Meet the People Who’ll Build Your Home
Building your new home is, quite literally, making a dream come true. Yours.
It’s an exciting but also detailed process that consists of many steps, each of which happens in a well-planned sequence.
Creating your new home takes a team of trained professionals focused on your needs. One trade contractor will complete a step in your home, then hand-off to the next contractor — all under the direction of your builder’s construction superintendent. He or she will manage these hand-offs, ensure quality work, and make sure that all parties involved adhere to the schedule.
The key members of this team will work closely with each other and with you to handle construction each step of the way, creating your new home.
Let’s take a look at who does what in the building process. In this case, we’ve assumed your home is being built in a typical master-planned community, a large new home development. The process actually started when the new home community itself was planned by, you guessed it:
Everything to do with building your home starts with the land. Real estate developers are constantly looking for available land (or property not yet on the market) that’s suitable for a new home neighborhood. That might be an open field, wooded land or a mountainous area with dramatic views.
A developer may invest years — and large amounts of money — patiently acquiring individual parcels of land from many owners, assembling the final building site for a large new home community.
The developer creates an overall plan for the community that includes the type of homebuyers to target and thus what types of new homes to build. Based on this information, the developer then selects builders for the new community and creates a detailed master plan that identifies the size, type, and price range of new homes to be built.
Next, the developer will prepare the site for building. In many cases, the first step is obtaining entitlements — government approvals needed to build on the property. The site may need to be re-zoned for single-family and/or multi-family homes. And since new homes bring an influx of new students, the local school board may need to sign off on the project.
Once the neighborhood’s master plan has been approved, the developer will have the land graded for proper drainage and erosion control and install the community’s roads and underground infrastructure such as water, sewer and utilities. Next, come streets, curbs, sidewalks, street lights, signs, and fire hydrants — all the important details that create a community, which builders and ultimately homeowners will share and rely upon.
The developer may also provide community amenities — such as a community clubhouse, pool, fitness center, walking trails, playground or even a dog park.
When these steps have been completed, the developer generally sells so-called finished lots to home builders who are approved to build in the community.
One of the builder’s first tasks in a new master-planned community is to finalize a library of new home plans to be built. These are based on the target buyer, the agreed-upon price range, the region of the country (home styles vary dramatically from Phoenix to Boston, for example) and the topography of the land. Hence one of a builder’s first decisions after agreeing to build in a given new home community is what types of homes to build there. Which leads us to….
Once builders purchase finished lots, they work closely with an architect, who may work directly for the builder or for an architectural firm the builder selects. In either case, the architect will design new home plans (or tailor existing plans) to work well on these lots.
Today’s new homes are designed with features most buyers want — such as open kitchens, higher ceilings, larger master bedrooms and baths, bigger closets and plenty of storage space throughout the home.
The result is a series of appealing home plans (also referred to as floorplans) with features like those above that fall within the community’s pre-determined ranges for square footage and price.
You’ll choose from this library of floorplans when shopping for a new home in the community. When designing each home, the architect will take into account the lot’s location, topography, the direction it faces, its relationship to other lots and environmental and weather factors.
The architect will also design each home to harmonize with other homes in your neighborhood, so each home complements and adds value to other homes nearby. With the home plans now finalized, let’s take a look at key roles in the firm that will build your home.
Your Home Building Firm
The company that you select to build your home is a key decision. This firm is responsible for every phase of the design and construction of your new home.
Your home building firm and its key staff (more on that below) select and manage the teams of trade contractors who build each component or system within your home. They will also closely monitor and manage the progress and quality of your home at each step of construction and overall.
The Builder’s Sales Consultant
The process typically starts with you, the home buyer, working with the builder’s highly knowledgeable on-site sales team to select the best floorplan and lot for your needs.
No one is more expert about all of the key details than your sales consultant. He or she has detailed knowledge of the new home community and the surrounding area (including nearby shopping, schools, restaurants and more). Your sales consultant will have answers to your questions regarding the builder, the home plans offered, the lots available, the builder’s unique approach to construction and energy efficiency, what features are standard, what options and upgrades are offered, and a whole lot more.
Your sales consultant will guide you through the process of selecting your new home. In many cases, builders create one or more model homes that you can walk through to see first-hand how your home will look and feel — and how each room will relate to another part of the home. Many builders decorate and furnish model homes to further help you visualize your new home. In addition to model homes, many builders invest in renderings, computer-generated animations, and even 3D or interactive floorplans that help you envision key details of your new home.
The builder’s sales team will help you select your floorplan and model of home, an elevation (the look of the front facade of your home) as well as a lot (the specific parcel of land) on which your new home will be built.
The Design Center Consultant
Once you’ve made the choices above and signed a purchase contract, you’ll typically work with a design center consultant.
This member of the builder’s team handles what’s often referred to as the options selection process. That’s builder-speak for one of the best parts of building a new home — selecting the style, color and types of many key components of your home to match your personal taste and style.
Your design consultant will help you make key design selections such as flooring (tile, hardwood, vinyl and carpet), cabinetry and countertops. In addition, you’ll likely choose appliances, lighting and plumbing fixtures, and even wiring options such as home automation and security systems. Many builders offer a range of structural changes. These can range from a bay window, to a three-car garage, or even a bonus room that can be built as an additional bedroom, study or media room.
Your design center consultant will record all of your product and design choices and send them along to the builder’s purchasing department and construction superintendent (more on this key role below). Now, construction is ready to start on your new home.
The Construction Superintendent
While job titles can vary a bit from one building firm to another, the firm you select to build your home will designate a key member of their staff as the overall project manager for your new home. Some firms call this person a construction manager or a field manager. Other companies use the job title of “builder” for this key role. That means Bill Smith can be your builder (namely, your construction superintendent) and also an employee of Adams Homes.
Regardless of the exact job title, your construction manager or builder is a highly qualified project manager with expertise in each phase of building your home. He or she typically has a strong background in construction science and techniques. Your construction superintendent will personally execute a series of key tasks and also coordinate with other members of the overall building team described in this article. Typically, he or she will:
- Work closely with each trade contractor, building products suppliers and key employees of the home building firm.
- Help coordinate tasks such as purchasing building materials and scheduling their delivery.
- Schedule trade contractors in sequential order as construction progresses.
- Ensure each trade contractor crew finishes their task on time and turns over a quality, completed phase of construction to the next trade contractor crew in the process. Managing these hand-offs is a key part of the building process.
- Schedule inspections, ensure quality control, and make sure everyone adheres to the architect’s building plans.
Since this person is responsible for managing the overall process to deliver a high-quality home on a schedule or timeline, it’s fair to think of your construction super/builder as the conductor who brings the right people, the right building materials, and the right processes and inspections all together in a carefully planned sequence to build your new home.
Your construction superintendent will likely be your point of contact for visiting your house while it’s being built. Many builders offer pre-determined times to tour a home during key points of construction, such as a walk-through at the framing or pre-drywall stage. This is a good time to ask your superintendent questions about what’s behind the walls (such as insulation, wiring or plumbing) and other measures that add comfort and energy-efficiency to your home.
Key Trade Contractors
Every new home has several key systems and components that are built by skilled contractors. While the list below isn’t exhaustive, it includes trade contractors that play a major role in building every new home. Trade contractors will typically perform the following duties:
- Site preparation and grading
- The foundation: If your home has a basement, this contractor will handle that as well.
- Framing: These contractors build the exterior walls, the roof and the framework for interior walls. They also install windows and exterior doors.
- Exterior siding, stucco or brickwork
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning, commonly referred to as HVAC or H-Vac: This specialty also handles installing insulation.
- Rough and finish electrical work
- Rough and finish plumbing
- Drywall (often called Sheetrock): When they’re finished, you’ll have actual walls and ceilings in your house.
- Interior trim and cabinetry
- Flooring and carpet
- Driveway and walkways
During the construction process, at least two sets of inspections will be done. One set occurs before the drywall is hung, and the other is performed again before you move in.
Your builder will have his own inspectors who ensure each home is completed to the company’s quality standards. In addition, city or county building inspectors will check that the various systems in your home meet local building codes. Codes vary by location but typically include:
- The footings, foundation work and water and sewer lines before any concrete is poured
- Inspections of the framing and mechanical systems (electrical, plumbing and HVAC)
- The building envelope, which includes the roof, windows, doors and exterior coverings, such as siding, stucco and brick
- And a final inspection that must be completed before a certificate of occupancy is issued
Your Home is Complete!
Congratulations! Your new home is complete. Moving in is a special time. Yes, there’s the inevitable hassle of packing and unpacking, but this is also your opportunity to see all of the design selections you made, and all of your planning rewarded, when you walk into your home for the first time as the owner.
From the developer to the architect, and to the design consultant, construction superintendent and various trade contractors and inspectors, each professional involved in building your new home shared the same goal: To deliver a high quality, pristine new home that’s fully complete and ready for move-in.
The result? You’ll enjoy a first-rate new home, one that you personalized to your style and taste. Your home offers the latest in energy-efficiency, open floor plans for the way we live today, and is ready for years of enjoyment.
Pat Curry is a highly respected journalist who most recently worked as senior editor, sales and marketing, at BUILDER, the official publication of the National Association of Home Builders and the largest-circulation monthly trade magazine in the nation. In 2009, she was named a finalist in the Best Online Article category of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Awards, the Pulitzer Prize of the trade press.