Thursday, April 12, 2012
Thinking of Building a new Home in Vancouver? - Here is the Process
Categories:Home building in Vancouver
Have you ever thought about building your own single family home in Vancouver? This article will guide you through the four steps involved and hopefully give you a good overview so that the process does not seem as overwhelming.
Step 1 - Finding Land
The first step is obviously finding a nice piece of land to develop. There are many things to consider when searching for land. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
1) How much do I want to spend? This question is directly correlated to where in Vancouver you would like to live which is the next question. A standard 33' wide x 120' deep lot in Vancouver West is trading at $1.4M to $1.6M depending on the exact location. In Vancouver East lots, can be found for $750,000 to $1M.
2) What part of Vancouver do I want to live in? This obviously ties back to the question, "How much to spend?" Consider your lifestyle, whether you want or need to commute, proximity to ammenities and where your recreational activities take place. Other things to consider when selecting your location is the school district the land is located in.
3) How large of a house do I want to build? The size of the property will dictate the size of the home based on a formula planners refer to as Floor Space Ratio (FSR). Single family homes are limited to a 0.7 FSR. As an example, a 4,000 sq ft lot would allow for a 2,800 sq ft home (4,000 x 0.7).
4) What aspect and do I need a view? Most people prefer a south or west facing backyard so that when they arrive home they can enjoy the evening sun. For some, a view is a must-have, but look into zoning to make sure it won't be blocked if a neighbour redevelops or if trees grow up.
Step 2 - Read the Zoning Bylaw and Visit City Hall
Before removing subject conditions on your offer to purchase the land, I would recommend that you read the zoning bylaw specific to the property and visit to city hall to confirm that you will be able to build a home that suits your needs.
The most important items to consider are the front and side yard set backs and the allowable FSR. The zoning bylaws are available on the City of Vancouver's Website.
Another great website to visit is Van Map. This Geographic Information System Database (GIS) website is a great place to start your research. Here you can turn "layers" on and off to display categories such as property dimensions, electrical and water services.
Zoning bylaws Iin particular) and GIS websites can be difficult to interpret, which leads to the next step of the process - hiring an architect.
Step 3 - Hire an Architect
An architect will be needed to help you get through the city building process and acquire a building permit so that you can start construction. You will want to make sure that you hire an architect that has experience in designing single family homes. An experienced architect will know the zoning bylaw inside and out and allow you to maximize the allowable density for the property (if this is your goal). The architect will also make sure that the elevation of the structure is appealing and not "another stucco box" that we often see in Vancouver. He or she should work from the inside out - in other words, make sure that the floor plan "works" before moving on to the elevation. When it comes to the building elevation, an architect will understand how to mix building materials and colour to make your home shine.
Step 4 - Hire a Contractor
A contractor will be able to interpret the drawings produced by the architect and make sure that the home wiill meet the building code. It will be his (or her) job to make sure that the home is built on budget and on schedule. He will be responsible for hiring the sub-trades (framers, electricians, plumbers etc). A typical single family home in Vancouver can be built in under 12 months at a cost of around $200 per square foot (depending on the quality of the finishes and site conditions). To put this in perspective, a home built on a 33'x120' lot will cost you approximately $600,000 to build. There are many steps involved in building a home which are beyond the scope of this article. For example, you may want to consider building a "green" home and incorporating newer energy saving building materials and technologies, for which there are incentives, especially if you plan to live in the home for more than five years and therefore see the return on investment.
Finally, don't forget to plan and budget for a place to live while you are building - and add a contingency to the mix!
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