Congratulations! Beginning your Pre-Construction Phase is a major milestone in your Custom Homebuilding Journey! By now, you’ve chosen your custom builder and wrapped up what was hopefully an enjoyable and creatively-fulfilling architectural design process with your architect. And next is where the rubber finally meets the road.
If you’ve partnered with a proactive and organized custom builder, your Pre-Construction Phase is going to be full of progress, some of which you will see and participate in, and some of which is going to be accomplished behind the scenes. During this time, your builder’s list of to-do’s is long. There are HOA approvals and city permits to obtain, utility orders to put in place, potential constructability issues to solve, selections options and guidance to provide, builders risk insurance to quote, a project schedule to build, a budget to refine with each additional selection, subcontractor agreements to execute, and key trades to line out. Your list of to-do’s is extremely important as well. You’ll be securing lending (if desired) and finalizing the first phase of selections that you initially fleshed out during your Bidding Phase.
The efficiency with which your builder moves through this phase as well as the amount of selections progress you make before breaking ground will have a HUGE impact on how smoothly the rest of your homebuilding journey goes. The following five tips for success will take you through how to make the very most of your Custom Home Pre-Construction Phase.
TIP #1: ASK FOR A PRE-CONSTRUCTION TIMELINE
Truth be told, this tip is really about builder accountability. Hopefully your builder has effective internal processes in place to ensure the success of each phase of their projects. If they do, there is a very good chance that part of their process already includes creating a timeline with target deadlines for their team’s pre-construction action items. If your builder does NOT already have internal processes in place, you will want to set the expectation now that you’re counting on effective organization for your project. Requesting a pre-construction timeline will help with that.
Creating a pre-construction timeline is one of almost 60 line items on our Pre-Construction Checklist that we use for each of our projects. Every pre-construction timeline is different because each custom home and location is different, but they generally include target deadlines for the following:
- Completion of structural engineering (and civil if required by HOA/city)
- Creation of comprehensive construction budget (several deadlines for this multi-step process)
- Completion of various surveys, drainage plans, MEP plans, etc. required by HOA and/or city
- Submission to HOA for approval (and expected approval date)
- Submission to city for building permit (and expected permit date)
- Creation of comprehensive selections schedule for homeowners
- Providing of guidance to homeowners for key selections items
- Creation of detailed construction schedule
- Execution of sub agreements
- Kick-off meeting with key subs
Many of the dates on this pre-construction timeline will be TARGET deadlines, not hard deadlines. The important part of this step is that the builder goes through the exercise of organizing their team and their responsibilities in order to efficiently and effectively get your home to the starting line.
TIP #2: FINALIZE FIRST PHASE OF SELECTIONS BEFORE BREAKING GROUND
This one is HUGE. Making as many selections up front is critical to ensuring your home’s construction moves smoothly. Your custom builder should be able to provide you with a detailed list of selections they need before breaking ground. Having a clear path forward from your builder will help make the selections process much more manageable and less daunting for you.
Another way to make the selections process smoother and more enjoyable is to ask an interior designer for help. Hopefully by now you’ve interviewed several interior designers and engaged the one that will help you best execute the vision you have for your future home. If not, ask your custom builder for referrals and work quickly to find the best fit. If you’d like further information on choosing the right interior designer for you, visit our previous blog post here.
It’s important that your custom builder have an internal process in place for collecting selections from you as well as procuring materials so that construction stays on schedule. Oftentimes we hear of builders relying too heavily on interior designers to handle the entire selections process. The builder simply provides the plans up front and then send requests as they need specific selections from the homeowner and designer. This oftentimes makes the process more stressful, frantic, and frustrating than it needs to be. By providing a comprehensive selections schedule during the pre-construction phase, the homeowners and interior designer know far in advance when selections will be needed throughout construction. Even better if the builder also sends regular updates highlighting which selections to focus on next.
Among the selections needed BEFORE breaking ground on your home are:
- Windows and exterior doors
- Exterior materials/colors/details
- Plumbing fixtures
- Interior beams
- Fireplace details
- Interior flooring material
All of these selections are needed early because they have an impact on the architectural design as well as the plumbing groundwork and foundation of the home, which happens very early on in the construction process. For example, interior flooring material has impacts on foundation height variations, so it’s important to figure out which areas will have carpet/wood/tile in order to get the foundation right. In addition, these selections need to be made early because many of them they have long lead times. For a complete timeline of selections, download our Schedule of Design Selections here.
TIP #3: SECURE LENDING EARLY
Now that you have a construction budget from your custom builder, you’ll be able to obtain a construction loan for your home if desired. You’ll want to have financing in place before the pre-construction phase wraps up because lenders typically require that no construction work has been done before securing the loan. Start the lender selection and construction loan process early so that ground-breaking isn’t held up. It would be a bummer to have an approved building permit and not be able to build!
TIP #4: REVIEW PROJECT SCHEDULE WITH YOUR BUILDER
It is absolutely imperative that your custom builder create a customized construction schedule for your home before breaking ground. It provides both their team and their network of subcontractors a roadmap to follow and hold themselves accountable to. Without tracking this schedule, material ordering deadlines can be missed, steps can be done out of sequence, sub stacking and coordinating on site becomes more difficult, and more. All of these errors can cause considerable construction delays.
Similar to Tip #1, reviewing your project schedule with your custom builder helps to ensure they are organized and accountable when it comes to your project. Also, it helps you to understand how construction on your home will progress through the different phases. For an illustration of the pre-construction and construction phases, download our Custom Home Process Map.
TIP #5: ENJOY THE RIDE!
Your custom homebuilding journey can be an enjoyable experience if you choose a great custom builder, expect the unexpected, and manage to stay positive throughout the process.
Nothing ever goes exactly as planned in construction. Although your custom builder is used to the constant problem solving and fire-fighting, you may not be. From bad weather, to the delivery of defective materials, to inspection delays, to MIA subcontractors, just remember that your custom builder has seen it all before and is well-versed in getting creative when things don’t go according to plan. This is why you hired a custom builder with a proven track record of success.
Along with expecting the unexpected, do your best to stay positive. The custom homebuilding journey can be overwhelming and frustrating at times, but with a regular dose of trust, positivity, and good humor, speedbumps will be overcome efficiently and effectively. Remember that everything is manageable, with the right team on board. Staying positive not only helps your project stay on track, it will also lead to strong relationships with your team that you can rely on well into the future.
Best of luck during this pre-construction phase and as you work your way through construction! As always, feel free to reach out to our team should you have any questions or need further help along your journey.