The Iowa Homebuyer's Guide to New Construction

posted Jasmyne Green 6/2/2021 in Homeowners

Have you been dreaming of moving into a new construction home in Iowa? In this article, we’ll walk you step by step through the process, from hiring a contractor and buying a land lot to watching your house materialize from the ground up. Wondering how to pay for a new construction home? Learn more about our Iowa construction loans.

Consult with a contractor to determine the overall cost and timeline of the construction project.

Research and meet with potential contractors.

Contractors performing construction work in Iowa must be registered with the Iowa Division of Labor. Ask to see a current registration certificate (as well as proof of insurance) before hiring anyone. You can also search by business/contractor name here

To find the right contractor for your needs, ask friends, family, and online community groups for recommendations. Plan to call and request estimates from a few different options, as some may not get back to you. While we don’t endorse any particular contractor or home building company, this list of Iowa home builders may be helpful.  

What to ask potential contractors

Building a new home is a lengthy and expensive process. Take your time to find a contractor with the right experience and a personality that will be easy to get along with. Here are some standard questions you can ask.
  • How many years of experience do you have? How many homes have you built locally?
  • What is the scope of your responsibility as a builder? For example, will you help with design, permitting, and suppliers?
  • What is and isn’t included in your price? What counts as a standard finish/item and what is an upgrade? 
  • What is your communication style? How will you help me avoid exceeding my budget?
  • Do you have a good working relationship with quality subcontractors and tradesmen?
  • Who will my point-of-contact be during the construction process?
  • May I review your contract with my attorney before signing?
  • What’s your warranty? How will you deal with any issues that arise?
  • What kind of timeframe can I expect?
  • What sets you apart from competitors? Why should I choose you to build my new home?
I guess this is a good way to start the piece since the contractor will be involved throughout the entire process and they will be able to give you some good insight into the home building process, giving you a price estimate/budget, a timeframe for the project, etc.

Find and purchase a land lot to build on.

Unless you’re buying in a planned subdivision, you’ll need to find and purchase your own land lot before construction can begin. Take your time and look for a real estate agent with recent experience in land transactions. 

Next, determine your budget and whether you are going to pay in cash or seek financing. "The 2020 state average for all quality of land was estimated to be $7,559 per acre as of November 1, 2020,” according to the 2020 Farmland Value Survey from Iowa State University. 

Land lots can be tricky to finance but not impossible. In general, “improved land,” meaning some work has been done such as utilities hookup, street access, etc., is easier to finance than raw (untouched by human hands) land. 
For more on financing your land purchase, read our “What is a Construction Loan?” article.
With the proper permits in place, the process of laying the foundations and installing footings can begin.

Prepare the construction site

Before construction can begin, you and your contractor will need to check the following off your site preparation to-do list:
  • Get all required permits.
  • Site is leveled by the construction crew.
  • Wooden forms are put up for a temporary foundation.
  • Footings are installed.
  • Concrete is poured into the holes and trenches and work pauses until the concrete is cured.
Next, you can expect the first inspection to take place. This is to make sure foundation components are installed properly and compliant with code.

Complete the initial framing and foundations

Now it’s time to construct the shell or skeleton of the house. This involves putting up the roof, windows, and exterior doors. Plywood and house wrap will also go up on exterior walls to prevent mold and wood rot. 

Install rough plumbing, electrical work, and HVAC

Your house starts to come alive with utility and HVAC systems. If your home has a chimney, it will be built at this point as well. Expect the installation of: 
  • Pipes and Wires
  • Sewer Lines and Vents
  • Water Supply Lines
  • Bathtubs, Shower Units
  • Ductwork for HVAC System
  • HVAC Vent Pipes
It’s time for the next round of inspections to check your home’s rough framing, plumbing, and electrical and mechanical systems for compliance with building codes. Next up, drywall gets delivered!
Be sure to choose fixtures, paints and other decorative elements in advance to get a realistic cost estimate and maintain momentum in the construction process.

Drywall, interior fixtures, interior trim

Insulation goes in and then the drywall is hung and taped. This is an exciting step because now you have real walls that can be painted! Have you picked out paint colors yet? Another fun milestone in the construction of your home is seeing counters and cabinets go up in the kitchen and bathrooms. 

Exterior fixtures, driveway and flooring

Contractors begin installing exterior finishes such as brick, stucco, stone and siding. Bit by bit, the rest of your house gets set up, including:
  • Doors, Window Sills, Decorative Trim 
  • Hard surface flooring
  • Cabinets, Vanities, Fireplaces, Mantles
  • Mechanical trims and bathroom fixtures
  • Final Coat of Paint
  • Exterior grading to keep water draining away from your home
  • Driveway, walkways, and patio if applicable
  • Any exterior landscaping you’ve requested such as trees, shrubs, and grass

Do a final walkthrough to ensure that everything looks good.

By this point, you can’t wait to move into your new home! First, do a walkthrough with your contractor to make sure every last thing is finished and the way you wanted it. You’ll have your last official inspection, as well, resulting in a certificate of occupancy that means it’s time to move in!

Learn more about new construction financing from LSB!

Looking to build your new construction dream home in Iowa? LSB can help make your dream a reality with flexible, local construction financing. Contact our construction lender today to learn more about construction loans and start the application process!
NMLS #480330
The home building process starts with a construction loan from Lincoln Savings Bank. Speak with a lender to get started today!
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