The Custom Homebuilding Journey: 7 Steps to Prepare


You’re thinking about building a custom home, but your mind has shut down after the first paralyzing question of “where do I start?” Good news—you’ve landed in the right place. Harrison Homes has put together a quick reference guide with the first steps to prepare for your custom homebuilding journey.

Harrison Custom Home | Photo by Lauren Carnes
  1. Determine Your Budget and Location

The first step in the custom homebuilding process is to sit down, take a look at the numbers and determine your budget.   What is financially feasible and achievable for you to spend on your new home?  Research the local market conditions to understand current home and land values in the area you want to build.  It’s important to realize what value properties are commanding as you determine your budget.

In Atlanta, in-town real estate prices continue to increase.   Outside the perimeter, lots are likely to be larger, but will maintain higher prices when close to desirable downtown city centers. This may push you to consider an alternative location, if the desire to build a custom home outranks location.  Historically in the Atlanta metro area, lot prices are 25-33% of the total build cost.

For example:

  • Brookhaven:  Inside the perimeter. Lots will be smaller in size, starting from .25 acres, and range from $350,000 to $750,000 for premium lots.  Lower priced lots will likely have some issues attached to it, such as stream buffers, backed to a busier street, etc.
  • Alpharetta: Outside the perimeter. Lots will be larger, from .50 acres to 1.0+ acres, and range from $300,000 – $500,000.  Infill buildable lots within one mile of downtown Alpharetta will start at $300,000 – $350,000.
  • Roswell: Outside the perimeter. East of Canton Street, expect $250,000 – $300,000. To be within walking distance of Canton Street, properties will run from $375,000 – $425,000.  Over one mile west of Canton Street, a buildable lot will range $325,000 – $375,000.

Next, building costs should be considered to construct your home.  These costs include everything from developing the property, permitting, architectural plans, design specifications, selections, material and labor costs.

 As a design and build firm, Harrison handles every aspect associated with your custom home, and will estimate your plan into an all-inclusive price per square foot.  Harrison Homes is currently building customs starting in the low $200s price per sq. ft.  Additional factors such as adding an unfinished basement or change orders will impact your overall project cost.

Desired Sq. Ft.4,000
Cost Per Sq. Ft.$200
Cost to Build:$800,000
Lot Purchase: $450,000
Est. Total Cost of Custom Home $1,325,000

2. Get Prequalified

Now that you have an idea of what your custom home budget will be, talk to your lender and get pre-qualified.  This will help reaffirm your budget.  Harrison Homes recommends shopping lenders for the most competitive interest rates to maximize your budget.  

Traditionally, most homeowners apply for a Construction to Perm Loan (CP loan) to finance their custom home.  A traditional mortgage is only granted for existing structures.  A CP loan combines financing and mortgage financing into one loan, simplifying the process.

The CP loan conveniently acts like a line of credit—you draw what you need throughout the various phases of the homebuilding process, and only pay interest on that amount.  The draws go to the homebuilder to pay for the construction of your custom home. The lender will require a series of inspections along the way to approve those draws and ensure the home is being built to plan.

Once the home is completed, the CP loan rolls into a traditional mortgage.

***While you can pre-qualify at any time, the application process occurs once you have the final executed contract, house and site plans, budget and specifications from Harrison Homes.

3. Connect with Harrison Homes

You’re prequalified!  Reach out to Harrison Homes to start the conversation about your custom home.  We recommend chatting with us prior to purchasing a lot, if possible, which we will explain in step 4. Some initial questions we’ll ask you upfront about your new home include:

  • How many bedrooms, bathrooms and approximate square feet do you desire?
  • Does your custom home vision include a basement or pool?
  • What design features or floorplan specifics are really important to you? (Think of this as your list of “wants” and “must-haves”)
  • What’s your personal style? Do you prefer a modern, traditional, farmhouse, etc.

It’s very helpful to share exterior elevation inspiration photos that speak to you, so we can get an idea of your personal design style. Once we understand your basic needs and wants, we will schedule a consultation with our Custom Home team. The purpose of that exploratory call or meeting is for Harrison Homes to get to know you, your custom home vision and help answer your homebuilding questions.  

 4. Find the Lot

 The next crucial step in building your dream home is finding the right property. By speaking with us first, we can guide the search process so you understand critical data points to be mindful of. The team at Harrison Homes is intimately acquainted with the land and development processes, and can quickly identify the property’s potential, uncover costly development issues or deal-breakers.

Harrison Homes’ thorough due diligence process includes evaluating:

  • Size & shape of property
  • Zoning requirements
  • Soil quality
  • Variance options, if needed
  • Water runoff and drainage management
  • Stream buffers
  • Trees and tree removal
  • Sloping and retaining walls
  • Setbacks
  • Proximity to neighbors and schools
  • Available utilities
  • Average home value in neighborhood
  • Home styles in neighborhood

Once you find a property that fits the qualifications of your custom home, Harrison Homes or our preferred agent will take it from there and help you secure the purchase.

 Should you own the property you wish to build on, the Custom Home team will schedule a time to come and walk the lot with you and request the survey of your land, if you already have obtained it.  

Once you have the property for your custom home, the fun really begins!

5. Retain Harrison Homes

To get started on planning, designing and building your custom home, the next step is to retain Harrison Homes’ services. Our initial fee covers the associated costs with permitting, architectural plans, the survey, asbestos testing, etc. and gets the project to the final contract, where the bank can close with the CP loan. 

The time spent collaborating with you, designing your home and managing the pre-construction process is critical to the success of your build.  It’s also very exciting– the vision of your dream home is created.

Sample Page of a Harrison Homes Design Presentation

6. Start a Home Vision Board

Harrison Homes has an in-house designer that works with you to expertly create your vision. Pictures of home exteriors and interior features that you love assist our designer in learning your style, and selecting finishes that appeal to you.  We recommend starting a Pinterest page with inspiration photos for your custom home.  

Great areas to start include images of your favorite kitchens, bathrooms, fireplaces, dining rooms, offices, bedrooms, light fixtures, paint colors, etc. If technology isn’t your thing, magazine clippings work well, too.  

You do not have to be an interior design superstar to build your dream home—our designer’s job is to understand YOUR style, and weave that into the build, so your custom home is a reflection of you, your tastes and how you interact with your spaces.

Custom Home – Client Inspiration Photo
Harrison Homes Design Rendering of Client’s Vision

7. Sit Back and Enjoy the Build!

Throughout your custom homebuilding journey, you can count on Harrison Homes to drive the process and effectively communicate next steps and progress. Once we break ground and start to build your home, the construction process moves quickly. Most homes are completed within 6-8 months because of the well-organized homebuilding process Harrison follows. We facilitate everything, and schedule the required meetings to help you make decisions for your new home. It’s an exciting process, and our builders and designers support you through it all!  There’s nothing Harrison Homes loves more than turning our client’s vision into reality.

To get started building a custom home, contact Harrison Homes.  We look forward to getting to know you, your family and learning about your dream home.

You can also learn more about our Custom Home team here.

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