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The Contruction Process


It is time to tackle a new language when you sign the construction agreement. The language is boring, confusing and has evolved over hundreds of years. Its common name is Legalese. In spite of all the cons of this language, it does convey specific meanings that will bind the parties of a construction agreement. So, go ahead and read the construction agreement. Then give it to your lawyer just in case. You don't want any surprises.

Construction agreements vary in form, length, content and print size. Expect standard elements such as the names of the parties, the date and signatures to show up in every construction agreement. Take a closer look at the key elements of the Construction Agreement.

Most construction agreements contain clauses covering standard legalities. The “entire agreement” clause is one of the most significant. It says that only what is in writing counts. The construction agreement should contain all agreements. In fairness to yourself and Congressional Design / Build, do not rely on human memory regarding undocumented promises. Other miscellaneous clauses might include information such as the following:

The construction agreement is in force only when all named parties have signed it. The meeting to go over all the paperwork and sign everything can take several hours. Prepare for it by asking to review the paperwork and note any questions you have. Read everything before you sign it. This paperwork is the official beginning of building your new home.

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Assembling Your Team

The following are important areas that must be addressed to ensure a successful home building experience. Congressional Design / Build team will cover each point with you.


Whether you will be paying cash or working with a lender, determining your budget from the beginning is wise. Consider the tax implications of your purchase. Compare loans from two or more sources. Congressional Design / Build can help you determine a preliminary budget and point you in the right direction for financing.


Congressional Design / Build will transform your home plans into reality. We assist with your plans and specifications, establish a budget, select trade contractors and material suppliers, schedule the work and oversee each step of construction. After moving in, we will provide a limited warranty covering materials and workmanship.


Depending on the terms of your agreement or the relationship between Congressional Design / Build and home designer, the architect may remain involved throughout construction or may simply develop the plans and then serve as a consultant if questions arise. The terms of your written agreement with the architect and Congressional Design / Build should cover this point.

House Plans

Congressional Design / Build can guide you in several different directions when it comes to choosing a house plan. House plans are intellectual property and permission must be obtained to use the plans. Make sure you have the right to use the plans. This usually involves a fee. Plan ownership should be addressed in your contract documents.

Interior Design

The interior designer coordinates design details, finishes and color selections for your home's interior. The same designer can assist you in selecting such things as window coverings and furnishings after you move into your home. You can build a long-lasting relationship with this team member.

Landscape Architect

A landscape architect can help you design a yard that perfectly fits your taste and lifestyle. Decisions about placement of your home on the lot, preservation of trees and configuration of the drive and walks affect your landscape plan and its cost. If you are building in a covenant-protected community, make certain that the landscape designer is familiar with the association's requirements and approval process.

Choosing a Site for Your New Home

Your design team may help you select a location for your new home. They may know of sites in your price range with the characteristics needed for your home plan. The feasibility of the site for the style of your home is an important issue. An architect's or builder's experience studying lots, evaluating plans and determining how the two might fit together can provide you with options you might overlook.

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Determining Your Assets

List all forms of available cash. You should include checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit near maturity. Buyers typically need cash for loan application fees, the downpayment, closing costs and move-in expenses. Consider assets you can turn into cash, such as the equity in a home you already own. Other assets might include a cash gift from a family member, an inheritance, maturing bonds or the cash value of an insurance policy. If you are a first-time buyer you may also use an IRA or 401(K) to help secure the loan, but consult a tax professional before doing so.

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The Construction Schedule

You are anxious to move in once you’ve decided to build, but remember the specific move-in date is a moving target due to many factors beyond Congressional Design Build control. Before construction can begin, HomeCrafters has several important tasks to accomplish that involve outside people. Depending on how much construction is occurring in our area, trade contractors need varying lengths of lead-time or notice before working on your home. Lead times change constantly. Sometimes a trade completes its work ahead of schedule. The next trade has an assigned time that Congressional Design Build cannot change on short notice. Sometimes a trade contractor arrives late because work at another site took longer than expected. One late trade can force Congressional Design Build to reschedule several others. Because of that rescheduling, your home may lose its place in line with one of the affected trade contractors. You can help by completing your selections as early as possible and following Congressional Design Build guidelines for requesting change orders.

If you make structural changes to the plans, the revisions may take days or weeks and they must be made before you apply for the building permit. In most cases permits must be procured. This can take a few minutes or many weeks depending upon the locality. The building department that issues the permit normally inspects the work as it progresses. Construction on the home cannot continue until it passes the required inspections at various stages of completion. Few homes go through construction without an inspector citing something.

Other Factors That Affect Scheduling

Weather is one obvious factor. Until the home is closed in, precipitation, high winds or low temperatures can stop all work. Exterior work is always subject to weather conditions.

Materials may not arrive on time. The arrival of back-ordered or custom-made items is especially unpredictable. Sometimes shipments arrive incomplete or damaged.

Some portions of the work move quickly while other more-detailed tasks move slowly.

Work may be progressing quite well even though you don’t see much change.

If you are in a covenant-protected community, it will probably be necessary to have the plans approved by the homeowners association design review committee. They usually meet once a month.

Congressional Design Build is involved with your home on a daily basis. We frequently check the work at the site, update the schedule, answer questions from the trade contractors, and check on material deliveries. When you are asked to clarify details, please respond quickly to prevent delays. If these scheduling delays cause you concern, remember that Congressional Design Build works with these circumstances every day. All existing homes were subject to the same factors.

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Developing The Budget

What each buyer must know is that the cost of every custom built home fluctuates with the design choices made and the interaction of design elements; few decisions operate in isolation. For instance, deciding that you want a side-entry garage can affect foundation, windows, exterior trim, and landscaping costs. It is necessary for you, as the potential homeowner, to select what you want before the budget can be determined.

Once drawings and specifications are finalized, we can begin the pricing process.Congressional Design Build does this by sending copies of your house plans and specifications to trade contractors and suppliers for bids.

Congressional Design Build must represent everything in the house budget for the buyer to obtain construction financing, but you may not have finalized all selections. You and HomeCrafters may agree to use allowances. An allowance is the estimated cost of the listed item. If the cost of your selection exceeds the allowance, you will pay the difference in cash at the time you finalize the choice. An alternative is to ask your lender to approve a higher mortgage amount and include the cost in your financing.

Precise pricing is impossible for some categories. For example, on some sites, until the excavator begins digging no one knows what conditions exist. Ground water or rock can impact the cost of digging the foundation. The buyer will pay the difference between the estimate for such work and the actual cost to Congressional Design Build. Most construction agreements refer to such costs as reimbursable expenses.

The construction budget evolves as prices come in from trades and suppliers. Permits, fees, taxes, insurance and allowances are entered. HomeCrafters include a contingency amount, usually two to five percent. They calculate and include commissions for real estate agents and, if applicable, Congressional Design Build overhead and margin.

The more customized your home, the more complex this pricing process. A well-done budget is detailed, comprehensive and realistic. This process can take several weeks. When complete, the budget is part of the construction agreement and part of the loan application package.

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Change Orders

Although you have given a lot of thought to designing your home, you may as most people, change your mind about the specifications. You are spending money on the items that are most important to you. For this reason, Congressional Design Build tries to accommodate these changes. The requested change may seem simple, but in any event a change order must be generated. Changes without written authorization from Congressional Design Build are prohibited.

Once the original specifications are approved by both Congressional Design Build and you, the homeowner, a complex system of purchasing and scheduling begins. Changes made after this point affect everything down the line. The construction of a new house usually involves as many as 50 suppliers and trade contractors. Changes may affect one or all of these people depending upon the change and its complexity. This information is not to discourage you from making changes. Rather,Congressional Design Build wants you to understand the procedure.

Keep the following points in mind when making changes:

All changes must be made in writing. A well-written change order should include the following information:

Pricing changes may take minutes or weeks depending upon the complexity and the number of people involved. You will want to know the cost of the change in time and dollars before making your final decision. Meanwhile, construction will continue on your home.

Expect to pay for the changes when you approve them because they were unplanned in the original estimates. You can request that these amounts be credited at closing if your permanent loan amount allows for the higher total.

Although changes are possible during the building process, once blueprints have been drawn, engineering completed and a building permit obtained, even a minor change can necessitate redrawing, re-engineering, and re-approval by the building department and homeowners association - costing both time and money. Take full advantage of your design meetings to arrive at a plan that expresses your dream home and minimize changes to avoid extra costs or extending your home's construction schedule.

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Moving Preparation Checklist

Many items on this list should be taken care of well before the move date. Begin working on this list one to two months prior to your move.

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Choosing a House Plan

Sources of Plans

House plans are available for your review in a variety of formats. HomeCrafters can provide you with the following options for you to review house plans:

If you elect to develop a one-of-a-kind custom plan, you may assemble a team including an architect and a interior designer. Or perhaps you will choose a design-build firm, like Congressional Design Build, that combines these services in one company.

Design-build firms often use a design agreement. The agreements vary but typically outline the design process in three steps beginning with conceptualizing, followed by the development of working drawings and ending with finished blueprints and specifications.

Whether you begin from scratch or modify existing plans that are close to what you want, the design process involves many meetings. Between meetings, the design team collects information for you, revises the working drawings and updates specifications. Each time you meet you should be getting closer to your final plans.

Purchasing the Plans

Decide if you want to own the plans. Purchasing the plans for use to build your home and purchasing the rights to the plans are two different things. When you purchase the plans you are able to use them, but others may also use that same plan. When you purchase the rights to the house plans, the plans belong to you and no one else may use your exact plan. Unless you purchase the rights, the plans belong to the design firm. Read carefully all agreements pertaining to the plans because details will vary from firm to firm.

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Closing is the last step before you own your home. At this point, Congressional Design Build transfers ownership to you. Expect several days notice for the closing appointment. Whoever sets the time should confirm the location with you. Closings can take place at one of several locations. Location may be irrelevant if you partake in an escrow closing. Whether you close in escrow or in person, you will find that preparation is the key.

A settlement agent will organize the closing, but in the weeks before there is much for you to do. You will find that last minute glitches are calmly resolved when you address the closing details early in the game.

You should also be aware of the transactions that occur during closing. During this phase your loan is finalized, money is distributed to the appropriate people and firms, the title is transferred on the loan and it is recorded. Several closing documents move back and forth across the table. The closing process lasts approximately 45 to 95 minutes.

Of course, there is always the issue of cost. If you are well prepared closing expenses will not catch you by surprise.

Although closings vary by region and by type of financing, the goal is to transfer ownership of your new home from Congressional Design Bulid to you. Ultimately you have the house keys, and the time has come for you to enjoy your new home.

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Addressing The Closing Details


You need to obtain and present proof of homeowner’s insurance. Your insurance agent will have a standardized form for this purpose. Arrange for proof of insurance no later than three weeks before the expected closing date. This insurance policy should also list your lender as insured. Use the lender’s complete legal name in this reference. Your insurance agent will need the name and phone number of your lender and will want to know the location of the nearest fire hydrant, if you are serviced by the city fire department, the type of materials used to construct the home and the price of your home.


Your goal is to have service provided in your name beginning as near to the date of the closing as possible. The utility companies may shut off service if Congressional Design Build name is removed from the account without your name taking its place. Make no assumptions about the availability of telephone service and do not rely on the experience of your new neighbors. Work loads change and lead times fluctuate. Call early to avoid inconvenience. Cable TV may not be available until a predetermined number of homes are occupied in a new area.

Unresolved Issues

Congressional Design Build and your lender may attend the closing but are not required to do so. Closing agents are not authorized to negotiate or make representations on behalf of any party involved in the closing. Finalize all agreements before closing. You are not ready to close if any issues remain unresolved.

Lender Conditions or Contingencies

Your loan approval may have included one or more contingencies. You must satisfy all loan conditions in order to close. For example, if closing the sale on a previous residence was a condition of loan approval, you will need copies of those closing documents to close on your new home.

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Closing Documents

At closing you sign and receive the documents necessary to transfer the new home to you and to close the loan from the mortgage company. The standard documents include the following:


The deed conveys the home and lot to you, subject only to permitted exceptions such as a recorded easement.

Promissory Note

This note is from you, payable to the lender in the principal amount of the loan plus interest.

Mortgage or Deed of Trust

This document encumbers your home as security for repayment of the promissory note.

Title Insurance Commitment

The title insurance company will mail the actual policy several weeks following the closing. When you receive this policy, keep it in a safe place with your other important papers. What you receive at closing is a promise that the insurance company will issue the policy.

Congressional Design Build Limited Warranty or Insurance-Backed Limited Warranty

Unless you move into your home early under a rental agreement with Congressional Design Build, the limited warranty begins as of the date of closing.

Homeowners Association Documents

If your new home is in a covenant-protected community, you will also see homeowners association covenants, conditions and restrictions, the association by-laws and articles of incorporation at closing.

In addition to these standard items, the lender, title company or Congressional Design Build may ask you to sign other documents.

The process for closing is simpler if you already owned your lot. You signed much of the paperwork described here when you closed on your lot purchase. Similarly, some custom home construction loans, which go by names such as one-time close, combination loan or express loan, convert to a permanent mortgage without a second closing.

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Closing Expenses

The closing agent itemizes the charges and credits for closing on a standardized form called a Settlement Statement. The form lists standard items and has blank lines for additional entries specific to your purchase. Not every line applies to every closing.

The Final Number

The amount of money you must bring to closing includes items such as property tax and interest on your new loan. These items are subject to be prorated and change depending on the exact date of closing. Therefore the closing agent cannot calculate the total until the closing date is set. A federal law, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) provides you with the right to see the final figures 24 hours before closing. Just ask the closing agent for them.

Form of Payment

Ask your lender whether to bring cash or certified funds to the closing. Allow time to obtain these funds. Remember that banks may place holds on funds moving to your account from another source. Check with your closing agent regarding how to make out the check. You can usually cover minor, last minute adjustments in cost with your personal check.

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As you turn the page in a new chapter of your life remember the needs and preferences of your household. Think about work, school, hobbies, entertaining and holidays. Will your selections accommodate your lifestyle in five to ten years? Have fun thinking of all the “what ifs” in choosing a house and all of the items that go with it. Your goal is to find the right balance of aesthetics, function and maintenance for your household. The following guidelines should be helpful.

Be certain you understand which items are included in the base price of your home. These are referred to as standard features. All homes showcase some optional and upgrade items. Be clear on what comes with your home and which items offer you additional selections at additional costs.

The lists of optional items evolve as you make specific requests. Congressional Design Build maintains current pricing of these items for everyone’s convenience. Options are items added to the home. They are not part of the original estimate. Some examples of options are an air cleaner, a deck or a three-car instead of a two-car garage.

Your taste or lifestyle may make it appropriate to upgrade some items for your new home. Common upgrades include carpet, countertops and bath fixtures. Like options, upgrades offer you the opportunity to turn a general house plan into a special home.

Selection forms will be provided to you. These list choices you will need to make regarding your floor plan. Work on finalizing your selections within the time frame provided by Congressional Design Build.

When selections are complete and the start of construction is near, Congressional Design Build offers their homebuyers an opportunity to review their home plans, selections and changes with the construction manager. This is known as the pre-construction conference. Use this opportunity to confirm that everything you ordered is correctly described in the paperwork.

New homes are one of the last hand-crafted products that today’s consumers purchase. They combine art, science and hard work. Each one is unique and some variations are to be expected. You can expect variations in any home.

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Building in a Covenant Protected Community

Many new homes are built in covenant-protected communities. The builder or developer establishes an association of the homeowners in the community. Within that association, the design review committee uses criteria established by the association to review home plans. The goal is to assure that homes in the community meet agreed-upon standards affecting size, design, exterior finish materials, colors and height.

If your new home will be in a covenant-protected community, be certain you have a copy of all restrictions, rules and procedures. Give a copy of these rules to your design firm, if you have one, and a copy to Congressional Design Build. This will help to avoid expensive delays or surprises that could crop up later.

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Design Agreement

A design agreement, also called a pre-construction or professional services agreement, defines the working relationship between you and your design team. A design agreement does not commit you to build the home, but describes the steps followed to create your home plans. The price of the home appears in the design agreement along with a draw schedule as determined by the construction lender. A draw schedule sets out the timetable and procedures for paying bills during construction.

Typically, three phases are covered in a design agreement: design schematics, preliminary design and working drawings. You review each phase of the work and discuss desired refinements. Each phase may require several meetings. Between meetings you make choices, list questions and continue to imagine your new home.

Design Schematics

The design process begins with rough sketches called schematics usually drawn at 1/8" scale. Each 1/8" represents a foot; a wall that will be eight feet long is one inch long on these sketches. These drawings show the style, size and layout of the home you want. Sketches show how the home fits on the lot and suggest elevations.

Preliminary Design

After incorporating your comments about the schematic design, the design team redraws the home, typically at ¼"scale. These larger drawings show more detail in both floor plan and elevations. Meetings include discussion of materials and their relative costs.

Working Drawings

These plans include fully dimensioned drawings and details required for the building permit. Besides the floor plans and elevations, working drawings include a foundation plan, electrical details, cabinet layouts and framing layouts for floors, walls and roof. Using these, the builder can obtain prices from trades and suppliers to develop a budget.

Computer-Aided Design

The use of computer-aided design (CAD) is increasing. Congressional Design Build currently uses this technology to allow you to quickly see the results of changes you are considering. Depending on the software in use, both 2- and 3-dimensional viewing is possible. Changes such as adding a wall, moving windows or changing room sizes can be made in a few key strokes. The CAD operator inputs your requirements and the system identifies the plans Congressional Design Build has that meet, or nearly meet, your criteria.

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Design Choices

To get started, print our helpful checklist of design choices.

Exterior Elevations

Cape Cod

Stair Configuration





Single hung
Double hung
Single glass or
Double glass or
Triple glass

Drywall finish

Flat or
Square corners or
Rounded corners

Interior trim

Paint or
Cased entry ways
Cased windows
Crown mold
Chair rail
Picture panels
Plate rail 10-Built-ins
Door style

Wall finish

Wallpaper borders


Marble or
Man-made marble
Edge detail
Tile back-splash


Wood or
Knobs or
Drawer pulls
Glass doors
Roll out shelves
European (concealed) hinges
Recycling bins

Floor coverings

Sheet or


Indirect lighting
Work area lighting
Display lighting
Landscape lighting

Plumbing fixtures


Rooms and Room Sizes

Living room________ sq. ft.
Great room________ sq. ft.
Kitchen________ sq. ft.
Snack bar
Nook________ sq. ft.
Formal dining room____ sq. ft.
Butler's pantry________ sq. ft.
Family room________ sq. ft.
Media pre-wire
Fireplace or
Wood burning stove
Master bedroom_______ sq. ft.
Main floor master
Sitting area
Breakfast bar
Dressing room
Number of secondary bedrooms________
2nd Bedroom_______ sq. ft.
3rd Bedroom________ sq. ft.
Guest bedroom_____ sq. ft.
Number of bathrooms_______
Master Bathroom____ sq. ft.
2nd Bathroom_______ sq. ft.
3rd Bathroom_______ sq. ft.
Library________ sq. ft.
Den________ sq. ft.
Home office________ sq. ft.
Sun room________ sq. ft.
Laundry room________ sq. ft.
Mud room________ sq. ft.
Number of closets______


Two car or Three car
Side entry
Extra storage

Finish basement

Plumbing for future use
Phone and electrical for future use


Instant hot water
Water filter


Single story or
Separate entrances
Single or
Glass Inserts
Wood or
Fiberglass or

Mechanical Systems

Heat source
Gas forced air furnace
Heat pump
Hot water heat
Radiant heat
Whole-house fan
Air cleaner
Water heater
Re-circulating pump
Electrical service
Phone service
Cable service
Security system
Wall vacuum
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