night knowing it was never used before. You also don’t need to worry about an old roof, bad smells, leaky windows, or other maintenance issues.


One of the beautiful things about building your own home is knowing it should be maintenance-free for many years.

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If built correctly, you can enjoy your new home for many years before needing to worry about replacing the roof, water heater, or other parts.

These maintenance savings are important to consider when you think about the cost of building your own home since older houses may need costly maintenance or repairs.

Beyond maintenance, you can design your home to be energy efficient saving you lots of money in the long run. 

Modern decor and finishings

No need to worry about your home being outdated soon! Instead, you can design your home in a modern style with updated features.

You literally get to decide whatever you want. 

While a young couple might opt for a contemporary style, someone building a retirement home might choose a more traditional style.  

Warranty coverage

Many older homes need repairs not covered under any warranty. However, when you build your own house, you start with the full warranty coverage for all the construction parts. You also have the option to purchase extended warranties on some materials.

Updated technology

Building a new home allows you to design and optimize it for modern technology such as security systems, modern entertainment systems, and communication. Older homes often need to be retrofitted to accompany newer technology.

Environmentally friendly and efficient

Many new homes are built to be energy efficient and have a small ecological footprint. Efficient homes require less energy to heat and cool.

They can also have features such as high-efficiency hot water systems, low-flow plumbing fixtures, solar power, bamboo flooring, and other eco-friendly designs.

Custom financing options

Custom home builders often have mortgage subsidiaries or affiliates which provide custom-tailor financing. This includes down payments, loan fees, and even interest rates tailored to your budget and situation.

2 – Cons of building your own house

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While designing and building your own home seems ideal, most people buy existing homes instead of building their own.

Why is this?

While building a new home has a lot of benefits, there are also some cons.

Price is not as negotiable

Building a new home requires a large initial investment. You need to buy the land and build everything on site. There are also permit fees and other costs in building a new home.

Because the cost is based on materials and construction time, the price for new homes is usually fixed and not negotiable like an existing home.

Upgrades and extras increase the cost

It is fun to think of all the extras you want as you design your own home, but these come with a price. Almost every feature in your home has available upgrades, but each one increases the cost of your new home.

Time to build

There is significant time required from start to finish with your new home. This timeline only increases if you have to buy the land first.

The design, permitting, site preparation, construction, finish work, and other miscellaneous parts of building a new home take a lot of time. Depending on the time of year and location, the weather also delays construction.

Potential red tape

There is significant paperwork and red tape before actual construction is allowed to start. Most of this occurs in getting the necessary building permits and required inspections from the local authority having jurisdiction.

While this process usually goes smoothly if requirements are met, it does allow for potential issues with the paperwork or drawings. If these issues arise, it will push back the construction timeline.

If you work directly with a custom home builder, they take care of most of this for you.

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Choosing a bad builder or contractor

Whether you choose to work with a custom home builder or play the role of the general contractor yourself, your new home is only as good as the builders you choose.

Take time to research the contractors you choose. Read customer reviews, know their warranties, and find out everything possible about them.

3 – Pros of Buying an Existing Home

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Now that we have looked at the pros and cons of building your own home, let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of buying an existing home.

Here are some of the top reasons to buy an existing home:

Less stress

Because the house is already built, purchasing an existing home usually takes less stress and time. It requires no design work, floor plan layouts, or contracting.

The price is fixed

If you are approved for a set amount of financing and have a specific housing budget, then purchasing a home is easier. There are rarely upcharges or budget surprises when buying an existing home, especially when using a reputable realtor.

Mature landscaping

Most existing homes have established landscaping on the property. Depending on age, there might also be mature trees or hedgerows. This usually means you simply need to maintain the existing landscape instead of designing and planting a landscape.

Faster timeline

Even though the average time to close on a home is 30-45 days, it is still typically quicker than building your own house. As long as no major issues arise, you should be able to move into your purchased home relatively quickly.

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No “option overload”

One of the hardest parts of designing your own home is the unlimited options you have. Working with a custom home builder is helpful, but it still requires a lot of decisions to be made.

On the other hand, buying an existing home eliminates most of this with a simple “what you see is what you get” approach.

4 – Cons of Buying an Existing Home

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While there are advantages to buying an existing home, it is not always smooth sailing.

Here are some reasons people prefer to design their own home instead of buying:

Customization is limited

Because you are buying a home that is already built, little customization is possible unless you are able and willing to remodel the existing home. While remodeling is an option, it sometimes is easier to build your own house from scratch.

Potential maintenance issues

Before you purchase an existing home, it is good to have a licensed home inspector perform a thorough investigation of the house. This makes you aware of any potential issues or maintenance concerns before you buy the home.

This includes issues with the roof, water heaters and pumps, sewer systems, AC and heating units, plumbing, electrical, and structural concerns.

However, an existing house will always have more maintenance because the house and its parts are not brand new and have been used.

Might not be energy efficient

Older homes are not usually as energy efficient, both in their appliances and actual home structure. Leaky windows and doors or poor insulation result in higher energy bills.

If appliances need to be upgraded due to energy inefficiency, then this cost should be considered in the budget.

Location concerns

While it is not impossible to find an existing home in your “dream spot,” it often takes more time and usually costs more.

Often the cheaper homes in a neighborhood are priced accordingly because they are in less desirable locations, such as closer to a loud highway, heavy commute areas, commercial property, or other intrusive features.

Hidden issues

Whenever you purchase an existing home, you face potential unseen or unknown problems at the time of the purchase. These include maintenance issues, but the more challenging to see are health concerns such as asbestos, radon, mold, or foul odors.

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Ultimately, it is up to you and your family whether you buy an existing home or build your own.

If you plan to build your own home, then please keep reading for some practical tips to make this easier. If you plan to buy an existing home, please feel free to continue reading as well!

5 – Steps to Design and Build your own House

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As you get ready to design your own home, you need to make sure you don’t get blown away by “option overload.” Sometimes homeowners want to build their own home, but they get overwhelmed by the options, and as a result, they don’t know where to start with the design process.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be a victim of option overload!

The following are practical tips to walk you through each step of the design process.

Home Design Inspiration

  • Browse Magazines: Pick up several home magazines and keep track of the features, styles, and layouts you like.
  • Search Online: If there are features you want in your new home, search for websites, pictures, and videos on how to utilize these features in your design.
  • Take a tour: Many home builders and contractors have model homes or newly built homes to tour. These provide practical ideas on designs, layouts, and decorating ideas.
  • Check realty listings: Look at local realty listings, pictures, and open houses. These give you examples of different styles and features.

Initial Home Design

  • Have a budget: Before you talk with your local custom home builder, have a budget in mind. Talking with your banker or mortgage lender will help you determine the budget in building your new home.
  • Know your essentials: Know how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need, what storage options you want, what kind of layout you want, features your family values, and other essentials.
  • Have a general floor plan: It helps to know the general floor plan you want. Many home builders have stock floor plans that can be modified to fit your goals. You can also find floor plans while browsing magazines, websites, and other homes.
  • Itemize rooms and items: Many people find it helpful to list the rooms in their new home and what goes with each one. This helps determine what size rooms should be, necessary closet space, and what rooms or features are necessary or optional.

Final Home Design

  • Work with an architect or contractor: Even if you feel confident that you have all your bases covered in your design, you should still work with an architect or contractor to make sure you missed nothing. Sometimes this is required for the permit process.
  • Find a building lot: Once you have your ideal floor plan laid out, you need to find a building lot suitable for your floor plan and needs. Many custom home builders provide site management assistance to help assess the property, determine home placement, and help lay out other details such as sewer, water, etc.

Home Construction

  • Trust the experts: If you have done your research and chosen a reputable contractor or custom home builder, now is the time to trust them with their construction techniques. Their goal is to use their knowledge and innovative techniques to provide the best home possible to you.
  • Ask pertinent questions: Feel free to ask questions during the construction process. This will help you later with maintenance, reselling the house, and it gives you peace of mind. Two-way communication with your home contractor is important.
  • Visit the construction site: Try to visit the house several times while it is under construction. Make sure you follow established safety procedures while visiting. Reputable home builders usually schedule visits at the crucial stages of development to keep communication open and informative.

6 – Pros and Cons of Using a Contractor

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If you research whether or not you should hire a contractor, also referred to as a home builder, you find many different opinions.

Many people use a home builder to do most of the construction work, but let’s take a quick look at a few pros and cons of using a contractor:

Pros Of Hiring A Home Contractor:

  • Hiring a reputable contractor removes most of the stress off your shoulders.
  • A good contractor brings a team of experts to work on your house.
  • Work often progresses faster because a contractor schedules the work.
  • You will have all your questions answered about the process.

Cons Of Hiring A Home Contractor:

  • Hiring a bad contractor can cause construction or timeline issues.
  • Hiring a contractor usually costs more than doing it yourself.

A note on cost: While it is true that home builders aim for an average profit margin of 15-25% on the building project, this does not mean you immediately save this cost if you build your own home and hire your own subcontractors.

Many custom home builders have efficient construction teams, experienced subcontractors, and wholesale pricing when they build a home. This allows them to buy the same materials cheaper and build your home with fewer working hours.

As a result, it is estimated savings are closer to 10-15% if you build your own house, and this is assuming everything goes correctly. If issues arise, your savings quickly become less.

Knowing how much time, stress, and scheduling goes into building a home, many homeowners find hiring a reputable contractor the preferred route to take.

7 – Trades Used in Building a Home

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Even if you hire a custom home builder for your project, it is helpful to know some of the necessary trades and types of work used to build your house.

This list is not inclusive, but it will help you better understand the steps in turning your dream home into a reality.

Exterior Construction Trades:

  • Excavator: The excavating crew clears the construction site of any trees, rocks, and debris. They also level the site and prepare the ground for the foundation.
  • Masonry: Masons and concrete workers build the home’s foundation. They also help build the home exterior if brick, stone, stucco, or other mason products are used.
  • Framer: This team constructs the main structure of your home according to the blueprints. Many framing crews have a unique process in framing a house, and this often depends on crew size and preference or geographic considerations.
  • Exterior Supplies: A crew is responsible to finish up the exterior work and install parts such as windows, doors, siding, soffit, etc. Sometimes this is the same crew as the framers, and sometimes it is crews specialized in the product.
  • Roofer: Roofing is an integral part of the phase. After all, no one wants a new home with a leaking roof! Reputable roofing crews properly install a roof with waterproof flashing in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Interior Construction Trades:

  • Plumber: An experienced plumbing team follows all codes and requirements in installing a leak-proof plumbing and drainage system.
  • Electrician: Proper wiring is critical for safety and functionality, and an experienced electrician crew plans and installs your electrical system in a safe way that follows the National Electric Code.
  • Drywall: Drywall teams hang and tape drywall to provide smooth and seamless walls.
  • Painter: Once the interior construction is finished, painters paint the walls, ceiling, and trim. Colors are usually chosen during the design phase.
  • Cabinets: Professional teams install cabinets in your bathrooms, kitchens, and any other places cabinets are on the plan. The style, color, and placement of the cabinets are chosen during the design phase.
  • Trim Carpenter: Trim carpenters do the finish trim around windows, doors, flooring, crown molding (if applicable), and sometimes around cabinets.
  • Flooring: Flooring teams install carpet, hardwoods, vinyl, tile, and other types of flooring as specified in the building plans.

As you can see, many types of trades and experience are required when you build your own house!

Many contractors have their own crews do most of the exterior work. They hire specialized subcontractors to complete the detailed interior finish work such as painting, flooring, etc.

8 – Conclusion

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Designing and building your own home is exciting!

It takes work, time, and planning, but it results in a fully customized home laid out exactly how you and your family want.

If you hire a reputable contractor, the process should be mostly painless and stress-free. There are always things that can go wrong with construction projects, but knowing you have an experienced home builder on your side gives you peace of mind.

At Design Tech Homes, we have been making our customer’s dream homes a reality for over 20 years. We value each of our customers in the design, construction, and inspection process.

If you are looking for a custom home builder in Houston, TX, San Antonio, Waterfront Properties, or other areas in Central Texas, then contact us at Design Tech Homes today. We look forward to working with you as you design and build your dream home!