So you want to build a new house?

Don't Decide to Build a House Without First Considering All the Factors It’s time for you and your family to move into a new home. You can purchase something that’s already on the market or build a home to your specifications. Building your own Santa Cruz home allows you to include all your requirements plus the customized extras you want for yourself and your family. 

Deciding to build a home isn’t a quick or easy decision, however. You need to seriously consider the various factors that go into building your own home or choosing to go with a real estate agent, not the least of which is allotting the amount of time it will take and the money you’ll have to put into it. It’s essential that you analyze all the steps it will take to move from your idea to a finished residence.

Planning your custom-built home

Going into the building process without a firm goal or picture in mind is sure to cause more problems than the project is worth. You likely have some ideas why an existing Santa Cruz home won’t meet your needs. You need to put them down on paper. Do you require a special layout? Are energy efficiency or environmental concerns important to you? Is the location of your home the most important factor? Deciding now which of your requirements can’t be changed can help streamline the building process later.

Determining a building schedule

Searching for and completing the process of purchasing an existing home can take weeks or even several months, but it’s generally much quicker than building your own Santa Cruz home. From initial design to ready-to-move-in status, building your custom home will likely take at least seven to twelve months, if everything goes right, on a city lot. But since life doesn’t happen that way, you may find your project running well past a year due to weather delays, difficulty getting materials, or making necessary changes when you discover something won’t work as planned. From your first goal-setting session to the final walkthrough could be separated by up to 24 months. You’ll need to decide whether you can wait that long. 

Planning for construction costs

Already-built houses have the costs of building them factored into the mortgage, of course. When you build your own Santa Cruz home, you’ll need to determine a specific construction budget. The general contractor will be like the orchestra director in a band. He'll have sub contractors for all the different trades. He can have budget allowances for different appliances and fixtures or you can specify exactly which stove or type of plumbing fixture you want. The more specific you are with your architect in specifying which items and materials you want, the better the pricing for the job, and the more pleased you'll be. You will be surprised at the huge variety in plumbing fixtures, flooring, kitchen counters and appliances as well as a number of other items, as well as their cost variances. While you’re determining how much it will cost to build your home, don’t forget to add at least 10 percent to that figure to account for unexpected overruns. They’re inevitable, and sometimes 10 percent isn’t enough of a cushion.

Finding a lot to build on

Choosing a lot isn’t simply a matter of pointing to a piece of land that you like and claiming it for your home. Zoning regulations play a large part in determining where you’ll build, as does the suitability of the lot itself. The size and shape of the lot, slope and drainage are important factors that will need to be considered. Even the type of soil on the lot can have unexpected consequences when you’re building. The community or neighborhood in which the lot is located is important, as are the area schools if that impacts your children. Often there are in planned neighborhood developments specific design criteria that can impact the type of home. Santa Cruz homes have a myriad of lot restrictions as to lot size coverage, slope, and even they type or size of trees you can remove.

Arranging for utilities hookups

If the lot you’d like to build on is in a new subdivision or community, electricity, water and sewer and communications lines are probably already in place. You simply need to confirm that the lines are available and that your builder can hook into them. 
When you choose an unimproved lot or one in an undeveloped area, getting the necessary utilities will take a bit more work. Electric power is likely available in the vicinity, but you’ll need to pay to have cables run to your property. Water and sewer service may not have reached the area you’re considering, so you may need to consider a well and septic tank. Likewise, local cable lines may not have been installed yet, so you’ll want to think of other options. Even if all the utilities you require are right where you need them, you’ll have to pay to connect to the main lines from your property.

Getting the permits 

You can’t build without a handful of permits. If you try, you’ll run afoul of the laws in your community or even state regulations. Permits ensure that your home has been checked by at least one building inspector as well as an electrical inspector, a plumbing inspector and even more inspectors to ensure that it won’t harm you and your family or negatively impact the surrounding area due to improper construction practices. Having a land use planner can be a helpful person to guide you through the permitting approval process, which often can require public hearings.

Almost every local government has a building department staff who can help determine the inspections you’ll need before, during and after the construction process. A land use planner can help give you a more seasoned estimate based on the area you choose to build because of variables such as earthquake, flood, natural wildlife or archaeological prevalence in an area.Permits cost money, so you’ll need to budget for those in your plans.

Selecting an architect

If you’re taking the time and spending the money to construct a custom-built Santa Cruz home, you want it to reflect your vision and tastes. While books or internet sites can help you find ideas, it might be worth the extra time and effort to hire an architect to design your home and possibly play a larger role in the construction process.

Errors you might accidentally make as an inexperienced designer won’t occur when you hire a professional architect to design your Santa Cruz house. You can explain your vision to an architect who knows how to turn your abstract ideas in a practical design. They remember things like light angles on a site or having the extra closets we sometime find later were great additions. Architectural plans can help keep your general contractor and the sub-contractors on task since they provide necessary detail to help get the job done more efficiently. Architects also can act as liaisons or go-betweens for you and the general contractor, helping ensure the process stays on task and on time. Ask your Santa Cruz real estate broker for experienced local architects.  

Choosing a contractor

The general contractor is the person responsible for getting your house built to your specifications. A general contractor functions as the liaison between you and your ideas and the specialized workers who can turn those ideas into reality. While he doesn’t do all the work himself, the general contractor oversees both his employees and the subcontractors who handle the specialized jobs.

Finding the right general contractor is one of the most important tasks you’ll do as you prepare to build your custom home. If you and the contractor don’t see eye to eye, or if he isn’t skilled in providing what you request, you’ll endure weeks or months of stress for a home with which you’re not happy. It’s best to interview at least a few general contractors. Ask your real estate broker, neighbors, co-workers or family members for names of contractors they have used and then spend some time talking with those contractors. Be specific in the questions you ask about the contractor’s previous work and the financial costs your project will require. 

It’s exciting to contemplate building a Santa Cruz home to your specifications, but if you don’t carefully consider all the aspects of the process, it’s more likely that your home won’t meet those specifications and will bring you more headaches than it’s worth.