How to Build Your Own Home on Your Own Lot

A home sketch and a man with a helmet under his arm. Home sketch overlays one picture with perfect terrain for a new home.

A build-on-your-lot home offers you the opportunity to design and build your dream home on the land you love.

Do you have a new home floor plan that you love or land that inspires you or both?

If you dream of designing a new home that takes full advantage of the unique geography and views of land that you love, then you’re a candidate for a build-on-your-lot home, sometimes known by the acronym BOYL.

Building a home on your own land can sound like a pricey prospect, but rest assured that new homes can be built on your lot or land across a wide range of budgets. Here are four steps to help you figure it all out:

1. Choose a Starting Point

The 
process of building a home on your own lot can begin in any one of four places:

With land you love.

If you own land already or are inheriting some, you’re one step ahead of the dreaming stage. If you haven’t found that perfect lot yet, you can work with a Realtor who specializes in land purchases or contact a 
builder who can help you locate the right spot for your home.

For instance, Paul Schumacher, founder and owner of Schumacher Homes, says two-thirds of their customers already own land or are in the process of acquiring land, plus they will provide Realtor recommendations to the other third.

With an architect.

Depending on your budget and the level of customization you’re looking for, you can hire an architect to transfer ideas from your wishlist to a blueprint. Rob Rutherford, owner of Nelson Homes in Arrington, Va., says having floor plans drawn by an architect could cost $5,000 to $6,000, while Schumacher says architectural fees can go up to $35,000.

With a floor plan.

Internet search yields dozens of companies that sell 
floor plans that you can bring to a home builder for inspiration or to customize for your land. Floor plans that can be used for review, but not for building, cost anywhere from $150 to $500, while complete sets that can be provided to a builder for construction cost from $1,000 to $2,500 or more.

With a builder.

Most homebuilders offer floor plans of their own that you can have built as designed. Depending on the builder, you can often customize the design to your specifications. Todd Bennett, a regional manager with Lockridge Homes in South Carolina and eastern Georgia, says his company has about 60 floor plans available with a variety of elevations, while Schumacher Homes and Nelson Homes have hundreds of floor plans.

2. Study Your Land

The next step in the process of building on your own land is for you or your builder to work with a civil engineer to make sure you’re following the regulations for the jurisdiction where your land is located, says George Fritz, COO of Horizon Builders in Crofton, Md.

“You need to know how you’re going to get power to your house, whether you need a well and how you’ll handle sewage,” says Fritz.

Rutherford says his company schedules a site visit, arranges utilities, helps customers get their zoning approved and permits for constructions and hires an excavation company to build a road if necessary.

“We always look at the land with our clients to talk about how the house they want to build would fit on the property and how it would be positioned,” adds Schumacher. “We need to do that early in the process in case the plans need to be modified and to estimate costs.”

3. Customize Your Floor Plan

The next step is the fun part: customizing and designing the home to fit your lifestyle.

Schumacher says his company has portfolios of homes on their website that include characteristic architectural elements for specific locations. For example, in Louisiana, the home designs have a French country influence, while the homes in Wilmington, N.C., have a southern coastal style.

“We have floor plans that range in size from 1,000 to 6,000 square feet that function as a starting point and then we can customize everything inside and out,” says Schumacher. “A lot of buyers come in with ideas from websites like Houzz and magazines and we discuss everything they want to do with the home and give them a price quote.”

However, Schumacher says less than one-half percent of people who build a new home hire an architect.

“It’s much more common for people to choose one of our floor plans or to come in with a plan from a service,” he says. “If they bring one to us, we’ll see if we have something similar that can be modified.”

4. Discover How Long it Takes to Build on Your Lot

Building a new home takes four to six months if your home builder has already built your floor plan, but it can take significantly longer if you’re having a completely new design built or if you’re asking for extensive customization. So, if you have a specific time frame for moving, you’re likely to be better off with a semi-custom design rather than a completely custom-designed home.

“If you’re adding space to the house, we can usually turn that around quickly, but something more complicated could take a week or two to price out,” says Schumacher. “We average 122 days from putting in the foundation to finishing our houses, but bigger homes take a little longer.”

Nelson Homes builds modular homes, which can be faster to build, as well as less costly than other new homes. The parts are built off-site while the foundation for the home is under construction. Once the parts are delivered, says Rutherford, construction takes 45 to 60 days.

5. Discover How Much it Costs to Build on Your Lot

The 
cost of building on your lot depends largely on the home builder you choose, but the general rule is that the more you customize, the more your costs will go up.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, we use our own floor plans, which makes it less costly and easier for our customers,” says Bennett. “We can modify the plans anyway people want. Our prices average $55 to $75 per square foot.”

Modular home builder Nelson Homes builds from 1,500 to several thousand square feet and, depending on the size, can finish for $80 to $90 per square foot, Schumacher says.

On the other hand, Rutherford says many clients bring their own floor plans to Nelson Homes. If they can be converted so that the parts can be built in the factory, the clients can save $20,000 or more compared to having the home built entirely on site. 

“A design-build company will cost less than working with an architect and interior designer,” reminds Fritz, of Horizon Builders. “Just make sure you get everything defined and in detail so you know, for example, what kind of ceramic tile you’re getting. Look at the numbers you’re quoted, too, to make sure you understand what’s included in the price. Don’t just go with the lowest price because you may find yourself spending more to upgrade things later.”

If you’re ready to get started on building a home on your land, most builders can recommend several 
lenders with expertise in construction finance and can work with you to make building your dream home on your dream lot a reality.

Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades. You can find her on Google+.

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