First of all, I know how exciting and overwhelming it can be to start planning your dream home! I too watch HGTV like a fiend and dream of a waterfall flowing into my saltwater pool, ceilings as high as the eye will go with giant beams and an extravagant pastry chef’s kitchen where I could simultaneously watch my daughter play in the living room and “Beat Bobby Flay” during a kitchen cookie showdown. Lol. But, before you fall too far in love with plans for a sprawling 3500 square foot farmhouse/ranch built on 20 acres with no current water or sewer… make sure you can afford it…
First, talk to a lender and figure out what is within your budget. Review your finances and look at things like current debt, assets and overall income. Lenders will present you an ESTIMATION of your potential mortgage called a pre-qualification letter and this will help you figure out what you can REALLY afford. But, this pre-qualification letter doesn’t mean you automatically get the loan— so be prepared to make some tough decisions for what you must have. REMEMBER: Don’t go into massive debt and take on huge loads of money stress over extending yourself just for a home. I promise… you can truly plan your dream house and keep it affordable as long as you clearly define what you must have.
It turns out that for our 3 person (maybe future 4 person) and 2 dog family, our must haves include: 3000 square feet , 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, an open floor plan, a kitchen with granite countertops, fenced in back yard, 3 car garage for a workout area and an office for Shaun to work from… but if you are single (and plan to stay that way), own a cat, workout only at the gym and would rather order take out every night/only use a microwave… you’ll have a very different sort of list.
If you’re not sure if something is a “want” or a “need” look at it this way. If you can say something like “a fourth bedroom or a pool might be nice” then those features are probably just wants. Many times “wants” are things that are going to be easy to add on later when you have more money available or if you have extra in the budget. However, there are things you know you must have, like an open floor plan with the kitchen so you can watch your two year old while you make dinner or maybe something less common like wheel chair access for a mother-in-law suite. When planning your dream home first of all, be clear on the exact number of bedrooms, bathrooms and overall square footage you are looking for because this will define a big part of your budget. You will generally pay for a home by the square foot. Most exterior features like a deck, porch, shed or fence might be “wants” until you take a closer look— if you have a wild dog that loves to run or a large yard that requires a lot of maintenance then a fence and shed might fall on your “needs” list and if this is case— pricing out size of these items is important in cost. Also, pay attention to interior features like open concept, hardwood floors, quartz counter tops or an extra laundry room. There are less expensive alternatives found in beautiful high quality laminate floors or granite counter tops and the price tag can be substantially lower. Finally, don’t forget structural things (i.e. garage, multiple stories or basements), heating and A/C (fireplaces, energy efficiency, central A/C) and location (quiet area, good schools, lake front property) because all of this can quickly expand and increase your dream home budget.
I see this a lot with clients. They want a home and they need it NOW because they’re PCSing (moving because of the military) and will be here in a couple months. I hate to burst your bubble but this is not enough time to build your dream home. Most of the time if you need to find plans and have them adjusted to be what you want it will take you about a month to solidify things. Then, there’s the loan process which can take anywhere from 45 days to 3 months depending on your bank and lender. Next, you have to break ground (clear the lot, pour the foundation etc…) and build the home. Realistically this is going to take you 8-10 months, if there are only minor issues. Obviously there are always some issues that can delay projects but that’s normally as fast as you’re safely going to see it done right. What does that mean for you?
Listen, I know the process of building your own home can seem overwhelming and daunting but take it one chunk at a time. Realistically you will have to make compromises on some things…so accept that now. But, you can have your dream home at an affordable price and still send your kids to college. Just start by using the steps above and if you have any questions about starting your own custom build, email us at email@example.com.
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