7 Things to Consider When Building a Custom Home in Lancaster

Posted in Ask A Pro on by .

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post by Earl Weaver Contractors LLC.

More and more Lancaster County families are choosing to build a custom home instead of purchasing an existing home or new construction in a large development. It makes sense. Not only is a custom home a great investment, it is also a completely blank slate. You can build a home that is the exact combination of your style, tastes, and family needs. Essentially, you can build the home of your dreams.

Since most people have not built a custom home before, the process can seem intimidating and even overwhelming. Fortunately, the right custom home builder for you will help you navigate all the decisions so you can be truly satisfied with the finished product.

Here are some things you need to consider and questions you need to ask before building a custom home in Lancaster County.

1. Land

Land is a crucial element to building a custom home. It is the first major decision you make in the project, and it is the one thing you cannot change about your home.

The type of lot will determine the type of custom home you can build. Here in Lancaster County, lots are available in hilly, wooded country areas or on former farming lands. A hillside lot can be more difficult to build but allows you to add options like a daylight or walk-out basement.

When considering a lot for a custom home, you’ll need to consider how you will deal with water, sewer, and stormwater management. Developing a lot that already has access to public water and sewer can be easier and less costly than those that do not. Drilling a well or adding a septic system to your lot is common – especially in less populated parts of the county – but it will likely add additional costs to the project.

It is wise to get your builder involved prior to purchasing a lot, as they can provide insights and suggestions for the lot that will impact the house. For example, your builder can recommend where to place a septic system so that it is inconspicuous and blends into the grading.

Questions:

  • Do you have access to public water and sewer?
  • Has the stormwater design already been done?
  • Has the septic design already been done?
  • Has the well placement already been determined?

 

2. Design

Designing your dream house can initially be a fun job to do until you learn how many decisions you must make. Fortunately, if you choose the right builder, you will have a helpful guide that will lead you through the entire design process.

It helps the builder when you have a general idea of what you want in your custom home. Come to the design meeting with your sources of inspiration, whether they are books, magazines, pictures, or Pinterest. This will help the designer start creating the house of your dreams.

Questions:

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your must-have items?
  • What is your budget?
  • Who will be involved in the design process?

 

3. Products & Materials

Part of the design process includes identifying products and materials to use in your new home – from countertops to HVAC systems and even furniture. This is one area where families may try to save on the project costs by sourcing lower cost products. But lower cost products are not always the best value.

As a home remodeling contractor, we’ve gone into plenty of custom homes a decade after they were built to repair inferior materials and components. That’s why during the design process we recommend brands and materials that we know will last longer. You may need to invest more upfront, but long-term costs will be less.

Questions:

  • What are some of the must-have materials for your home – countertops, siding, heating systems, etc?
  • What materials, products, and systems does your builder recommend?

 

4. Budget

Coming up with a budget is a crucial step in any construction project. Some people have a rough idea on how much their dream home will cost, while others come to us claiming to not have a price in mind. If you plan to use financing for your project, getting a pre-approval amount from your preferred lender is a great first step to the process and will help to guide you and your builder.

The budget is ultimately determined during the design process. It is often a good idea to invest some money in preliminary plans so that the builder can give you a rough budget. These preliminary plans will help shape your final design, while also giving both you and the builder with a tentative budget to work with.

Questions:

  • How does your builder come up with a budget?
  • Do you need to pay for preliminary plans before receiving a budget?

 

5. Permits

Obtaining permits for a custom home is a complex, frustrating experience. You should rely on your builder to obtain the permits for you. Be sure your builder is experienced with local building codes, officials, and inspectors and knows what is required.

Questions:

    • Has your builder worked in your town?
    • Is your builder familiar with your municipal building codes?

 

6. Timeline

Like every other component of a custom home project, the timeline can vary by the size and scope of the project. On average, most custom homes in Lancaster County can be completed in 6-8 months. Builders that can promise timelines faster than this often use a cookie cutter approach, forcing your home into their timeline.

We find that people can be in a hurry – especially during the design process. The pressure of a large investment combined with the stress of selling their other home and living in temporary quarters can make families want to rush the process. We advise beginning the process soon enough to take enough time making decisions. After all, this will be your home for the next couple of decades; you want to make sure it is done right the first time.

Questions:

  • What is a realistic timeframe for your project?
  • Do you need to sell your current house?
  • Where will you live while you wait for your new house to be completed?

 

7. Builder

Finding the right custom home builder can make or break a project. Choose the wrong one and you’ll find yourself getting frustrated with poor communication, strained relationship, over budget & past schedule, or a house with which you are not completely satisfied.

Do your due diligence in finding your custom home builder. Ask plenty of questions about their process, their experience, and how they handle communicating with you. See what other families have said about working with them – either by reading online reviews or by talking to them over the phone.

Most custom home builders rely on subcontractors and specialists to complete a project. Ask any potential builder how they vet and select the subcontractors they work with. Do they bid out work and select the lowest price, or do they only work with select subcontractors based on their reputation and quality of work?

You may view the initial design and budget process as a trial run with the builder. During this process, you’ll get a feel for their communication style, how they ask for and use your input, and how well you all will work together.

Questions to ask your potential builder:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • What is your history in building homes?
  • Do you use subcontractors? If so, how do you determine your subcontractors?
  • Are you comfortable building the style home we are looking for?
  • Do you have any references? Can we speak to them?

Editor’s Note: Here’s a list of more custom home builders in Lancaster, PA.

 

Earl Weaver Contractors LLC

2564 S. Pine Grove Street
Lebanon, PA 17046
717-821-1010

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