25 September
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Turning Blueprints Into Reality: What it takes to build a home from concept to completion in MetroWest | By Jonathan Russell

If you can’t find the right home to buy, you might be thinking about building a house instead. While building a home is a monumental undertaking, it’s definitely an achievable dream when you fully commit to it. 

From the initial spark of an idea to the moment you unlock the front door, each step in the process contributes to the creation of a space that reflects your vision and meets your needs. Especially in MetroWest, where real estate is in HIGH demand, the journey from concept to completion can be quite the commitment. But remember, while the journey may be complex, the end result – a beautifully crafted home, that’s 100% yours – is well worth the effort. And, more often than not, you will have gained sweat equity along the way!


Conceptualization, Site Selection and Design

The first step in building a home is to conceptualize your vision. MetroWest offers a diverse range of neighborhoods and properties. Newton, Needham, Wellesley, Weston are a few of my favorite areas due to their proximity to Boston.  Areas such as Dover, Sudbury, Lincoln, and Concord are also high on my list for their suburban and even bucolic feel. Choose a location that suits your lifestyle, offers proximity to amenities, and holds future resale value. 

Once you’ve selected a site, it’s time to prepare it for construction. Determine the type of home you want, the architectural style, the number of rooms, and any unique features. Here, you’ll be collaborating closely with an architect to turn your ideas into a compelling design. And, if you want to make sure your ideas have the best ROI for the area, give me a call to see what has been trading lately in the specific market. For many years, the high level trend has been to create very open spaces from the kitchen into living areas.


Budgeting and Financing

Setting a realistic budget is crucial and financing this sort of project is somewhat different from getting a mortgage to move into an existing property. Consider not only construction costs but also permits, land acquisition, utility connections, and potential contingencies. We call these hard costs and soft costs. The hard costs are the ones that are more tangible as it relates to building materials and construction. The soft costs are the ones that are more service oriented or even plain old carrying costs (debt service, taxes, insurance unfortunately still have to be paid while you’re building your home!)

To the point, construction loans are different from traditional mortgages. They are almost always shorter in term than normal mortgages but allow the borrower to only pay interest for the duration of the project timeline (meaning, less cash flow burden). They rarely exceed 2 or 3 years in duration. Not all lenders do construction loans so you’ll want to target specific banks or lenders for the right loan product. We can help if you need advice! Your construction loan can cover costs including: the land, contractor labor, building materials, and permits.  Because construction loans work on such a short timetable it becomes essential for you (or your general contractor) to provide the lender with a construction timeline, detailed plans and a budget. The more detailed the budget the more it will help avoid unexpected financial stress during the construction process (and the faster it will get you to loan approval!). 


Obtaining Permits and Approvals

Local regulations and building codes play an increasingly outsized role in the construction process. For instance, let’s take a look at what this looks like in my hometown: Wellesley.

Within the Wellesley Planning Department exist multiple boards and committees: the Planning Board, Design Review Board, Historic District Commission, Historical Commission, Conservation Commission, and Fair Housing Committee. Perhaps most notable is the Historical Commission, which is commonly found in Massachusetts towns. In Wellesley, it consists of 7 volunteers appointed by the Select Board.  The commission’s duties include “the preservation, protection, and development of historic assets”.  Any home built before 1950 is automatically deemed historic in Wellesley, and thus must go before the commission. 

So, what does this mean when preparing to undergo a new project?

  1. Determine the precise date when the existing home was built
  2. Work with your architect to determine what percentage of the existing home will be renovated
  3. If the home was built before 1950 and 50% or more of your home is to be renovated, then you will be required to go before the Historical Commission in Wellesley
  4. Be advised, depending on the complexity of your project, The Historical Commission decision-making process can take 3+ months to complete.
  5. Then if the Historical Commission deems the existing home “preferably preserved”, that will automatically trigger a 1 year delay.  

Understanding the full scope of the Historical Commission is mandatory to help streamline your project and obtain all the necessary permits and approvals before breaking ground. And that’s just one of the many committees you will need on board while working within the local government. Working with a knowledgeable real estate expert & local contractor who can help navigate these bureaucratic hurdles is paramount when contemplating a new build in MetroWest Boston.


Construction, Material Selection and Interior Design

Okay, once you’ve received your approvals to build, and ultimately your building permit, the exciting part of seeing shovels in the dirt and hammers banging nails comes. This is where your vision starts to take shape. Your general contractor will manage the construction process, coordinate subcontractors, and ensure that the project stays on schedule. Remember, the initial stages can seem to move very quickly as a house gets framed and closed in… The “rough” plumbing and electrical work, which is not necessarily as visible to the naked eye, can drag on for weeks and months and it feels like little is happening even though these are some of the most important steps during the build!

Regular communication with the contractor will help you stay informed about the progress. Demand project updates as often as you can get them! You cannot take a back seat during this process, even with the best GC’s.


Final Touches and Move-In

Congratulations, you’ve made it! More often than not you can expect a build to take the better part of two or even three years. Once you’re satisfied with the final product, it’s time to move into your new suburban dream home. Take the time to savor the accomplishment and enjoy turning your house into a home by adding personal touches and making memories with your family.


Ready to embark on your own new construction journey? Reach out to Jonathan Russell to get started today!