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How To Obtain A Building Permit To Build Your New Home

December 7, 2008
If youre like most people, youre pinching your pennies more tightly these days. That means if youre getting ready to have a house built, youre looking for ways to stretch every dollar in your budget. Acting as the owner builder on your property is a great way to go, but your project wont get off the ground unless you have the proper permits in place.

Building permits are essential if you intend to realize every red cent of savings that can come along with being an owner builder. There are very specific things you need to have in place before you can hope to get your local building department to issue the proper permits. The process of getting permits and clearances begins shortly after you buy your land to build on and doesnt end until you receive a certificate of occupancy (or your final inspection).

Why Be An Owner Builder?

When youre having a home built, you have two options for making it happen. You can hire a general contractor to oversee the entire project and pull the permits. You can also choose to act as an owner builder in most locations. The latter means that you will be personally responsible for organizing an entire home construction project, pulling permits, lining up subcontractors, ordering materials and so on.

While acting as an owner builder does demand a tremendous amount of work, this can be the best path to take if cost-savings are desired on a construction project. You can save a ton of money by assuming some of the responsibility yourself. The fact is the second you cut out a general contractor and even some of the subs, your cost savings can climb into the thousands. This means youll have more money to spend on making your dream house a one of a kind!

To see your homes project through from beginning to end, youre going to need to follow some basic steps. The first place to start is in getting the land.

The Chicken Or The Egg?

When it comes to getting a building permit, there is no question what must come first. Unlike the chicken or the egg question, this one is easy! You have to have the land in place to even stand a chance to obtain a building permit. If you plan on being an owner builder, owning the land will give you the right to request permitting approval for home construction. Unless this essential piece of the puzzle is in place, your local building office will not issue a permit.

Getting Your Plans Lined Up

With the land in place, your pre-permitting work has only just begun. The next thing youll need before you can march into the building office and proudly proclaim your intent to obtain a permit to have your dream home constructed is the plans. If youre going to be the owner builder on the project, you have two main choices for getting your blueprints. They are:

Buying ready-made plans You can purchase floor plans and full blueprints for start-to-finish construction from architectural firms and some builders. The best place to locate plans that are ready to go is the Internet. Here you will be able to peruse plans, checking out different styles and see what pricing will cost you from different companies. If saving a lot of money is your desire, this is an excellent way to go. Do take the time to vet the company youre considering buying plans from. It wont do you a lick of good to request a building permit for blueprints that are flawed! Also, if you want some customization done, do see if the firm youre dealing with will handle it. Many are willing to slightly alter their stock plans (for a price).

Working with an architect While this will not be your cheapest option for getting plans, it can be your best if you have a very specific idea in mind for your home. To save a little money on a custom design, get quotes from multiple architects, look at their work and check into their backgrounds. Go with the best professional at the most reasonable price.

Whats Next?

OK, so you have your land lined up and your plans in place. Youre ready to go get that permit. Not so fast!

Chances are you will still need to have a few things taken care of first. Depending on where you live and the requirements placed on building, you might need to take care of these things before a permit for building will be issued:

Surveying It is possible you will need a survey report to present along with your blueprints and application for permitting.

Soil reports These are sometimes needed when construction will involve the installation of a well and septic system. Geological reports might also be required in some areas.

Approvals from other agencies In some jurisdictions, for example, you might need approval from the water management district to build. Check with your local building office to see what you might need in the pre-permitting stage.

Getting Your Permits

Whew! Youve finally made it to the home stretch. To actually obtain your permits for construction, you will likely need to:

File an application You will have to fill out a lot of forms to back up your request for a building permit. Along with these forms, you will need to submit your building plans, reports and even approvals from other agencies.

Pay fees Building permits do not come free.

Show licensing While you as an owner builder wont have a contractors license to build, your communitys codes might call for licensed professionals to handle such things as the electrical or plumbing. If this is the case, have the information available from the pros youve lined up for jobs you dont want to tackle (or cant because of legal requirements).

Answer any questions that may arise During the permitting phase, it is possible for questions about your site, plans and intent for outlying areas on the property to come up. Site clearing and tree removal, for example, can be big issues in some areas. So can water-related issues.

Getting a building permit to make your dream home a reality will require having all your ducks in a row. Chances are you might even need multiple permits for different phases of the project. Take your time, make sure you understand what is needed, ask as many questions as you need to, and forge ahead. You can save yourself a major amount of money by doing some of the work yourself. When youre kicking back and enjoying your new house, the work will be worth every second involved!