The Complete Checklist for Building a New House in Oregon

Building your own custom home can be exciting and very satisfying. For most homeowners, however, undergoing custom home construction is unfamiliar territory. Here is our checklist so you don’t miss any important steps.

1.   Should you build or buy?

There’s something incredibly fulfilling about building a dream custom home built for you. But will the benefits outweigh the effort to build? One way to know is by writing out your vision and listing what you want in a custom home. What features are you looking for that are difficult to find in the real estate market?

the front of a luxury home in portland
A new home construction project in Portland, which was previously an empty lot. Architect: Scott Edwards Architecture

2.   Set a realistic budget

Know all your potential costs before you purchase your land. The costs of new home construction include the land, any land development such as utilities or roadwork, development services fees, building permits, architectural and engineering fees, and builder costs.

Through an experienced, detail-oriented builder who works closely with an architect, you should be able to determine a solid budget. Expect a new quality custom home to be as low as $350 per square foot, but costs can go higher, especially if you want a modern style or certain luxury home features. Read our article about costs here.

Before you buy any land, it’s best to identify your financing options and determine how much you can borrow for a construction loan.

3.   Buy the land for a custom home

When choosing property for a custom home, the location, schools, neighborhood, and its general attractiveness are all important. Your property also needs to be verified by professionals as buildable and you should be informed of any land-use regulations such as zoning.

Some properties may be “buildable” but require extra costs to prepare the site. Site costs can vary widely due to the land’s soil, drainage, setbacks, length of the driveway, need for a septic system, slope characteristics, need for retaining walls, or the city’s development requirements. Get an expert opinion on site costs before purchasing the land.

Some developers sell property with the expectation that they will build you your custom home. Before you buy the land, know the advantages and disadvantages of using a design-build contractor versus an independent contractor. Also, we recommend you do your research to find a quality home builder. 

overhead view of houses and backyards in portland oregon
An aerial view before construction. Architect: Giulietti Schouten Weber Architects | Photography: KuDa Photography

4.   Know the realistic timing

It takes time to build a home, but it can be worth the wait. A popular architect may have a waiting period before they can start on your design. Once the drawings are complete, there will be a waiting period before you receive approval of a residential permit and another waiting period before your builder can start construction. Once construction begins, a custom home can take 8 months to over a year to build, depending on the home.

5.   Hiring a residential architect

Choose your architect carefully by doing your research ahead of time and knowing what questions to ask. An excellent architect will design within your construction budget and maximize your site for views, privacy, and light, while concurrently deeply listening to what is important to you. Learn the best tips on how to choose an architect.

6.   Know your design preferences

To help you build the home of your dreams, your architect will most likely ask you for your preferences in architectural styles and your preferences in home features. Here are some references for inspirational ideas:

Architectural styles

Kitchen cabinets

Kitchen countertops

Luxury features


Smart home features

Windows and window walls

Mechanical Electrical & Plumbing

7.   Hiring a home builder

Carefully choosing a quality builder is also very important. Your architect will work as a team with your builder, so look for a builder who values architects for their design, homeowner advocacy and general insights. A good builder knows how to manage and control your construction costs while building a quality home. Make sure you get detailed information on the costs before you finalize your builder.

8.   Seek financing

You will need to secure a construction loan, which will be later converted into a mortgage once you are given an occupancy permit. Some lenders offer automatic conversions to standard mortgage loans once construction is finalized.

9.   Anticipate your time during construction

From electrical outlet locations and wall trim details to final product selections and more, there are numerous small decisions to make during construction. If you want your home to be as personalized to you as possible, expect to make yourself available from time-to-time to provide input during construction. Ask your builder and architect what to expect and how they will communicate with you during each phase of construction.

Communication with your architect and builder and providing your input during each phase of construction, even for the small details, is an important part of a successful project. Here, tile backsplash installation in this kitchen is underway.

10. Final walk-through

An average builder will do a final walk-through before you move in and make sure you are satisfied with all the work, while an excellent builder will follow up with you after you have settled into your home and ask if there is anything that is not up to your satisfaction.

Tell us about what’s important to you.

If you’re planning on building a custom home and have questions about your project, we’d be happy to answer your questions. We’re experts at ground-up construction and we seek to build each project on schedule and on budget; always with top-notch quality results. We solely work with independent architects and designers, and we build long-term lasting relationships.

Contact us

We’d love to meet you. Contact us or call us at (503) 460-7203 with questions you have, or ask us about our philosophy, experience, or any other question that is on your mind.