Dallas-Fort Worth area property values are on the rise and many homeowners are choosing to build rather than purchase an existing home. We asked two people — a builder and a new homeowner — to share a behind-the-scenes look at the homebuilding process.
Tori Carder has worked in new home sales for the past 12 years and is currently with Our Country Homes. Carder says that in Tarrant County, the number of new homes being built is growing, especially in the Keller area. Our Country Homes, which constructs new homes across Dallas and Fort Worth, closed 156 new homes last year and projects that number to grow to 180 for the upcoming year.
Keller homeowner Brittainy Fink and her husband recently built a home in the Woodford neighborhood near Keller High School. Fink says the area is great, and as a mom of two boys- ages 12 and 14, she appreciates the convenience of being near the school.
Like most big projects, building a home requires a great deal of planning before it can even begin.
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The Fink family originally looked for an existing home to purchase in Keller, but couldn’t find one that met their needs and price point without requiring extensive updates. Having built their current home eight years previously, they decided to build again.
Like most big projects, building a home requires a great deal of planning before it can even begin. Carder outlines the process in a straightforward way.
“First, you need to pick the home site and finalize the floor plan,” she says. “Then you apply for permits, make design selections, and attend a pre-construction meeting after permits are approved.
“There will be various meetings at different stages of construction. Then you do a walk-through when the home is complete and a final walk-through to sign off on the home. Finally — closing!”
Attention to Detail
Every element in a new home construction can be personalized and priced to fit your budget and your needs. Customization is a key advantage to building over purchasing.
Fink says that during the planning process, it’s important to get those details in writing, rather than just verbally. This ensures that you get what you were promised.
“You don’t want to agree to an 8-foot fence and then discover that you ended up with a 6-foot one,” says Fink.
“Educate yourself on how much things cost,” suggests Carder. “Do your own research to make sure you’re getting the most value out of what you’re spending.”
While deciding where to spend and where to cut back on costs is primarily a matter of personal preference that will be different for each homeowner, there is one area that is always worth spending.
“Anything structural that adds value is worth the upgraded cost,” says Carder. “Some homeowners want to wait to do certain upgrades, and don’t realize it really costs them more money later.”
She adds, “I tell buyers to spend the money on the inside of the home where you spend the most of your time, as opposed to upgrading the front exterior. We pull into the garage and go straight into our home. Very few times do we sit out front of our home and think “Man, I am so glad I spent $25,000 on my elevation.”
Of course, it also depends on what is most important to the buyer and how they plan to use the spaces in their home. For example, someone who does a lot of entertaining would probably want to spend more in the kitchen or an outdoor patio.
For the Fink family, there were specific upgrades that were important. Hardwood floors, updated granite in the kitchen and large windows throughout the house were at the top of the list. Their first home had a large backyard and a pool, but that wasn’t a priority for their new one.
“We also wanted a floorplan that allowed for the boys to have friends over, but be away from us,” she says.
Overall, Fink says she is really satisfied with her home and wouldn’t really change anything.
“Maybe a bigger lot. The space is smaller than we are used to,” she says as an afterthought, but then points out that the City of Keller has unusual lot size regulations that she considers to be too small or too large with nothing in between.
When asked the one thing that surprises most homeowners about building, Carder said it is the timeframe from start to finish.
“It is very hard for buyers to understand what is involved in getting permits from the city and dealing with the trades and city inspectors. That’s even truer in our current busy market.”
The average home construction takes five to six months to complete. For the Fink family, the project took three or four months of planning and six months to build.
Sometimes things don’t work out exactly as planned. Fink advises buyers to be flexible.
“We wanted something pretty custom, so that’s what we were looking for,” says Fink, adding that the timeline went as they expected.
Sometimes things don’t work out exactly as planned. A permit gets delayed. The homeowner decides to change a detail. Materials become unavailable or costs change.
Deciding to build a home is not for everyone. A few factors can help a homeowner decide whether that is the better choice over purchasing an existing property.
Carder echoes the ideas that Fink highlighted in her family’s choice to build. The costs and ability to personalize are the most common reason that homeowners choose building over purchasing an existing home. The quality of a new construction compared to a much older home is very different.
“A new home will be much more energy efficient, which in turn saves the homebuyer money. Lots of exciting properties need to be updated. A buyer realizes they will spend close to or as much money updating a prepared home as they would buying a new home. When building, a buyer can design exactly what meets the wants and needs for their family.”
Looking back her experience, Fink says it was a positive one and shares a single piece of advice for anyone considering building a new home.
“Just know that it is going to take a while. There are things builders don’t have control over and you just have to be flexible.”