As construction starts soar to record levels, more Chicagoans are building their own house of dreams. But those dreams can quickly turn into a nightmare, and an expensive one at that.

If you’re going to spend an average of $300,000 on a brand new house, you want the finished product to look and feel great. The problem is there are hundreds of decisions you have to make when you’re building a new home, and the process can be overwhelming — and that’s if you have a great relationship with a good builder. Now if you had someone by your side who knew the building process in and out, like a home-building coach, you might not only unclench your shoulders, but find you’re actually enjoying the experience.

When you build a new home, you have a unique opportunity to solve some everyday headaches.

“Do you have enough closet space where you are now? At the time, we’re there now, but I think we’re about to bust at the seams.”

But solving today’s problems won’t necessarily make you happy in five years. If you want to be happy with your new house, you have to look into the future and imagine the paths your life might take.

“Do you have a pet? No, not at this time. But that might be in your future as well? They’ve been asking for a pet dog or kitty cat, but we’ve been resisting up until this point.”

Sara Lamia, author of the book “How To Enjoy Building Your New Home,” says new home buyers often make the mistake of underestimating the complexity of the construction process and the importance of choosing a quality builder.

“Don’t assume that your home is going to be built to quality standards just because it’s being built to building code,” Lamia says.

Designers say another common mistake is choosing finishes that are too neutral.

“You should buy it for you. You should do things you enjoy. Colors you enjoy. Because if you love it someone else will love it 10 years down the road,” says Julie Brock, University Commons.

Thinking about all the details can be overwhelming. But finding design flaws in a model can make a potentially huge problem disappear.

“We have one problem here. Here is the freezer door. Here is the original concrete wall. When you and your wife go to use the freezer door, this is as open as it gets. And when you want to pull these bins out, you won’t be able to. So that’s something you to check wherever you are looking,” Lamia says.

Walking through model homes also allows you to check out flooring issues, the size of the bedrooms, and whether the kitchen and bathrooms are big enough to share. But watch out for the fancy stuff builders put into models that don’t come standard with the home.

“Home building is very expensive and we should be having fun. That’s my message to the buyer. This is a big project. Don’t underestimate it. If you plan and choose well, it will be something you’ll enjoy for always,” Lamia says.

More new home buyers are asking builders to allow them to bring in a home inspector before the drywall is put up. That’s a good idea, but our home building coach says be sure to negotiate that with the developer ahead of time.


Sara Lamia

University Commons
1000 W 15th Street
Chicago, IL 60608

National Association of Home Builders

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