Pre-Planning Can Make a Building Dream, a Reality

As spring takes hold of us here in Santa Fe, many dream home hopefuls will decide to make the plunge and commit to getting their much anticipated custom home project underway. 

In our experience, there is nothing more valuable than some careful pre-planning to assure that the next steps you make will lead you directly to making that dream a reality while avoiding many common stumbling blocks.

Location – It’s Most Important:

Location, location, location.  We have all heard this before, but it can’t be emphasized enough.  The lot you choose to build on will dictate to a significant degree how easily you will be able to achieve your goals, stay on your budget and hit the timeline you hope for. 

Use a reputable realtor who is very familiar with new home construction when looking at land.  When possible, pre-select a builder who is in alignment with your core values and work with that builder and realtor to select the lot which will yield the greatest benefit to you. 

Covenants, existing easements and setbacks, the Home Owners’ Association requirements, access to existing utilities, and the soil types on site will all have implications for the design, costs and timeline of your project.  Take time to do the due diligence with your builder and realtor to make sure you know what is going to be required of you on that lot.

Then Get Serious About House Design:

Once the limitations of the lot are understood, and you have made the purchase of the land, it’s time to get serious about design.  If you have pre-selected a builder, ask them who they prefer to work with for design. 

Many builders have existing relationships with architects, and better yet, some have in-house design capabilities.  The integrated design-build approach will yield efficiencies in pre-construction costs and shortened timelines, and perhaps most importantly, enable the project team to design to your budget effectively.  We call this “value engineering”. 

Before you even begin design work make sure you and your builder have had a serious conversation about costs, contract structure and a pre-construction timeline. 

Speak The Same Language About Costs:

When getting clear about what costs to expect, be sure you and your builder are speaking the same language.  Misunderstandings in the beginning about what “typical” costs are, and what may be atypical about your project can lead to disappointments and failed projects.  Remember, builders and architects do not have a crystal ball, and nobody, no matter how experienced, can predict any better than 80%-90% accuracy what the real costs of a project will be before the construction blueprints are 100% completed. 

That said, good design-build teams can prepare you very early on with cost expectations within a reasonable margin, and thus keep everyone’s expectations aligned, and the home design on track, so that the final “bid” doesn’t blow you out of the water.

When you have the right team, a clear understanding of what your site will allow, and cost expectations aligned, there is little to nothing that can stop you from making that dream home a reality.

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