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Steps to Building a Home: The First Time Buyers Guide

Inside: Have you ever wondered about the steps to building a home? I’m sharing this first time buyers guide to walk you through the process. You’ll learn how to work directly with your builder and the perks of building a house vs buying an existing home.

Buying your first home is such an important milestone as an adult.

And getting to build your first home is even more exciting because you’re involved from the very beginning.

If you’re interested in building a home and don’t know where to start or what’s involved, I’ll walk through the entire process from construction to completion to give you an idea of what to expect.

Related: How To Become a Homeowner: 5 Easy Ways To Save

Mom stands with her two kids in front of the house they're building.

Steps to Building a Home

1. Find a Subdivision

Before you can start building you need to know where you want to live. If you’re new to an area, you’ll have to rely on the internet or the locals to find a good neighborhood.

But if you’ve lived in your city for a while you should have a good idea of where your ideal location is.

I recommend scoping out the area you’re interested in often and during different times of the day before you make your final decision. You never know what noises or disturbances could pop up.

Pro-tip: I always search our local real estate listings when looking for new subdivisions because builders will often list their new builds that haven’t sold yet.

You can filter by city and even neighborhood to see where new construction is going on.

2. Secure a Lot

Once you’ve found your ideal neighborhood, you’ll want to meet with the builder to secure a lot. You can either do this directly with the builder or have a real estate agent get involved.

I’ve done it both ways and honestly, I’d rather work with the builder directly so there’s not an extra person to communicate with.

However, having a real estate agent is nice because they can negotiate special terms with your agreement and they can explain any confusing real estate jargon.

Either way, you’ll have to put down some amount of money to get your lot and start the building process. This can range from $500-$2000+ depending on the price of the home and how far along it is in the process.

You’ll also sign paperwork to make everything official. There should be some sort of due diligence period where you can still get your downpayment back if you change your mind on the house.

Once that passes, you’re either stuck with the house or you’re out thousands of dollars.

And be sure to ask about things like picking finishes, the timeline, special incentives (we got $10,000 off the list price and $3000 toward our closing costs), and how flexible they are with customizations.

3. Building Begins

After the due diligence period is up, construction starts on your house!

If you’re doing a custom home, you’ll need to pick a floor plan and the city will need to approve it before the actual work can begin.

But if you’re getting a spec home, they should break ground shortly after you sign.

And sometimes construction has already started (which is what’s happened with both of our houses).

Here are the actual construction steps:

  • Grading and site preparation
  • Foundation construction
  • Framing
  • Window and door installation
Doors and drywall supplies in an unfinished house
  • Roofing
  • Siding
The exterior goes on a new house
  • Rough electrical
  • Rough plumbing
  • Rough HVAC
  • Insulation
  • Drywall
  • Trim
  • Painting
Built in mudroom in a new house
  • Finish electrical
  • Bathroom and kitchen counters and cabinets
  • Finish plumbing
  • Carpet and flooring

4. Design Meeting

Sometime between securing the lot and construction starting, you’ll meet with the design center to pick out your exterior and interior selections.

This includes everything from paint, cabinet colors, countertops, hardware, and carpet to things like the exterior color, material, and sconces.

One of the benefits of securing a lot early is that you should get a lot of say on what finishes the builder uses in your house.

If you secure the lot after the builder has already started construction, you risk not being able to choose any finishes (which is what happened to us on our second home.)

5. Walkthroughs with the Builder

Throughout the building process, you’ll have scheduled walkthroughs with the builder and any real estate agents involved.

These are usually after the rough plumbing, electrical, and HVAC are done and after the drywall is installed.

The walkthroughs are there for you as the home buyer so make sure you pay attention and ask lots of questions to identify and correct any problems with the building.

6. Final Inspection

After all of the building is complete, you’ll complete your final inspection. This will be with the builder’s superintendent, your agent (if you have one), and you.

This inspection is often referred to as the “blue tape walk through.”

During the final inspection, you should be on the lookout for any scuffs, scratches, dents, and anything else that needs fixing. The builder will mark anything you point out with blue tape and those repairs will be made before you move in.

Anything that isn’t marked during the final inspection often can’t be repaired once you sign off on the paperwork, so be incredibly thorough!

7. Closing

With any home purchase, you’ll complete the process by closing on the home with your loan officer and the title company.

Once the loan is funded and recorded with the county, you’ll get the keys to your new home!

List of Things to do When Building a House

Cabinets being installed in a new house

1. Ask for Updates

We were lucky enough to have a great agent helping us through the building process with our current home. She sent us weekly updates with pictures.

That’s so important when you can’t go and visit your home site every day.

The builder’s agents are usually on-site at the model home throughout the day, so don’t be afraid to ask for updates on the weeks you can’t visit your lot to see the progress.

2. Don’t be Afraid to be Annoying

With our current home, I had the cabinet pulls changed early on in the process, however, there was a miscommunication with the installers and they put the wrong pulls on.

I noticed the problem right away, but they were slow to make the fix.

I had to remind our agent several times about the fix before it was actually made.

When it comes to your brand new house, be as annoying as possible to make sure things are done as they were promised.

3. Triple Check Everything

During one of our walkthroughs, I noticed that our kitchen pantry entrance seem different than it did in the model home we had seen. We had the exact same floor plan so it was easy for me to spot the difference.

It turns out the framers had read the plans wrong and built the pantry opening in the wrong place. If I wouldn’t have caught that error, it would have caused major problems (and probably big delays) down the road.

Ask questions, be familiar with the building plans, and triple check everything before you sign the papers. Most things can (and should) be fixed until then.

4. Be Patient

Building a home can take a long time; sometimes up to a year depending on how big it is and how complicated the plans are, so you’ll have to be patient.

However, the waiting game is totally worth it to get a brand new house that has the floor plan and finishes you picked!

Related: Try These Thrifty Packing And Moving Tips To Save Money

Pros and Cons of Building a House

Mom holds daughter and thinks about the steps to building a home

Here are the pros of building a new house:

  • Control over design decisions (in most cases)
  • Everything is new and warrantied
  • There are no messes to clean from previous owners
  • Better home layout and more square footage for the price (depending on your housing market)
  • New homes are usually more energy efficient

Here are some cons to building a house:

  • You can’t move in right away
  • You don’t get a finished yard
  • Upgrades can get pricey
  • Not a lot of room for price negotiation
  • Parts of the home could be left unfinished (i.e. basement)

For us, the pros far outweigh the cons!

Want More?

Now that you’ve learned the building process, check out these 9 easy tasks that should be on every new homeowner checklist.

Your Turn

If you have any questions about the steps to building a home or anything about the house, feel free to ask them below.

And if you liked this post please pin it below!

Here are lots of tips and ideas for how to start building a house on a budget!

Artika Adams

Monday 21st of November 2022

Hi, Jessica! This was really informative and appreciated. Do you need to be prequalified before securing the lot?

Jessica Ashcroft

Tuesday 22nd of November 2022

Hi Artika! We were never prequalified, but I'm sure it doesn't hurt to have that when you go to the builder! I think it totally depends on how competitive the market is and how many lots are available.


Thursday 22nd of October 2020

This blog post is so helpful! I’m a first time home buyer/builder and the process has been daunting. I have looked for so many resources to help wrap my mind around this process and none have been as clear and thorough as yours! Thank you!

Jessica Ashcroft

Monday 26th of October 2020

I'm so glad you found it helpful Kalyn!

Ashley Ziegler

Wednesday 6th of March 2019

From what I've seen, YOUR HOUSE IS SO PRETTY!!!! :) My mom is a realtor and works for a builder (she's been a realtor for most of my life) so these kinds of posts are some of my faves! I love homes and seeing the progress of homes being built and all the goodness that comes with it. Hahaha I'm a #realtordaughternerd


Tuesday 12th of March 2019

That's so great Ashley!!! I would LOVE that job! Thank you for your kind words. We are getting so excited!