When it comes to home construction there are a lot of options

Drive down any suburban street in any city in North America and you will see the same homes over and over again. The only variation is that there may be a few bungalows in between a bunch of two story homes with front attached garages. This is because of the way the whole process of suburban development works.

In general, a developer will acquire a plot of land on the outskirts of town and try and get it zoned for residential development. Next, they will prepare the land and install the infrastructure such as water, sewer, power, and drainage. They may have their own subsidiary that specializes in home building, but more likely they will sell lots to several home builders. These builders will then design four or five models of homes that they can sell on their lots. Even though there may be up to twenty different models available between all the builders, most of the houses will be very similar in design and appearance. The biggest reason for this is that these builders cater to the 90% of people that want something that is a cookie cutter design. If they tried to offer something that looked a little bit different or a lot different they may not sell as many homes. It is a business for them and profits are the reason they are in business.

However, it is possible for an individual to buy one of these lots from the developer and build their dream home. The process will vary from city to city and can be a little complicated. The best way to aquire a lot is to buy a vacant lot in an older existing subdivision. Quite often the lot will be closer to the downtown core and will have an old home sitting on it. The home will have to be torn down to make way for your new home. This option is not cheap, so you need deep pockets to do this. You will need to engage the services of a local architect to design your home to reflect your creative ideas while ensuring that the home will stand for the next hundred years.

There are several things to consider if you do decide to design and build your own home.

  • You will need development, building, demolition, environmental and occupancy permits from the city
  • There may be opposition from neighbours and other people that are already living in the community if you want to erect a home that is radically different than other homes.
  • What you consider to be beautiful may not appeal to most other people in the world, so when you try to sell your dream home, you may have trouble finding a buyer.
  • It may be more difficult to obtain financing for a project that is beyond what banks normally handle.

Regardless, you should work with your architect to make sure that you have all your bases covered so that there are no surprises along the way. I have seen too many projects get bogged down with problems that could have been avoided with the proper planning and expertise.

Broder Homes is a great little builder that I have worked with near Lacombe, Alberta and they were a pleasure to work with because they like to build stuff that is different yet appealing to a lot of people. Their homes are not cookie cutter but very functional. Their current development is called Creekside Meadows in the small town of Clive Alberta.

If you don’t have the time, money, or patience to design and build yourself a new home, there are always thousands of resale homes on the MLS. As I mentioned earlier most of these are cookie cutter designs but you can find some nice old character homes in the inner city of Calgary and Edmonton. Of course some of these can turn out to be money pits, so you really need to have them inspected. Don’t do this yourself, hire a qualified home inspector to do it for you. All home inspectors in Alberta have to be licensed and it will cost around $500.  I would say that it is worth every penny if they save you from buying an old house with a bad foundation.

Here is a pretty good website from a realtor in Edmonton that you can use to look at MLS listings http://www.edmontonproperties.com/

If you want to see what is available in Calgary, this site seems to be pretty well laid out  www.carmenslistings.ca