Are you planning to build a home from the ground up but don’t know where to start?
I’m talking to those of you whose social media feeds have been taken over by home inspiration or those of you who cannot drive through neighbourhoods without mentally compiling a list of features you would take for your own dream home.
“Honey!!!!Slow down, I want to take a picture of that house…”.
If you can relate, keep reading. We know it is overwhelming, so let us give you a snapshot of what it looks like to build a home from the ground up.
1. Plot of Land
Not every plot of land is suitable to build what you’d like to build. A lot of people come to us thinking they’re able to build whatever they’d like anywhere. The reality is that every plot of land has stipulations and setbacks governed by its municipality or county. The first thing to check is the zoning of the lot. You can verify this on your local government website. While you can always apply to convert a farming zone to a residential zone, there is no guarantee, so it’s safer to look for a plot of land that is already zoned for what you want to do it with (residential for a home, commercial for a business, etc). The second factor to look into is the legal requirements or limits for building in that area. Typically, your build parameters must be within the setbacks that are attached to your existing property. For example, if your plot of land is 60 feet wide by 90 feet deep, and the setbacks stipulate that you have to be 7.5 meters from the front, 1.38 meters from each side, and 11.8 meters from the back, your property has to sit at the very least here (shown in the diagram). This will give you the general idea of the location on your future lot.
However, there are also limits to the SIZE of home you can build. Let’s also say that your property will only allow a structure to take up 30% of the land (lot coverage is the term you’re looking at here) and that the maximum height of the property must be below 6 meters. For argument’s sake, let’s also say that the property is close to water and therefore because of the waterbed in the area, you can only excavate down 4 feet AND on this street, every structure needs to have a two-car garage. You can then build a 1900 square foot two story property with 8ft, ceilings or a 795 square foot one story with super high vaulted ceilings (these are very rough calculations for illustration only).
This is a problem if you were planning on building a 6000 square foot home with 10-foot ceilings on each floor and a three-car side by side garage. So, whether you are looking at a new piece of property for your dream home or you want to build on your existing property, knowing what you CAN build on your plot of land is half the battle.
Everyone has a budget. Whether or not you are able to build a 6000 square foot home or a 1200 square foot home, the running theme in my experience is that people want more than their budget allows. In the Toronto Area, the general cost range for a mid to luxury custom home build is between $480 - $700 per square foot… BEFORE TAX (this is often overlooked and adds up on a $3 million dollar build). Now there are a lot of factors that can influence that price, so how do you know if you’re on the lower or higher end of that spectrum?
Think through some of these questions and provide your builder or designer with these desires right up front to get a more accurate gauge on your price per square foot.
What do you want it to look like outside? If you want a stone house, that will be more expensive than building a house with stucco or siding. What features do you want? Building a house with large expansive windows, heated floors, steam rooms or pools, and custom millwork everywhere will be more costly than a typical custom built home. The features you want in your home will be the granular costs, which make up the final price, so it’s good to have an idea of that before you build. Think of a wedding - it can so quickly get out of hand!
Finally, know what is NOT included in your builder quote. When most builders quote a cost per square footage amount doesn’t typically include preparing the site to build, the architectural and engineer drawings, site surveys, arborist reports, designer fees, appliances, lighting, furniture, hours to plan and prepare your build for permit submission. Those numbers will vary depending on the complexity of the job. That is why a professional firm that does builds should be involved in something like this. Since we are a design and build firm, we compile all of those costs for our clients, so they can see the real build cost.
How long does it take from start to finish to build your dream home? The general answer is roughly 1.5 to 2 years. By the time you hire a build firm, conduct site surveys, find out what you can and can’t take down and come up with a plan that fits within the setbacks and budget, 6 months can easily go by. It’s a lot of work and time that goes into planning a project like this. If your dream home goes over any of these set backs, then an additional process is required (committee of adjustments) and that can add another three months to the project. Once you have your permits, is there anything else holding you up? Yes.. the weather! Most builders will not put a shovel in frozen ground. During the build process, temperature is key also when it comes to concrete settling and drying properly. That is why it is so important to be patient with the process of a new build. It takes time to plan properly and time to execute impeccably.
Designing your dream home is a big deal. It is incredibly expensive and stressful to build; therefore it is important to get it just right. Your architect, engineer, builder, and designer must be able to hear your needs and wishes and be able to get as close to the dream as possible within the existing setbacks and budget. A team that listens and is knowledgeable about what will and won’t work, is key in building and realizing your new home. The last thing you want to do is spend your savings and have the home not turn out how you envisioned, so involve professionals to guide you and prevent costly mistakes.
Building a home can be stressful, especially if you have never done it before. Like everything, there are professionals to help and there are best practices for a reason. Having professionals guide you will undoubtedly alleviate stress, avoid costly mistakes/delays and help your build go smoothly. There will be decisions to make and a few hurdles to jump through, but they can be here to help you make good decisions that you will love for years to come. If you have any questions, reach out to our interior design and build team. We would love to help!