How Long Does it Take to Build a Custom Home

  • Each aspect of home building will have varying factors that affect the timeline depending on individual situations
  • Based on past projects and their goals, we estimate each custom home build’s expected timeline
  • The building phase of custom home projects is the longest in comparison to others

How Long Does It Take To Build A Custom Home?


Timeline is often a very important piece of planning your custom home build and is a question that we receive quite frequently. Much like the other topics we’ve covered about custom home building, the answer to this question will depend on a few different elements associated with the build. Each element will in turn have varying factors that will affect the timeline depending on your individual situation.

So how long does it take to build a custom home?

The short answer is anywhere between one year and up to two and a half years. Although there is a significant delta between these two numbers, in most cases, our typical custom home build averages just a little over a year at BrightLeaf.

For the longer answer and an in-depth education on the different variables that go into the process of building a custom home and the timelines associated with each part, read on below!

Although the time it takes to build can vary drastically between each custom home as well as different custom home builders, we utilized a typical timeline we’ve experienced at BrightLeaf to give you a pretty realistic idea of how long it will take to complete a custom home build project. Below is a guide to each of these custom home build phases in sequential order.


How Long Does It Take To Acquire A Lot – If You Don’t Already Own One?

2 – 7 Months

With a realistic budget and a realistic set of expectations, in most cases, it can take as little as a month to locate the right deal. For more discerning buyers looking for something very specific, this process can take up to six months. After locating, analyzing, and negotiating an accepted offer on the property, closing on the lot will then take an additional one to two months on average.

What this step entails and why does it take this long?

The process of acquiring the right lot to build your custom home on is a bit more complex than simply seeing one you like on a real estate site and throwing in an offer. Beyond what is listed on the MLS and consumer real estate sites (Redfin, Zillow, Trulia, etc..) there are also off-market opportunities that many individuals looking to build can take advantage of.

While locating a potentially attractive property to build on isn’t too much of a challenge, it is critical to have a real understanding of what can and can’t be built on that lot as well as what the costs to develop that particular piece of real estate will be. Set back requirements, green space requirements, historic designations, and other restrictions are critical to know what size and shape of a home can be built. Considerations such as stormwater management, fire sprinkler mandates, and other municipal requirements are also important to understand as these will directly affect how much it will cost to build on a given lot.

After properly analyzing the lot and giving it the green light, the sale of the piece of real estate will need to be effectively negotiated and then closed on. We would not recommend doing this on your own due to the important considerations that can really affect your ability to build on a lot as discussed prior. The best option here would be to hire a Realtor that actually works closely with an experienced home builder to help provide the proper insight into the feasibility of building on the lot you’re eyeing. One sad but true horror story we experienced was when clients of ours purchased a lot before consulting us. After they already owned the lot, during our due diligence period it was discovered that a small portion of the property was part of a protected wetlands area. This led to building a custom home on this particular property to be virtually impossible and the land they paid good money for was pretty much worthless for them to try to resell.

How can this phase move more quickly?

If you are utilizing bank financing, make sure you have a pre-approval ready to go since you won’t want to have to wait longer than necessary. Also, keep in mind that good opportunities go quickly. When something you like is available, you will want to be able to move on it right away! Being the first one to bring a strong offer on a good deal (especially with estate sale properties) will help lock in a lot. Beginning your lot search ASAP will also help expedite your overall custom home build process. Although this may sound all too obvious, getting a jump on the lot search early will increase your odds of finding the best spot to build your new custom home on so begin this process early!

As we mentioned earlier, consulting with a builder/real estate expert as early as possible is of great benefit to you. An experienced professional custom home builder can help give you an initial cost figure to use to understand how much the acquisition price of the lot fits with your overall budget. In addition to this, working with the right real estate/build expert to help you properly analyze and understand the implications of going with certain lot will save you a ton of time, money, and potential heartache as you will be able to make the most informed decision and not waste your time on lot opportunities that don’t make sense for what you’re hoping to build and what your budget is.

How Long Does The Design Process Take For Building A Custom Home?

3 – 4 Months

The design phase of building a new home isn’t just about picking paint colors – it encompasses everything from floor plans and layouts to siding and all interior fixtures and finishes. Thus, the time spent in the design phase is typically 3-4 months.

What this step entails and why does it take this long?

In most cases, starting with the lot that is being built on is key to the overall design of the home being built. A good designer will work to take into account the physical layout of the lot, the possible views out of (and into) windows, and any natural shading, landscaping, or terrain that could contribute to the livability of the new home. Once this is fleshed out, the general floor plan and shape of the home can be determined, followed by creating the layout and floor plans, and finally selecting the finish materials.

Building a custom home that is tailor-fitted to your personal needs takes time. A few rounds of drawings must be created, all the interior finishes and fixtures need to be selected, and the exterior has to be just right. There are a lot of decisions to be made and rushing through all of these is generally not ideal.

How can this phase move more quickly?

Aside from the work that must be completed by your custom home builder, you will have work to do as well – mainly in the form of making decisions! To keep your project cruising, completing your to-dos for the project in a timely manner is paramount. Although your builder will be there to guide you, at the end of the day it is on you to review their design recommendations and make final decisions. Staying on top of your obligations and being able to make decisions in an efficient manner will help expedite the timeline of this phase.

Begin researching and brainstorming different styles to help determine what you like before beginning the design process will help you make decisions and allow for the overall design of your custom home to move more quickly. This will allow you to not only align with your fellow decision-makers (your partner and even sometimes kids have an opinion too!) but also to allow you to better understand and articulate what you really like when you begin working with the designers on your build team.

In most cases, working with a custom home builder that is a design-build firm will be your most efficient option for moving along this portion of the home build more quickly. These companies have an aligned team with both an architect and interior designers to guide you down the path of what’s the right style for you. Working with a build partner like this can also help you understand what the costs are going to be while you’re making design decisions so you don’t have to waste time backtracking on excessive design redraws.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Permit For Your New Construction Home?

1 – 5 Months

Depending on the permitting body, or bodies, with jurisdiction over your project, permitting timelines can vary quite a bit. A typical permitting process will usually take one to three months, although it may take as long as five months if there are multiple reviewing bodies or you are building in a larger village or city with more levels of red tape.

What this step entails and why does it take this long?

The usual sequence of events takes your plans through three levels of review: zoning, architectural, and engineering and each of these steps have its own set of codes and requirements that must be fulfilled.

After getting submitted, almost all project plans go through at least one or two rounds of permit corrections. This part of the process entails your custom home builder receiving review comments and then having to coordinate with the architect and engineers to come up with solutions that meet the letter of the code as well as maintain a realistic build, both in scope and budget.

Illinois has more individual units of government than any other state. Just in the Chicagoland area alone, there are hundreds of municipalities, villages, cities, counties, and townships. Each of these have their own set of complicated rules and regulations that govern the building requirements and codes that must be met on each project. These plan reviewers, engineers, community development personnel, and the multitude of regulatory professionals who may touch your project are the gatekeepers to the almighty building permit. Thus, creating a lot of red tape to slow down the time it takes to get an approved permit to build your custom home.

How can this phase move more quickly?

Make sure you’re working with an experienced build team that has experience working with different municipalities. Although almost all permits will require a couple of rounds of revisions, an experienced home build team will have a good idea of what items the reviewers are looking for and can avoid making excessive rounds of permit revisions. Having relationships with the officials who are responsible for moving your project through this maze of a process that can advocate for a quick turn-around will also help expedite things for you.

How Long Does The Construction Of The Custom Home Take?

6 – 8 Months

Depending on the preparation that was completed prior to the start of construction and the competence of your builder, a typical custom home build project should take approximately six to eight months from the start of the actual build portion of the process through the completion of your custom home.

What this step entails and why does it take this long?

There are generally over 15 trades comprised of more than 35 individual workers required to build a home that is composed of thousands of individual pieces. Since no custom home is exactly alike, there will be a learning curve for each trade that needs to complete their portion of the work. Each custom home will have it’s own unique products, installed in unique locations, throughout the unique configuration of your custom home. Since building a custom home does not consist of simply plugging part A into part B, it takes critical thinking and time to strategize the installation and construction of the different components of the home.

Although having multiple trades working on the home at the same time is standard practice, there is a finite amount of trades that can be working on the home at once since there is ultimately a finite amount of space for these folks to be working in. Thus, trades must be staggered and spread throughout the timeline to be able to effectively complete their portion of the home build.

Factors such as weather conditions and inspections can both have implications on the timeline to build your custom home. These inevitable aspects must be handled strategically by your home builder to keep your project on track. Remember, successfully building a custom home is not for amateurs!

How can this phase move more quickly?

Your custom home builder should have a healthy respect for the “5 P’s” – proper planning prevents poor performance. Working with a builder that has a comprehensive pre-construction process to nail down all the elements of the home before building is a great way to properly prepare your project and will give you a leg up on any possible delays. This includes finalizing all aspects of the design including selecting all finishes and fixtures so that the project schedule will not be delayed by having to make decisions during the build or waiting on unplanned, long delivery times. This will also allow the builder to properly set reliable build schedules and set up the necessary trades with realistic start dates.

The best of the best custom home builders will also utilize BIM software. BIM software allows your builder to virtually construct the home in 3D before actually building it in the field. Industry-leading build teams are currently using this software so that they can understand how to remedy field issues before the project even begins, thus ensuring a more efficient timeline to construct your custom home.

How Long Does It Take To Get Lending To Build My Custom Home?

1 – 2 Months

From start to finish, the time to actually finalize the funding of a construction loan will take about 1 to 2 months. To begin this step, plans and specifications must be completed by your builder for the construction lender to officially begin the process of securing funding for your build.

What this step entails and why does it take this long?

There are many parties involved in this process including, but not limited to, you, your lender, builder, real estate agent, appraiser, underwriters, and title company. Should everything be properly prepared and accurate, the longest step in this process is the appraisal. The appraiser usually needs 2-3 weeks to conduct their analysis and provide a valuation for your new home.

How can this phase move more quickly?

The first step in terms of lending would be to get a pre-approval as early as possible so that you have a clear understanding of your budget and cash-to-close scenarios early in the process. This will allow you and your build team to align on financial goals for your project and avoid any missteps by designing the right project around what you can actually spend.

Also, begin submitting your personal documents for your lender early. Initially many of the required documents will be coming directly from you in the form of employment info, income details, and availability of funds for initial equity requirements. Although accountability for providing all documentation needed will ultimately live with you, working with the right build partner will take a tremendous weight from this burden as they can work directly with your lender and will be properly prepared to ensure the accurate and appropriate materials are provided when necessary.

Working with a builder that is able to produce high quality, accurate plans and specifications can also move this part of the process along much more quickly. There are many attributes and market variables that the appraiser will be assessing in their analysis, so having effective plans and specifications is crucial to ensuring success in the initial loan funding as well as streamlining the final appraisal approval at the end of construction.

Working with a lender you have a previous relationship with may seem like a good idea but might not always be your best option if they do not specialize in construction loans. For new construction builds you should always seek to work with a new construction lender directly as they will have the most options and experience to appropriately take you through the intricacies of construction loan financing.

Wrap Up

As you can see, there is quite a bit of variation in how long it can take to build your custom home. We hope this helped paint a much clearer picture on all that a home build encompasses. To recap, building a custom home will typically take anywhere between one year to two and a half years.

Before this piece ends – we do want to address a question you may be asking after reading through this blog.

Why doesn’t this total timeline jive with the total months listed above for each phase?

This is because, if done properly – steps such as permitting and lending can generally overlap the other phases and can be done simultaneously while other steps are being completed. This is a best practice in the industry and is a must for your build to be able to move along at a decent pace.

You can always contact us here to request a free, no obligation design and pricing consultation!

About BrightLeaf

BrightLeaf is an award-winning, custom home builder specializing in sustainable, modern energy-efficient homes as well as remodeling and renovations. We are also a  full-service real estate brokerage that can help you buy and sell in the Greater Chicagoland Area.

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