Building a Home

Building a Home

Plan smartly from the ground up

What better way to satisfy the American dream than to build your own home. And in doing so you can meet the criteria for today’s fast-changing lifestyles, new definitions of family that fuel the desire for different floor plans, technological advancements that require special features, and a wish to save the planet by using new, more efficient energy sources and sustainable materials and systems.

Besides picking the best builder, developer, architect, or contractor, take time to be sure you cover these 3 steps that will help guarantee your top-notch results:

#1. Get a detailed contract that is specific to your needs, rather than a boiler-plate document culled from the internet. Many professional groups such as The American Institute of Architects have established contract forms that can be enhanced, says Chicago architect Allan J. Grant.

What belongs in most agreements? Everything (including the kitchen sink) from starting to estimated completion dates, materials, best practices such as daily time of arrival and departure, frequency of trash removal, a method to resolve problems, and payment schedule.

In fact, David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law in New York, says, "One of the most important contract provisions is the one that links your payments to the completion of different stages of the work: demolition; open wall work (plumbing, wiring. etc.); closed wall work (drywall, cabinetry, etc.); and finish work (painting, flooring, etc.)." You may be wise to have an attorney eyeball the contract before you sign.

#2. Learn to read a floor plan. Before the project gets too far underway, learn to read symbols on blueprint and elevation drawings that indicate what will be built. You can also check out a tutorial on YouTube. Many architectural glossaries online will also help you become better educated. "I don’t expect clients to know how to read drawings, but it’s a bonus if they show interest in learning," Grant says. "It’s easier and less expensive to make changes in the drawing stage than during building–or rebuilding."

#3. Familiarize yourself with materials, appliances, and other options. So many choices abound. A builder may favor custom cabinets because of more detailed workmanship and better materials, but stock items may better fit your budget. An appliance salesman may recommend an induction cooktop when you’ve been happy with gas. And your friends may tell you that granite is so passé, and you must consider quartzite. "What’s that?" you wonder. Understand differences in style, price, durability, and greenness. Grant likes to accompany clients to showrooms to weigh choices. "Appliance selections impact the layout; if we go with a 27" or 48" refrigerator, for example," he says.

Building a house means becoming part of a team. Put in your time, due diligence, and you’ll reap the best results.

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