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Identifying the Key Players in Building Your Home

When you ordered a set of blueprints from eplans.com, you knew you'd have to work with a builder to transform those two-dimensional plans into a home. What you may not have originally realized was just how many additional professionals would be involved throughout this home-building process. Along with your builder, some other key players may include subcontractors, a local architect, a mortgage broker, an interior designer, planning and zoning officials, and city or town inspectors.

Construction cannot begin without adequate financing. Since the average homeowner doesn't have several hundred thousand dollars laying around at his or her disposal, the necessary funds can be obtained by taking out a mortgage. By working with a mortgage broker or banker, you can secure a Construction Mortgage, which will finance your project. Typically with this type of mortgage, the bank advances money to the homeowner in partial payments (who passes it on to the builder) as various stages of construction are completed.

In addition to needing money, you'll also need to get permission to begin construction from your local municipality. Though every community differs, typically a planning and zoning board exists to ensure your building site meets local standards and regulations. Your local building officials will review your plans and the proposed site; once you have their approval and receive a building permit, you are free to begin construction.

Another person with whom you may choose to consult before building your home may be a local architect. Even though the plans you've received are ready to be built as-is, you and your family may have specific needs or desires not already included in the existing blueprints. In addition, many communities require local certification before you can begin construction. Your builder can help you determine whether you will need to consult with a local architect.

While an architect would handle any structural changes you may request, an interior designer is another professional you may hire to assist you with making countless decorating choices throughout the home. If you've got a specific look in mind but are unsure of how to go about achieving it, an interior designer could help you make sense of virtually endless paint swatches and carpet samples, lighting and plumbing fixtures, and so on.

While you'll certainly come in contact with some, if not all, of these professionals, your main contact throughout the building process will obviously be your builder. As mentioned earlier, he or she is responsible for taking the blueprints (a set of two-dimensional drawings) and creating an inhabitable, three-dimensional space. The builder, serving as the general contractor, will likely hire subcontractors to assist in the building process. Subcontractors are professionals in specialized fields, such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, masons, etc.

A note of caution: It is best to have one person (i.e., the builder) in charge of hiring the subcontractors. Experienced builders have a network of subcontractors who they trust; they know which ones will do their jobs well and on-time and which ones provide shoddy workmanship. If you have a friend or relative in the construction industry whom you want to hire as a subcontractor (i.e., your neighbor is an electrician or your uncle installs hardwood flooring), beware. It is in your best interest as the client to allow the builder to hire his or her own subcontractors. The reason is simple: If something goes wrong either during the building process or after the house is built, your builder is responsible. If you throw your own subcontractors into the mix, and something goes wrong, it can be awfully hard to pinpoint blame ... and you could be the one footing the bill to have the problem fixed.

As construction proceeds, the builder will have city or town inspectors come through to check that the home complies with all local building codes. If the finished structure complies, he or she will issue a Certificate of Occupancy, which deems the home structurally sound and habitable. After receiving the Certificate of Occupancy, you and your builder will do a final walk-through and list any items that may need to be fixed or completed; think of this as your very own "Quality Assurance" review.

Over the next several months, you'll likely come into contact with many professionals who are eager to earn your business. Just remember that it's best to keep things simple — and, if possible, to have one person responsible for the overall building operations.

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