Choosing to build your own home is a liberating and rewarding experience, because you have so much more control over what you get than when you search existing real estate because you’re selecting your own house plan. You need to be careful, though—with freedom comes great responsibility. Rather than relying on teams of experts to construct and budget for your build, and then simply being shown the final product with a price tag, you are the final word on purchases throughout the process. It can be difficult for many people to narrow the limitless possibilities into a home that is exactly what they need and can afford. Here are some mistakes that people who build their own homes often make, so you can avoid them yourself!
1. Getting Stuck on Wants Instead of Needs
You don’t want to fall in love with an idea that is so far out of reach that it can never be obtained in real life, and then be heartbroken over it. The first step to success is to come up with a realistic budget. Decide what you need and then see how much wiggle room you have for any extras that you might like. If you don’t address things like basic space requirements and how that space should be divided between different rooms, you’re going to be uncomfortable and unhappy in your new home even if it has the huge kitchen with luxury appliances that you’ve always wanted.
There are a few traps people fall into when building their own homes. First, the cost of house plans themselves might be fairly similar, even if the houses they produce are wildly different in terms of cost to build and cost to maintain. Don’t be tempted to buy the plans for something you cannot bring into reality and enjoy. Always remember that materials and heating and cooling costs will make a bigger home more expensive for both the short and long term. New homeowners also get hung up on how square footage compares to price, but there isn’t a simple linear correlation between them. Small houses are more expensive to build per square foot, because appliances and plumbing in kitchens and bathrooms cost a lot, but empty spaces like bedrooms and living areas are pretty cheap to build. Don’t try to cut livable space you need in order to save money—it’s better in the long run to choose less expensive fixtures to meet your budget. And don’t get over your head with a home that has more space, either, because you’ll be paying for its higher maintenance and utilities for years.
The bottom line is that you need a budget and a list of things you absolutely need. Narrow your search from the beginning using those parameters and you will find plenty of house plans that suit you. They will come with different architectural styles and layouts, and you won’t feel like you’re settling when you see all the options out there. Architects design for real people with limitations and desires, and they come up with house plans that address just about everything.
2. Purchasing House Plans Before Land
It’s exciting to choose a home, but you must remember that it needs to be built somewhere, and ideal, easy-to-build lots are not as common as you think. If you want to build your own home, you probably already know where you want to live. Search for lots and see what’s available—chances are you’ll find land with varying degrees of slope, lots that are narrow and awkwardly shaped, and that there are restrictions that come with building in the area. Altering land can be extraordinarily difficult and expensive, and you definitely want to abide by zoning laws to prevent legal problems that could put your build in jeopardy.
Architects create blueprints that address the huge variety of lots out there and the challenges they pose. Make it easy on yourself and know what challenges your house plans need to address! Search by dimensions if your lot is a tight fit, and look for a home with a walkout basement if you’re going to build on a hill. Again, you will find a great selection out there, and your dream home is only possible if it adapts to where it’s built!
3. Not Weighing the Drawbacks and Benefits of Certain Design Elements
So you’re looking for a good floor plan—what exactly does that mean to you? Do you have a strong preference for modern or traditional layouts? Are you excited about having a cathedral ceiling? Do truly unique designs draw your attention and make you want to buy immediately?
Take step back and consider how each element actually affects a home. Modern open floor plans, especially those with split bedrooms, give you the most livable square footage, but traditional layouts that incorporate hallways give you transitional spaces and can help dampen noises from around the house. The beauty of a vaulted ceiling is in demand, but don’t prioritize it over square footage that you can actually live in. Simple square and rectangular footprints are the most economical to build and to own, and while houses with complicated shapes will cost more from the foundation to the roof, they can give you some stunning windows and interesting, flowing floor plans.
The goal is to avoid surprises. Know the pros and cons of each plan that you consider so you can make an informed decision that still feels like the right choice when you build and move in.
4. Disregarding Necessities for the Future
Many people who build their own homes intend to live in them for the rest of their lives. They’ve handpicked the house plan and taken the care to see it constructed and finished just how they wanted—and it feels more personal than buying an existing house. If this is the case for you, invest in something that will still be great to live in when you’re older. Universal design makes your home livable even if you have mobility issues, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still work for you in the meantime.
Universal design will give you wider spaces to ensure that a wheelchair can navigate the floor plan. A ton of houses already incorporate this, as open, flowing layouts are desirable to most of the population. Carefully choosing ADA compliant fixtures now will save you from having to replace old ones when they become difficult to use—and you’ll probably love their functionality anyway. Think about what you want in the bathroom specifically, because it will cost a lot to renovate. A walk-in shower with seat is a great choice, but you can still get a walk-in tub if you love baths. Who knows, you might even prefer it to the regular shower/tub combination unit!
5. Letting Interior Finishes Get Out of Control
The final step is outfitting your house with the finishing touches that make it feel like home. You can still run into trouble here, so don’t think it’s easy! Interior elements are expensive and they are notorious for putting people over budget at the end. Make sure you actually want and will use all of your fixtures—don’t waste the money on a fireplace in the den that you’ll use mostly for storage, or on a fancy chandelier in the dining room if you will only use it for holidays and intend to make use of the eat-in kitchen the rest of the time.
You also want to create a coherent scheme around the shared areas of the house, so shop for pieces of furniture that work well together, not that you like individually. Complementary contrast is fantastic, because it keeps your interior from looking flat and uniform, but if something clashes, it will always draw attention and distract from the better, balanced parts of the design. Try to invest in everything together—not only will you be sure that it works, but you’ll also have an easier time tracking how much you spend!