Building a new, single-family, custom home on your own piece of land is a dream come true for many. But before you get started, it’s important to understand what kind of timeline you’re looking at for new construction—many homeowners don’t realize just how complicated and time-consuming the process can be.

On average, a custom-built home takes one year to finish; a fully custom home can take years to complete. From planning to construction to move-in day, read on for a typical timeline for constructing a new single-family home.

Planning

Average time: 6 months – 2 years

The planning phase of new construction often takes more time than the build. Here’s a breakdown of the typical steps involved in this portion of the process. Keep in mind that these time estimates are rough since each situation is unique.

Weeks 1-4: Find + vet land
Prospective homeowners often work with a real estate agent to help them find an ideal property on which to build their home. Once a parcel of land is identified, it needs to be vetted: How is the land zoned? Are there utility hookups? How much land prep is required?

Weeks 4-10: Obtain financing + close on land
The buyer can either pay cash or finance the land purchase. If they need financing, they must apply for a mortgage. Once approved, they purchase (close on) the land.

READ: Everything You Need to Know About Construction Loans


Weeks 10-16: Hire an architect + create plans
Before even one spec of dirt can be moved, an architect must be hired to draft plans for the house—usually with the help of a structural engineer—based on feedback from the homeowner. Over time, the homeowner and architect work together to finalize the plan.

Weeks 16-20: Hire a general contractor
The architect will usually help the homeowner find and interview general contractors (GCs), who will meet with the homeowner and bid out the project. The homeowner will then select which GC to work with and sign a contract.

Weeks 20+: Obtain permits
Once hired, the GC will file for all the necessary building permits the local municipality requires. Since permitting is unique from one municipality to the next, there is no “average” time until they’re obtained: sometimes it can take weeks, sometimes months.

Weeks 24-26: Order materials
The lead time on windows, appliances, and other materials and supplies can be several months depending on supply chain issues, availability, raw materials, etc. Homeowners and GCs tend to favor long lead times when ordering materials so everything is ready to go when construction can begin.

Construction

Average time: 7 – 13 months

According to the U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Construction, it took 8.8 months, on average, to complete a contractor-built home in 2020. For owner-built homes, that number increased to 11.8 months. In the northeast, those averages are even higher: 10.7 months for contractor-built homes and 12.9 months for owner-built.

Here’s a week-by-week timeline for new construction: new construction timeline for this portion of the project.

Weeks 1-2: Groundbreaking, excavation, footings
After the contractor maps the home layout on the building site, they bring in excavators and bulldozers to level the land and remove trees and rocks. They then pour the footings, the concrete slab that supports the weight of the structure.

Weeks 2-4: Foundation
After the footings pass inspection, the builder pours concrete for the foundation (a slab, crawl space, or full basement). Once dry, it will be inspected.

Weeks 4-7: Framing
Contractors build the home’s framework, including the exterior walls, floors, and roof rafters. They then cover the walls and roof with a protective house wrap. Another inspection takes place.

Weeks 7-10: Mechanicals
Subcontractors install plumbing, mechanical, and electrical systems, all of which require an inspection.  

READ: Here’s How a New Home is Built


Weeks 10-12: Insulation + drywall
After contractors install insulation in walls, they cover interior walls and ceilings with drywall or plasterboard. Then they sand, prime, and apply the first coat of paint.

Weeks 12-16: Flooring, trim, paint
Workers install floors, interior doors, cabinets, moldings, built-ins, and trim. The second coat of paint is applied.

Weeks 16-18: Exterior facade
Contractors apply stone, brick, stucco, or siding to the exterior.

Weeks 18-20: Interior finishes
Subcontractors and specializes will be brought in to install light fixtures, plugs, faucets, tubs, toilets, sinks, showers, cabinets, countertops, appliances, and carpeting—all of the interior finishing touches.

Weeks 20-22: Exteriors
Once the interior finishes are complete, exterior doors will be installed. Driveways, walkways, and landscaping will also be handled.

Week 23: Cleanup
Months of construction equals months of mess and debris. The construction crew will spend this time cleaning up the house and site, disposing of all garbage, debris, dust, etc.

Weeks 23-24: Inspection + walk-through
Once construction is complete, a building code official will conduct an inspection to ensure there are no violations. If everything is up-to-code and passes inspection, a Certificate of Occupancy will be issued, which means the house is habitable.

Then, the homeowner receives a final walk-through of the home. This allows them to inspect all the work and ensure it was completed to their specifications, that everything is in working order—basically, that nothing needs to be fixed or corrected before moving in.

Week 25: Closing
Once the inspection is passed and final walk-through is complete, closing can occur. This is when the property title passes to the buyer.

Delays

The above schedule offers a look at the average timeline for new construction homes. But there’s a reason the saying “twice as long and twice as much” exists in relation to building a home: Even with the most detailed plans and schedules, it’s almost inevitable that the process will take longer and cost more than originally planned. Here are some of the most common reasons for these lags and overages.

Challenging land: A hilly, rocky lot will take a lot more time to excavate and level than a flat lot. Certain soil varieties are harder to break through and build in than others. Land in an earthquake, mudslide, or fire zone comes with additional difficulties. To keep things on track, it’s crucial to have a full understanding of what land prep will look like and cost before you break ground or, better yet, before even purchasing the land.

Permitting: As previously mentioned, permitting is unique from one municipality to the next. Even though the U.S. Census Bureau reports an average time of one month to authorization and permits, it can vary considerably, especially if there are zoning issues, property line disputes, easements, etc.

Weather: Temperature, wind, and precipitation are all variables that can impact the timeline of a built. Not only can weather cause dangerous working conditions, but it can also impact the amount of time it takes to do certain things. For example, hard freezes delay the pouring of concrete for the foundation; intense rains interfere with basement digs.The good news is that once the roof is up, weather conditions won’t impact the build quite so much.

Change orders: Building a custom, new construction home requires an immense number of decisions from the homeowners, which leaves an equally immense number of opportunities to change their minds during the process. Even something that seems small, like deciding you want a different color outlet cover, can have a snowball effect and lead to long waiting periods as new materials are ordered and delivered.

With Welcome homes, you’ll have a new home six months after permitting.