Following previous month’s tips on understanding the budget of building a home and considering the hidden costs, this month explores the design phase of building a home.

As a home builder begins exploring the essential pieces of a home build — the land, water supply, sewer supply, electric supply, excavation and other needed land improvements — it is important to enlist the help of a professional who can act as a sounding board and provide needed expertise. If a home builder is planning to use a general contractor for a home build, this is a great time to narrow down or select who to work with.

While there is information a home builder will need to get from them — including their insurance, customer and industry references and questions about the process answered — he should also come prepared with a home plan and home design specifications.

Start with a home plan.

There are a couple of methods to choosing a home plan.

If the budget is flexible and a home builder is most interested in getting exactly what he wants, regardless of the cost associated with it, working with a professional designer or architect is a good first step. These professionals can come up with a comprehensive plan to show a contractor, so they know exactly what is planned for the land. While price should not be the only factor when choosing a contractor, having detailed plans allows a home builder to compare quotes against each other.

If a home builder is on a tight budget, it may be a good idea to enlist the help of a contractor in choosing a home plan before spending money to have one drawn by a professional. By providing a potential contractor with a budget and home requirements (i.e. number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, features, etc.), this person can provide floor plan options that fit the budget. If the floor plan works, it may not be necessary to spend money on having a professional draw the plans. Considering floor plans a builder is familiar with or ones that have been built before can also be a cost-saving measure as the builder is familiar with his costs on the project.

Please bear in mind that permit drawings are not complete plans and contain limited information about the final design of a space. They provide information about the general layout and structure, but have limited or no information pertaining to finishes, interior architecture, custom millwork, lighting and electrical features. This is the information that a contractor will need to give accurate pricing for before construction begins.

Home specifications/design.

Provide a list of home specifications to the general contractor when requesting home pricing. This list should contain everything about finishes, fixtures, appliances and accessories. The price to finish a 1,000-square-foot house can vary by tens of thousands of dollars depending on its fittings and finishes. If a home builder can choose plumbing fixtures, finishes and accessories ahead of time, he will save a lot of time during the construction process by having the items on hand when they are needed and by knowing all the associated costs to install the specified items.