New Home Buyers' Guide - During the Build

Jul 18, 2017

Ask a designer, a sales agent and a builder the main things that new homeowners can do to keep their building projects on track and here’s what they have to say:

  1. Meet the deadlines you’re given to make decisions at each stage of the build.
  2. Don’t go looking at show homes after the build has started. Do that before.
  3. Buy a pair of steel towed boots!

With that aside, let’s talk about some of the things you can expect at each stage of your new home build.

What you can expect

  1. Preconstruction – Now that you’ve determined your vision for your home including style (premium or custom), floor plan, lot selection, budget and various construction requirements and signed the official contract, you will work with the builder representative (usually a project coordinator) to go over the build process. This should include a one-on-one meeting to talk about the timelines of the build and, if available, to introduce you to any online software you can use to see where your project is at and make final decisions. During this phase your builder will also be submitting your plans to the city for the building permit.
  2. Foundation – Once all of this is out of the way, construction begins. The first phase is staking out your building site, breaking ground and laying the foundation for your home. This is usually the stage where you’ll also start to work with the builder’s in-house designers to make selections on fixtures, fittings and design appointments.
  3. Framing and mechanical – This is when you’ll start to see your new home rising from the ground up. Exterior walls, partitions and the roof start to take shape. Windows will be installed as well as other steps the builder will take to protect the home from damage during construction. Your basement floor will be laid, and electrical and plumbing as well as ducting will be put in place. At this stage, there’s usually inspections required, which your builder will arrange, to ensure the home is being built to the local code requirements.
  4. Interior and exterior work – Now it’s time for your vision for your home to become more…visible! Insulation and vapour barriers are added and another inspection occurs before drywall is added. Then its painting, laying of floors, installation of cabinets and fixtures. Outside finishing such as siding and eaves troughs will occur along with the porch, deck and driveway. At this stage there may also be further municipal inspections required, which you can discuss with your builder.
  5. Finishing – At this stage your builder is cleaning up the site and adding the final touches. In some cases, due to the severe weather systems here in Manitoba and the timeline of your build, you may be moving into your home before the final exterior finishes are done, which you’ll again, discuss with your builder.
Final inspection and taking possession A few days before you move in, there should be a walk through the house with the builder where you’ll receive a full description of all of the systems, how they work and to ensure everything has been done according to your contract and plans. This is also usually a prerequisite for the builder's new home warranty. You should receive information for both the builders’ and the manufacturer’s warranties for the home as well as instructions for maintaining the systems and materials used in the home. The infographics show some of the key things, suggested by the Manitoba Home Builders Association, you’ll want to be sure your builder—and you— are checking off during the final inspection. Download Checklists

How long with the build take?

From the time the plans and permits are approved, a custom home may take about eight months [LF1] to build but that can change if there are delays or specific design choices that require more time. Premium home builders build on volume and can have often have a home built within six months but this is again dependent on the plan selection and having all deadlines met by the homeowner during the construction process.  

Michelle Gosselin, manager, Qualico Design Centre, stresses explains the importance for homeowners to meet their deadlines. “There’s usually a personal modification deadline after the offer where there can be no more structural, electrical, or plumbing changes.” Then, she said, it’s time to make selections, get quotes and finalize decisions based on deadlines that are often discussed between the sales agents and designer. “We will keep on the customer to get them in to make decisions so they don’t slow down the build.” Gosselin explains that items need to be pre-ordered well in advance and if ordered too late, can delay an entire part of the build.

Liam Milne of Hearth Homes, a custom builder, agrees. “When clients don’t make their selections on time it’s an escalating process. One thing affects another and ultimately, it can affect their possession date.”

“Timelines are very important, not only for the home owner to meet in terms of items that can affect the build, but also permit applications,” stressed Philip Musick, a sales agent with Qualico Single Family Homes. “When the client responds in a timely fashion, it helps everything move forward and the demands that may have been put on builder to meet certain timelines.”

Change orders

It is highly likely, however, that you will change your mind on some things during the build as you see how the home is coming together.

This is an opportunity for you to further individualize the home but, as noted, changes during construction can add to the timeframe of the build. This is more of a consideration for a premium home where the builder is likely building in volume, meaning many homes at the same time. A change that delays the project may prompt the builder to assign tradespeople to other projects. 

A custom home is a little different as you are working much closer with the builder and their in-house designers at every step and for every decision. Custom builders typically build at lower volumes so there may be less impact on the availability of their tradespeople when delays occur—but they can still happen.

Whether premium or custom, when a change is requested the project coordinator will get it quoted and provide the information to the homeowner. Both premium and custom builders try to streamline the process to make changes as easy as possible for the customers.

Depending on the builder, there may also be specialty software available where you’ll be able to track your project but also submit change orders.  This should be discussed with your builder.  You’ll want to know the timeline in which you make changes without penalty and what the penalties will be for changes after that date.

Again, keep in mind that what might seem like a minor change to you may affect many other parts of the building process.

Milestone payments

Builders may have different requirements dependent on the value of the of home being built and way the home is being financed.

Unless otherwise stated, you can generally expect to pay a deposit during the build and balance on possession.

Musick said, “It’s a fairly straightforward process that helps to ensure no concerns of liability or additional surprise costs or mortgage costs while the house is being constructed.” He adds that appraisals are usually done during construction.

What happens after possession?

Your contract should outline the warranty on your new home. Make sure you are also familiar with your builder's after-sales service process in detail. This should include a clear understanding of what is covered by warranty during the first year and what's not. You’ll want to know who your key contact will be and the process for follow-up in the first and subsequent years.  You should ask if your builder schedules regular follow-up calls or if it’s up to you to contact them if problems arise. 

Most builders will stay in touch with their clients in some way, such as contacting them when rebates are offered for things such as Hydro, etc., or bringing residents together in show homes in the communities to stay in touch. 

Builders always want to leave customers satisfied so they will be their first choice for a future build (called rebuild) themselves or for other members of their family and community.

Milne said, “It’s very difficult to get rid of bad stories so it’s important for the builder to show they care about building a good lasting relationship.” He adds, “When we get to do a rebuild for a client, it means we have taken very good care of them initially.” 

What’s Next?

If you’re looking for more information about a particular builder, home plans or lots, visit the Qualico Community websites or call 204.254.9225.