Back when you were saving up for a down payment, moving into your new home probably felt like a far-off dream. But now, as you begin your home-building adventure, the dream is becoming tangible. But just when it feels like progress is being made, you might experience a delay or setback. It’s often difficult to plan when building a house because so much depends on outside factors you can’t control.
While it’s difficult to give an exact timeline, the average completion time for building a single-family home, according to Census Bureau data, is about eight months. This includes the time it will take to apply and receive permits. Semi-custom houses take the least amount of time, often about six months, while custom-built homes can take closer to a year. Large, multi-story houses or those with unique add-ons and features could take longer. Weather also plays a role in determining your home build timeline, since unfavorable weather can cause construction delays. You could also face supply chain issues or items on back order.
Unpredictable timelines are just one of the things you’ll deal with when building a house, and every build is different. While these are only estimates and your build could go much faster or take far longer, here are the general steps to building a house and a rough estimate of how long each step might take.
Step One: Securing Financing
Unless you’re able to pay cash for your new home, you’ll likely need financing to build your home. Depending on whether you’re building a semi-custom or custom home, the financing you’ll need could look very different. A custom home might require up to three separate loans if you’re buying land, paying for construction, and getting a mortgage. Construction loans are typically short-term loans that last anywhere from six to 18 months, and these loans only cover construction — not the land or the mortgage.
If you’re building a semi-custom home, the builder may have a preferred lender they work with. If you go with the builder’s lender, they might provide perks such as price breaks, free upgrades, or they might pay closing costs. Some even offer a cash incentive to pay your home insurance premium for a short time (often the first year). Since the lender is familiar with the construction process, it might be easier to get this loan, as well.
No matter which route you take to obtain financing, always shop around and make sure you’re getting the best rates for your loans.
All in all, this step could take up to 90 days, depending on the types of loans you need and the approval process.
Step Two: Signing a Contract with the Builder
Once you’ve secured financing, it’s time to find your builder. Consider several builders, read their reviews, check with the Better Business Bureau, and talk with former clients. Find a builder you can trust and who answers all your questions thoroughly.
You might sign a contract with your builder. Make sure you have this contract reviewed carefully by your real estate attorney. Make sure there’s nothing in the contract that could derail your goal of getting your dream home.
Choosing the right builder and signing your contract could take anywhere from three to six weeks.
Step Three: Obtaining Permits
Your contractor or builder will make sure they obtain all the permits and approvals needed to start your build. They should be very familiar with zoning laws and will know which permits will be required. A building permit is issued by your local government. Permits ensure your home build complies with local laws in terms of things like construction, zoning, and land use. Building permits typically cost between $400 and $2,000, but these fees vary a lot depending on where you live and the size of your build. For example, permits for a high-end house in a major city could cost as much as $6,000.
The timeframe for obtaining a permit depends on where you live, but generally, this may take 24-34 days.
Step Four: Prepping the Site
Once all the permits are pulled, you might have to prepare the site. If you’re doing a semi-custom build, the site might already be prepared, and you can skip this step. If you’re building a custom home, however, this is where you’ll prepare your land. When deciding where to place your custom-built house, consider the location of the utility connections, road location, driveway placement, and power lines. If you haven’t already done a site survey, doing this can help you determine where to place your home.
Preparing your build site might include getting rid of trees and shrubs, rocks, tree roots, and clearing away any rubble. Depending on your land, you may need to level the area. If your home has a basement, excavating might also be necessary. You might need to do soil compaction to reduce the chance for settlement.
Much depends on how much clearing, grading, compacting, and excavating needs to be done, but this step could take a month or two.
Step Five: Construction Begins
Here’s where you’ll begin to see the rough shape of your house taking form. In the first few weeks of breaking ground, your builder will take on the “three Fs” — footings, foundation, and framing.
Your builder will pour the footer, or concrete, to support your home’s foundation. Next, the foundation and framing will be laid out. The frame of a house is its skeleton. You might be able to see where the windows and doors will be placed. If your build has multiple levels, floors might be distinguishable, as well. The builder might protect the house with exterior sheathing to keep it dry as construction progresses.
Since this step is the major structural heavy lifting to construct the framework, you can expect several home inspections during this phase and municipal officials will need to give clearance on the foundation before your builder can proceed.
This stage of the home-building process is heavily reliant on the weather. For example, the concrete foundation won’t set if the weather is too wet and rainy.
Barring a barrage of bad weather, this process could take about three weeks.
Step Six: Mechanics and Design
Seeing the bones of your house take shape might inspire you. If you’ve already chosen interior colors, fixtures, and other materials, revisit those now to make sure you’re still on board with your earlier choices. If your builder has a design center, take some time to visit and explore all the customizations the builder offers. You’ll want to make sure you have everything selected, from the roof shingles to the flooring.
Speaking of your house’s bones, now that the frame is finished, the builder will start adding all the wiring, piping, and plumbing to your home. This might also be when the water heater and HVAC system are installed.
This step should take about two weeks.
Step Seven: Interior and Exterior Work
While the first several months were dedicated to the foundation and skeleton of your home, the next few months are all about padding. The builder will focus on insulating the roof and walls before drywall is installed. This may also be when walls and ceilings get painted and the flooring laid out. The closets, kitchen cabinets, crown molding, built-ins, and other woodwork might also be put into place.
The outside is starting to shape up as well, with brickwork, stucco, or stone being installed, siding being applied, shingles going on, and the rain gutters getting added. If your build includes a back deck or a front porch, these will likely be constructed now, as well.
This is the most rewarding and exciting part of the build: where the vision starts to take shape and form into reality. You’ll see the materials you selected and worried over finally come together and transform into your dream home.
Once the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems are installed and the plumbing and electrical systems are functional, there will likely be another municipal inspection. This inspection will cover everything from the electrical work to the handrails on your staircases to the number of fire exits in each room.
Expect this phase to last two to three weeks.
Step Eight: The Finishing Touches
There will be a final flurry of activity as electricians, plumbers, and construction workers buzz around your home, installing light fixtures, faucets, bathtubs, toilets, sinks, countertops, and appliances. Carpeting, tile, and other flooring might also be installed if they weren’t previously. The driveway and walkways will be poured, and finally, exterior doors will be installed. When you see the front door on your home, you know it’s almost done — the doors are typically saved for last to minimize damage as heavy materials are carried into your home and put into place. You may also see grass, shrubs, and trees added during this final stage.
This stage might take up to three weeks.
Step Nine: The Home Inspection and Appraisal
Once your home is complete, the building officials will conduct their final inspection. If they’re happy with the final product, they’ll issue a certificate of occupancy. This is also a great time to send in your inspector. They will flag any issues so you can create a thorough “punch list” of items you want the builder to fix. Depending on the contract, your builder may be obligated to fix every item on the list.
Feel free to look over the house yourself and note any defects, dents, or scratches you’d like the builder to address. Check the fit and finish of the doors and windows to make sure they open and close smoothly and test the faucets to make sure the water pressure and temperature controls are to your liking.
Finally, your lender will appraise your new home. The appraiser will walk through your property and assess its market value to make sure it is a responsible investment worth the amount they’ve agreed to lend.
The final inspections and appraisal should take anywhere from one to two weeks.
Step 10: The Final Walkthrough, Closing, and Moving In
Whether it was six months or 12, it probably feels as though you’ve been waiting for this moment for a lifetime. Your house is finally done! If your home cleared the final inspection, you’ll have the final walk-through of your home. You may do this with the builder or contractor, and they might show you some features and highlights as you tour the home. Take notes and ask lots of questions. Take a closer look at the countertops, fixtures, walls, and flooring and look for any flaws, marks, or imperfections. This may be the last opportunity you have to talk with the builder, so make sure you’re completely satisfied with the final product.
At the closing, you’ll sign the paperwork to complete the sale, finalize financing, and get your keys. Then, it’s time to move in, unpack, furnish, and decorate. Get to know your new home, especially in the first few months and as the seasons change. Builder’s warranties typically only apply to the first year after construction, so watch carefully for any issues so you can get them repaired before the warranties expire.
The final step, from the walkthrough to the closing, should take a week or two.