Custom Home Planning (STEP-BY-STEP Planning Process EXPLAINED!)

Custom Home Planning (STEP-BY-STEP Planning Process EXPLAINED!)

Planning a custom home can be exciting and CONFUSING!  Don’t worry, you are not alone!  Most people are not familiar with the custom home building and planning process.  It’s OK if you feel a bit intimidated.

We’ve simplified this process for you.

In this video and blog, we have broken it down into 8 easy-to-follow steps!  You’ll have everything you need to know to move forward with your project confidently.

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Are you thinking of building a custom home?

This video details the EXACT Step By Step Process for how to plan your custom home project successfully.   This is the exact same process our firm has developed and used over the last 12 years, and now we’re going to share this with YOU.



Why is this important? I know you want to dive right into the design of a custom home, but the one most important thing that you need to do before anything is know how much your house should cost.

Expect a Range.

What do I mean by this? A lot of people go into this process and they want a number to the exact dollar of how much their house is going to cost.

That, my friends, I’m sorry to say, but it is not realistic at this point in time.  Because….

….you don’t know what you’re building,

….you don’t have a set of plans,

….and there’s just too many unknowns,

but that’s okay, that’s NORMAL!  What you do want to know, though, is what your budget range should be. You should have a low to high range of how much your custom home could potentially cost.



Custom Home Budget Cost Range

Now here’s the key….

You need to be comfortable with BOTH the low end and the high end of the budget range.


How do you get a budget range and costs for your custom home build?

Talk to experts. The two experts that can help you with this are:

  • A custom home designer or
  • A custom home builder.

I’m going to talk a little bit more about this in later steps, so we’ll come back to this.


This particular step refers to what you can actually build on your land.  Regardless of what you want to build on your land, every single city has a Municipal Zoning Bylaw.

What this means is that the city will dictate what you can and cannot build on that lot. Obviously, that is very important for you to know before you go any further into design. I’ve made a separate video and blog just to talk about permits and knowing what you can build on your lot.

VIDEO:  How to Know What You Can Build On Your Lot:  Coming Soon in January 2019

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How do you figure out what you can build on your lot?

A few different tips I will share with you:

  • You can either go there in person or call.  I always like to recommend actually going there in person.  That way you have their full undivided attention
  • Bring your address
  • If you have one, bring a a survey, a real property report, posting plan, or plot plan that shows site information.

A City Planner will likely be able to help guide you through just the high level things of how big you can build your house and any zoning bylaws that would affect what you can build.


What is this Professional Site Feasibility Review?

It’s when a professional custom home designer will review a custom home building site in detail, based on the address.

A Professional Site Feasibility Review will tell you the following:

  • Exactly what you can build on the lot
  • What you cannot build on the lot
  • Identify any red flags that could be hazardous to the project

Professional firms will typically do this at a low cost (few hundred dollars).  The investment is typically well worth it, as it can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in making a land purchase mistake!


Professional Site Feasibility Review

Professional Site Feasibility Review


There are so many different details to a custom home design!

Sit down and start documenting all of these details as you find them….Because I GUARANTEE you… you will NOT be able to remember all these details!

This wish list will form the foundation (no pun intended!) for your entire project design, scope and budget, so you want a collection point for all of this information.


Custom Home Wishlist


There’s two parts to a highly effective wish list:


Gather all the photographs and visuals of everything you like – both interior and exterior photos.

Maybe you have photos of actual houses in your neighborhood.  Maybe they are all online photos.  Doesn’t matter – just collect them all into one central location.  It can be a digital file or if you like to rock it old school… a physical file folder 😁



The wish list is when you literally write down what it is that you want from a functional aspect.  So for example, how many bedrooms would you like?  What rooms would you like in the home?  How large of a garage would you like?

These are all things that have to do with the “function” of your home.

If you need some help getting started, think about all the things in your current home that you love.  For example, maybe you love all the big windows where you can see out into your backyard.

Then, think of all the things that drive you CRAZY!  For example, maybe you don’t have enough storage in your main coat closet for all your “stuff”!

Whatever it may be, WRITE IT DOWN in your wish list.

Another tip:   Keep your wish list on your phone or a mobile device that syncs.   So if you think of something randomly as you’re grocery shopping or in the middle of the night, you can pull out your phone and basically just add that item to your wish list.


This is the really exciting part!!

This is where you are going to take all the homework that you did in Step 3… and now working with a custom home designer, your custom home designer is going to put it together into your … Ta-da!!! …

Custom home design!!

This is a really exciting process, it is quite extensive, so I have actually made a separate video for this, and again, I will provide the link below, but the outcome of step four is basically a beautiful custom designed home for you. Here’s some images of some sketches, designed development graphics, that illustrate what happens during the process.

Architectural Sketch Custom Home Design

You can see a design progresses from hand sketches, to more developed floor plans, and simply with the exterior. Very often we start with the hand sketch, and then you end up, at the end of the day, with a beautiful, beautiful home. Step five, finalize your budget.


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In Step One, we talked about developing your budget range.

But now you also have…

  • Your land decision finalized
  • Your design finalized

So… what this means is now we can also finalize your BUDGET!  At this point, you should also have a set of detailed architectural plans that a builder can look at, circulate to their trades, and put a final budget number to.  Or at least one that is much closer than your initial budget range.  This is now possible because you have a set of drawings to define exactly what you are building.

Custom Home Budget and final costs


In this step, the goal is to make sure that you’re comfortable with the final budget BEFORE going further.


There are three parties involved:

  • Your custom home builder
  • Your custom home designer
  • You

Once the builder produces the detailed budget, there will likely be minor tweaks that need to be made to the design, and to refine the budget.  All three parties listed above should be involved in this process.  If you were working with a custom home designer experienced with budgets, the design revisions should be fairly minor.  You should still LOVE the design after this exercise is complete!  Coming out of Step 5, you should have a budget that you’re very comfortable with, a design that you love, and now you’re ready to go into the next step.


At this stage, there are other consultants that need to become involved in the process.  We call them third party consultants, and they are necessary to finalize the construction documents and also for permits.  Although each Municipality will require slightly different consultants, here are a few examples of consultants which may be required:

  • Structural engineer
  • Energy advisor
  • Arborist
  • Joist & truss supplier

As a homeowner, you don’t need to worry about this step too much.  Typically your custom home designer or builder will take care of these details for you in conjunction with your custom home builder.  But… in the interest of educating you, as the homeowner, I just want to make you aware that this is a step that needs to take place.


Depending on which municipality you’re building in, there might be one permit, or there might be two permits, in some municipalities even more, but at this stage in the game, you should have all the permits that you need to actually start construction.

This is a REALLY exciting part of the process as you get to start construction. YAY!!!!  😃😃🎆🎇 Yep, 0ur team literally cheers like that when we get an approved permit for our clients.  I promise, you will too!  Because, it leads us to the final exciting stage…



This is when all the action starts happening with the custom home builder!!  Woohoo!

But hang on just a second..

One thing that I always like to recommend before going into construction is what I like to call a pre-construction meeting. What this meeting is, is it’s essentially a debrief meeting between the custom home designer, and the custom home builder, and their team.

Because remember, up until this point, all the trades involved in your project, haven’t really had that much communication directly with the custom home designer or yourself.

So if there’s any questions with regards to the construction details that they need in order to build the project successfully, this is their opportunity to ask those questions.

It’s better to ask those questions in a meeting environment or in a boardroom rather than frantically asking these questions as they are building the house. I always like to recommend a pre-construction meeting, which should be set up with a custom home builder and the custom home designer.

So… there you have it!

That is an overview of the planning process for your custom home build.  Typically your custom home designer will lead you through this process.  Be sure to ask before you engage your designer to ensure this is covered in their Scope of Work.  Regardless, these will be the steps you need to take to plan out your custom home project successfully.


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See you next week! 😃