Build Your New House in No Time


Building a new home is an overwhelming process, and it is easy to lose your place in the process. Every decision you make in building your new home, from floor plan to contractor, affects how quickly you can move in, how much it will cost you, and how good the quality is of your home. You should be well-educated before beginning this adventure, and Build Your New House In No Time can help shed light on the home-building process. Author and president of Better Homes Seminars Lon S. Safko will teach you the ins and...

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Building a new home is an overwhelming process, and it is easy to lose your place in the process. Every decision you make in building your new home, from floor plan to contractor, affects how quickly you can move in, how much it will cost you, and how good the quality is of your home. You should be well-educated before beginning this adventure, and Build Your New House In No Time can help shed light on the home-building process. Author and president of Better Homes Seminars Lon S. Safko will teach you the ins and outs of building a new home, including:

  • Making the decision on what to build
  • Getting the right insurance
  • Applying for loans
  • Clauses to consider in your contracts
  • Putting together the right team of professionals
  • How to select everything from property to countertop
  • Understanding building permits
  • Going through a home inspection
  • Maintaining your new home
Building a home is not something you should go through alone! Let Lon and Build Your New Home In No Time give you the tools and information you need to get the house you want.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789734563
  • Publisher: Que
  • Publication date: 9/27/2005
  • Series: In No Time Series
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Lon S. Safko has experience in all parts of the home construction process from a home construction superintendent and consultant for a surveying and subdivision design company to an engineer for a Fortune 500 road and highway design company. As president of Better Homes Seminars Lon teaches potential home owners and realtors everything they need to know about new home construction through live seminars and training on DVD and audio. In recognition of his work as a technology entrepreneur and co-founder of the $5 billion Assistive Technology Industry, Lon received the Westinghouse Entrepreneur of the Year award and has been twice nominated for Inc. Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year award.

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Read an Excerpt


Welcome to Build Your New House In No Time! Thank you for purchasing this book. Deciding to purchase this book is the first decision of nearly 5,000 decisions you'll make during the construction of your new home. Making the second decision—to build your new home—will set you on an exciting and challenging course. Reading this book will help ensure that your new home is one you'll cherish for a lifetime.

The Largest Investment in Your Life: Be an Educated Consumer!

Buying or building a new home will probably be the largest investment you ever make. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of an existing home in the United States for 2005 was $267,400 (source: That's more than a quarter of a million dollars, which is, for most people, a substantial investment. You probably wouldn't buy a new TV or car without researching the latest features, ratings, and prices. However, some people go out and buy or build a new home without any knowledge of what goes into the building process.

Is $128 per square foot a good price? What can you expect to pay per square foot for granite, tile, Corian, or Formica countertops? Who gets to pick the title company? What are contingencies, selects, colorizing, draws, standard options, or flatwork? Is it okay if your foundation and floor crack? How do you find a good general contractor? Should you have a binding arbitration clause in your contracts? Why?

Unless you can answer all these questions, you need to do a little "home" work and become an educated consumer. The information in this book is based on current research done with general contractors, subcontractors, lending institutions, title companies, and realtors in the building industry.

If you're buying a new home or are a lender, title agent, or realtor representing a buyer, you'll find the information here invaluable. Avoiding even one small error during the building or buying process can save you or your client 100 times the cost of this book.

Who Should Read This Book

If you're planning to buy a new production or spec home, have a new custom or semi-custom home built, or renovate or add on to an existing home—or if you're a realtor or broker selling new homes, a title company or an agent insuring new homes, or a lender lending capital for building new homes—you owe it to yourself, your family, and your company to read this book.

With more than 2,018,2,111,000 new single-family homes being built in the United States this year alone, total construction spending exceeding $550,134,000,000 (half a billion dollars), and the number of licensed realtors last spring breaking 1,005,785, you need to understand the building process (source:

How This Book Is Organized

This book takes you step by step through the process of buying a production or spec home, building a new custom or semi-custom home, or renovating or adding on to an existing home. Easy-to-follow chapters explain what you need to do and what you should expect from your contractor, subcontractors, and other professionals you have chosen. The book starts with helping you decide what's right for you—buying, building, or renovating—and helps you understand what you need to know before you start, during construction, and when your new home is finished.

How the Information Is Organized

This book is divided into four parts and 24 chapters that lead you through all the major steps you need to know about the homebuilding process.

Part I: What You Need to Know Before You Start to Build

Part II: Getting Started

Part III: Starting the Design Process

Part IV: Planning and Prevention Build a Better Home

Part I: What You Need to Know Before You Start to Build

Part I takes you through the decision process of what type of home is right for you: custom, semi-custom, or production. If you're just staying where you are and adding on or remodeling your existing home, this information also applies to your situation, but this book is mainly for people who are having a new home built from scratch. This book doesn't address homebuyers who want to become their own homebuilders. It's for those who will work with a professional homebuilder to get the home of their dreams.

After you know what you want to accomplish, this step is where you begin to build your team. You pick your lender, title agent, realtor, homebuilder, and some of your own subcontractors, such as installers for swimming pools and block fences and maybe your landscaper. Part I also explains a few simple methods for finding out whether your team members should be on your team at all. I discuss how to carry out due diligence on your team to be sure they are experienced, trustworthy, and financially secure.

These chapters also address questions such as How do I get prequalified? How do I choose a good realtor, title agent, and lender? Do I have enough insurance? After you've answered these questions and more, you'll be ready to start your project.

Part II: Getting Started

Part II is all about what you need to do before you begin building. It describes major decisions you need to make before you start to build momentum. Make these decisions upfront so that you won't be pressured when time has run out. Planning ahead in this way helps you make the right decisions so that you can avoid change orders, cost overruns, project delays, subcontractor travel fees, living with mistakes, and a lot of stress. Making these decisions eases the building process and results in the home you've always dreamed of.

Part III: Starting the Design Process

In Part III, I explain how much house can you buy or build or, as homebuilders call it, "dollars on the dirt." I discuss how to determine how much house you can get for your money and explain allowances, standard options, cost comparisons, and the three-bid kickback. All these items affect the quality of your new home.

Part IV: Planning and Prevention Build a Better Home

Part IV is where I actually "break ground" and discuss building your new home. I explain what you need to know about the actual building process from the foundation to the roof—or trees to keys. The steps in this process are what homebuilders supervise and coordinate with their subcontractors to complete your new home. Much of the information in Part IV describes what they do but is important for you to understand. Knowing what to expect and how the process works can eliminate a lot of misunderstandings, make the process more enjoyable, reduce mistakes, and possibly eliminate legal battles.

As you finish Part IV, you're in the finish line. These chapters discuss builder's checklists, walkthroughs, maintenance of your new home, home inspections, and the dreaded rights and recourse, just in case. When you're through with Part 4, you should be ready to start buying or building your new home or offering a higher level of customer service to your clients.

Additional Resources

When you purchase this book, you gain access to a multitude of support files that help you understand the processes of buying, building, and borrowing even better. To download the free bonus materials for this book, such as the New Home Ideas workbook and an extensive glossary of building terms, go to to register and receive your password.

  • Sample Loan Application
  • Sample Blueprints
  • Sample Builder's Schedule
  • Sample Walkthrough Checklist
  • Sample Select Sheets
  • Sample Change Order Sheet
  • Property Interview Questions
  • Home Maintenance Outline
  • Sample Termite Inspection Report
  • Termite Pretreatment Certificate
  • Septic System Design and Permit
  • Soil Compaction Report
  • Home Inspection Report
  • Building Permit Application
  • Draw Schedule
  • Loan Application (Quick App)

These documents can help you during the course of construction. I recommend filling them in and referring to them during the course of construction. They can assist you in decision making and help keep you from making errors and omitting important details that can be overlooked easily during the building project.

These documents are yours to keep. Just download them and keep them on your computer for reference and to complete as you prepare to buy or build your new home. Keep the originals in a safe folder while you use a copy of the file to experiment with and to fill in as you proceed though the chapters of this book.

Throughout the book, you'll refer to these documents when I ask you to do your "home" work. You'll need to research your personal preferences for materials and finishes; gather brochures, pricing, and other information; and add your decisions to these forms.

Special Elements and Icons

I've done my best to arrange the material in this book so that you can zero in on what you need. This book has several special elements to help you do that:

  • Tips indicate fairly easy actions you can take that will save you lots of time, money, and frustration.
  • Cautions warn you against potential pitfalls and show you how to avoid common problems.
  • Notes give you a little extra information about the topic currently under discussion that's good to know. This information is not necessarily essential, but it can be useful and will generally make you more knowledgeable about the subject.
  • To Do lists tell you everything you need to do to get a specific task done. Think of them as checklists to help you mark your progress.
  • In This Chapter lists at the start of every chapter give you the main objectives each chapter will help you accomplish.

Special icons have also been used to assist you in avoiding errors, show you cost-savings ideas, offer additional information from the Internet, and supply definitions of terms. Here are the icons you'll see throughout the book:

  • The Errors to Avoid icon marks text indicating areas where you can easily make mistakes or other items that can help you avoid errors. These mistakes can cost you money, time, aggravation, and potential legal problems.
  • The Dollars on the Dirt icon alerts you to text about topics that can cost you or save you money. These icons point out where being an educated consumer helps you negotiate better, know what you should and should not pay for, and discover where you can save just because you know how.
  • The Internet Information icon directs you to websites that will make the building process easier, provide valuable information, and help you make those continual decisions that affect your project.
  • The Definition icon acts as a pause from the main flow of information to further explain a term or concept so that you can understand it better before moving on to new ideas.
Recommendations for Using This Book

Buying, building, or renovating your new home is an experience you'll never forget and is one that can go both ways. I'm sure you have heard people say that they have built a new home and would never, ever do that again. Others have a great time with little stress, end up with the home of their dreams, and would recommend the experience to others. The difference is that these others knew what to expect and what was expected of them, and they communicated. When you know what you're doing, every process goes more smoothly.

Read the book all the way through, and follow the instructions to complete your "home" work assignments. These assignments are one of the most important things you can do to prepare. Then skim the book a second time. During the course of construction, scan the pages that apply to that phase of preconstruction or construction again, making sure you're doing everything you need to do to understand the process and schedule and are fulfilling your requirements as the homebuyer.

Create a set of files, collect information, make phone calls, talk to experts, gather brochures, get prices, and roll up your sleeves and enjoy. When else are you going to spend a quarter to a half million dollars again? I know that if I were spending half a million dollars, I would do everything I could to guarantee I had fun doing it!

Some Tips Before You Start

Get a notepad, an accordion file, a pen or marker, a tape measure, a digital camera, and access to the Internet because as I ask questions in the upcoming chapters, you're going to start compiling everything you need to know about your new home. When you're done, you'll have the confidence to go out and build your team of professionals, and then have them build your dream home with as little stress and as much fun as possible.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents


The Largest Investment in Your Life: Be an Educated Consumer!

Who Should Read This Book

How This Book Is Organized

How the Information Is Organized

Part I: What You Need to Know Before You Start to Build

Part II: Getting Started

Part III: Starting the Design Process

Part IV: Planning and Prevention Build a Better Home

Additional Resources

Special Elements and Icons

Recommendations for Using This Book

Some Tips Before You Start


1. Making a Decision on What to Build.

Understanding the Pros and Cons of Custom Homebuilding

Defining Your Options

Making the Right Choice for You

Reasons to Use a Homebuilder

Homebuilders Have the Right Relationships

Homebuilders Understand the Building Process

Homebuilders Can Negotiate Better Prices

Homebuilders Have the Necessary Insurances

If You Must

Hiring a Homebuilder Takes the Pain Out of Homebuilding

Homebuilders Understand the Magnitude of the Project and Can Avoid Costly Errors

Material Delivery

Municipality and Administrative Approvals

Custom Manufacturing


2. Being Insured Properly Can Greatly Reduce Your Risk.

What Insurance Policies Do You Need While Building?

What Exactly Do You Need to Be Safe?

If You Paid for the Insurance Your Builder Needs, You Could No Longer Afford to Build

What Will the Necessary Protection Cost You?

What Insurance Does a General Contractor Carry?

Why You Should Contact the Homebuilder's Insurance Company


3. How to Apply Yourself to Getting a Construction Loan.

Knowing Your "Dollars on the Dirt" Before You Begin

How the Builder Goes from "Dollars on the Dirt" to Your New Home

Finding a Lender

Choosing the Right Loan Package

Getting Prequalified

Accumulating All Your Financial Records

Listing Your Credit Card Accounts

Recording Your Other Account Numbers

Gathering Your Address and Work History

Other Documentation

Running Your Own Credit Report

Where to Find Your Credit Reports

Understanding Your FICO Score

How to Clean Up Your Credit Report

Amortization Made Simple

Work Through an Amortization Example


4. A Few Key Clauses to Consider in Your Contracts.

What's the Value of a Good Agreement?

Who Is the American Arbitration Association?

A Sample Binding Arbitration Clause

What Are Soft Costs, and Why Are They in Contracts?

Make Sure Soft Costs Are Included in the Fixed Costs of Your Contract

Time Frame for Making Selects

Make Your Selections Based on the Building Schedule


5. Building Your Team of Professionals.

Identifying the Best Realtor for You

How to Locate a Good Realtor

Determining Your Potential Realtor

Getting Your Lender on Your Side

A Lending Relationship Needs to Be Two-Way

Picking Your Lender

Who Selects the Title Company?

What Does a Title Company Do for You?

What's the Relationship Between Your Realtor and Your Title Agent?

Code of Ethics and Conduct


6. Doing Your "Home" Work on Your Homebuilder.

The Process of Finding a Good Homebuilder

How to Locate a Homebuilder Near Your Location

Does Your Homebuilder Pass the Test?

Don't Panic: Interviewing Is Much Easier Than It Sounds



7. How to Select Property Properly.

Who Supplies the Land and Who Doesn't

Asking All the Right Questions Helps You Buy Better Property

Finding the Best Piece of Land for You

Realtors Can Help You Find Your Land

Enlisting Friends, Family, and Others


8. Start Planning Your New Home.

How to Find Home Plans You Really Like

Where to Find a Good Selection of New Home Plans

Find Plans on the Internet, in Books, and with Your Builder

How to Get the Perfect Plan

Starting with an Existing Set of Plans

What Are Study Sets of Plans?

Making Changes to the Plans

How the Builder Determines What's Included in Your New Home

Tell the Homebuilder Your Quality; He'll Tell You the Size


9. Know What's Included in the Base Price.

Putting Together a New Home Ideas Kit

Getting Inspired by Model Homes

Are You Getting What You Pay For?

How You Confirm the Negotiated Price

Building Begins with the Specs and Selects

You Need to Communicate with Your Homebuilder

Don't Leave Money on the Table Because of Comps

Comps Are Only a Starting Point

Negotiating Can Save You More Than You Think

Production (Tract) Homes Can Produce Good Results

Can You Buy a Custom Home for the Cost of Production?

How Is a Production Home Produced?

Make Your Home Better by Collecting Your Ideas in Advance

A File Can Save You Time, Money, and Mistakes

Brochures Can Communicate Your Ideas Better

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Dollars

Collecting Floor Plans Helps You Plan Better


10. Selects and the 5,000 Decisions Necessary to Build a New Home.

Why Are Specs and Selects So Important?

What Are Specs and How Do They Affect Your New Home?

What Are Selects?

Making Your Selects on Time Can Keep Your Project on Schedule

Using the Select Sheet and Builder's Construction Schedule

Using Your New Home Select Sheet

Following Your Builder's Construction Schedule

Colorizing Is the Harmonizing of Your Decisions

Help with Interior Design Is Available



11. What You Need to Know About Standard Options.

What Is a Standard Option?

Know Your Choices

If It's Not Standard, It's an Upgrade

Can You Use Your Own Subcontractors?

Make Every Standard Option and Upgrade Part of Your Specs and Selects


12. The Benefits of a Builder's Allowance.

Why a Cash Allowance Can Be a Good Thing

Who Pays When You Exceed Your Allowance and Who Keeps the Difference?


13. Get Your Own Costs and Compare.

When You Compare, You Know the Facts

How to Get Bids to Better Understand Your Costs

Comparing Your Bids

A 10-Minute Negotiation Can Save You $10,000

The Importance of Including Your Specs and Selects

Three Ways to Minimize the Impact of Bid Errors

Minimize Bid Errors with Specs and Selects

Minimize Bid Errors with a "Not to Exceed" Clause

Minimize Bid Errors with a Time and Materials (T&M) Clause

Does Your Homebuilder Mark Up Outside Bids?

How Much Markup Is Fair?


14. Working with Change Orders.

What Are Change Orders?

When Can You Do Change Orders?

Who Accepts Change Orders?

Always Communicate Your Change Orders

Avoid Unwritten Change Orders

Fax, Fax, Fax Your Conversations


15. The Importance of Your Financial Draws.

How the Draw Process Works

Inspections and Release of Funds

Miss a Schedule, Miss a Draw, Slow the Progress

Set Your Draws on Line Items

Other Draw Items You Should Know About


16. Building a Contingency into Your Loan.

Planning Ahead for Unseen Expenses

Be Prepared for Upgrades, Unforeseen Events, and Unanticipated Necessities

Build It into the Loan So That It Can Be Built into the House

If You Don't Use All the Money, You Can Give It Back



17. Understanding Building Permits and Approvals.

What You Need to Submit to Acquire a Building Permit

Who Should Submit Your Plans?

The Homebuilder Knows the System

How Long Can Permits Take?

Government Agencies Can Take Their Time

Who Needs to Approve Your New Home Plans?

Plan Check

Zoning Review

Architectural Review Board

Flood Control

Homeowner's Association



18. A Good Site Foundation Is the Base of a Good Home.

What Is Clearing and Grubbing Your Land?

Preparing Your Site for the Foundation

Knowing the Types of Soil That Can Affect Your Home

Soils Can Range from Rock to Clay

Some Clays Can Move Your Foundation

Why Soil Compaction Is Important

Understand Soil and Compaction Reports


19. Getting the Jump on Termites Before You Start.

Why Termites Can Be a Serious Problem

What Are Termites?

How Do You Detect Termites?

Pretreat to Prevent Insects Before You Begin Building

Other Forms of Pretreatment Help Keep Your Home Safe

The Pretreatment Certificate and Warranty

How You Can Help Prevent Termites After Construction

Some Simple Measures Can Keep You Termite Free


20. What You Need to Know About Your New Septic System.

How Does a Septic System Work?

How Does a Perk Test Affect the System Cost?

Good Soils Can Make Your Septic System Less Expensive

What Happens During a Perk Test?

Speak with Your Homebuilder About Septic Costs at the Start

Maintaining a Happy Relationship with Your Septic System


21. What You Can Find When Doing a Home Inspection.

Is a Home Inspection of a New Home Important?

Who's Been Inspecting Your New Home Already?

Should I Do a Prepossession Inspection?

Is a Home Warranty Necessary for My New Home?

Is the Homebuilder Responsible for the Warranty of My New Home?

Ten Things You Can Inspect


22. What to Look for Before You Take Possession.

What Happens at the Walkthrough

Early Effects of Your Home Stabilizing

Homeowner's Insurance and Contact List

A Walkthrough Checklist Can Ensure You Look at Everything

Take a Look at a Walkthrough List


23. Home Maintenance: Caring for Your New Home.

Learn How to Care for Your New Materials and Equipment

Take a Look at Some Examples

Get Your Owner's Manuals and Warranties at the Time of Installation

Remind Your Homebuilder to Save Those Manuals

Get Your List of Subcontractors

Subcontractors Warranty Their Work, Too


24. The Final Touches.

A Few Last-Minute Tasks

Releasing the Final Draw to Your Builder

Hold Back to Ensure That the Punch List Is Complete

Enjoy Your New Home!

Purchase Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time



A. Resources and References.


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