Pro Tips: Getting the Most from Your Dream Home Building Experience
Building a custom home is a truly special way to invest your money. You’re not only building your very own nest—you’re also building your nest egg.
In Washington, median housing prices more than doubled between 1998 and 2018. What’s more, building in a coveted region like the North Olympic Peninsula is an even safer bet. That's because housing prices tend to climb faster here than the statewide rate.
So, if you’ve ever considered building a dream home, there’s every reason to start today. But we get it—new homeowners can get overwhelmed by the process before they even get started. That’s why we’ve put together these pro tips:
CREATE A VISION BOARD OR SCRAPBOOK FOR YOUR NEW HOME
From the corner office to the kitchen table, vision boards have gained popularity over the last decade. A vision board is a collage of images and words that you put together to represent your wishes and goals.
People use vision boards for inspiration and motivation as they work to achieve a milestone. That could be saving up for a special trip, finishing a degree, or launching a small business.
Make It Real: Creating a dedicated vision board is a first step toward making your dream home wishes come true. Clip photos from magazines and print out images and words that speak to your vision--then mount on an art canvas or poster board. If you'd like, you can use a binder instead of a board to hold your collection. This scrapbook can have different sections for each room in your new home.
Go Digital: Some homeowners prefer to make an all-online version of their vision board. A free service like Pinterest is a wonderful way to collect and organize your home ideas.
Share Your Vision: Whatever form it takes, you'll find that a vision board is a valuable tool to help you communicate with others about your new home goals. After all, building a dream house isn't a solo affair. You can use your vision board to gather feedback and compare options with a spouse, partner or family members who will share your new home. Later, your vision board will become a critical resource when working through the design-build process with your contractor.
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BUYING A CAR AND BUYING A CUSTOM HOME
All car dealers pay the same wholesale price for the inventory they sell, and by the time it gets to the lot, it's already built. Dealers are motivated to extract the highest retail price for a product that is what it is.
That's why we've been taught two things to protect us from overpaying for a car:
- Don't reveal how much you're willing to pay.
- Don't show emotion--i.e. don't let the car salesman know how much you want a certain product or feature.
This advice makes sense when buying a car … but a productive working relationship with your contractor depends on doing the opposite.
When you and your builder work together on your dream home, you are co-creating a highly customized product. Your home is a result of your vision and budget meeting up with the contractor's skills, including the ability to execute on your vision. This is very different from a car-buying transaction.
It's okay to be upfront about your true budget and it's essential that you clearly communicate what excites you most about the home build. Go ahead and talk with your builder about "stretch" goals--features that feel too expensive but which you wish could somehow make it into the final product. Good builders are motivated by challenges.
CHOOSE A BUILDING CONTRACTOR WITH FANTASTIC REFERENCES
Reputable builders are not out to maximize profits. Instead, their goal is to maximize the value of your new home because that's how everyone wins. You should expect your builder to be transparent about their costs, and to consistently show you how they're driving unnecessary expenses out of the project so that more of the budget is conserved for the priorities on your vision board.
Referrals from satisfied customers are the lifeblood of the building business. People tend to say nice things about contractors who can deliver a home which faithfully reflects their dream--on time and within budget.
When shopping for a contractor, ask to be put in touch with past clients who are willing to speak candidly about their experience. Be sure the builder's past jobs reflect the scale and complexity of your build. And look for contracting companies where the owners are engaged in day-to-day management.
DON'T FORGET TO ENJOY THE PROCESS
It's normal to feel impatient for a final product—to wish you could snap your fingers and see the rooms you saved on Pinterest suddenly leap to life on a breathtaking site overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
But try to remember that building a custom house is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Someday soon you'll be in a favorite spot in your new dream home and you might just need to pinch yourself and ask if it's real. With your vision and the right team to support you, it will be.