Beginning the process of building a custom home

Have you been thinking of building a custom home but aren’t sure how to get started? I’m going to discuss the process of working with a custom home builder to give an overview of the steps for this process and give advice for the best way to approach building your dream home. 

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I’ve grown up around the home building business. My dad, Jonathan Lee, has been building custom homes in Winston-Salem with the business he started twenty-five years ago, Homes by Jonathan Lee

I’ve gotten to see so many of his projects and accompany him and my mom along to meetings with their clients. And some of those clients have become very close friends or even like family to us. I remember always enjoying going with my mom to deliver a gift basket to a client after they moved in to congratulate them. That’s the kind of care and thoughtfulness that left a great impression on me and has formed how I run my business as a realtor. 

The thought of beginning the process of a custom build home can be overwhelming, but that’s what I’m here to help you through. I collaborated with my dad for us both to put together the following steps and advice to give anyone who’s curious about beginning this exciting process.

The first part of this process would be to determine a budget for your home. This involves a few steps. If you already own a home, a realtor can help determine what your home is likely to sell for. Having an idea for the potential amount you could sell your home for will get you started with determining the price range for the new home.

Then you would need to meet with a mortgage lender who will be able to help you determine what you can afford with a new home. They can show what your monthly mortgage payments would be to ensure that you will be comfortable with a certain price range. 

Along with determining the budget for your new home, you’ve got to decide where you’d like your home to be built. Would you want to live in a subdivision with a community pool and an HOA? Would you prefer to live on a more secluded lot with higher acreage? If you need help with this part of the process, realtors are available for assistance with helping you find the perfect lot. We are able to help with this stage because of our resources with finding available lots and knowledge of locations we specialize in.

Now at this point, if you’ve met with a lender and determined your budget and located an area or specific lot where you’d like to build, then it would be time to select your builder. 

Jonathan recommends interviewing at least two-three builders to help determine who’s the best fit for you. This involves talking with them, asking any questions you have, and checking their references. You want to ask each one what their building process is like as well. He said sometimes people will select their lot and house plans then put out a bid for builders. He does not recommend doing this. If you’re committing to a custom home build, you’re not going to get a quality end product and exactly what you want by choosing a builder solely off of who is offering to do the job for the least expensive cost. On top of that, this is a lengthy process you’re going to want to be working on with someone who you get along with.

“The process of building a home is going to involve almost a year-long relationship with that builder so this needs to be someone you trust and get along with,” said Jonathan. “In the end, you want to select someone you feel the most comfortable with and who you feel most confident that you’ll have the best experience with.”

Once you’ve gotten past the step of selecting your builder, it’s time to design the home with them. If you’ve been thinking about building a custom home, then most likely you’ve saved many pictures, magazines, or started a Pinterest board with inspiration for your home. This is where it’s time to show them exactly how you want your home to look. 

“Show the builder pictures of what you like,” said Jonathan. “Communication and getting feedback is key.” 

Sometimes potential new clients come to him with house plans already in mind that they found online or in a magazine, but if not he helps them with selecting house plans for the layout of the home. 

Once you’ve worked with your builder and designed your home, the builder will quote it and give a price for the project. In general, most builders will require a 10% deposit on the home for starting the project. If paying cash, then you’d move forward from there. If obtaining a loan, once you have plans and a contract with a builder, then your lender would begin the loan approval and underwriting process which usually takes thirty to forty-five days. 

If the thought of tackling these steps and getting started on a custom build stresses you out, don’t be! This should be a fun, exciting experience and it’s up to professionals such as the builder, lender, and I to make sure this process is as stress-free as possible for you. We are there to always be available, see you through every part of this process and take any stressful situations that arise off your hands. 

“This should be a fun, enjoyable process. A good builder, realtor, and lender are the keys to a successful project. By using the professionals, you will have a better building experience and a better home built,” said Jonathan. 

If you have any questions about building a custom home or would like to get started on this process, I’m happy to help. I’m always available to introduce you to a mortgage lender, find a lot to build, and connect with home builders.

Jacqueline Lee, Realtor


Published by jacquelineleerealtor

I'm a realtor living in Raleigh with a great passion for this city. I strive to give clients the best experience possible for home buying and selling. My favorite thing to do is explore everything Raleigh has to offer including new restaurants, shops and events. I love to share my experiences with local businesses here to help new residents explore the city, or introduce a new place for Raleigh locals to try.

2 thoughts on “Beginning the process of building a custom home

  1. The extra time and money spent on designing, building, and settling into your custom home, will be worth it if you plan to make it your home for years to come.

    Liked by 1 person

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