Nearly five years ago, we moved into my parents’ basement after the recession and job loss left us struggling to make ends meet. Two years ago, we felt we maybe had a good enough handle on our finances to start looking for our own home.
And we looked.
We looked at existing homes in various neighborhoods. We went to open houses and flipped through hundreds of homes on Zillow and Trulia. It didn’t take us long to discover what we really wanted was a fresh start. A new build.
We started touring new home communities, trying find the right builder and the right neighborhood that suited our family’s needs.
About a year ago, we found a neighborhood we loved. It was where we wanted to be, the lot sizes were spacious, and there were families with lots of kids our kids’ ages. The only problem was, there were no homes or lots for sale right then, as the second phase wasn’t open yet and the first phase was complete.
So we waited.
We were finally able to pick our lot in March 2016, when there really was nothing to see except downed trees and dirt.
I think it was May or June when we went to pick out the various options for our home, and it wasn’t until September when the real building was begun. For various reasons, we really wanted to close in 2016, and we barely made it – we got the keys to our new home on December 22, 2016, and moved in the next day. We had just enough time to put up our little artificial tree before it was time to celebrate Christmas.
It took months of searching and planning, but so far I have zero regrets about our choice to build a home. And from someone who’s just completed the process, I’d like to share a few tips to help the process run smoothly.
Don’t be afraid to enlist a realtor on your behalf.
I know it’s new construction and you wouldn’t think there’s much room for negotiation, but a realtor experienced with new construction (bonus points if they’ve worked with your builder and neighborhood before) can help walk you through the process, give you an idea of what to expect, and will make sure your dollars count. We stumbled upon our real estate agent and now happily call him friend.
Do take your time.
It’s best to take your time every step of the way, from researching various builders, exploring neighborhoods, choosing the options for inside your house, and finding the right lender/mortgage broker. The more you know going in, the better. Since we were living with my parents, we did have the luxury of time. I know not everyone does – but building and buying a home is not something that should be rushed, if you can help it.
Do expect delays.
This is South Carolina. The only predictable thing about our weather is that it is unpredictable. From droughts to floods to heat waves and cold snaps, literally anything is possible.
Also keep in mind that while the builder does tend to include some “make up days” in the schedule, some things are out of the builder’s control, like DHEC approvals, utility installation and more. This was probably the most frustrating piece for our family, because the main reason it took so long for our build was due to delays completely outside of the builder’s or our control.
There may also be bank/mortgage delays. I know we had to submit the same paperwork multiple times to our banker. This, apparently, is not uncommon. There are a lot of different parties involved with building and buying, and getting them all to coordinate smoothly is no easy task.
Don’t be a stranger.
Visit the build site as often as you reasonably can. Talk to your future neighbors. Find out if there are community events or a neighborhood Facebook page or group. These beginning steps into discovering your new neighborhood will make the transition easier on everyone in your family, and go a long way to making your family feel at home in its new digs.
Do involve your kids.
I don’t recommend bringing them to official planning meetings – you need to be able to focus and take your time at each of those. Don’t let whoever is leading the meetings rush you, ask questions!
Your children can help pack – you know, the non-breakable stuff like clothes and stuffed animals. With our kids, because building is a drawn out process, we packed in stages. I let the kids pick which toys to leave out until the very end and packed up the others (and trashed/donated some when they weren’t looking) until we were in the new house.
Bring them with you when you visit the build site. Let them talk to the families who will be your neighbors. These little steps will help the new house feel more like a home whenever you are officially able to move.