Updated: Nov 28
Building a custom home is a significant undertaking, filled with excitement and challenges in equal measure. In this first installment of our series on what to expect throughout the process of building your custom home, we'll guide you through the initial steps of finding the right professionals and obtaining a building permit.
Assembling Your Team
Building a home is not a one person job. It's almost impossible to get through this process successfully without a solid team in place. Let's look at the different professionals you'll likely engage and how they'll guide you along the way.
A skilled builder is the backbone of your project and is where I suggest homeowners start this process. An experienced builder can introduce you to all of the other professionals you're going to need along the way. Check out our post on "How to Find the Right Builder for Me" .
The architect is the visionary behind your dream home. Their role is to transform your ideas into tangible plans, ensuring your home reflects your lifestyle. Seek out professionals who have experience designing the type of home that you want. A sign of a good architect is someone who asks you a TON of questions about your likes, dislikes, and lifestyle.
Interior designers are a necessity, not a luxury, in a custom home build. They guide you through the decision making process and keep that process on schedule. You'll have hundreds of decisions to make when building your home and you'll be glad you have someone helping you along the way. A good designer isn't just someone who picks out pretty things, they understand proportion, scale, color and texture coordination, and much more. Collaborate with designers who understand your taste and can create spaces that blend style with comfort.
Other Design Professionals
You'll need a multitude of other professionals along the way that your builder and architect can provide/recommend. These can include:
A surveyor maps out your property, determining boundaries, elevations, and potential challenges like uneven terrain. You'll likely need (at least) an as-built survey (what you have currently) and a site plan (what you are proposing to have).
Structural Engineer (and possibly other engineers):
A structural engineer ensures your home is safe and stable. They calculate load-bearing capacities, design foundation systems, and assess the overall structural integrity. Depending on your project's complexity, you might also need specialized engineers, such as civil, mechanical, or electrical.
Building Performance Designer
This one is becoming more popular and more necessary as homes continue to grow in complexity. A building performance designer will look at the entire picture of your house and ensure everything works together as one functioning system. Considering the amount and types of windows, to water management, HVAC design, and even how your house is oriented towards the sun, they are the final piece of the puzzle that brings your whole project together.
When going into a project like this, obviously cost is going to play a major factor. Most builders can give you a 30,000 foot estimate of what a project like yours might cost. But without having drawings, specs, selections, and everything else that goes into your house, that estimate isn't worth much. A good builder will walk you through the process of building your house long before it ever happens, created drawings, specs, and even picking out everything that will go into your house. Once drawings have been made, they can narrow your estimate down closer to a 1,000 foot view. Then, once specs and selections are made, they can give you an exact price of your build within a few percentage points. As you make these selections, they will walk you through each aspect of the build, explaining building standards and ensuring you are all on the same page. This is a months long process and is something they will change for, but is definitely worth it.
The Building Permit
Most municipalities today require a building permit to start construction. For some, you walk into the building department with a drawing, pay your fee, and you walk out with your permit. Others can take stacks of documents and months of back and forth questions and answers to issue a permit. Right now (November 2023), Atlanta appears to average 2-3 months to issue a standard permit, as long as you are on top of answering their questions or requests. Needing approval in a historic neighborhood can add at least a couple months to that process.
Overall, from the time you find your builder to the time your permit gets issued, you should expect a minimum of 6-8 months.
If you have other questions about the pre-construction phase of building your home, please reach out to us! Otherwise, check out part 2 - the construction process.