Communication is Key to the New Home Building Process

Young couple discussing home plan on blueprint with architect
It’s important that you understand the homebuilding process so that you can answer your clients’ questions and help them throughout the process.

If your clients are worried about waiting while a home is built yet they want the value of a newly constructed home, you’ll need to step in and share your expertise about what goes into building a residence.

One important message to share with your clients: buying a new home doesn’t always mean you have to wait. Click to Tweet This

“A production builder like Toll Brothers typically has a number of homes at some stage of the construction process,” says Andrew Terhune, senior business analyst for Toll Brothers in Horsham, Pa. “Some of those homes can still be personalized, too. In a larger community we can typically satisfy buyers’ needs for various timeframes.”

For example, Terhune says that if a row of four townhomes is being built, construction typically won’t start until two of the four homes have been sold. The first buyer would probably need to wait a little longer, but the fourth buyer might be able to move within 60 days.

“In areas with a strong relocation market where we know people will want to move in quickly, we generally build some of the most popular designs with the features and finishes that are the most popular choices of other buyers in the community so that we have some homes that are ready or nearly ready,” says Terhune.

If your customers are buying a home in a community where the builder owns the land, getting a home to completion will typically take less time than if they have their own land or need to look for a lot on which to build, says Laura Bellcoff, marketing supervisor for New Tradition Homes in Vancouver, Wash.

“Buyers who have a piece of land or are buying land will need a feasibility study to make sure we can build on the lot,” says Bellcoff. “They often need a septic system or connection to a sewer line, so those things can add time to the process.”

Before the Building Starts

While buyers may think construction delays are most often caused by weather or shortages of materials, in reality some of the steps that take the longest are out of the builder’s control. The buyers themselves can speed up the homebuilding process by getting prequalified for financing so they know their budget.

The next step that has to be completed before construction can start is for the buyers to choose their lot, floor plan and any changes they want to make to the structure of the home.
Kira Sterling, chief marketing officer for Toll Brothers in Horsham, Pa., says the fundamental value of a new home is that the buyers can design and put together choices that are exactly matched to their needs. As a real estate agent, you can help your customer make decisions that meet their budget and their needs.

“We give buyers a two-week deadline for making decisions at the design center, because the plans have to be finalized before we place any orders,” says Bellcoff.

Debby James, director of design for Evergreene Homes in Chantilly, Va., says that the time it takes to build a home is heavily influenced by how much customization the buyers want and whether all of the materials requested by the buyers are available.

“Non-standard options can cause some delays, so it’s important that buyers know that it could take six to eight weeks for cabinets (to be) delivered or for a particular faucet to arrive,” says James.

Terhune says Realtors can help move the building process forward by communicating with builders and buyers about dates when orders need to be in to avoid construction delays.

Once selections have been made, the next step is for the builder to request all appropriate permits for the construction project. “Permitting is a big unknown factor that depends a lot on the jurisdiction where you’re building,” says Terhune. “In some places like Pennsylvania, it’s almost instant, but in some markets in California it can take months. We tell the customer and Realtors as much as we know about how long it will take, but often the timing varies even more in places where it takes a long time to get a permit.”

Building Begins

Once permits are in place and all customer selections have been made, ground gets broken and the foundation is poured. James says a 4,500-sq. ft. home takes an average of 120 days for Evergreene Homes to build from pouring footers to the final walkthrough. Smaller homes can take less time, while larger homes with extensive customization can take longer.

Mandatory inspections are scheduled at multiple milestones during the construction period. The first inspection typically takes place after the foundation is in place and before framing begins.

“Some inspectors need a few weeks’ notice to schedule an inspection, so construction is occasionally delayed because you can’t move forward until the inspection is complete,” says Terhune.

Most builders provide buyers and Realtors with a schedule for the entire building process before the first shovel goes into the ground, including a list of which subcontractors will be on site during different periods.

“After the foundation and rough framing are up, the plumbing, electrical and HVAC contractors do their work in the order established by the site supervisor,” says James.

Additional inspections take place once this work is done, then the builder can begin the process of installing insulation and drywall. “Heavy rain, frost or snow can sometimes cause delays for construction projects or delay the arrival of some of the materials needed for building,” says James.

Terhune says, for example, after a major hurricane, it’s almost impossible to get roof shingles for weeks because so many are needed to replace roofs damaged by storms.

In Washington, Bellcoff says, contractors are used to working in rainy conditions, although the rain generally only causes delays when concrete needs to be poured. She says occasionally a major snowstorm will create a longer delay.

Once the drywall is in place, the interior finish work begins and a final inspection is scheduled along with a walkthrough for the buyer a few days to a week before settlement day. “The best thing for buyers, Realtors and builders is to stay in constant communication,” says Terhune. “The worst thing would be to tell someone that their home won’t be ready two weeks before their moving date. It’s best to communicate everything as far ahead of time as possible.”

James says building a home is a team effort between the site supervisor and contractors, buyers and their Realtor. “The power of communication between every team member is crucial,” says James. “Keeping the client in the loop with all dates and estimates is extremely important.”

Realtors who understand what should be happening at each point in the building process can help soothe stressed buyers and smooth relations between builders and their clients.

About the author 

Michele Lerner

Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.

She writes for regional, national and international publications in print and online for a variety of audiences including consumers, real estate investors, business owners and real estate professionals.

Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Urban Land magazine, NAREIT’s REIT magazine, National Real Estate Investor Magazine and online at,, The Motley Fool,,, Fox Business, MSN, Yahoo,,, and in numerous state and local realtor association publications.

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