Custom Home Building Process – What to Expect

What to Expect When Building a Custom Home

Building a custom home is, quite literally, making a dream come true. The benefit to custom home building is that you get to design and select nearly every single element that comprises your home. The custom home building process consists of many steps, each of which happen in a well-planned sequence. Everyone’s experience will be unique, and some steps will take longer than others, but the basic road map is the same.

In order to really dig into the details, we’ve divided the custom home building process into 5 phases based on milestones that happen along the way. During each of the 5 phases, we’ll look at the different steps that should be occurring. Many of the steps will happen simultaneously or possibly in a different order than what we’ve listed, but they are all important parts of the journey. By familiarizing yourself with the over-all process, you can be better prepared for what happens along the way.

Table of Contents

Phase 1: Idea Inception (AKA THE DREAM)

Every custom home starts with a dream. That day when you wake up and realize you’re ready to build a custom home. There are 3 steps in phase 1:

Idea Germination

How long you stay in this step depends on you. Idea germination consists of the weeks, months or years that you spend gathering ideas for your custom home.

Assemble a Team

Building a custom home is a team sport. Your core team will be made up of the architect and builder. If you plan to use an interior designer, he or she will also be a part of your core team. It doesn’t matter who you pick first, but it is very important to select your core team members before starting the design.

There are also many other consultants that you may choose (or be required!) to involve on your project. Read more about the most common consultants that can be involved on a custom home build here.

Financial Feasibility

Now is the time to speak with your accountant, lender or bank about the financial feasibility of your project and put a budget together. We always recommend including a contingency fund of 10 to 20 percent of your over-all construction budget. No matter how well planned out the project, surprises will occur once construction has started.

Phase 2: Site Acquisition

The site of your home has an important impact on its design (lot placement, views, existing landscaping, etc.). As you work through the financial feasibility, you will be able to start identifying sites for your new home.

Site Identification + Purchase

Work with your real estate agent to identify sites for your new home.


Programming is such an important step in the architectural design process that we encourage you to get started even before your site is finalized. Be thinking about architectural styles, room counts and relationships, etc. For more information about programming, check out our blog on how to create a custom home program.


Finalize the financing for your site purchase and home construction. Home construction loans function differently than the mortgages that most people are familiar with. Learn more about construction loans here.

Phase 3: Design

Now that you have your site, funding and team in place, you can move forward full speed ahead with the design of your home.

Design: Programming, Schematic Design, Design Development and Working Drawings

At this point, you can direct all of your focus on the fun part – designing your custom home! We discuss the details of the architectural design process in a different blog, which you can read here. Our best advice is not to rush the design process – taking the time and effort to get it right from the beginning will avoid countless headaches down the road!

Phase 4: Construction

You’ve finished your design, your building permit is in hand and it’s time for construction to begin! Depending on the agreed upon schedule with your builder, this typically lasts anywhere from 12 to 18 months. Construction is an exciting time, when you get to watch your design go from paper to a 3-dimensional reality. At this point the majority of your design decisions and selections have already been made. Making the remainder of your decisions in a timely fashion will help your builder to remain on schedule.

Phase 5: Occupancy

Your builder will do a final walk through with you to ensure everything is completed and educate you about the systems in your new home. Make sure you’ve received all warranties from your builder and understand what is covered under warranty, and for how long. In the unlikely event that something in your home needs attention, it is helpful to know the process for contacting the builder and verifying that the item has been completed. The more details that you have in writing, the more peace of mind you’ll have after you move in.

Finishing Touches

This includes all of those extra details that can’t be done during construction, including landscaping and the final touches of your interior design.


Once you’ve received a Certificate of Occupancy, you can start moving in. We all know that moving can be stressful, but we encourage you to take the time to enjoy the little things – admire all of the design selections you made, the way the light falls into the kitchen in the morning, the spectacular views from your living room…the list goes on, and is unique to each home. You’ve worked hard to create your dream home, now it is time to enjoy it!

Ready to Get Started?

Let’s talk! Tell us more about your project. We respond within 2 business days.