Building Your Dream Home on Your Own Lot
By Michele Lerner
Do you have a new home floor plan that you love, or land that inspires you, or both?
If you dream of designing a new home that takes full advantage of the unique geography and views of land that you love, then you’re a candidate for a Build On Your Lot home, sometimes know by the acronym BOYL.
Building a home on your own land can sound like a pricey prospect, but rest assured that new homes can be built on your lot or land across a wide range of budgets.
The process of building a home on your lot can begin in any one of four places:
With land you love.
If you own a lot already or are inheriting one, you’re one step ahead of the dreaming stage. If you haven’t found that perfect lot yet, you can work with a Realtor who specializes in land purchases or contact a builder who can help you locate the right spot for your home. Paul Schumacher, founder and owner of Schumacher Homes, which builds homes in 15 states, says two-thirds of their customers already own land or are in the process of acquiring land. Schumacher Homes can recommend Realtors to the other one-third to help them find property.
With an architect.
Depending on your budget and the level of customization you’re looking for, you can hire an architect to transfer ideas from your wish list to a blueprint. Rob Rutherford, owner of Nelson Homes in Arrington, Va., says having floor plans drawn by an architect could cost $5,000 to $6,000, while Schumacher says architectural fees can go up to $35,000.
With a floor plan.
An Internet search yields dozens of companies that sell floor plans that you can bring to a builder for inspiration or to customize for your land. Floor plans that can be used for review, but not for building, cost anywhere from $150 to $500, while complete sets that can be provided to a builder for construction cost from $1,000 to $2,500 or more.
With a builder.
Most builders offer floor plans of their own that you can have built as designed. Depending on the builder, you can often customize the design to your specifications. Todd Bennett, a regional manager with Lockridge Homes in South Carolina and eastern Georgia, says his company has about 60 floor plans available with a variety of elevations, while Schumacher Homes and Nelson Homes have hundreds of floor plans.
The path to your dream home depends on a variety of factors, particularly your budget and the level of customization you want.
Customizable Floor Plans
Schumacher says his company has portfolios of homes on their website that include characteristic architectural elements for specific locations. For example, in Louisiana, the home designs have a French country influence, while the homes in Wilmington, N.C., have a southern coastal style.
“We have floor plans that range in size from 1,000 to 6,000 square feet that function as a starting point, and then we can customize everything inside and out,” says Schumacher. “A lot of buyers come in with ideas from websites like Houzz and magazines and we discuss everything they want to do with the home and give them a price quote.”
Schumacher says less than one-half percent of people who build a new home hire an architect.
“It’s much more common for people to choose one of our floor plans or to come in with a plan from a service,” he says. “If they bring one to us, we’ll see if we have something similar that can be modified.”
Model Home and Design Center Options
Nelson Homes has model homes available so customers can see the attributes of the homes. Rutherford says the more buyers can visualize what they’re building, the fewer change orders are necessary.
“There’s nothing better than touring a builder’s model home to see the finished product,” says Schumacher. “It helps you see the quality you should expect and get great ideas. You can take any one element of a model home and add it to your home.”
Studying the Land
An important part of the process of building on your own land is for you or your builder to work with a civil engineer to make sure you’re following the regulations for the jurisdiction where your land is located, says George Fritz, COO of Horizon Builders in Crofton, Md.
“You need to know how you’re going to get power to your house, whether you need a well and how you’ll handle sewage,” says Fritz.
Whether you’re a first-time or a repeat buyer, if you dream of owning a home that’s never been lived in and reflects your tastes, you’re a candidate to build on your own lot rather than within a new community. Rutherford says his company schedules a site visit, arranges utilities, helps customers get their zoning approved and permits for constructions and has an excavation company they can work with to build a road if necessary.
“We always look at the land with our clients to talk about how the house they want to build would fit on the property and how it would be positioned,” says Schumacher. “We need to do that early in the process in case the plans need to be modified and to estimate costs.”
Bennett says he typically goes by his customers’ judgment, description and photos of their land at first, then requires a site visit once the contract has been signed.
Time and Money
If you have a specific time frame for moving, you’re likely to be better off with a semi-custom design rather than a completely custom-designed home. Building a new home takes four to six months if your builder has already built your floor plan, but it can take significantly longer if you’re having a completely new design built or if you’re asking for extensive customization.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, we use our own floor plans, which makes it less costly and easier for our customers,” says Bennett. “We can modify the plans anyway people want and we have every option priced out to make it easier to see what will fit in the budget. Our prices average $55 to $75 per square foot.”
Bennett says costs go up the more you customize your home.
“If you’re adding space to the house, we can usually turn that around quickly, but something more complicated could take a week or two to price out,” says Schumacher. “We average 122 days from putting in the foundation to finishing our houses, but bigger homes take a little longer.”
Nelson Homes builds modular homes, which can be faster to build, as well as less costly than other new homes. The parts are built off-site while the foundation for the home is under construction. Once the parts are delivered, says Rutherford, construction takes 45 to 60 days.
“We build homes from 1,500 to several thousand square feet, and depending on the size, we can finish it for $80 to $90 per square foot,” he says.
Rutherford says many clients bring their own floor plans to Nelson Homes. If they can be converted so that the parts can be built in the factory, the clients can save $20,000 or more compared to having the home built entirely onsite.