Clarifying expectations and defining the critical steps
The prospect of having your home built is exciting, and to many people, a little daunting as well. That’s mostly because there are a few unknown elements to every project that’s in the conceptual phase…don’t worry, I’m here to help you know what to expect, share timelines, and answer the most common questions to help you plan your home.
Research and Planning: How long, how much, where to start, when to start
Before going down that path and answering those important questions for you, you need to answer a few for yourself. The most important being, “what do I want from my home?” Is your family or need for space growing? Are you going to be an empty nester in the near future? Are you planning on this being your forever home? The needs that you have in the near future and in the long term are critical to consider during the planning phase. And one of the many benefits of building custom is the ability to address future needs, whether we include them in the construction now or build in such a way that you can easily add-on in the future.
How long does a custom home take to build: Realistic timelines
Six months, three weeks, and four days. That’s how long it will take to build your house…at least that’s my wild guess. The truth is, a custom home has so many variables that it’s difficult to use any one general timeline to give a time estimate before knowing more of the critical details. Even tract home builders don’t like giving a schedule for build times and completion dates before selections and permits are all set in stone. And they have far fewer customizations than we deal with. To be candid, asking how long it’s going to take is a reasonable question to ask. I don’t mind it. Any hesitation or reluctance to answer is just because I want to be as honest and accurate as possible.
All that said, a general 2-3,000 sq/ft home takes about 5 to 10 months from construction start to cleanup and finish. That’s assuming there are no unique requirements with the lot layout or grade, and that it’s clear and ready to build on. However, that doesn’t include any of the planning and preparation process, and believe it or not, that part can take as long as construction in some cases–although that is rare.
To be honest, you want to spend a good amount of time during this process. Why? Because it’s going to setup the rest of the project, from engineering and permitting to trade schedules and budgets. So the extra effort here pays off considerably.
To help give you an idea of the possible ranges in timeline, take a look at 3 of my recently completed custom homes:
Planning Makes Perfect: What steps are involved in planning a custom home
An accurate plan is how a good builder keeps projects on-time and on-budget. I would even go so far as to offer a word of caution if a builder wants to rush through planning. You don’t want someone who is going to play things fast and loose when it comes to developing a project plan and scope of work, or else you’re likely to be given a proposal with a huge dollar amount under allowances that’s intended to make up for the lack of detail elsewhere. These types of builders assume they can find out the real costs after construction starts.
On average the planning phase for a custom home can take between 2-5 months; however, architectural and design complexity or engineering requirements will impact that timeline significantly. During planning is when we go over all the details of your build–we talk about your lot, your needs, long term goals, and design or style preferences. And then as we get further along you will also choose finishes, fixtures, hardware, and surfaces. Here are the steps involved in the planning process:
- Lot / Location Requirements
- Preliminary Plans & Feasibility Study
- Determine Estimated Budget
- Determine Project Timeline
- Final Architectural Plans
- Confirm Engineering
- Product Selections
- Develop Scopes of Work
- Review Firm / Fixed Price Bids from Trade Partners
- Review Options
- Approve Selections
- Develop Permitting Deliverables
- Confirm Schedule
- Verify Financials / Prepare to Proceed
- Construction Agreement
How much does a custom home cost in Toronto: Determining costs and staying on budget
“How much will a custom home cost” is one of the most common questions I hear. It’s important and you definitely should be asking. If you called me up now and asked I would give you the best answer I could, but without preparing a detailed design and estimate report I can only give you a very rough estimate. However, if you do contact me and you can spend some time talking me through the home you want, I can put together a preliminary plan that will serve as a great starting point. For now, since this is a one-sided conversation, I can tell you what a range of average costs look like for different levels of builds.
The cost to build a custom home in Toronto ranges from $150-$250 per square foot for the low to mid level home and from $275-$450 for the mid to high end builds. These averages don’t include potential costs to purchase land or any engineering it may take to get the land ready to build. Most of the time, as with the numbers above, average pricing per square foot only includes raw material costs. The all-in cost number is much higher and tends to scare people which is exactly why you rarely see it listed.
Further, a cost per square foot estimate isn’t going to be accurate for you to build a budget and wish list off of. I’ve actually never met anyone that used a $/sq-ft figure to try and plan out the home they wanted to build, it’s only relevant to the home it was derived from. Something that my team and I say all the time is “we don’t build houses based on a price per square foot.” Instead, we work with you and your budget to get you everything we reasonably and possibly can. This works in your favor because we can often achieve the same desired result by using differing materials or suggesting slight design changes.
One thing to note, I use a project management tool that all of my clients have access to that shows the costs of all the material, labor, and markup. Nothing is hidden. The client sees exactly what I see. I share this in hopes of building your trust in what I am saying here, and that I always offer the best I can for all my design & estimate proposals and project plans. Because if we move forward together, the planning process and project management software will show every detail–there’s nowhere to hide markup that will surprise you later. I like offering this much transparency. I think it’s an important differentiator.
Where to start: Getting the designs and features you want
When should you start working with a builder on a custom home? Ideally, some time between when you have some rough sketches drawn out by hand and construction financing.
Most builders like to start working with you as soon as possible, myself included. Reason being, I have designers and architects and trades that I have worked with for many years. I trust their work and I know they are going to bring the same level of experience and professionalism to the project that I do. I also already have good rapport and lines of communication established, which makes everything run smoother. All of this allows me to deliver the best home and experience for every project.
When to start: The perfect time to start building a custom home
Actually, there isn’t a perfect time to start. We can begin planning and submit permits any time of year–we bring heaters or fans or lights depending on the weather and work as long as conditions are safe. That said, there are seasons that don’t lend to ideal conditions for working outside and seasons where our trades and I are usually busier.
The ideal time to start construction on a custom home in Toronto is spring. This allows us to leverage the better weather and then gives us plenty of time to finish. Also, trades often aren’t quite as busy early on in the season compared to late spring or the beginning and middle of summer so we can nail down a better schedule if we start early in the year.