In the final part of our series in self-building your American home, we’ve reached the business end of the process – getting it built. Who do you need, how do you know they’re any good, what will you pay and what is the process of building? 

Found the perfect plot in the location of your dreams? Check. Architect has worked their magic, and now you hold the blueprint to your family’s exciting future in your hands? Check. The only thing left to do is actually build the house! But what exactly is involved in the building stage when you move to the USA? In Part three of our Build Your Own Home series, we’re running through how to actually get your house built.

Who do I need to hire?

You need to hire a contractor to build your house when you move to the USA. It is their job to oversee the construction of the home, to manage the sub-contractors, and to make sure the build is finished on time, and on budget. You can choose to hire speciality contractors for each aspect of the build yourself, but costs can really add up, time delays are more common, and it will require a whole lot more admin on your part.

Self-building your US home

Working with your builder to create the perfect home

How do I know that they are any good?

Different states have different rules governing whether contractors and tradesmen must be licensed. You can check with your local city council about requirements, or use this handy search tool from Angie’s List. A good contractor will be able to produce their license documentation upon request, or will be able to refer you to where you can check their status online. Also, you can also find someone reputable via the National Association of Remodeling Industry website (NARI), or by checking the Better Business Bureau, to see whether anyone has complained about them. Home Advisor and Houzz are great resources for finding professionals with exemplary track records.

Additionally, you can seek referrals from friends or building inspectors, who will likely have a good grasp on who’s the best in town. Also, ask your shortlist for a list of references, and then contact those references to learn more about how they operate.

As well as a license, your contractor must be bonded. This means they have purchased a surety bond – a type of insurance policy that protects you. Therefore, if the contractor fails in his obligations to you, this bond guarantees your protection and provides compensation.

What should be included in a building contractor quote?

Before choosing a contractor, get a minimum of three quotes to ensure you’re securing a competitive price. The quote should be precise. It should detail every aspect of the build, the general construction costs and all secondary expenses, including things like landscaping and painting (if you want them included). You can cross reference the contractors quote with a home builder’s checklist to make sure every step of the build is factored in. These quotes are negotiable. Go over them with the builder to discuss where you can cut costs to ensure you stay within budget. Also, as the contractor is overseeing the build, they should include the cost of all the building permits in their quote, as it will be their job to secure them. Double check this is included, or you could be hit with an additional bill at the end.

If you need extra finance for your US home, read up on all your financing options in our new guide, How to Pay for an America Property.

What order does the build go in?

Typically, a house build will follow this order:

1 – Grading and site preparation
2 – Construction of foundations
3 – Framing
4 – Installation of doors and windows
5 – Roofing
6 – Siding
7 – 1st stage of electricals
8 – 1st stage of plumbing
9 – 1st stage of heating/ air-conditioning
10 – Insulation
11 – Drywall
12 – Underlayment (1st stage of flooring)
13 – Trim
14 – Painting
15 – Finalise electrics
16 – Install kitchen and bathrooms
17 – Finalise plumbing
18 – Carpeting and flooring
19 – Finalise heating/ air con
20 – Connect to mains water/ electricity
21 – Contractor completes Punch List

How long does it take to build a house?

If all goes well, and that’s no guarantee in self building, it can take between six months to a year for the building part of the project to be complete. When you factor in the land search, sourcing of architects and so on – it’s closer to two years. If you have opted to build a house in a planned community when you move to the USA, things are likely to be quicker. As your plot is already prepped, connected, and the plans are in place, six to nine months is more common.

How can I make sure things go smoothly?

It’s important to communicate with your contractor. Set up regular meetings or calls (if you’re in the UK) to discuss any issues. Act immediately if you are unhappy with anything, and if it is agreed that parts of the plan need to change, make sure they are written up in an official change order rather than just making a verbal agreement. If you’re in the country, pop by to inspect the work on a regular basis. Also, be conscientious with all of your documentation. Keep things together: signed copies of the contracts, all correspondence, proof of payments and receipts, any change orders, and insurance certificates.

The length of time to build a home puts you at serious risk of currency volatility. Discover how to manage that risk in the Property Buyers’ Guide to Currency.

How much does the build cost?

According to The Lender’s Network, the cost of building a home in 2019 can be broken down as follows:

Step 1 – Site work, including building permit fees, architecture, water and sewer fees.
$16,092 (£12,800).

Step 2 – Foundations, including excavation, foundations, concrete and retaining walls.
$33,447 (£26,601)

Step 3 – Framing, including insulation
$52,027 (£41,376)

Step 4 – Exterior finishes, including roofing, windows and doors
$43,447 (£34,558)

Step 5 – Connections, including plumbing, electrics, heating and air-con
$43,447 (£34,558)

Step 6 – Interior finishes, including drywall, lighting, kitchen and bathrooms, flooring and painting
$85,642 (£68,134)

Step 7 – Finishing touches, including landscaping, outdoor structures, driveway and clean up
$19,567 (£15,567)

With an added $1,349 (£1,073) thrown in to cover any extras, this amounts to $289,415 (£230,218).

Of course, costs will vary depending on your specific project.

USA Property Guide cover

Your guide t buying a home in the USA, safely:

  Your timetable for buying

  Focus on where and what to buy

  Set your budget

  Understand the legal processes

  Buy safely in the USA

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