We had our pre-construction meeting about 100 months ago – or maybe it was just in March! It feels like ages ago especially now that we’re into trim work and flooring at our house! They told us this meeting would last three to four hours and we were there for every bit of four hours! My best piece of advice on this step is to use all the time you need! You are making a significant commitment when you sign the papers this time so you want to make sure all the details are documented accurately! Don’t worry, they provide drinks and snacks at every meeting (our first indication we were going to like these people!).
Hit the brakes! A few things should happen before this meeting
I’m going to run through the items we had to cross off the list so this will be specific to a custom build on land in the country. Remember this is after we got a soil test, provided the lot numbers and land survey and started working on the details of our loans.
- Lot Walk – Your Customer Coordinator will help you schedule this and it’s when you’ll meet your builder, or rather the person who is going to be managing the construction side of your new build. You’ll meet him/her at your land and walk through where you want the house to sit. The builder will do some initially staking for the blueprints that will be finalized by a surveyor before construction begins. Our lot walk was in early March and it was cold, windy and lightly side snowing! The day before? Sunny and fairly warm. The fun of building in Ohio!
- This is a really helpful step, because after walking the land and staking the house the builder gives you better estimates on lot prep, driveway work, gravel, etc. He/she will also give you takeaways to work on before your pre construction meeting. Spoiler alert: gravel is expensive!!
- Quotes – Request quotes for well and septic installation and decide on the company for both so they can obtain permits and flag areas for digging on your land as soon as you sign off and close your loan. Schumacher has a couple companies they work with routinely and will request complimentary quotes from them for you.
- Electric Setup – Contact the company who will provide your electricity to confirm where (from what pole) they will pull your electric from so this detail can be added to the blueprints of your house. Confession: We forgot to do this before our pre construction meeting. Don’t forget like us 🙂
- Lender Coordination – Let your loan officer/lender know when your pre construction meeting is so they know when to expect the final numbers from Schumacher. This will likely be the last piece of the puzzle you need to move forward with loan closing.
Who’s on the A list for the Pre Construction Meeting
Your customer coordinator, builder and the general manager will attend this meeting. If anyone is in training at the time for those positions, they may sit in on your meeting as well to listen and learn!
If you had any takeaways from the lot walk or items to follow up on, be sure to bring that information with you to this meeting…electrical info, specs you might already have for any typical or unique appliances (example: we have a cut out in our island for a beverage cooler) and confirmation on who will be doing well, septic and driveway. We did look at other companies for each, but didn’t find any quotes that were leaps and bounds better so we left everything included in our loan and with the companies Schumacher recommended and managed.
The 411 on the Pre Construction Meeting
In addition to confirming all of your selections for your new home, use this time to also ensure you and the builder are on the same page with expectations. And of course, be sure you’re 100% confident in everything you decide and confirm during the meeting before signing all of the paperwork. This is the final final stage so any changes after this point will come at a cost and could also impact your schedule. You’ll probably learn some interesting facts during this meeting too! Our builder pointed out a few things for us to think about that didn’t even cross our minds before! For instance…
The standard height for bathroom counters/vanities is 32″. Have you ever thought about the height of a bathroom vanity before? Me either. However, my husband is a tall person so we had to take this into consideration and decided to increase the height of the vanities in our full baths. This is an extra cost (possibly because we chose a base model with customization?), but if you think it’ll make a big difference do it now and save in the long run. We decided to keep the half bath at standard height since it’s primary use is quick hand washing. By the way, same thing with, ahem, commodes. Trying to be proper here! If you’re tall, these are unique things to keep in mind!
Another important note we learned at this point is anything you add during your electrical walk through (more can lights, an extra switch, ceiling fan set ups, etc) will be an additional cost that must be paid out of pocket that day. So think this through as much as possible during your meeting, but know you’ll probably spend a little money the day of your walk through so it’s good to plan for it.
Another small detail to pay extra attention to is the door swings throughout the home! This is tricky to get a good feel for when you’re only looking at it on paper, but try to picture the room and what the door will open into. I’ll give you a great example. When you walk into our master bathroom we have his and her vanities on each side – one to your left and one to your right as soon as you step through the door way. Well, the door swings into the bathroom (to the right) which is pretty standard; however, in our case this could be annoying if someone is standing in front of the vanity on the right brushing his teeth or shaving. I write it like that, because obviously I’ll be claiming the vanity on the left! haha In reality, we’ll end up changing the door so it opens into our bedroom, but if we ask for that now it’ll be a change request with an associated cost. I’ll inquire, but we might save if we wait and handle that one ourselves.
And one more piece of advice, as you’re going through the paper work and signing off on everything documented be sure to also ask yourself ‘Is anything missing?’ The meeting is information overload so it’s easy to overlook a missing feature. In our case, that would be the pretty grey subway tile backsplash I had picked out for our kitchen! Guess when I noticed it was missing from our final contract? Yep, when we were inquiring about when it would be installed and I was frantically flipping through our printed contract looking over and over for text that wasn’t there. It must have been accidentally deleted from our soft copy. I was super bummed, but had to put myself in place – it’s a simple cosmetic fix, Sara. Calm down, almost there 🙂 We’re in the process of getting this sorted out, because I just can’t leave our kitchen without it; it won’t feel complete.
In retrospect, what I learned after going through the pre-construction meeting and now being in the construction process is ask specific questions during the meeting. Make sure you’re on the same page with expectations when it comes to communication, phases of the project and steps you’ll be responsible for as the homeowner along the way. I’ll explain 🙂
- Communication – Discuss how and when you’ll receive updates throughout the construction process. My personal preference would be to approach this a little more formally than we have. Our builder has been pretty good about providing updates on Fridays or Mondays through a text or phone call. He definitely prefers to chat on the phone versus write a response and I think it’s partially due to his lack of time while juggling multiple projects. In my opinion, there’s some room for improvement at Schumacher from this perspective. It’d be nice to provide a written tentative timeline to the client at the beginning and send formal weekly updates on progress and upcoming tasks the homeowner is responsible for completing. This is coming from a project manager though so I may not be speaking for the majority of the population or being totally realistic 🙂
- Project Phases – We were given a high level overview of the construction process and told when the bank would make draws and how inspections and/or walk-throughs would occur at these phases. We made the assumption these would be scheduled and include us when in fact they are far less formal. Someone from the bank will come out to the house before each draw simply to confirm what we say is being done is being done, just a quick drop by. The inspections (like framing and electrical) are scheduled, but only by the day or week. They don’t set an actual time and they complete the inspection on their own meaning it’s okay if the builder and/or homeowner isn’t at the house. After our builder explained this to us he said we can schedule time with him whenever we want if we want to do a walk-through to ask questions or confirm anything. My suggestion? Talk about this upfront and discuss how you’d like to handle it to be as involved as you want.
- Homeowner Responsibilities – If it’s not clear during the meeting, ask what specific tasks you’ll be responsible for during the project and at what phase you’ll need to address them. The items on our list have been: locating and marking property pins on our land, coordinating with a surveyor to have the house formally staked, working with AEP to confirm electrical work needed and set up for temporary and permanent power, scheduling and attending a walk through with the electrician, trenching, scheduling inspection for permanent meter and signing and mailing back paperwork received from Schumacher documenting all major tasks completed. That’s in addition to visiting the house often and being your own inspector as well. If we ever see anything of concern we make sure to mention and discuss it with our builder.
I have to call out trenching in particular. We were not as prepared for this as we should have been. I didn’t realize this was something we would have to manage as we were getting set up for electric and by the time it came around we were already on a bit of a tight timeline to get the work done. We spent a couple weeks trying to find companies to hire and request quotes from (about $1200 to $1800) and in the end Allen decided to rent a walk behind trencher and do the work himself. This included digging, laying piping and pulling rope through the pipes to be used for wiring by AEP. He thought he could get it done in a day max and it took 15+ hours! It’s a lot of work so you can decide if you think it’s worth saving around $1000. Either way, be prepared to have this work done by the time they start trim work in your house. Once the trenching is done you’ll have to schedule a meter inspection and then AEP will schedule permanent electric set up once they have the approved inspection number. I’m hoping we don’t fall behind schedule since we were a little late on these tasks! Fingers crossed!
Oh and one more tip? Have some fun during this meeting! We have a great team and had some fun conversation and laughs during our four hours together that day! It’s also really exciting to be that much closer to breaking ground! Construction will likely start around two to four weeks after the pre construction meeting once the building, zoning and driveway permits are obtained and your loan is closed.
I haven’t completely decided how I’m going to walk through the construction phase yet in terms of blog posts so if y’all have any suggestions or particular things you’re curious about please let me know in the comments below! Please feel free to send any questions in general too and I’ll do my best to answer and provide feedback! Teaser photo of our current progress? Okay 🙂
Have a beautiful day!