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How Long Does It Take to Build a House? Guide to Home Construction Timelines

By Kenny Zhu · March 06, 2023 · 7 minute read

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How Long Does It Take to Build a House? Guide to Home Construction Timelines

Building a home could take an average of nearly eight months, but a contractor- or owner-built house could stretch the timeline beyond a year.

It’s not as simple as buying a plot of land and heading to Home Depot. Construction permits, financing, and even the weather can lengthen your timeline.

Average Time to Build a House

Despite the extra time it takes to build a home from scratch rather than buy an existing home, it’s no surprise that many Americans are opting to build a home.

Why? To customize a home to their tastes, for one thing. And the narrowing gap between the average cost to build a house and the cost of buying an existing home.

The average cost to build a house, including the land, was nearly $450,000 in May 2022, the National Association of Home Builders reported. The median cost to buy an existing home was a bit over $414,000.

So how long does it take to build a house?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest home building statistics, from 2021, the average time to build a one-unit residential building is 7.6 months. Here’s the breakdown.

Construction Purpose

Average months

Built for Sale 6.7
Contractor Built 12.6
Owner Built 14.3

This time frame encompasses the entire home building process, from obtaining building permits to picking out the design.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.


Factors That Affect How Long It Takes to Build a House

As with everything, the devil is in the details, so let’s look at factors that influence how long it takes to build a home.

Type of House

The type of home and design will have a significant impact on the construction timeline.

If you’re buying new construction, it will fall into one of these categories:

•   Tract homes. These go up in a new development. The buyer chooses the design features and lot.

•   Spec homes. With these move-in-ready homes, the buyer still might be able to choose some of the finishings.

•   Custom homes. A builder customizes a house to the buyers’ specifications on their land.

Predesigned home packages likely accelerate the construction timeline, while custom homes are likely to extend it. After all, custom designs require more coordination between architects, engineers, and contractors.

House Size

Naturally larger homes take longer to build than smaller homes.

If you’re planning on a particularly ornate design, make sure you budget extra time (and money) for the project.

Larger properties with complex layouts are also more likely to encounter greater engineering challenges than simpler layouts. It’s also likely that unanticipated issues will arise during the build.

Location

While scenic, remote areas are attractive to many people seeking to build a primary or vacation home, the locale will heavily affect the ease of transporting materials, workers, and equipment.

Rocky terrain will also be more expensive and difficult to excavate and prep for construction. Installing common utilities will be more difficult.

Weather

Unless you’re looking into a modular home vs. a stick-built home, inclement weather can severely delay construction, as many parts of the process cannot be completed in rain or snow.

Your worksite may get flooded due to lack of completed drainage, and building materials may be damaged if not properly protected.

Financing

Homeowners with sufficient equity in their home could apply for a home equity line of credit to fund their new home.

But many people will seek a construction loan. Obtaining a construction loan comes with its own complications.

Expect underwriting to take longer than it does for a typical mortgage, as the lender will want a detailed plan, budget, and schedule for the construction. The lender may also need to approve your builder.

Permits

Construction permits and zoning approval for home building can be significant time drains and are often beyond your control. A good contingency is to find a contractor who is familiar with the local application process.

Materials and Labor

Volatility in material prices and availability made it hard for contractors to plan projects in 2022. As lumber and plywood prices settled down, cement and diesel costs rose. Shortages in cement and concrete products were expected to endure.

The availability of labor slowed construction starts in 2022 and was expected to remain the top challenge for most contractors.

In general, contractors are particularly busy during the spring and summer, so contracting with a builder before those seasons could be a good idea.

The Process of Building a House

Here’s the typical home construction timeline:

•   Buy land and obtain financing

•   Obtain building permits and approvals

•   Excavate the land and prep the foundation

•   Build the framework and install utilities

•   Put in walls, floors, and roof

•   Install fixtures, appliances, and finish the exterior/interior

•   Landscape, pave driveways, and prepare the grounds

•   Get a final inspection from authorities

Shortening the Time It Takes to Build a House

While much of the home building process is outside your control unless you’re actually building the house yourself, there are ways you can mitigate the chance of complications.

Here are a few ways you can shorten the average time it takes to build a house.

Avoid Deviating From the Plan

One of the best ways to avoid lengthening a construction timeline is to ensure that you have building plans finalized well before you break ground, and sticking to them.

Making last-minute changes is anathema to construction timelines.

Communicate

Avoid being the bottleneck when it comes to decision-making. The construction team will likely take their cues from you. So if you’re late answering an email, design query, or request for approval, your contractor will often be unable to proceed without your input.

Reduce Complexity

Keeping things simple will probably lead to a faster build, if that’s a priority. More complex plans clearly lead to lengthier construction times and introduce a greater likelihood that unforeseen problems will arise.

Craft the Contract With Care

The construction contract should contain a deadline for completion and what will happen in the event of a delay.

It’s common for a contract to specify that “substantial completion” must occur by a certain date, and to define that. A clause can express that extensions can be given for unforeseen delays.

When a change is made after a contract is signed, it’s referred to as a “change order.” The change order might specify a deadline extension or new completion date.

Builders who breach the contract may be responsible for damages.

The Takeaway

How long does it take to build a house? It could take seven to 14 months. A construction contract will typically contain a deadline and what will happen if a delay occurs. Allowing for a reasonable schedule can help ensure that your project finishes on time.

3 Home Loan Tips

  1. Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders, such as SoFi, allow home mortgage loans with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.
  2. Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better loan terms you’ll be offered. One way to improve your ratio is to increase your income (hello, side hustle!). Another way is to consolidate your debt and lower your monthly debt payments.
  3. When building a house or buying a nontraditional home (such as a houseboat), you likely won’t be able to get a mortgage. One financing option to consider is a personal loan, which can be faster and easier to secure than a construction loan.

FAQ

How long does it take to build a house by yourself?

For the ambitious home builders among us, it takes over 14 months to build a house, on average. The timeline can easily stretch out to two years or longer, depending on your experience and whether or not you choose to employ any assistance.

What causes delays when building a house?

Plenty of factors can delay a build. They include:

•   Owner-caused delays

•   Contractor-caused delays

•   Weather

•   Logistics

•   Obtaining permits and approvals

•   Size and scale of the project

•   Communication

Can I get a loan to build a house?

You can apply for a construction loan or if you already have a home, a home equity line of credit, home equity loan, or cash-out refinance to fund the new home. A personal loan could be used for at least part of the build.


Photo credit: iStock/acilo

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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