Building On the Coast

Welcome to paradise! Now that you've made your dream of owning a property on the coast a reality, you've probably figured out that building a home on or near the ocean, harbor, marsh, lake or river is a little more complicated than in landlocked locales. Not to worry. While you (or your builder) will have to navigate some building codes that you may be unfamiliar with, the good news is you'll be traveling down a path that many have traveled down before. So, while it may cost a tad more per square foot, and it may take several months longer to complete, you'll find that your coastal building project isn't that scary after all. In the Coastal Building Info section, you'll find many useful resources for helping you plan and organize your coastal homebuilding project.

Seven Steps to Building Success
Jeff Evans

If you're not sure how to begin the process of building your new home on the coast, read on! The following seven steps will help you get started...

1) Gather set back information about your building lot. This will guide you in determining the maximum footprint for your home plan. This is a great place to start because it will help you eliminate many plans that won't fit on your lot.

2) Make a list of "must haves." These may include design features such as a wraparound porch, master bedroom on the main level, an inverted floor plan (living space on the upper floor, bedrooms on the lower floor), decks oriented toward the view side of your lot, an island in the kitchen, etc. Your must haves should include a list of desirable architectural styles. Your preferences should take into consideration the region and neighborhood where you'll be building. Being different is good. Being insanely different will make the neighbors mad and probably won't look very good in a year or two. Neo-traditional is in style (classic architecture with a modern twist). Or maybe Mediterranean works best. Take pictures of your favorite homes. Look online for more favorites. You'll hone in on an architectural style that fits you just right. You'll find the floor plan that flows just right and soon you'll be ready to...

3) Choose a plan. You've done all the research. You know what you want. Just remember, almost everyone who purchases a stock plan makes modifications to the plan. If you can find a plan that meets 90% of your needs, in most cases you can modify the plan to work for you.

4) Choose a designer, architect or engineer to assist you in reviewing the plan for adherence to your local building codes. We generally recommend that you work with a local design professional as they will have the best working knowledge of your building codes. Your design professional will be well versed in what your building department requires for permitting. For instance, many coastal municipalities are now requiring that the foundation sheet be certified by a licensed engineer. In other instances, you amy find that your building department will allow a builder to assist you with these services. Whatever your code dictates we highly recommend that you avoid going it alone during this stage of planning. Rely on your local building or design professionals to assist you with this phase.

5) Choose a builder. Many times, the designer or architect who assisted you with making modifications can recommend a reputable builder for your project. If not, call three local real estate offices and ask them to name the five best builders in the area. You'll quickly learn which builders are most highly regarded. You may want to hire a builder and design professional at the same time so that when plan changes can be discussed in a roundtable fashion. Many times builders can recommend a more realistic and practicle solution to a design challenge.

6) Submit your plans for approval to your local building department and/or your communities' Architectural Review Board (ARB). We've said it before, but: rely on the building and design profesionals you've hired to guide you through this process. In many municipalities, this process is easy and painless. In others, not so easy. Those who have walked down the path before you can provide invaluable guidance and counsel.

7) Get building!

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