Timeline for Building a House in Des Moines

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Timeline for Building a House in Des Moines

Timeline for Building a House in Des Moines

How long does it take to build a house in the Greater Des Moines area? 

The short answer is: somewhere between three to six months.

The long (and correct) answer is: it depends.

There's a lot involved in building new construction. So in this video, I'm going to share with you a general timeline that really only applies to the greater Des Moines area because that's where I sell real estate and other areas might be totally different, but it will give you an idea of what you can expect at each phase of the building process.

Once you actually are in the process, have a builder, they'll probably give you a much more accurate timeline for their specific building process. So this is a great resource when you're just getting started and considering maybe new construction is the route you want to take.

1. Find a Lot, a Builder, and a Plan. 

Step number one for building your brand new, new construction home is to find a lot or a piece of land to build your new house and decide what kind of house that you want to build. Now, this is probably one of the most time consuming aspects of the process because you're spending a huge amount of money. So of course you want to make sure that you get it right.

If you're looking for a piece of land, you probably want that to be around 20 to 25% of your total budget. If your budget is $500,000 to build a house - that's all you have to spend. So you can't go over that amount. Then you don't want your land to cost any more than a hundred thousand dollars, just to be on the safe side.

If you're buying land that has woods on it, or it's an acreage, or maybe there's a water feature, or it's a little bit larger than a regular lot size that can cost more than the typical lot in recent years, land prices have increased. That is sometimes tricky on the budget. But finding that piece of land that is undeveloped, that you can then build your new house on is really step one of the home building process. 

Sometimes that land is already owned by a builder who intends to build the house there. So then that builder would be hopefully willing and able to build your new construction home, but it may not be the builder that you thought was going to build the home. You want to keep an open mind for your builders and the plans available. Most builders are able to customize to what it is that you're looking for.

But, not all builders are going to be willing to part with a piece of land. So if they own three lots in a development, their intention may be to build on those three lots come hell or high water. It's definitely an art to finding the land and the builder, and then getting them to work together, to build your build to order new construction home.


2. Customize Your Plan & Get Pricing Options

Step two of the process is going to be customize your plan and get your pricing options. So you're probably going to be meeting with builders, maybe just one builder, maybe a couple of builders. You're going to be talking about what it is that you want in the house. Maybe you have a very clear vision of what it should look like when it's all done. Maybe you walked through an open house and you just want them to build the same exact plan that you saw down the street, but in different colors on this particular lot, customized you and your choices.

Regardless of your plans, you still need to have that meeting and make sure that everybody's on the same page, that the builder is willing and able to build the house that you want and do it within your budget. Then once we're all on the same page, budget wise, we'll fill out the contract and sign the purchase agreement.

3. Sign the Purchase Agreement

One thing to note here is that many builders have their own purchase agreement, and they're not going to be buyer friendly. They're going to be builder friendly, which means their purchase agreement is going to look out for number one in their mind, which is the builder.

Generally our purchase agreements that we would use. If you were buying a resale property, they have verbiage in there that protects both the buyer and the seller. In the case of building a new construction home, a build to order a custom home, with a builder, you're at the mercy of the contracts that they want you to use. So take a moment, go through that contract with your agent (we go through it in depth with our clients) and make sure you understand everything that that contract is laying out because you may not have as many rights as you think you do.

Knowing that is really half the battle. Part of that contract is going to ask you for some earnest money. Many builders are going to want you to put a little bit of money down. Some builders might want 5% for down payment. Some might be okay with $5,000. Some might be willing to work with you to break it up by stages of construction.

There's no set rule on how it works, but prepare yourself that that builder is going to want a significant amount of money for earnest money. And often it's going to be nonrefundable. The reason it's nonrefundable is because you are asking the builder to build you at $500,000 house. You need to put some skin in the game. So the builder is taking on $500,000 of risk because maybe you're not going to close on the loan. That's the risk that they take. So that's why they ask for you to put a nonrefundable earnest money deposit. That's just your skin in the game showing how serious you are of a buyer. 

4. Plans & Specs Revision Details

Then once you get through all the formalities with the contract, we're going to move right on into the plans and specs phase of building your new house. This is where you actually get a copy of the actual plan.

So in step two, where we're customizing your plan, that is not necessarily sent to the architect because it costs money to have an architect, draw new drafts for your, for your plan. And that generally just doesn't happen until after we've got a contract on the table and there's earnest money that is exchanged hands. So this is when things get really serious.

You start getting formal drafts of the plans and specs. We meet with the builder, their designated crew to go through plans and specs that usually takes a couple of hours. Sometimes we review the electrical portion of plans and specs on the plan. Every builder has a different process for this, but it's also your time to make revisions to that one dimensional architectural layout of your new custom built home.

5. Final Plan Review

Once all the revisions are done, we'll meet and sign off on the final plan. 

6. Personal Design Selection MEETING

Then the fun part happens where you get to select all of the things for your new home. (You may want to start a Pinterest board well in advance of this, so that you have an idea of what it is that you want your new home to look like.)

Some builders have limited options based on the budget that you're using. And so you can choose anything from category A or you can choose anything from category B and pay a small fee for an upgrade.

Other builders might just send you to their preferred vendor and say, pick anything out there. And then they just charge you what it costs. So again, there's no rules on how that selection meeting is going to go.

Many builders have a showroom where you get to pick things out as they're set up in the showroom. Usually there's a person involved from the builders team that makes sure you don't pick terrible design choices that aren't going to look very good. And of course, we always have opinions on what's going to look great and be good for resell value.

7. Excavation of foundation to begin build

Once you've selected everything, then the excavation of the foundation begins. So they dig the hole to build your house. Once you have your final plan signed off on, it takes a couple of weeks to a month, probably to get everything approved by city that you're building in and then have the crew schedule weather permitting to then start digging.

So we do the selections in between this process are usually fairly early on in the process because it takes time for cupboards to be built, to order and delivered you. You want to get all of these things ordered early on in the process so that the vendors shipping that material have enough time to get it. So you don't experience any delays in building.

8. electrical walkthrough

Once your foundation "hole" is dug, the actual foundation is poured and they start framing everything up. They put a roof on, and then the builder will contact us and say, hey, we're ready for the electrical walkthrough. There's usually only a couple of days notice that we need to be there for the electrical walkthrough. You'll meet with a superintendent, somebody from the electrical team and go through the house to confirm where you want your outlets, where you want your switches, etc. 

They'll ask if you want any special lighting, if you want your home to be wired for surround sound or smart wiring, if you want a Christmas light package, all of the things that you could possibly imagine that come up in lighting are going to be discussed in this meeting. And they're going to give you some ideas of things that might sound pretty cool.

You don't have to decide on upgrades at that exact moment, but the electrical team will put together a quote of all of the upgrades that you've talked about in that meeting. And then you can choose what you may or may not want to add to your new construction home.

Once we're done with the electrical walkthrough, you're probably still 90 days out approximately from having the home completely built.

9. interior & exterior construction

So that's when things start happening, they finish off the exterior, they add the insulation, the siding and do any painting that's necessary. They'll trim out the windows, the doors, all of the things. And then of course, they start working on the interior where they add dry wall and trim and paint and your cupboards and flooring, of course.

It takes a lot of time for each step, especially dry wall. That takes a significant amount of time, maybe three weeks for the drywall to cure. And each step of that process, you have to have drying time. If you're in the process of building a home, it's really exciting to get through this part, but then the interior and exterior construction... it's kind of agonizing waiting for everything to be done. It will absolutely be an exercise of patience.

10. Final walk through

Finally, we'll have a final walkthrough scheduled. You, your agent and the superintendent, or a representative from the builder, will do a final walkthrough. The purpose of that final walkthrough is to correct anything that may need to be corrected and create a punch list.

The punch list is the last list of all the little things that the builder needs to do before closing. And you know, there's a lot of humans involved in the process of building your house. So don't expect perfection because there will be items on that punch list.

There will be things that need to be corrected. We'll walk through each room and we'll look carefully at the walls and the doors and the trim. And we'll be able to highlight any areas that need to be touched up by the painter. We'll confirm that everything that you selected in your selection meeting has actually been installed the way that you envisioned.

Then once we leave that meeting, the superintendent will work on that punch list and have it finished.


On closing day it will take about 30 minutes for you to sign off on all of the documents to finalize the purchase and make it official. Then you get to move into your new house! 

12. customer service & support

And at that point, you'll have a 12 month, generally a one-year builder warranty. So if anything goes wrong in your new home, you will want to keep track of that and contact the builder or the builders warranty representative/company. They all have a different procedure on how that goes, which will be discussed during the final walkthrough.

Typically you'll want to contact them for their home warranty assistance on major things. So if it's summertime and your air conditioner doesn't work, that is a major thing that you want to contact them immediately on.

However, if you have a door that needs to be adjusted because your house settled and the door sticks, when it opens and closes, then that's not really an emergency. You would want to put that on a list and then contact the builder probably about 30 days after you've moved in with your, with your own little punch list of things that need to be adjusted or fixed within that first month of living in the house.

Then do the same thing, catalog all of the things that you notice you might need adjusted, repaired, or corrected, and then contact the builder at 11 months so that you can have them come out before that one-year warranty is up and make any adjustments needed.

And you know, this is Iowa. We have a lot of weather here, houses expand and contract. So there's definitely going to be some settling, and there will even be settling after that one-year warranty, but they give you the one year warranty just because you never know what's going to happen. You never know,  maybe they forgot to put insulation in the area above the garage.

It's one of those things that could perhaps be prevented if you did a home inspection in between final walkthrough and closing, or somewhere around that final walkthrough. But a lot of times people don't do a home inspection there. And so it's a good thing to have that home warranty for the whole year to catch things that weren't caught before closing.

Now you have a pretty good understanding of the general timeline for building new construction in the Greater Des Moines area. Of course, if you think that new construction is for you, you should get in touch. You can schedule a call, or send an email to [email protected] and we can talk about your specific situation and craft a strategy custom to you and your custom house.

One thing I didn't mention in the video is that no matter if you're building a custom house or purchasing a resale property - you should download our guide to finding FREE MONEY in the Des Moines area. A wise financial guy once told me "It's always better to use someone else's money." And I've found that to be true. Maybe there's a grant or program that gives you access to someone else's money. Maybe not - in which case we've included ways you can SAVE during the home buying process. And saving money is practically free money, am I right? 



If you've been thinking about buying a house in the Des Moines area, you should download our expert guide to finding FREE MONEY in Des Moines. 

Just tell us where to send your copy:

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