How Long Does It Take to Build a Custom Home? What You Need to Know

How long does it take to build a custom home: countryside home with a porch

Let’s get one thing clear: Renting a home means compromise. Buying a home allows you to make more specifications, but it could also mean sacrificing on size or location, being saddled with mold or asbestos, and who knows what else. So it can be said that building your own house is the only way to live in your dream home.

Home building is an exciting process — you design floor plans, build as many stories as you desire, go all out with landscaping, and can even include a luxury bathtub in your new home, if that’s your dream. When you DIY, you can customize your home to a tee. But the common thought is that the building process is very time-consuming, so a lot of prospective homeowners tend to be deterred by how long it takes to build a custom home.

Fear not: We’ll guide you on how long it takes to build a custom home and what factors determine that time period — whether you want to build a compact eco-friendly home in a short time frame or if you have more time on hand to build a sprawling castle to rival a Disney movie.

P.S. — we’ve rounded up custom homes of various sizes to add to your mood board. You’re welcome!

How Long Does It Take to Build a Custom Home in This Day and Age?

How long does it take to build a custom home: huge home in the woods

Have you always dreamed of being a homeowner? Of dipping your toe into the real estate pond? If you’ve been plagued by the concern of how long it takes to build a custom home, we’ll try to ease your worries and break it down for you.

The U.S. Census Bureau's 2020 data estimates that it takes an average of about seven months, from beginning to end, to construct a new home. This is not counting the pre-construction processes, including the stage of architectural design — these tend to take at least three to nine months before you break ground.

But there’s a way to quicken the pre-construction process of design: Turn to companies like DEN Outdoors to help you do the groundwork. Whether you’re looking for a super-compact, customizable, budget-friendly home design like the 170-square-foot Shed Tiny House or a more sprawling construction like the 1,000-square-foot Essential House, it’s worth exploring the options that are available for DIY home building.

Deciding On a Design

The design part of your home is arguably of utmost importance — afterall, you don’t want to jump into action without a plan in mind, right? We at DEN hold your hand from the very beginning — the planning and ideating stage of the building process — and offer wallet-friendly packages to help you design your custom home.

The Complete Package option for the home design of your choice includes a project brief, architectural blueprints, structural plans, a clever guide for materials and fixtures, and a premade cost breakdown spreadsheet (that your budget will thank you for). 

If, like Chandler Bing, you’re afraid of commitment and still considering your options, you can instead opt for the Starter Package. Then, once you’re ready to put a (key)ring on it, the money you spent on a Starter Package can be applied toward a Complete Package. 

And voilà, you’re equipped with all the guidance you need to get started on building your custom home.

Variables That Affect Construction Time

Now that the design part of the pre-construction process is accounted for, here are the other factors that affect how long it takes to build a custom home.

The size of your home, the style of design, and where in the U.S. you’re building will also determine the average time for your home construction. Additional variables include the size of your construction crew, the weather conditions where you’re building, the condition of the land you own, how long it takes to get building permits, and whether you have to tear anything down first or if you’re starting on a clean lot.

A safe estimation for the time it takes to build a custom home would be about seven months. If the owner is acting as contractor, the build time tends to increase to at least 12 months. If the home is completely customized, then depending on size, the average time could be anywhere from 10 months to two years.

Factors That Add to the Time It Takes to Build a Custom Home

How long does it take to build a custom home: concrete foundation of a house

It’s important to allow time for unexpected delays. Here are the factors that might increase the duration of the building process:

  • Budget: Plan out your budget and account for time to acquire a loan if you need one. Financial shortages cause serious delays in construction.
  • Lot quality: Whether you had the best realtor or found the perfect land yourself, the home-building process is affected by the quality of your land — be sure to investigate factors such as soil condition.
  • Your house plan: It’s critical to find the right architectural design for your project. The easiest way to do this is by joining forces with a company like DEN to find the right home design for your custom dream home.
  • Your team: The length of time is very dependent on those helping you build. Owner-built homes have a longer lead time, as you’ll be hiring and supervising all the subcontractors yourself. If you’re DIY-ing it, you can be quicker since you’re working on your own schedule.
  • Coordination failures: There’s a lot that can come between the schedule you have planned and the execution of those plans. While you may not be to blame, unforeseen delays could happen.
  • Weather: Ah, you may have loved the pitter-patter of rain or the scent of fresh fallen snow in your previous life, but once these factors start to influence (and delay) your construction process, you may not see the romance anymore. Unforeseen circumstances like the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 (and the related supply chain backups) could also cause delays.
  • Material shortages: If a supplier runs out of the kind of material you love, you’re either going to have to wait patiently or change your vision of what you wanted a part of your home to look like.
  • The tasks between pre-construction and building: In order to build, you need to set up temporary electricity connections, a shed for tools and materials, portable toilets for laborers, and the like. While this is not officially a part of the building process, it does add to the overall construction time.
  • Government delays: Yup, we’re talking about the dreaded paperwork — you can file it as efficiently as you like, but once it’s out of your hands, you just have to wait patiently for permits to come through.

Stages of Building: Home-Building Sequence

Clean, white interior of a house

We’re breaking down the sequence of events during construction to figure out how long it takes to build a custom home. All of these stages are contingent on dynamic factors, so take this guidance as an average and leave room for flexibility. 

No matter what your budget, these will apply to every home builder taking on a construction project:

  • Pre-construction period: This involves the architectural design period and the permit process, including completing ng paperwork like building permits and zoning approvals, as well as getting your finances in order (organizing a construction loan if need be). This could take a couple of months.
  • Lot preparation (clearing the land): Get your beautiful land ready for you to go Bob the Builder and begin with excavation. If you weren’t able to find land that doesn’t have previous construction and debris, it’ll mean breaking down things, clearing out debris, leveling out the lot, and laying the foundation. Based on the number of subcontractors you have, this could take about a month.
  • Roof framing: This is when it’ll actually start looking like a home. This task will take a month on average and includes installing wood and metal beams and frames.
  • HVAC, wiring, plumbing, siding: Workers will get to work on plumbing, electrical, and HVAC, which takes about one or two months.
  • Interior finishes: If you’ve engaged an interior designer, then you’ve reduced the amount of time because an expert will be guiding you on what to do. This is when your house starts to look like a home, with drywall and carpentry work nearly done! It will take at least two months.
  • Exterior finishes: This is when you start adding the driveways, walkways, and patio — and maybe even that little white picket fence you’ve always dreamed of. This takes at least a month.
  • Finishing work and adding fixtures: At this stage, contractors install the floors, paint, and finish the plumbing and electrical work. You can make use of sweat equity and take on some of the paint work and floor-laying yourself to quicken the pace. This stage could take up to two months.
  • Punch list and inspections: A punch list is when you’ll do a final walk-through of your new construction, so you and your contractor can catch small but necessary things you may have neglected to do. Your final inspections are the last stage of a construction project and might require a local official to do a final check. Yep, you’ll be crossing your fingers and hoping for a star sticker at this stage!

Custom Homes of Various Sizes That Will Inspire You to Start Constructing

1. The 325-square-foot house of your dreams: Say hello to The Outpost, a compact design from DEN that’s perfect for two to four people. It has an adorable little loft bedroom and ceiling windows that make you feel like you’re pretty much a part of whatever’s happening outside.

At this size, you could easily construct this home and customize to your heart’s content in less than seven months.

Small home by a lake

2. An 800-square-foot hidden gem: If you’re a family of four and you’re looking to custom build a home in the middle of a nice green patch of land, then you’ll love DEN’s A-Frame Retreat.

There are two bedrooms, with the upstairs lofted primary bedroom offering endless views of the landscape. It also has a gorgeous bathroom with a soaking tub and a fully equipped kitchen. 

3. The luxurious 920-square-feet option: Beautifully designed to accommodate four to six people, the Alpine 2.1 from DEN is equipped with both a master and a guest bedroom.

If you could walk through the home, you would see a contemporary, minimally designed construction with 24-foot-tall ceilings, a galley kitchen, and a full bathroom with soaking tub. Add to that an interior “gazing” window that looks down at the living area below, and you’re in the lap of luxury.

Quaint home surrounded by nature

Do You Have the Time It Takes to Build a Custom Home?

While finances are a big part of building a home, you can get answers to all your questions on budgeting in a different article about how much it costs to build a custom home.

Now that you have a breakdown of the construction timeline, suggested things to keep in mind during the pre-construction process, and shared homes of different sizes to pique your interest, you should be up to speed about how long it takes to build a custom home.

So are you ready to go from pouring over the designs on social media to investing time and energy in building your own?

DEN's design packages contain everything you need to get started on your dream home journey.