Table of Contents

Home Builder's Book

Download our step-by-step home builder's guidebook.

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Building a home should be a fun, gratifying experience. After all, this is your chance to create a home that you'll enjoy for years to come!

Yet, some people feel overwhelmed with the idea of making all those choices.

Choose the topic you'd like to learn more about for a comprehensive tour through the home building process.

Building Vs Buying

New Construction - Kitchen Building Vs Buying

Old houses have their charms. But if you want a spacious house with an open floor plan, state-of-the-art technologies and low-maintenance comfort, put new construction on your shopping list for these reasons:

  1. ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Older homes are seldom as energy efficient as new homes. Homes built only 10 years ago may use twice the energy of today’s homes. Your new home will have improved heating and cooling systems, energy-saving windows and super insulation. Also, many mortgage companies nationwide take energy use into account when qualifying buyers and will make a large loan on an energy-efficient home because average monthly utility bills will be lower, which frees up more of the budget for mortgage payments.
  2. UPDATED APPLIANCES: Appliances are new, energy-efficient and easy to use. New dishwashers are quieter and use less water, ranges are easy to clean, and refrigerators are larger and come with more convenient options. Even a home inspection is no guarantee that older home appliances will last long after closing. Especially for cash-strapped first-time buyers, the sudden need for a new furnace or dishwasher can lead to other expensive repairs, such as replacement of wiring or plumbing.
  3. SAFETY CODES: New homes are safer and less expensive to operate and maintain. They stand the latest fire, health and safety codes. These codes need life saving detectors to signal smoke presence or carbon monoxide. Newer homes are free of lead paint and asbestos filled pipes.
  4. BUILDING TECHNIQUES: Builders today benefit from advances in building techniques. This means dry basements, expansive rooms and a quieter, more comfortable atmosphere.
  5. UPDATED WIRING: Often, new homes of all price ranges include whole-house wiring for cable, telephone and music systems. Home offices and home theaters are becoming a part of standard packages. When it comes to wiring and electricity, more is better. New homes have 200-amp electrical service; some older homes have inadequate 60-amp services.
  6. A ROOM WITH A VIEW: New homes are light and bright. Not only do they have more energy efficient windows, but they also have more of them. New homes are often “see-through” homes. From the front door, the viewer looks through the home to a panorama of windows that frame views of the back garden.
  7. A HOUSE FOR TODAY: New homes mirror today’s lifestyles. Families live differently than they did 10 to 15 years ago. Cooking is a group experience, and no one wants to be too far from the television. New homes blend the kitchen, eating area and family room into one informal space. New homes also have more and larger bathrooms and closets.

Choosing a Builder

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Choosing the right builder is as important as choosing the right style of home or neighborhood. All these decisions affect you—positively or negatively—long after the builder finishes your home. How do you know what builder is right for you? There is no single answer to this question, unfortunately. You have to rely on your own instincts to make the right decision.

The first question you need to answer is what kind of builder you want: Custom or production?  

Custom builders may cost you more, but the houses can match the customer’s needs and wants.  If you want extra square footage in the living room or kitchen, you are able to add on. A custom homebuilder will also take the time to make sure all your finishing’s, cabinets, countertops, faucets, lighting, appliances, doors, etc., match your personality.

Production builders are the most popular because they are more affordable and faster.

But, when using them, you may have limited options for the location of your home and customization of the floor plan. You also may not be able to guarantee the quality you will receive.

Here are some other guidelines that will help you choose the right builder:

  • The builder’s reputation is generally an excellent guide. That goes for most any kind of purchases you make. If the company’s reputation is poor, you’re not going to want to buy from them. Homeowners in the area are a good resource when finding information about different builders. The Better Business Bureau is also a good place to check. You can find out if there have been any major complaints about the builders you’re considering. Very good and very bad builder reputations usually surface quickly. The builders who are in the middle of very good and very bad are usually harder to investigate.
  • Check to see how long the builder’s have been in business. There’s nothing wrong with “new” builders, but nothing beats quality sustained through many years of service. You can’t fool the consumer for long, and builders who provide poor quality, do not survive over time.
  • Look at the overall service records of the builder’s you’re considering. Ask for names of previous customers. Find out how responsive your builder has been. Has the builder responded quickly to complaints? Has the builder provided help to the customer with securing manufacturer warranty claims?
  • Check the builder’s affiliations with professional organizations. These organizations are a good source of up-to-date information for the builder. The National Association of Home Builders provides a continuous flow of information. The highest quality builders have personnel who work with the NAHB technical departments to keep abreast of innovations in design and energy conservation.
  • Ask the builders what kind of materials they use. Find out which brand names are used in the appliances and in the materials, such as windows and insulation. A quality builder uses quality brand name products whenever possible.
  • Check to see how accommodating the builders are. Will they accept variations to standard plans? Will they do it willingly and at a reasonable cost?
  • Financial stability of the builder is also an important thing to check. Don’t be afraid to ask for bank references. Good builders will supply them.

The final thing that you should take into consideration is your own judgment. Talk to the builders you’re considering. Find out how willing they are to supply you with information. Have their homes withstood the test of time? Call homeowners yourself—most will be more than happy to talk to you. AND REMEMBER—Don’t rush into selecting a builder. Ask many questions, as you need to feel comfortable.

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Financing

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When it comes to financing a new home, there are many questions you need to ask a home builder.

Does the home builder have a financing plan set up? They should provide you contact information of local lenders and information on different programs available for you. Each buyer’s needs are different, and you will need a personalized package plan for your loan.

Depending on your situation, you may need to secure construction financing to build your home.

Construction financing usually consists of more than one loan. One loan will pay for the construction itself, which often releases money to the builder in stages as the builder finishes processes. Then, the bank converts it to a mortgage once the builder completes the home.

Make sure to compare banks, credit unions and mortgage brokers for the best financing solution. Your builder should be able to give you recommendations and help you avoid pitfalls.

How-Much-House-Can-you-Afford-ctaBelow you will find a brief overview of three programs that Huntington Bank offers for financing the construction of a new home.

  1. 80% Loan to Value Construction: This option allows you to use the equity in your land (if already owned) along with any funds available for down payment (if needed) so that you can build your home with no private mortgage insurance obligation in your payment.  This is generally required if you have less than a 20% down payment. We have many different programs available for one closing construction (close and build your home with a modification into your permanent financing at the completion of your home). During the construction process, you would pay interest only monthly based on the amount of your construction loan that has been used during the construction phase.
  2. 90% Loan to Value Construction with no Private Mortgage Insurance: This option also allows you to use the equity in your land (if already owned) along with any funds available for down payment (if needed) so that you can build your home at a slightly higher loan to value (10% down) and still not be required to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (generally required if financing with less than a 20% down payment). We have many different programs available for one closing construction (close and build your home with a modification into your permanent financing at the completion of your home). During the construction process, you would pay interest only monthly based on the amount of your construction loan that has been used during the construction phase.
  3. FHA Construction Loan: This option allows you to build your home with a minimum of 3.5% down, which also can be land equity if you already own your land. FHA construction also allows you to build if your credit score is below customary guidelines for our other two programs. With FHA construction, you can build with a credit score of 640 in most cases as long as your recent credit history has been sound. With FHA construction, you would have a Mortgage Insurance Premium due to financing at the 96.5%. This program still allows for a one closing construction (close and build your home with a modification into your permanent financing at the completion of your home). During the construction process, you would pay interest only monthly based on the amount of your construction loan that has been used during the construction phase. FHA Construction does have loan limits in each county; however, with Monongalia County, loan limit at $271,050.00. If the costs are above the loan limit, you would need to pay down to the county loan limit for the county that you are building in.

With any of our programs, you can buy your land with the construction loan in a one closing transaction. You can also use a gift of land toward your down payment in any of our programs.

Selecting a Lot

Selecting a Lot to build a house on

Here in West Virginia and the surrounding areas, our land has many different characteristics. From level, sloping to steep, the land in our area can give you many possibilities as well as many challenges when building your new home. 

We welcome the chance to help answer questions about your property.

Things you will need to know about land you own or land you may be looking at include:

  • Does it have access to utilities
  • Does it have deed restrictions
  • If in a development, what is the square footage minimum and exterior finishes guidelines? Is there a time restraint for completion, etc.
  • What is the best way for the home to sit on the property
  • Where should the driveway go
  • Can we have a 3 car garage
  • Can we have a daylight basement
  • Will there be extra costs due to the site, such as excessive water, rock, clearing, etc.
  • Many, many more questions

Schedule an appointment to tour Braden Place development

 At Vision Homes, we feel it is important for you to have as much information as possible upfront so that you can have accurate numbers. That way, when it comes to selecting your house design and personalizing all your finishes, you can make your choices while staying on budget. By visiting the site with you, we will be able to price what you want and even offer suggestions on how to do things to save you time and money.

Your first impression of the lot is a good indicator of how comfortable you will be with it after the builder finishes your house. If it “feels right,” it will feel right in the future, too.

There are still many “ifs” that you should consider when selecting a lot. Here are a few things you should consider:

  • Size: Is the size of the lot enough to accommodate the house you’re planning to build? If a lot is small compared to your house size it can destroy the livability and value of your home.
  • Shape: A lot may have enough square footage, but its shape may make some of it unusable. For example, if you’re planning on building a sprawling ranch, a larger square or triangular lot might actually provide less usable space than a smaller, rectangular one.
  • Slope: A steep slope or odd grade can rob space. Would an unfavorable slope force you to raise your house to accommodate your desired basement garage?
  • Water: If you don’t have city water, check with neighbors on either side to determine the depth of their wells and the gallons per minute their wells generate. There’s a possibility you would need a treatment system.
  • Septic: If there’s no city sewer, find out if the land has been perk-tested, and if so, find out what kind of septic system you will need.
  • Zoning/Easements/Covenants: Check all of them for your lot. They can be either great protection or frustrating obstacles. Check set-back requirements, access easements/rights others may have that will affect your lot and other covenant stipulations.

Schedule an appointment to tour Frederick Place development

Design

Designing the Details

This is the fun part! What do you want and need out of your new home? What features do you want to include in your home? What are the most important things that you must have? Here's where we explore your options:

SELECTING THE HOUSE STYLE: So you’ve found the perfect neighborhood and the perfect home site. Now it’s time to actually build your dream home. The next step is selecting the style of your new home.

Friends and relatives will be quick to offer an opinion on which style to choose, but it’s important you choose a style in which your family will be most comfortable.

Here is a list of guidelines that have proved quite helpful to buyers who are building their dream home and those who are building for an investment.

  • Determine the resale importance of your home. If you’re building a starter home or building primarily as an investment, your first consideration is to choose what appeals to the majority of homebuyers. For instance, a three bedroom home generally sells easier than a two-bedroom home. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. Check the norm for the neighborhood.
  • Check the style of homes in the neighborhood. You might love modern, but if the majority of the homes are traditional, you might find yourself out of place in your own neighborhood. It can be a very uncomfortable feeling, and it is generally bad for resale.
  • Consider your lot. If it’s a hillside lot or has steep grade, consider using a split-level design. It will cut down on excavation and maximize the appearance of your home.
  • If you’re looking for a home that you can build onto over the years, a two-story or Cape Cod style are probably your best options. You can build out on one or both sides, and normally it looks great, inside and out. A ranch style is generally harder to build on to. You cannot expand easily on either side because it needs to be a “L” shape. The least expensive way to expand your living area is to finish a basement. The bi-level home is one of the easiest to expand without changing the home from the outside.
  • In general, two story homes cost less per square foot to build because they maximize the cost of excavating the lot and the building of the roof. Two-stories are also generally more energy-efficient as well.
  • Ranch styles are great for convenience. Certain ranch styles offer great benefits in privacy—you can have bedrooms at opposite ends of the home. This layout is a wonderful option for families with teenage children or if a parent comes to move in with you. There are more benefits to a ranch-style home: the accessibility of a single-story, a simple and open layout and an easy-to-maintain exterior. Whether it is an older couple looking to find a home for retirement or a young couple looking to buy their first house, a ranch style can give home owners what they are looking for. This easy-living home style is perfect for families of all kinds. Learn more about personalized ranch style home features like high ceilings and front porches.

Ranch-Style-Homes

One final guideline to keep in mind and our best piece of advice is to follow your heart. It’s generally a much better indicator than all the analysis you might do. Building a home is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do!

DESIGNING THE DETAILS: Once you have your house style picked out and your floor plan finalized, it's time to choose the details that will make your home unique and reflect your tastes. These details might include:

  • Flooring
  • Cabinets
  • Countertops
  • Trim
  • Molding
  • Exterior siding
  • Shingles and roofing
  • Stone and brick
  • Porches and decks
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Much more

Making all these choices can seem a bit overwhelming, but at Vision Homes, we strive to make it an exciting, enjoyable process. We walk you through a simple worksheet, share our included options, listen to your needs and desires and help you make the right choices to create a beautiful, unique home inside and out.

Home Building Process

Home Building Process

One of the most frustrating elements of building a new home is having no idea where to begin. The process can be challenging, but don’t let that frustrate you!

Most people are not experts when it comes to home building, and we understand that at Vision Homes. We pride ourselves on our expertise, and we’ll do everything we can to build a home you’ll love.

Below is a detailed description of how the building process should take place:

  1. Agreement: After visiting with representative and selecting home options, we draft an agreement that includes pricing, description of materials and design prints.
  2. Bank Financing: Your builder should provide you with documents needed for your bank meeting. Vision Homes can also assist you with finding a bank to suit your needs.
  3. Color Selections: This is the fun part! You select the details of your home with the help of a Vision Homes representative.
  4. Pre-Construction: This is a casual meeting between you and your builder to discuss the details of your home. This is also where we confirm any changes and collect all forms for stake out.
  5. Closing: Closing on construction financing.
  6. Stake-Out: We meet with you at your construction site and stake out the area where we will excavate and set the home.
  7. Dig: Excavating begins. This is the ground-breaking of your new home!
  8. Electrical Walk Through: After the initial framing of your house, we hold a meeting with you, your builder and electrician.
  9. Notification of Completion: We send you a letter informing you that your house is complete! We also schedule your walk through now.
  10. Walk Through: We meet with you at your finished home to do an inspection and orientation.
  11. Punch out Work: We take care of any final items that need touched up or completed.
  12. Settlement / Move-In: We take our final draw payment, and you receive the keys to your new home!

We have processes set up that make it possible for you to enjoy the home building process:

  1. First, you will meet with Dave Stanley, our sales associate. He will help you decide where you want to build, what design you want and will make any tweaks to the design to suit your needs.
  2. Once you sign the agreement with Dave, Twila Goodwin, our closing coordinator, gets the torch. She will help you with the bank, get you permits (if necessary), choose design selections and get you to the pre-build construction meeting, which happens right before we are able to break ground on your new home. She is also there during the construction of the new home to answer questions for you as they come up.
  3. Guy Helwig, our superintendent, will then get the torch. He holds it from the beginning of building to the end, with support and help from the whole Vision team. Guy will schedule all crews, order all materials and build your new home.
  4. If any questions arise during the home building process, Twila will answer them for you.  You can call her and expect to get answers in a timely fashion. She will hold your hand through the whole process until we hand you the keys.

Quality

A Vision Home Owner's Story - by The Steele Family

Quality! It’s frequently promised but not as frequently delivered, unfortunately. While quality is important in everything you buy, it’s critical in home construction. It makes the difference between years of home-living pleasure versus years of headaches.

“I think the advantage of having a local builder is you know what quality is going to come out of it.”

- Justin Steele, Vision Home Customer

Watch the Steele Family Experience Building with Vision Homes

How can you tell if you’re getting good quality? Quality in finishing is a sign of good construction, but it can only be “skin deep.”

Here are some tips that show sound, quality construction:

  • Look for fit around doors and windows. It’s called “squaring,” and well-fitting doors and frames are a reflection of quality construction.
  • Squeaky floors are a sign of improperly glued or nailed floor boards.
  • Make sure all the lumber used in the structure is kiln dried. Western lumber is usually the best wood since it comes from larger trees, decreasing its chances of warping.
  • Insulation is a good sign of quality construction. Quality builders insulate the floors, ceilings and walls.
  • Check the basement to be sure the walls are sealed to prevent moisture seepage. Wall should be “parged” before the sealant is applied.
  • Some people think nail “pops” are a sign of poor construction; however, you can expect a few in the first couple years after the builder finishes your home.
  • Brand names are usually a good indication of quality. You should get brand name appliances, of course, but also check brands of building materials, such as windows, tubes and insulation.
  • Check the spacing of the framing members. Sixteen inches on center is the accepted standard. If there is a truss roof, twenty-four inches on center is the accepted standard.

If you are building in North Central West Virginia, Western Maryland or Southwestern Pennsylvania, you need to make sure your roof is strong enough to handle the weather in this region.

At Vision Homes, we care about your new roof.  For 20 years, we have used only the best roofing trusses available; Rigidply Rafters out of Oakland, Maryland.

It all starts with quality lumber. Look for NO. 2 grade stamp on your roof trusses. That's your assurance of quality lumber.

Rigidply uses specific lumber mills to ensure they use only the highest quality lumber in their trusses. Rigidply’s specifications are the strictest in the industry. Rigidply further evaluates each piece of truss lumber before using it in a truss, based on their own internal specifications for wane, straightness and overall quality. Rigidply stores their lumber undercover to protect the appearance and performance of Rigidply trusses.

Schedule a Meeting

Deciding to build a new home is a huge investment. Vision Homes understands that, which is why we take our commitment to building you a forever home seriously. Invest an hour of your time with our salesman Dave, and he will walk you through our home building process and how we differentiate ourselves from the competition.  

When you first meet with Dave, he will listen to your wants, needs, fears and concerns. Within that hour, you’ll discuss everything from floor plans to home features. At Vision Homes, we are flexible. We are happy to combine different floor plans to create the perfect home for you.

Spending an hour of your time with Dave is not a big commitment when you think about how much money you will be investing into your new home. At the end of the meeting, there will be no pressure to proceed with us. Even if you don’t build with us, or we aren’t a good fit, we are certain you will walk away with new, valuable knowledge.

If you decide to move forward with Vision Homes, Dave will work within your budget to meet all your needs. We will have you on your way to building a house you're proud to call home!

Seeing everything come together, everything that we had picked, all the colors, the floor plan, the design of the house. It was pretty rewarding to see it all come out right, and it looked good together.

Amber Steele A Happy Vision Home Customer

Words can not describe the feeling we have toward Vision Homes and not just because of the quality of the house or the quality of their work. This is something that will forever be in our hearts and minds.

The Swain Family A Satisfied Customer