A new home is the single biggest purchase the majority of us will make in our lifetimes. This major buy affects the whole family – after all, you, the adult, won’t be the only one living in and using your new custom home. You have little ones, teens, or maybe even your own parents to consider, too.
Ironing out the details and making decisions – big and small – are crucial components of the home-buying process, from choosing where you want to live down to what color you want to paint the walls. Because your custom house is for everyone, all of your family members should have some say.
Getting the whole family involved may seem like a daunting task, but this guide will get you on track with a step-by-step look at what to consider and how to tackle these decisions as a team in the home-buying process.
Make a List and Check it Twice
Everyone has their dream house details: Separate rooms for each of your kids, an open-space kitchen leading into a big backyard, or an en-suite bathroom just for the parents.
Task each family member with making a list of their top five wants and needs they’d love to have in the new home. These lists could include big decisions, such as the number of bedrooms, and minute details, such as whether they prefer curtains over blinds.
Hold a family meeting and compare notes to gain invaluable insight and tease out the overlapping features everyone needs, such as their own bedroom, a big kitchen, or more than one bathroom. You could also learn about everyone’s wants – that your kids would love a big backyard, that your husband wants an in-home gym in the basement, or that grandma is pining for a fireplace in a living room that could fit a big, bushy Christmas tree each year.
This will help you prioritize the agreed-upon features that are must-haves for your new home. Everyone will also feel like they have a say in the process and that their opinions are valued.
Consider the Present and the Future
Your family home is about to be your most significant financial burden – and your biggest long-term investment. In other words, you’re in it for the long-haul.
Make sure you’re building and styling your home to last – it’s a house your family will need room to grow into.
Some questions you can answer to help steer this conversation include:
- Are there good daycare and nursery options nearby for your little ones, as well as good school districts within the proximity of your home for when they grow up?
- Are you planning on having more children in the future and therefore need extra rooms?
- Do you need disability access now or later on for elderly parents who may move in with you or visit often? (With this in mind, it may be worthwhile to include a ground-floor level bedroom for elderly guests who may not be comfortable with taking the stairs)
- Do you think you’ll work from home now or in the future and would need an office space?
- Do you intend on accommodating regular guests or family members who live far away? If so, you may need to factor in a guest room.
- Do you need to keep your search within a certain distance to where your current (or future) workplace may be? Some families strategically choose homes or new home building sites near highways or public transportation so commuting won’t be a problem.
- Do you need a home with a big backyard or a family-friendly street so your kids can play outside?
- Do you want extra space to add an extension just in case you decide in the future you’d like a nanny suite or a garden shed outside?
Thinking of the future together and providing answers to these questions may be a cumbersome task, but this step is so important because you want to build a home that will stand the test of time, and everything life throws at your family! Your honest responses will help you steer closer to building your perfect home.
Check Out the Neighborhood Before Deciding Where to Build
You can rebuild your home, but you can’t uproot the land so where you decide to plant the foundation of your new house is just as important as what you want your home to look like. This is why choosing the right location is a pivotal step – that requires a bit more homework – in the home-buying process.
For starters, you may have been an eyeing a neighborhood because of its proximity to work for you, and school for the kids, or you may have set your sights on a new build site because of its stunning view of the seaside.
Wherever you choose, do your research before buying that plot of land for building. Start by looking at city council plans to check for planning applications being made in that area – you can usually search by postal code. This can give you hints at any development in progress or slated to be in the works in the future.
This could be either good news or bad news – maybe the site your family is drawn to will have a community center and library built in by the time you move in or, on the other hand, the view and tranquility of the nearby woods will be cut due to a new housing development. Either way, this step ensures you won’t be in for any surprises.
It’s imperative that the whole family takes a recon trip to where you’re hoping to build your new home.
Your jobs are to scour the neighborhood, looking at all of the amenities nearby. Drive around the greater neighborhood, then park at your new lot and take a walk, too. Your new home could be packed with local parks, ad pubs, restaurants, cafes, and green spaces – but lacking in necessities, like grocery stores libraries. To make this a fun activity, create a scavenger hunt, searching for amenities you’d all like to have in an ideal neighborhood.
Pay attention to the area as you walk along the neighborhood streets – is it well maintained or is there graffiti on the walls? Is it along a flight path, next to a main road artery, or near a train station? Do you see lots of children playing or is it more for young professionals or senior citizens?
It’s important to conduct this recon mission a few times, too – strategically, at different times of the day and different days of the week. You could learn that rush hour traffic is a nightmare, or that the main road is bustling on the weekends with a local farmer’s market and a crafts fair for the whole family.
These visits to your prospective neighborhood will help you all paint some color into the picture of where you’re imagining your new home will be built.
Take pictures whenever possible – if you’re scouting multiple locations to build or buy your new home, the various sites may become a blur. Photos will help you recall your memories of each area and how you felt. Swap notes on how each of you felt during these tours – maybe you’ll collect extra detail your partner didn’t catch and vice-versa. To keep all the neighborhoods separate, create different folders in your phone’s photo album for each home.
It’s worthwhile to visit open houses in the neighborhood too. Pop into a house built by the same builder as your home so you can get a first-hand look at the various layouts, fixtures, color schemes, and other details.
An extra step is to check websites for crime rates, public school rankings, and real estate sales made in the area to get a rough idea of what you’re getting into. You don’t want to build a $1 million house next to homes that are valued at $500,000.
Get All Hands On Deck With Your Budget
Whether your family members contributing to the mortgage and down payment or not, they all need to get on board with your budget.
Your budget sets the parameters of how much financial wiggle room your family has in the home-buying process. Your kids aren’t getting a backyard pool if the funding isn’t there to afford it.
After working with your real estate agent, mortgage broker, and your lender, you may come out with an estimate of how much you’ve been pre-approved for financing. Adhere to this number and don’t go outside of your budget so you don’t encounter any financial woes during the home-buying process and as unexpected expenses start cropping up.
In this case, you need to, as a family, decide how you’ll make this purchase and the subsequent mortgage payments work within your budget.
Have an honest conversation about what you can afford and what you will need to do collectively to make the purchase a smooth experience.
Get your family involved and motivated in saving up for the down payment and other home-buying costs. Your kids may be more supportive when you tell them you’re scaling back on extravagant Christmas presents this year so they can have their own rooms in the new home.
Your teenagers may even choose to save up their own pot of money to buy new furniture or a bright coat of paint exclusively for their bedrooms, while the grandparents may be generous and offer to chip in with the down payment.
Design Your Custom Home- Together
Get hands-on with choosing color swatches, sketching floor plans, and thinking of built-in fixtures such as bookshelves and closet space. You and your family will need to pick out all of the features and details of your custom home.
Brainstorm Which Custom Features You Need Most as a Family
As a group, think of your family’s unique lifestyle and individual belongings to figure out how to make the most of your custom home’s space. Your son could make the case for a soundproof room to work on his music, while your daughter would like a studio with lots of natural light and built-in shelves to store her books. Building a custom home offers a wonderful opportunity to call the shots and customize every detail. Are you all eager for heated floors and towel racks in the bathroom, or an open-concept kitchen with a spacious island for everything from eating to homework?
Get Out a Sketchbook
Have fun as a family testing out different floor plans depending on everyone’s preferences and day-to-day living. Do your kids want bedrooms next to each other? Does your wife want an office space in the quietest spot in the home? Challenge yourselves to draw up various layouts of your custom home until as many boxes from your wants and needs lists are ticked off. This includes how many stories you envisioned your house to be – for some families, a single story works best while for others, multiple stories, including a basement and an attic are part of the dream. Don’t forget about traffic flow, privacy and noise when drawing up your plans.
Do your research with Pinterest, home decorating magazines, and even visits to furniture and hardware stores to collect paint, fabric, and tile swatches for inspiration. Décor is a fun step for the family as you decide on color schemes, accents, and materials you’d like to use around the home. Survey each of your family members to ask them how they visualize the common areas of the home.
Give Everyone Some Responsibility
The home-buying process can get complicated, so dividing and conquering is a helpful approach that is also inclusive to the whole family. Alleviate the stress you’re carrying by tasking each person with some homework – from researching interior designers to comparing utility providers in the area. This also gives your family members some sense of ownership with the process. They could be proud to have researched and picked out the plants now in the garden, the ultra-soft bath mats in the washroom, or the energy-efficient lighting in the dining room.
Let Your Family Members Express Their Individuality
Your new home will be a place of refuge for each family member – after a long day at work or school, they’ll want to come home and relax with their loved ones, then retreat to their rooms for some privacy. Your kids may be thrilled to have the chance to design aspects of their own rooms – even just adding a splash of color to their walls or their pillowcases – while live-in grandparents may appreciate the wiggle room to pick out their own furnishings. Your family will be even more thrilled with the home buying process when they see their fingerprints all over the blueprints and planning, too.
Carmen Chai is an award-winning Canadian journalist who has lived and reported from major cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, London and Paris. For NewHomeSource, Carmen covers a variety of topics, including insurance, mortgages, and more.