You've done all the emotional, difficult work of planning, tweaking, compromising, and creating the plan for your home. Your builder has been right there beside you, guiding the way. You've agreed on the plans, the details, and the dollar investment, so now it's time to start building.

You're excited, and you want to start tomorrow. Believe me, so does your builder. But there are a few hurdles to clear first.

The loan stuff

Chances are you're going to borrow money from the bank for a construction loan. All the loan stuff has to be in order before you can start building, which includes land title work, appraisal, underwriting, etc. It takes time, and it's hard to see any visible progress happening. After all, banks are notoriously conservative and heavily regulated by the government.

The bank has to get a commitment from a title company that the title to your land is clear, which means nobody has a legal claim to any part of it, no matter how small. That commitment only comes after the title company's attorney has reviewed every document related to the property back to the dawn of time. In Oklahoma, that means all the way back to the land run.

While that's going on, the bank's underwriter is reviewing your loan application and all the associated documents. They have to justify making the loan according to their requirements and the government's. Then, the bank has to order an appraisal of the value of the land plus the home you're proposing to build. That appraisal can take four weeks or more, depending on location, availability of appraisers, and availability of comparable property sales in the area.

All that stuff is going on after you sign the contract with the builder. Because it happens in the background, it looks like nothing is happening at all. Believe me, your builder, banker, and everyone else is scurrying around like mad on your behalf. Take a deep breath… this part just plain sucks.

Site planning and permits

You can't start building until site planning, engineering, and building permits are all done. It still looks like nothing is happening, but there is work being done in the background.

Your builder is creating a site plan after staking out the outline of your new home on your property, requesting engineering for the foundation and possibly roof and floor trusses, and working with contractors and suppliers to specify the exact make and model of every piece of your new home. He's also applying for a building permit or permits, depending on location and other factors.

But it's mostly invisible work and can be frustratingly slow when you're excited about your home. Again it seems like nobody is working, but they are.

Selecting colors and finishes

Here's your part of the pre-building process! While all the above invisible stuff is going on, you need to make all your color selections. And you need to do it on time. You're a critical part of this process, and your builder is probably too polite to tell you that you're holding up the schedule.

Why do them now? Because when physical construction is ready to start, everything needs to be lined up and ready to go. If it's not ready, contractors will balk at committing to an uncertain schedule where they might not be able to start and finish their work (and get paid) in one go. They want to come onto the job with all the tools, materials, and selections necessary and not get bogged down waiting on a decision about something.

I've discovered over the years that the way to build the highest quality home in the shortest possible time isn't to make anyone hurry up. It's to eliminate as many delays between contractors as possible. Some delays are going to happen for weather, city inspectors, or contractor's schedules, but making all the color and finish decisions early in the process keeps things running smoothly.

Don't blame your builder if you add to the delays by failing to make decisions or changing your mind repeatedly. Remember that you're partners in this process, and your builder wants it to move along just as much as you do.

All of the above processes can take about six to eight weeks after you've signed the papers. I know that's probably not what you want to hear, but be patient. You won't remember all this stuff after you move in and are enjoying the home you've been only able to dream about until now.

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