Budget is possibly the most important piece of information you can give the builder/architect. How much money can you afford to spend? Be honest and realistic about that figure. Many builders and architects can look at home plans and estimate how much a house will cost to build in a particular square footage. So be prepared to tell the builder/architect up front how much you want to spend. If the plans you have go over your budget, your architect/builder will work with you to modify them to meet your needs or set you in the right direction as to what type of house you should look for on your budget. Nobody is a mind reader, if you say your budget is $200,000 that is what is assumed you have to spend.
Types of homes will determine what your home will look like. Create a want list and include the type of appliances, flooring, paint, cabinets, countertops, fixtures and hardware in your description. Take your time, before you decide on all the details, to examine your options by visiting stores, showrooms and open houses. There are many online sites to look for products.
Special circumstances may also play a role in what your home will look like. Do you need extra phone lines for a computer or fax machine? Many homeowners don’t think about it until it is too late. Are there oversized furnishings that have special requirements? For example, you have to think in advance about whether or not your 8-foot long buffet is going to fit along the dining room wall. Or will there be enough space for the heirloom armoire in the master suite?
What types of guests will you have and what will their needs be? How old are they? If grandparents are going to visit often, perhaps the guest bath should include a non-slip shower stall instead of or in addition to a bathtub, because it will be easier for them to step in and out of.
Will you purchase a satellite dish someday? Some builders will normally wire for cable, but the wiring needs to be done a specific way for a satellite dish. Rewiring down the road after the house is built can be a lot more expensive than having it done during construction for future use.
Fully investigate your selection of materials and appliances. Changing appliance choices or other selections can incur additional expense and delay. For example, kitchen cabinets may be ordered in a specific configuration to surround the new refrigerator you have selected. But if you change your mind and want to bring a refrigerator from your old house instead of purchasing a new one, the old one may be a different size and not fit into the space between your new cabinets. Also keep in mind that just because items haven’t arrived yet, doesn’t mean there is time to change selection. In many cases, components are ordered several weeks in advance of when they will be installed and changing one appliance to a different size or shape may have a domino effect and necessitate a string of other change orders resulting in potentially more expense and delay.
Determine who makes the decisions? Whether it is both spouses, or one, it should be clear. And if a couple makes decisions jointly, builders should respect that arrangement. The goal is to work with architects and builders to realize the dreams of you and your family. Builders realize that the home being built is yours, and most will work to make that happen.
One expert notes that, most often, families dislike talking to builders about money, because they fear being taken advantage of. Without trust and respect, antagonism between you and the builder can grow to be an unpleasant subtext in the relationship. Honest communication is and always will be one of highest priority. If the contractor does not know how you feel, then problems can not be solved.
Eventually, the matter of signing a contract will be at hand. If you don’t understand the contract, or do not want to study it because it is too unpleasant, invest in having a lawyer review it and explain it to you. It is important for you to know what to expect from the builder, what the builder expects of you, and what each of you are liable for before you sign.
Change orders can be an unpleasant part of the building process. Ask your builder or architect for a spec sheet on all equipment in your home before construction starts. If any of the information needs to be changed, do so as quickly as possible. This will keep the delays to a minimum. The change order will need to be signed by all parties. Then it will be added to the project records. This will cover any problems that may arise at the end of the project as to who signed it, and what was involved. If there is a change order for an item, most often that decision will be respected. Make sure to have the cost identified in the change order, whether or not it will be more or less. This will negate the confusion in this matter later on.