Homebuilding 101: What to consider when considering a building

| by Heather Ferrier Laminack
Homebuilding 101: What to consider when considering a building

Building a home can be a very exciting process — a culmination of years of dreaming, planning & envisioning the details your home. Often, people have a hard time determining exactly what the first steps in making their dream home come to reality are. Land, plans, financing ... all of these are such large undertakings it's hard to know which one to start chipping away at first.

Here are some things to keep in mind for all of you out there that are ready to move towards building your very own green home:

  1. Financing: With regulations becoming more and more strict on lending, it is important to get pre-qualified with the financial institution of your choosing sooner than later. This is often a quick process that can typically be done over the phone, and it will give you a frame of reference to talk about budget with your builder and architect.
  2. Site: Often overlooked, it is important to evaluate the cost your site will add to your construction budget. Optimally (for your budget's sake) your site will be flat and even, and will require very little excavation. However, this is not always the case as much of the beauty of land is often its rugged, varied terrain. When considering a potential site, if you are unsure of the cost of preparing it for a home, consult with a professional. Additionally, it is often best to secure your land before venturing into the design phase. In order for your home to be the most efficient it can be, it should all start with passive solar design, which will need to be sensitive to your land's particular orientation.
  3. Balancing your heart and wallet: The items on our wish list are typically overflowing, and we're often unsure how many of them will actually make the cut because of the "B" word ... budget. There is a fine balance in between what we want and what we can (or are willing) to afford. We often suggest prioritizing the items you'd like to see incorporated into your home into categories such as Must Have's, Would like to Have's and Would be Nice to Have's. This will help establish the most important features of the home, and will act as a guiding post in the design and construction phases.
  4. Long-term payback: Many features of high performance homes require an additional investment upfront, but will save you operating costs month after month for as long as you live in the home. A good question to ask yourself is "how long do I plan to live in this home?" For some it will be their retirement home and last home they ever live in, and for others it may be just be a stepping-stone. I would imagine the desired payback periods for these two homes would be quite different. Looking at your home in this light may provide some guidance when choosing between various products and features.
  5. What could be upgraded later: If you are struggling to get everything on your wish list into your budget, often it helps to evaluate which items could be upgraded later, and put more emphasis on the features that would be too difficult or costly do so at a later date. For instance, we often have clients who choose to postpone decks or higher end countertops (both items that could be easily integrated at a later date) in order to afford to upgrade their wall insulation, which could be costly to retrofit down the line. Additionally, choosing to incorporate high performance elements such as better insulation or a more efficient mechanical system will put money back in your pocket month after month, which we sadly can't say for those marble countertops.

Topics: Building Green

Heather Ferrier Laminack
Representing the fourth generation of the Ferrier Companies, Heather Ferrier Laminack functions as the marketing manager for Texas-based green home builder Ferrier Custom Homes, utilizing her passion for sustainable building practices and her first-hand experience of green building techniques. View Heather Ferrier Laminack's profile on LinkedIn

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