By Margaret Heidenry
Nov 30, 2021
How long does it take to build a house? It’s a question often posed by people looking to buy an idyllic piece of land so they can construct their dream home from the ground up. If this describes your current housing situation, you’ve come to the right place!
So before you invest in that spacious lot with stunning views and mature trees, it’s wise to consider the time it’ll actually take to build the place you’ll be living in—especially considering supply chain issues and overall construction delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which are expected to last through 2022.
How long does it take to build a house?
In a perfect world, depending on the site and zoning classification, it typically takes from three to six months to build a house. However, given the current state of supply chain slow-downs, labor shortages, and increased building demand, it’s more realistic to factor in a few months of delay.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent 2020 data from the Survey of Construction estimates approximately 6.8 months as the average length of time from start to completion of new privately owned residential buildings. That number rises to nearly 12 months for owner-built houses, and falls to just under 6 months for build-for-sale homes.
Depending on U.S. location, the average build times increase and decrease. For instance, houses in the northeast are averaging 10.7 months, while construction in the south is at about 5.9 months.
No matter your location, the key to any successful new home building project is having approved house building permits, a process that can take a long time in some areas. So plan ahead. The biggest obstacles to obtaining a new home permit are poor due diligence, neighbors who oppose construction, and a backlog at the building department.
Main factors that affect how long to build a house
“Location and what I call environmental conditions can slow down or speed up a build greatly,” says Bill Green, president of W.R. Green Construction, a custom builder in Connecticut and Colorado.
What kind of environmental conditions? Factors such as soil type and site topography. For example, to construct a house with a slab on a level site with stable draining soil conditions is likely to take half the time it would take to construct the same house on a hilly lot. Building in a coastal earthquake or mudslide zone, or in a fire hazard zone, will also prolong the construction process.
Another major factor to consider in estimating the length of the process is how skilled the contractor is. An experienced new home builder will typically take less time to complete your new home.
Choose a contractor with a good reputation among the local municipality and real estate community. When issues arise, they’ll get taken care of quickly, says John Kuroda,manager at Sleight Farm, a subdivision of new-construction houses in LaGrange, NY.
What can increase the average time to build a house?
The overall time of a build usually depends on labor, supply chain issues, and weather conditions. Construction can easily be delayed by labor shortages, construction supply and building material hold-ups, and shifts in temperature or too much precipitation.
Other factors that can cause a delay? “The owners,” says Todd Whalen, owner and CEO of Eclipse Building Corp. Yes, that’s you!
If you delay in selecting finishes or decide to add change orders to your new home during construction, you can significantly prolong your construction time. As much as possible, stick with your home design—don’t tell your builder after the drywall is installed that you want the kitchen on the other side of the house, or a different floor plan altogether.
Real estate markets experiencing a building boom may also face a shortage of laborers and subcontractors—another thing that can lengthen the overall building time.
How to shorten the average time to build a house
Planning is far and away the most important way to shorten the building time frame, according to Green.
All the components of building a new house are interrelated, so if you plan the build, you can reduce the chance of delays and mistakes.
For instance, the thickness of the tile you select for a bathroom will determine the exact location of pipes that your builder must have in place before building your foundation.
Make sure you understand the lead time on products such as windows and doors in order to have them on the building site when they are needed.
During construction, an extra few weeks waiting for something can delay your timeline. Having all the different work crews—electricians, plumbers, HVAC specialists, etc.—working as promptly as possible in the building process helps speed everything up, too.
You should hold the builder accountable, by including a penalty in your contract if the builder misses the agreed-upon completion date, says Jesse Fowler, president of Tellus Build.
Being active and staying on top of things throughout the building process—such as scheduling weekly site walks to check on progress—can help keep everything on track.