Whether you are building your home from the ground up or working with a builder to customize a floor plan and finishes, there are four key things that can make the difference between moving into your dream house or feeling trapped in your worst nightmare.
Location, location, location
If you’re building a house, you need to become a top-notch researcher, because the most amazing home in the world will be significantly flawed if you put it in the wrong place. Know what your family needs to live comfortably when they’re outside its walls. If you have children, learn about school districts. Do you like to be able to walk around your neighborhood? Do you need easy access to grocery stores? Dry cleaners? Restaurants? Will your house be the biggest on the block? The smallest? Will the floorplan work with the land around it? A good realtor can be your biggest asset in doing this early research. Of course, finding a good realtor requires research, too, but it's good preparation for what comes next.
Hire the best (not the most expensive) professionals
It takes a village to build a house. From hiring a real estate agent who can find you the perfect location, to an architect who can translate your fantasies into bricks and mortar, to a builder who will execute your vision on an appropriate timeline, to a lawyer who can review your contracts with all of them, to a designer who can help you decide whether those cabinets really work with that kitchen floor … the people you work with can make your dreams come true – or break your heart (and your bank account). Check references. Listen to local word-of-mouth. Find out if your builder is a good businessman as well as a good carpenter: Does he pay his bills so your materials arrive on time? Are his subcontractors happy to show up and work hard? Remember that costs can pile up as construction goes on. Your realtor may be able to broker incentives from the builder, and your lawyer may be able to help keep costs in check.
Pay attention to the details
Always remember that you are the consumer, and you are entitled to get what you want. This doesn't mean you should ignore the advice of the experts you've assembled, but it does mean that if you know you need extra electrical outlets in the kitchen, or more space in the shower, you must be clear about your wishes – right down to the smallest detail. If you have your heart set on including certain pieces of furniture in your home, be sure they will fit in the spaces you are imagining.
Plan as if you'll live in your house forever
While you can't predict the future, you can plan for a home that will work for your family for years to come. You can be trendy and innovative in your cosmetic and decorative touches, but when it comes to construction features, stick to the classics. Consider ways to make your home as efficient as possible. Heating, water systems, insulation and landscaping can all reduce the costs of living in your home over many years. And should you ever decide to sell, you'll be able to attract buyers who appreciate your good planning.