Now that we had a lot, it was time to get serious about finding a builder or a floor plan. We had done some research before buying the lot but that step of paying a mortgage made it real. From our perspective, there were two main directions to go in at this point – sign with a builder to design a floor plan with as well as go through the entire process with them (very common option), or design a floor plan independently then choose a builder. Each option has pros and cons which ultimately led us to our decision.
Signing with a builder early (pre-floor plan) is a big commitment. A lot of times with this process, you are using a standard floorplan for the builder with maybe a few modifications. This is probably also the quicker of the two options so if time is a factor, you may want to consider this. Or if you already know a builder you want to use, then this may be a better choice. One of the main downsides to this option is that you lose your ability to negotiate because the builder knows you aren’t going anywhere else. This was a key factor for us and the main reason we went in a different direction.
If you take the other option, you need to have a floor plan and ideas of your finishes before you can take them to different builders for pricing. In order to develop a floor plan you could work with an architect or a builder. As mentioned before, our area has very specific and complicated building codes so it was important to work with someone local that already understood these otherwise it could lead to delays in permitting down the road.
Through our research before buying the lot, we had built a relationship with one of the local builders. We were able to set up a design contract where he would work with us and his architect to design our floor plan while giving us the option to buy the rights to build one house with those plans with anyone. Obviously, a lot of builders may not be open to something like this and you could just as easily worked with a local architect. In our perspective, we thought getting a builder’s perspective in floor plan design was important when looking for ways to optimize cost and efficiency so we were fortunate this worked out.
Once we signed the design contract, it was time to get to work putting that pencil to the paper and laying out our ideas!