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6 Steps for Building a Home Near A River

Building a home by the river can be incredibly rewarding. The nature scenery and outdoor recreation right outside your door can even improve your health. However, when you are building a home, having a healthy respect for the power of the river is necessary to build a safe resilient home. Remove some of the stress out of the process by following these steps for building your home near a river. 

1. Set a Budget

The budget is the most important thing to hammer down before you even look for a builder or lot. The budget will be the end all be all for your home creation. Every decision and there will be a lot of them, will have some element of the budget in them. Here are a few things to consider as you plan a budget for your new home. 

  • Material Cost. The cost of your home can also depend on the materials you decide to use. Most builders will give you a low-end and high-end option to choose from if you have no preference. Things like windows flooring, roofing, countertops, and appliances are all materials you will have to decide on. Depending on the level of quality you choose the budget can increase quickly. 
  • Development. Clearing trees, leveling and/or grading, adding sewage or powerlines, and many other excavations affect the cost of building your home. 
  • Floor Plan. Builders can give you an idea of the cost of your home by square footage, minus any custom features, etc. 
  • Financing. This is a big one. What are you approved for? It is best to have a conversation with your bank at the outset of your project. How much are you able to put down, will you be taking out a construction loan, what will financing look like after you roll over the loan to a mortgage?

2. Choosing an Experienced Builder

Hiring a builder is an important decision in the process of building your home. The experience and expertise of your builder will determine the success of everything from the timeline to the budget. Obviously builders do not control everything in a project like weather conditions or permit request timelines, but they do control almost everything else. The best way to begin is to think of hiring a builder the way a company hires an employee. 

  • Do your Research. Research the builder. Are they a licensed builder? Have they built homes similar in size and quality to your dream home? Read online reviews to see what people say about them. One of the most important things to learn when looking for someone to build your river home is if they have experience building by the river. 
  • The Interview. Before you meet with them, give them an idea of what you are looking for in a home. Most builders will draw up a proposal for your potential home. Make sure to ask them about the cost. Obviously, a builder will not be able to give you the exact cost of your home, but they should be able to give you a price range based on the features you have mentioned to them and your priorities. Beware of builders that are unnecessarily vague after you have given them your specifications. 
  • Communication Style. You need a builder who wants to give you the home of your dreams, but can also be realistic with you. You want someone that can easily explain the process and choices so that you can responsibly make a decision. During the interview and conversations before and after, get a feel for their communication style. How long it takes them to get back to you, are they professional, but also–do you click. 
  • References. Ask them about previous projects and if they have any previous clients they can speak with. See some of their previous worksites and how they are holding up years later. Pay attention to online reviews, but take them with a grain of salt. 

3. Create a Floor Plan 

When you are developing a floor plan, think about your needs. The number of rooms, square footage, traditional or open concept, and any custom features are all factors that will play into your final floor plan. Think about your life now, but also try to consider your needs as you and your family grow. Here are a few things to consider for your floor plan. 

  • Custom Features. What features do you want for your home? Home Office? Theatre room? Large master suite? A popular, must-have feature for a home by the river is an outdoor seating area to enjoy it, like a screened-in porch or deck with plenty of room to host. 
  • Layout. The flow of your home is so important. Do you want a half bath near the dining room and kitchen? What rooms do you want to have the best view of the river from? Do you want the master bedroom on the main level or second floor? 
  • Design Elements. Certain design elements and materials can help mirror the surrounding river and mountain scenery such as slate and stone and reclaimed wood. Large horizontal windows can help you catch as much of the river view as possible. If you are building a large cabin home, rustic elements like a stone fireplace can serve to further your décor. 

4. Finding a Lot By the River

Western North Carolina has some of the most beautiful rivers in the country, so if you are looking for a lot by the water you’ve come to the right place. Choosing a lot is perhaps the biggest decision you will make when building your home. Here are some things to consider during your search. 

  • Consider your Floor Plan. Having a floor plan for your dream home, before you look for a lot, will help determine the size lot you will need for the home, and to allow for adequate yard room, and distance from the river.
  • Added Construction Cost. Some properties may cost more to develop during construction. Things like clearing trees, leveling property with a slope, or grading are only a few of the factors that can affect the price to develop a lot. If you have already chosen a builder, consider bringing them along for serious contenders. They will be able to help you understand the pros and cons of any particular lot. 
  • Tour More than Once. Visit the lot at different times of the day and in a variety of weather conditions to get a true sense of the property’s surroundings. Consider where you would put the house and windows in it.
  • Consider a Mountain River Community. One thing you might consider is finding a lot in a river community. These communities have homes that will inspire you in your own building process and often have resources and connections to builders and landscapers with experience building by a river. 

5. Establish a Timeline

With any building project, time is money. Once you have established a budget and chosen a builder, they will help you calculate a realistic timeline based on your needs. Remember building your dream home will take time. Custom home builds can take an average of 9-12 months. Waiting on permits and inspections, shut down because of weather, and plenty of other realistic setbacks can occur. However, by the end of it, you should have the perfect home for your needs. 

6. Build for Resilience 

Build your home properly for safety and for resilience. Building a home by the river done incorrectly can lead to costly damages, fines, and insurance issues. Living by the river, you will most likely need flood insurance. The approval and cost of your policy depend on a number of considerations like the elevation of your home, the amount and frequency of flooding in your area, and various flood-prevention features in your house. Here are some things you and your builders should consider. 

  • Floodplain Ordinances. Counties and states maintain floodplain ordinances that require builders to meet or exceed the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) standards established by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). The ordinances look at flood records in the area to determine the average elevation and distance a river rises in a flood to determine the recommended elevation and distance of your home to prevent flood damage. This river buffer is often at least 50 to 100 feet. 
  • Base Flood Elevation (BFE). BFE is the elevation water is anticipated to rise during a base flood. This allows government agencies and insurance companies to determine the safe elevation for your home. To see flood risk and records for your home, check FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center.
  • No Basements. Basements are often a bad idea for homes in flood-prone areas. They will also increase your insurance policy cost, or prevent you from obtaining one.  
  • Flood Openings. Structural holes at the base of a house to allow water to move in and out the base of a home in the event of a flood. The goal is to prevent water pressure from damaging the structure of your home. 
  • Types of Foundation. There are several types of foundations that are good for flood-prone areas. The most common in flood-prone areas are raised slab foundations, crawlspace foundations, and pier & beam foundations. Choosing the right one will depend on the type of soil, the slope of your lot, and of course, the budget. 

These are only a few of the regulations and flood prevention measures required for homes by the river. This is why it is so important to choose an experienced builder that knows the area. 

The mountains of Western North Carolina are full of rushing rivers, cascading waterfalls and trickling streams that you won’t want to leave. Come find a home at Cullowhee River Community. An outdoor lover’s dream, Cullowhee is full of plenty of activities for the whole family including hiking, kayaking, tubing, and fishing to name a few. Surrounded by unique mountain towns, there are shopping, food, and entertainment activities you won’t want to miss.