Building a New Home — How Long Will It Take?

home blue prints

“How long will it take?” is a question builders hear a lot. People who haven’t built before often have an unrealistic concept of how long it can take to plan, budget, permit and build a home. Many variables can affect the timetable.

A plan the builder previously has constructed will take less time than a fully custom home, even if the homeowners make changes. A custom home can take months to design and permit and a year or more to build.

Some people see size as the best indicator of how long the project will take. Cost is a far more accurate gauge. Imagine two 4,500-square-foot homes, one for $800,000 and another for $2 million. It’s a good bet that the latter will have a more complex design, which will take longer to build.

Legal approvals required before construction begins have multiplied over the years. Signoff will be needed from the review board, planning department, building department, health department, fire department and, when building in a planned community, the homeowners association. In some areas, historical commissions, water authorities or other entities want their say as well. Not surprisingly, the wheels of these bureaucracies can move slowly, but an experienced builder should be able to estimate the time required to negotiate the red tape.

Additionally, estimates of the home’s heating and cooling loads are now required before a permit is issued. Also needed are a detailed structural analysis, including methods of handling rainfall and runoff. Many times a detailed plan of hauling routes for trucks must be presented to the planning department.

Is the lot flat with wide streets and utilities in place? Or is it a sloped lot with little access, which will require the contractor to cut a ramp into the site, then excavate and fill to accommodate the foundation? The second obviously takes more time and requires more permits and approvals.

Keeping on track

Fortunately, there are things homeowners can do to keep the job moving. These include taking deadlines seriously, providing details on how they will live in the home and minimizing changes.

Most busy architects and builders work hard to get things done promptly; but without firm dates, things can slip. Design and construction teams should have a solid date for the next meeting and deadlines for the next steps. “The plans will be done in a couple of weeks” is vague.

Homeowners who postpone scheduled meetings with the builder or architect will also throw off the timetable.

Think the home through. The more detailed the plan, the less chance of hang-ups. For example, vague electrical plans can stop a project in its tracks. Homeowners need to think through where they want furniture and cabinets so that the architect can specify the right number of outlets. If artwork is to be displayed on a wall or above a fireplace, the architect needs to know that in order to specify the correct lighting. If homeowners don’t drill down to this level of detail until the job is well underway, things can be held up while new wiring is installed or walls and ceilings are reframed.

Changes made late in the design stage can extend design and permitting time; those made after project kickoff can extend build time.

The bottom line is that homeowners need to be absolutely clear with the builder if moving in by a certain date is a priority, and need assurance that the builder is on board. Then the homeowners, builder and architect can plan effectively to meet the date.

Terry Wardell

Wardell Builders

649 Valley Ave., Suite A,
Solana Beach, CA 92075

Categories: Home Design