Building a Home in the Upper Valley

Alan J. DiStasio  |  July 20, 2023

Life In The Upper Valley

Building a Home in the Upper Valley


Given the scarcity of new listings for sale in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont, some buyers are considering building new rather than waiting for the perfect home to appear. The main challenge for many buyers is the time it takes to build a new home. However, when considering current market conditions, finding a suitable home that meets your needs may take just as long. Buyers also have an advantage when buying land… there is less competition. I cannot recall the last time I saw a bidding war for a piece of land!

Building a home can be challenging and rewarding, requiring careful planning and preparation. Some of the steps involved are finding a suitable location, setting a realistic budget, complying with local regulations, hiring reliable contractors, and coping with possible delays. The final outcome will be a home that meets your needs and preferences. Here are some helpful suggestions for anyone who wants to build a home in the Upper Valley.

If you are moving to the area, first focus on finding a suitable place to live.

You will need a place to stay while your house is being built. Thankfully, you have many choices in the Upper Valley. You can rent a condo, an apartment, or a home that suits your needs and budget. You don't have to worry about finding the perfect spot. It's just temporary. Some rentals offer flexible terms, such as a one-year lease followed by a month-to-month option. An ideal scenario if your project takes longer than expected.

Another option is to temporarily buy a property you can live in and then keep it as an investment. A knowledgeable and well-connected REALTOR® can help you find such opportunities in the area.

You'll need to secure land that's suitable for development

Once you've decided that building is the way to go, switch to searching for land as soon as possible. There are more options out there than one might think. First and foremost, decide on the suitable town or town(s) you prefer and then look for the best location. 

In the Upper Valley, many parcels of land are not near downtown locations. Therefore, services such as town sewer, town water, or internet service may or may not be available in rural areas. Keep in mind that a site without access to town sewer or water will require a septic system and well be installed, adding to the project's overall cost. Commuting time may also be a consideration, but these factors also come into play with existing homes as well.

Once you've decided where to build, it's onto a step that will save you lots of time, hassle, and money; hiring your general contractor.

Hiring a general contractor is one way to go

You could manage the construction of your new home if you were so inclined, but I would never recommend it. Managing and coordinating the many professionals and tradespeople needed throughout the building process can be daunting.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of qualified contractors to work with here in the Upper Valley. Look for one that handles both design and construction services, more commonly known as Design-Build contractors. It has been my experience that a design-build company can better manage the entire process than one that simply handles the construction. A solid design-build team will plan every aspect of the project before a shovel hits the dirt. They will also be better positioned to give you an accurate timeline for completion and cost estimate.

One consideration is that they typically work from established home plans that require minimal customization but allow for the selection of many finishes. An alternative to design-build is to engage a company that assembles houses using sophisticated technology and innovative prefabrication to streamline the process, minimize waste, and guarantee results. This process is also less susceptible to delays due to weather.


Or consider hiring an architect to design and manage the project

Like contractors, there are several excellent architectural firms here in the Upper Valley. Typically an architectural firm is hired when a client seeks to build a very specific (i.e., custom) home that requires considerable modifications and design elements. Typically, these types of projects are beyond the scope of a design-build team.
If an exceptional custom-designed home is the way you want to go, then by all means, a qualified architect will help you get there!


Financing Considerations

Several mortgage brokers and banks here in the Upper Valley offer financing specifically designed to assist a buyer in constructing a home. A construction loan is a short-term loan that helps pay for the costs of building a house. You can use it to buy land, hire a contractor, purchase materials, and obtain permits. However, you cannot use it to buy furniture or other items for your home. The term for a construction loan usually lasts one year or until the house is finished and you get a certificate of occupancy. The home will be appraised at that point, and the loan will convert to a traditional mortgage.


Be patient, and expect delays

No matter who manages your project, they will provide you with a schedule for the completion of your home. Ideally, your moving truck will arrive on the exact date you were given. However, unforeseen factors may affect the timeline, such as delays in the delivery of construction materials, bad weather, or other unexpected issues. A good general contractor will communicate honestly about possible delays from the beginning of the project and keep you updated regularly on the progress of the work.


There is no need to "go it alone"

Building a home requires careful planning and preparation. You need to find suitable land, arrange a temporary place to stay, hire a qualified contractor or architect, and secure financing. These tasks can be overwhelming and time-consuming. That's why many buyers seek the help of a local REALTOR® who knows the home building market in the Upper Valley.

 A professional real estate agent can connect you with the right people and resources to help you realize your vision. Please visit my website at to learn how my experience and professional contacts can help you achieve your goals.

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