Custom Home Building Process | Shelter Insurance®

Process for Building a Custom Home


So you've decided you want a custom-built home. It's a time consuming process from the time you choose your location to the time you close, so starting this early in the year might mean you can move in by late summer or early fall. If you're not sure where to begin, don't worry—we have tips to help get you started.

Land or a Subdivision?
If you envision your new house being on acreage with a lot of trees, here's a "short list" of things to consider before you get started:

  • What utilities are already on the land you're interested in buying? If none are there, you will have to pay the utility companies to run them to the house. The farther back from the road you are, the more it will cost.
  • If you want to use natural gas but it's not available in your area, you may have to consider propane, which will be an ongoing cost. Going all electric is a good option, and building a geothermal system can save you money on utility bills.
  • What type of septic system will you be using? Will you be on the city's water system or will you need a well? Will you need a sewage lagoon or a lateral line system?
  • Will trees need to be cleared to build the house? There's an additional cost for that.
  • How far back will your house sit from the road? If it's a long way, consider the cost of your driveway and what materials you will use for it.
  • What are your options for snow removal, garbage collection and internet services?
  • How much of your land will you mow and keep as your yard? How will you maintain your land? Will you need a large zero-turn mower and possibly a tractor? Consider those costs as well. 

In a subdivision, utility lines are already run to each house and the cost has been rolled in to the cost of each lot. Streets are paved in a subdivision (you might not get that if you build on acreage) and some subdivisions even have amenities such as a pool.

Choose a Floor Plan
During the spring, new subdivisions often hold open houses so you can tour different types of floor plans. Another option is to look at books of floor plans or look at floor plans online. Are there parts of different houses you like that you wish you could combine? If you can't decide on one, your builder should be able to guide you in the right direction.

Choose a Builder
Choosing a builder is not a lot different from choosing any other professional who provides a service. You want to make sure they are properly licensed and insured, and ask about the kind of warranty they provide.

When you looked at houses, if you saw one you liked, add that builder to a list of builders you'd like to talk to. You might also ask local realtors, friends or coworkers for recommendations, as well as search the internet. If a builder has a website that shows his work and floor plans he builds, check that out too. Attending local home shows is also a great way to get references for builders.

Once you've made your list, narrow it down to two or three you'd like to meet with to discuss what you want, what they can do in your budget and if they will give you references. Ask if a past customer is willing to let you look at their house, or if he's currently building one you can see.

Finishing Touches
When you build a house you get to choose everything—kitchen and bathroom counters and cabinets, door handles and drawer pulls, flooring, doors, windows, trim, paint colors, spindles, light fixtures, faucets, bathtubs, shower doors, fireplace, siding, garage doors…even what color the grout is if you have tile! The list goes on and on. It can be overwhelming, but it can also be fun.

You probably already have an idea of what finishes you want after looking at model homes and going to home shows. Upgrades cost more, so if you're on a tight budget, consider alternatives you might like.

Once you've chosen a floor plan and a builder, the rest of the process can begin. It's exciting—and frustrating—to watch the progress. Of course, you will probably want it done much sooner than it will be (that's the frustrating part) but once you have moved and settled in, you'll see why it was worth it all. As a housewarming gift, check out Shelter's new home discount when you need homeowners insurance.