The Meadowlark Blog
Meadowlark Design+Build

The goal of building a home that’s truly your own, from the layout and floor plan to the finishes, appliances, and interior design, is a big one. If you’re considering building a custom home, but aren’t sure what to expect or where to start, this guide can help. Here are the 6 steps of the custom home building process.

Step 1: Choose and Purchase a Lot or Property

The first step to building a custom home is choosing a lot. This is a critical step that will affect the rest of the build, from how large your home can be to how it is situated on the site. Be sure to take your time, and do plenty of research before you purchase a lot for your new home. A few considerations to make before you purchase a lot include:

Understand the lot’s buildable space.

Not all space on a lot is buildable. Many factors can affect how much of the space on your lot can be used for the actual home:

  • If you are building in a community with a homeowner’s association, there may be guidelines on the size of the building, the placement of the home on the lot, and even aesthetic requirements.
  • You should also research setbacks, variances, and any environmental regulations that may be associated with the lot. All of these factors can affect where your new home can be placed on the site.
  • Check with your local jurisdiction or hire a professional surveyor to help identify any easements or peculiarities.

Does the lot have existing infrastructure?

Not every building site has access to the same utilities and infrastructure. Check to make sure the lot you’re interested in has existing infrastructure. If it doesn’t, adding septic, water and utilities will add to the cost of building your home. Again, it’s best to check with your local jurisdiction or hire a professional surveyor to help identify any easements or peculiarities with the property.

Is green building, passive building, or sustainable building a priority?

If you’re planning to build a custom home with a focus on sustainability, the location of your lot and the placement of your home on that property are important. Optimizing the solar orientation of your home is key to getting closer to achieving net-zero.

Does the lot have an existing structure?

In competitive markets like Ann Arbor, it’s not uncommon to purchase a lot with an existing structure. If your lot does have an existing structure, you’ll have to consider how that will affect your custom home build process. Tearing down that structure is certainly doable, but may extend your timeline, and could affect where you can place your new home.

It can be surprising how much consideration goes into the lot selection process. If you’ve found a lot that checks all of your boxes, it’s a good idea to go ahead and purchase it. When you have property purchased and ready to build on, the custom home building process can move along much faster.

Step 2: Decide on a Budget for your Custom Home

With a lot purchased, it’s time to get started on the actual custom home building process. To make sure your custom home build goes smoothly, now is the time to decide on a budget. Here are a few tips to help you settle on a budget that’s good for you and your neighborhood.

 

  • Ideally, how much would you like to spend? What number is comfortable for you? Try to identify an amount that you’d like to spend on your custom home.
  • Is that realistic? With a number in mind, consider if it is realistic for your family and your goals with this home. A custom home is no small expense, but setting your budget too high can negatively impact your family. Setting the budget too low will limit what you’re capable of achieving with this custom home.
  • Will the neighborhood support that budget?  Do some research around the area you’re planning to build. Does the number you have in mind line up with the cost of other homes in the neighborhood? If you’re planning to spend significantly more on your home than the average market value of other homes, your neighborhood may not support your budget.
  • Make sure you can secure financing for that budget. Finally, make sure you can work with your lender to secure financing for that budget. When you build a custom home, you often need a construction loan, which works a bit differently from a traditional home loan. Talk to your financial advisor or local lender to see if you can secure financing for the budget you have in mind.

With a secure budget in mind, you can move confidently forward with the custom home building process. Setting a budget ahead of time gives you clear direction for what you can and can’t do when it comes to designing and building the home.

Step 3: Find a Team to Help You Design and Build

Now it’s time to start designing and building your new custom home! The next step in the custom home building process is finding a team you trust to design and build your home.

If you’re planning to build a custom home from scratch, it’s worth it to look into experienced custom home design-build firms in your area. When you build a custom home, the design and layout you’re planning must be practical for real building applications. By choosing a design-build firm, you benefit from the combined expertise of both designers and builders working together to develop a beautiful custom home that suits your lifestyle, is built with quality craftsmanship, and is value-engineered from start to finish.

Already have a designer or architect?

That’s great! Quality design-build firms and custom builders are happy to work with your team to ensure your home is exactly what you’re imagining. At Meadowlark, our flexible team welcomes working with outside architects as a part of our proven process.

Understanding the Design Timeline for a Custom Home

If you’re new to custom home building, know that you’ll need to spend time both designing and then building your custom home. You’ve likely chosen to build a custom home because you value the freedom to make your own decisions on design, layout, finishes, and even options like building a green or passive home. The end product will be a home that’s truly your own, but all that customization takes time.

In general, you can plan for the design phase of your custom home building process to take between 4-8 months. In that time, you’ll work with your custom home builder to:

  • Develop and finalize design plans
  • Choose finishes for your home
  • Finalize any additional project details and drawings for your custom home.

The benefit of frontloading the decision-making components of your custom home’s design is when you get to the building step of the custom home building process, your builder can work on a carefully organized timeline to make the build happen seamlessly.

Step 4: Build

With a design in place, finishes and selections made, and drawings ready to go, it’s time to build your custom home! Depending on the size of your custom home and the scope of work, custom home construction can take between 12-15 months. As your build gets underway, this is a general outline of the steps you can expect the construction process to follow:

 

  • Site prep. Getting your lot leveled and ready for new construction.
  • Foundation and framing. Building up the structure for your new custom home.
  • Interior system installation. Things like plumbing, electric, and the HVAC system are installed.
  • Insulation and drywall. The builders start working on the interior components of your home with tasks like installing insulation and building up interior walls.
  • Flooring, cabinetry, tile, plumbing fixtures, and paint. Big-ticket interior finishes go in now, and your home is starting to take shape!
  • Fixtures and appliances. Last, the finishing touches go into your custom home. Lighting, fixtures, and appliances like your washer and dryer, oven, and refrigerator are installed.

Step 5: Close

Finally, after months of planning and construction, your home is nearly ready to move in! Once fixtures and appliances have been installed, it’s time for the last few steps of the active building process. Here’s what to expect from a quality custom builder:

 

  • Completion List. You’ll walk through your new home with your builder, where they’ll go over any finishing touches still left to do, and make sure everything has been completed to your expectations.
  • Final cleanup. Your builder will finish up any leftover items from the completion list and then perform a final cleanup to ensure your home is spotless and ready to move in.
  • Get your keys! Your home is finally ready for move-in. Now, you’ll get your keys and you’ll be able to enjoy that brand new custom home, tailor-made to suit you.

 

Step 6: Warranty and Beyond

The custom home building process doesn’t stop when your builder hands you the keys. When looking for a high-quality custom home builder, look for someone who offers a warranty to help you maintain and improve your home in the years to come. While warranties will range from builder to builder, here’s what you can expect from a quality design-build firm like Meadowlark.

 

  • 3-year warranty. At Meadowlark, we offer a three-year warranty for all of our custom home building clients. We want you to feel comfortable and at peace in your new home, which is why we stand by our work now, and years after your build has been completed.
  • Warranty and service department. We believe no one knows your home better than we do — we built it, after all. That’s why we have a department dedicated solely to our warranty clients. We’re also here to provide service and support beyond the warranty period, should you need it.

The custom home building process is long and involved, but when you choose an experienced design-build firm that listens to your goals and puts your needs first, it’s a rewarding, enjoyable process. If you’re considering building a custom home in the Ann Arbor area, Meadowlark Design + Build might be the match for you. We’d love to learn more about your project — contact us to start a conversation!