Your Guide to Building a New Home

Building a home can seem complicated, but we promise it’s easier than you think. Let’s walk through how to build your dream home in Ontario.

1. Make a Wishlist

Like any project, the first step is deciding what your requirements are. We like to call this our “wish list.” A great place to start is with the type of home you’re interested in. Are you looking for a bungalow, or a two-storey house? Do you need a basement? How many bedrooms will you need?

It’s also important to consider your budget at this stage. It would be awesome to have a pool, or a dock, or a bar in the basement, but before you get excited, consider how much each of these additions will add to construction costs.

Of course, every wish list will be different, but figuring out exactly what your needs are will help you in the next step—actually looking for land.

Building your dream home is easier than you think

2. Finding Your Lot

There are obvious things to consider when looking for a lot, things like privacy, proximity to school zones, and the size of the lot, but there are a couple other things we’d like you to consider as well.

First, proximity to a hospital may be very important in Ontario, especially if you have family members with medical needs. You may love how rural, how secluded, and how private your new property is, but what happens in an emergency? Will you be able to access ambulance services, or will you need to drive yourself? The same question should be asked about fire services.

As we move toward a more sustainable future, many people are considering alternative energy solutions for their homes like geothermal power or solar power. Even if this type of energy solution isn’t in your immediate plans, it should be something you take into consideration, as you will need to make sure you have space on your property.

Third, how will builders and materials reach your plot? Like we mentioned, it’s great to have privacy and seclusion far away from civilization, but how does your selection affect building costs? Can materials be delivered down narrow winding back roads? Or do they need to be delivered by ferry?

A few common mistakes people make when buying land:

  • Failing to consider internet access. With work from home becoming increasingly popular, many people are escaping to the country, but will you be able to work on DSL or—and yes, we’re serious—a dial-up connection?
  • Skipping environmental tests. If you’re building in a city especially, it’s important to have your soil inspected. Sometimes entire neighbourhoods are built on top of old landfills, on top of old gas stations, and the soil can be contaminated. Most municipalities govern this, but not all.
  • Not paying attention to zoning and setbacks. Where you think you want to put your house on the land may not be where you are allowed. Each municipality has their own rules and regulations called a zoning bylaw that dictates the minimum amount of parking, the distance the house is setback from lot lines, and how high your house can be for instance.
3. Zoning Requirements and Setbacks

The first thing you may be wondering is, “what’s a setback?” When it comes to zoning and bylaws, a setback refers to the minimum distance that a building must be “set back” from roads, adjacent properties, or things like rivers. In other words, setbacks are like buffers that surround your property. This means they reduce the amount of buildable land you have. So, suddenly, the 1000m2 (10763 sq. ft.) plot that was the perfect size, now only has 800m2 (8611 sq. ft.) of usable space, and you’re having to make concessions. 

Permitted usage of land and further building restrictions like environmental protection of woodlands, watersheds, or marshland must also be considered. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to cover all the zoning requirements here, as they differ from municipality to municipality, but we have resources available for you right here on our website.

If your municipality does not have online resources for setbacks, you will need to have a survey done.

4. Get Your Builder's Mortgage

Also known as a “construction mortgage,” a builder’s mortgage is a type of loan used when building a custom home. Unlike your typical mortgage that is paid out in full, a builder’s mortgage is paid out in milestones. This allows the loan to be flexible as materials, building costs rise, and unforeseen expenses inevitably pop up. We suggest adding a buffer of 10-15% to accommodate inflation and any surprises.

Like a traditional mortgage, it is important to work with your mortgage advisor and ensure you have pre-approval prior to beginning the process. We suggest you take your pre-approval amount (or less if you’re more comfortable with less!) and work backwards–deduct the buffer and divide by the current average construction cost per square foot.

The average construction cost per square foot will vary with finishes, by builder, by area, and by what is included (does your lot already have a well or is one required? Are you doing the painting or is your contractor?). It’s recommended to contact at least 3 builders in your area to see if they have an approximate range per square foot for standard finishes.

5. Get In Touch With a BCIN Designer

A BCIN designer is simply a professional licensed to produce and submit plans in the province of Ontario—like us. Typically, the process of actually designing your home is quite simple, at least, we try to make it simple.

  1. Initial free consultation—we discuss your goals or wish list, and the zoning requirements for your property.
  2. Initial design—the fun begins as we bring your dream home to life. At this stage we’ll go through a series of revisions (if necessary) to make sure we get your design right. We send these by email to allow you time to look over each change at your own pace.
  3. Submit your application—we’ll send you the final drawings, your building permit application, and a list of any other documents you may need to submit.
6. Collect Paperwork From Suppliers

After we’ve completed the architectural drawings, we will provide you with a list of documents you’ll be required to submit with your application. Once you’ve received this paperwork you’ll need to contact the associated professionals to have them completed. This list is not exhaustive, but common documentation is related to heat design, truss design, and septic design (if applicable to your project).

The City of Kingston outlines the documentation that you may be required to submit. Remember, every project is unique, and will have different requirements. Once you’ve got all your paperwork ready, it’s time to find your builder.

7. Choose Your Builder

There isn’t any step in this process that’s less important than another, but we cannot stress enough the importance of finding the right builder. We’ve all heard horror stories, and you shouldn’t need to renovate your newly constructed home before you even move in!

We suggest working with builders who are attentive and probing when you meet with them. Good builders ask questions and try to understand what your goals are.

Be sure to ask them about their team, about their communication style during the building process, and about how they produce estimates.

It’s important to note that there are a few licensed tradespeople required to complete work on your home—this includes plumbers, HVAC contractors, and electricians to name just a few.

8. Purchasing and Submitting Your Permit

This is it! You’re now ready to submit your application and await approval from the municipal building department. Once that approval comes through, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your dream home. We hope you do enjoy it, and if you ever have any questions, we're always here to help!

Ready to start building your dream home?

If you’re looking for more guidance on how to make your dream home a reality, schedule a phone consult and let's get started!