How to Design and Build Your Dream Home

L Looking to build your own Dream Home? You’re in the right place! Learn about building your own dream inner-city infill home in and around Calgary, Alberta, Canada!

B Building your home can be a very intimidating process and probably the most expensive purchase of your life! Remember why you are planning to build your own home. Is this something that you’ve always wanted? Building your dream home could be the most exciting and rewarding opportunity to do for you and your family. Plan, do your research, and work with a reputable company in the design and build stage!
If this is something that you are ready to take on, continue reading below. This guide may help you avoid any costly mistakes when building your home.
1 Budget: Develop a generous budget range. A budget is important to determine what you are comfortable with for the cost of the land and the cost of the build. At this stage, determine your wish list of must-haves in your new home. A budget range should include and potential cost overruns, ideally, a minimum of a 10% buffer of the total project cost should be included in your budget. SMART goals are an important step in this process (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely). Working with a Mortgage Broker to see if this process is doable is important as budgets and financing can change. Some builders will not work with you until this process is completed. This does not need you will fund the project completely upfront, but it’s important to discover what you are able to afford comfortably.
Looking online for inspiration is a great way to visualize and to share your idea with your designer. Pinterest and Houzz are great places to help you plan your design. Working with a designer would be a great way to bring your ideas to reality. I prefer to personally look through magazines and cut out homes that I like and put them on a dream board.
2 Location: Have you decided where you would like to build? Could you build your dream home on a lot that you already own? If you have already had the lot you want to build on, you can skip this step. Location is very important as you establish roots in a community. What is important for the community that you want to build? Is the home you want to build close to work (or a shorter commute to the core), is there a nearby school for the kids, close to the downtown core, proximity to the airport, easy access into and out of the community, closer to the mountains? There can be a lot of factors for a location that is community dependent. Now, digging a little deeper, if you have found your ideal community, have you looked into if it is a busy street, especially if it is an older community, have you looked at the neighbours, is it in a community that is close to a bar or a back alleyway that looks dark and a lot of vandalism? Does the street have a lot of old homes or new homes or a mix of both? In your community, are there a lot more townhouses, single detached dwellings, or attached homes (i.e. Duplexes?). These are all important questions to ask when looking at the location. Is there a certain height that you want to build your home? Neighbours and maximum building height will determine what you can build. If all your neighbours are bungalows, you may have to justify why you want to build a three-storey home.
Not all lots can be built on. It is important to look at the zoning and active permits within the community. If there is an old house on the property, asbestos abatement is required prior to demolishing the home, some builders can hire a company to move/relocate your homes. Corner lots tend to be more desirable. Be sure to bring these questions to your builder or designer as they can work with the City of Calgary Planning and Development Department to ensure a smoother transition and a more successful build process.
3 Work with a REALTOR® to find your perfect lot. We at Calgary Infills Guide work with Builders and can find you the perfect lot if you have an idea for what you are looking for in regards to location, the size of your future home, and other things that you may be looking for (i.e. views of mountains, green space, views of downtown). We also work with designers and builders to ensure what we can build on the land prior to the purchase. In a hot market, we may not have as much time to research, hence why now is a great time to build as there is less competition for land (or homes ready to be torn down).
4 Research a builder that you want to work with. Some builders and designers specialize in certain home designs and features. Check out their portfolio of work in the past. If they have designed similar homes to what you are looking for, that is a good indication that it can be easier to visualize what you are building. All builders are different and you want to work with a builder that fits your personality and your style. There are over 100 inner-city builders in the city of Calgary. It is important to choose a reputable builder that is stable but also can build you your home in a timely manner. Does the builder have the software or a process to update you regularly on the progress of your home? You want to make sure that you get what you are paying for.
Be sure to discuss how the warranty process works. All new homes in Alberta are registered in the Alberta New Home Warranty Program (, does the builder do anything over and above this process? The Alberta New Home Warranty Program only covers so much. The last thing you want to worry about is the what-ifs after or during the build process.
5 Contracts, contracts, contracts. Make sure with what you are doing with a commitment with a builder is written out entirely. Have a lawyer look over the contract especially if it is a boutique builder. Ensure that there are timelines for the build, pay schedule, what is included in the home, and what would be the additional things that may not be covered by the builder. At this stage, all the kinks should be ironed out and it’s essentially a document that confirms everything that has been discussed prior to this stage.
6 This is where your dream becomes a reality. You will see the home come together quickly. Be sure to take lots of photos of this time as it will fly by quickly. Visit your build as often as you like, it is your home. Some builders may only want you to visit the home at certain times as it can be very dangerous to visit during certain stages of the home building process.
7 Move-in and host a big welcome party for friends, family, neighbours! Enjoy!

Dream Home featured image from Vicky’s Homes Edmonton