Florida isn't a place I ever expected to live. But once my children put roots down there, you could say … my perspective changed. Over the last 10 years, I've watched the building of thousands of new homes around Orlando. Visits to model homes and open houses were made out of curiosity and/or photo taking for this blog. Now that I'm building a house, here's the timeline used by one of the home building companies putting up hundreds, sometimes thousands of homes each year.
Home Building Companies: They've Got the Land!
When you move to a new state, one that you don't know much about, picking the right town or neighborhood can be challenging. Given the number of times I've moved it would be interesting to go back and identify how we picked each new home. Fortunately my criteria was pretty easy with my recent move to Florida. I wanted to be live close to my granddaughter and the airport, which is just under 30 minutes from my son's house.
So Champions Gate is where I started looking. Because I wanted an open floor plan, it made sense to look at new homes versus ones built more than 20 years ago. This meant exploring the various communities being developed by home building companies. Lennar is building a huge resort community so that's where I started. I fell in love with their 4 bedroom, 1 story model called the Newcastle.
Then it was time to check the prices for comparable houses in the area. You need to do this to make sure you're making a smart investment. That's because your house is also a financial investment that should appreciate over time and be easy to sell in the future. With so much building going on in central Florida, I don't anticipate much price appreciation as older homes have a tough time competing with new construction.
Click here to learn about Picking Your Building Lot and you'll see mine!
Home Building Companies: Beware of One-Sided Contracts
The challenge when signing a contract for a house being built is there's nothing to see, nothing to inspect … so you have to rely on documentation. Not your typical buyer, I read every document totaling more than 30 pages. The topics were valid like a radon disclosure but the information was presented was scary. The bottom line message was always the same … the builder is not responsible for just about anything.
Here were the major problems and omissions in the paperwork provided and I'll be writing individual blog posts on each contract topic.
- Lack of specifications for the type of materials to be used. Brand names and capacity like a 40 versus 50 gallon hot water heater are things that should be clearly documented.
- Lack of choice for the title company and closing agent. With a little research I found the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) that prohibits a seller from requiring a buyer to purchase title insurance from any particular title company. They also can't require a particular closing agent.
- Not understanding total cost when signing the contract because you only get to visit the home gallery and pick your finishes after you've signed the contract.
Picking Finishes at Your Builder's Home Gallery (Design Center)
… an experience that I'll write about at a later time!
Become Friends with Your Construction Supervisor
It's unlikely that you'll have time to visit your building site every day. That's the job of your construction supervisor who I'll call my builder for short. He's more like a project manager, coordinating the delivery of materials to coincide with when each trade arrives so they can get to work without any delays. It's actually a complicated timeline that gets tweaked all the time. Sometimes a door installation takes an extra day and sometimes, a delay can be several weeks like happened recently when the company building trusses had an equipment failure.
My realtor arranged a meeting with the builder once before I signed the contract. He was friendly and answered all of my questions.
Once all the floor plans were finalized after my visit to the home gallery, there was a pre-construction conference with the builder and his assistant. The meeting took about three hours as we moved through everything I wanted and needed to know about the house. But honestly, the most important thing was getting to know each other to insure smooth communication through the entire building process.
Here are the topics we covered with a goal of finalizing the plans the builder will use to manage the project:
- Building lot plan and house position on the building lot.
- Utility connections on house exterior – water (fresh and treated water for landscaping), electrical and HVAC.
- Irrigation and exterior faucets for gardening, washing cars, etc.
- Exterior outlets and lighting for entryway, garage and patio.
- Floor plan to confirm changes to base model – 3rd car garage, club room, study and fourth bedroom.
- Extra electrical outlets and wiring for additional ceiling fans in all bedrooms.
- Kitchen cabinets, countertops and hardware which I will replace after I close on the house.
- Bathroom cabinets, countertops and tile for shower and bathtub walls.
- Flooring for wet areas (entry, kitchen, dining and bathrooms) and dry areas, which I'll replace with tile throughout the house.
Visit Your Home Weekly During Construction
Once work starts on your home, it's time to schedule weekly (or more frequent) visits to monitor the progress. If you're able to coordinate your visits with the builder that's the best way to get answers to your questions. If you can only go at night or weekends, figure out a way to stay in touch with the builder. You'll get more frequent communications if you ask what they prefer. That's because they're sending updates out to multiple home buyers so …
You can follow the updates I'm getting by clicking here …
You might also enjoy some of the articles I've written about various things that I've learned and/or experienced during the home building process: