Canmore mountain range

Why the mountains?

A visit to the mountains is always a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Beautiful mountain ranges that make for snowy wonderlands during winter, lively springs, mild summers, and colourful falls. Instead of just visiting, however, what if you could bask in the mountain seasons all year round? Even a seasonal retreat for you and your family to settle into the mountains from time to time in a place that you can call your own. If this sounds like the dream to you, then before making your move to the mountains there are some steps to consider that go into building that dream home.

Writing Ideas Down

Where to get started?

If you’re in the market for a new home, you may have already thought about buying a ready-made house vs. building your own custom home. For those looking into building a new home for the first time, here’s an easy checklist from the beginning to help you start planning your next steps.

  • Build a budget
  • Set your timeline
  • Find property for your new home

Building a budget.

Knowing your budget is essential in any home investment. Prices for new homes can range from $80 – $200+ per square foot. Without knowing how much you can spend, it is nearly impossible to decide how large of a home you can build and where, or what design features can be included. Keeping in mind that building a home in the mountains will include buying a lot to build on, which makes the cost more than buying a house that is already built. You need to set a budget that includes both the lot and house construction. You do not want to spend more than your budget will allow on land to build on and then not have enough for the house you want. Figure out how much you want to spend before you look at lots and fall in love with something that is way too expensive for your budget.

After you allot funds for the lot and house, if needed, go ahead and visit a bank to talk about loans for lot purchase and house construction. Finding out how much money you are approved for will also help you finalize your budget (more on loans later). Do keep in mind that with any house construction, there will be unseen costs along the way. You can get estimates on construction costs, but once the actual work gets started, there will be expenses that no one could have predicted from planning alone. Do not max out your budget before construction begins; leave a little leeway for the unexpected. Hopefully, you won’t have to use the unexpected costs fund, but if you do, it is already in the budget!

Other things to factor into your budget include:

  • Local fees and taxes
  • Design and engineering fees
  • Home construction
  • Landscaping costs
  • Interior decorating and furnishing
  • A contingency budget

Picking a house loan

What kind of loan should I look at?

The loan selection and financing process can seem a bit intimidating; however, the loan process does not have to scare you. In its simplest form, there are three loan options you can pick from.

  1. Land / lot Loan: This option works best if you want to buy land but are not planning to build on it right away. Maybe you see a lot that you really like and you do not want to lose it, but you do not plan to relocate now. Your loan is simply for the land, nothing more. 
  2. Construction Loan: This loan allows you to buy the land and build on it now. The lender allocates the construction cost, and after construction is done, the loan is converted to a mortgage loan to pay off the loan and interest debt. You pay a smaller down payment, but you do not get a fixed mortgage rate.
  3. Construction to Permanent Loan: This loan is the most common type for buying land and building a house on it. You work with one lender and have one closing date. This loan includes the cost of the land and constructing the house. Once the house is complete, the loan becomes a permanent mortgage loan. You only pay the loan interest rate during the building process and can get a fixed mortgage rate.

Once you’ve settled on the type of loan you’re looking for, before securing a loan you should also:

  • Check your credit report and correct any errors you may see as your credit score will affect the loan you can receive.
  • Consult multiple lenders to find the best interest rates.
  • Consider mortgage options. Fixed-rate or variable? 12 or 30 years? FHA or traditional? Only you, your family, and your financial advisor can determine what’s best for you.
  • Prepare to make a down payment. Talk to your family and a financial advisor on what you can realistically pay at this time.

Setting your timeline.

Everyone wants their home finished ASAP, especially the home of their dreams. You likely have a general date you want your home completed by, but there might be more to consider when timing out your start and finish dates effectively.

  • When is the closing on your current home or the end of a lease?
  • Does your children’s school year effect when you want to move-in?
  • Could the seasons in your area cause any setbacks? Rain or snow, for example, won’t cause major setbacks but should be taken into consideration when setting a start date if you have a strict deadline.

mountain living

Finding property for your new home.

Where you build is nearly as important as how. And your home’s location will affect what you want to and can do with the house, structurally and aesthetically.

When looking at properties, consider the following: 

  • The size of the lot
  • Closeness of neighbors
  • Slope/flatness of land
  • Direction the plot faces (Where will the sun be?)
  • Natural surroundings (forest, field, water, etc.)
  • Trees (Remember – tall, old trees can’t just be planted)
  • The style of other houses in the neighborhood (if applicable)
  • Access to resources (Will you need a well? Septic tank? New power, phone or cable hookups?)
  • Having a view vs. privacy

Consulting a professional.

By consulting with Distinctive Homes you are trusting a professional. We do it all in the Bow Valley and can prevent some of the headaches you would otherwise encounter down the line, by ensuring you can do what you want on that piece of land. Our team at Distinctive Homes for example are experts in adhering to Canmore’s building standards and can help avoid any number of issues below that would permit you from your perfect home.

  • Finding information on zoning, wetlands, septic connections, energy code, etc. Instances such as zoning can affect the required setback distance from the street, the height of your house, and whether or not you can build an in-law suite.
  • If your lot is in a historic district. If it is, there may be additional requirements or restrictions on how your home must look and what materials it must be built with.
  • Provide an assessment of the home values in the surrounding neighborhood.
  • What is the school district? (if applicable)

luxury kitchen

Designing Your Custom Home

Arguably the most exciting part of building a new home is being able to design a home that fits your needs, rather than adapting to the layout of an existing home. Hand-picking all of the features, from the doorknobs and countertops to the type of heating and arrangement of rooms. When facing the design step in building a mountain home, one important consideration is common house plans are not compatible with a mountain home project. The house plans must fit your lot and mountain conditions. The designers at Distinctive Homes are also readily available every step of the way in the design process to help provide:

  • Architectural design guidelines.
  • Feedback on how the slope of the lot will factor into how the foundation of your house is built. Factoring in natural erosion from snow and rainfall, and how that might affect how best to anchor your home. You want your home to be anchored well so that if there is a year with lots of precipitation, your house does not slide down the mountain or your basement does not flood.
  • Due to land topography, a mountain house’s construction requires a large crawl space or foundation. Our team of designers have the best plans for finishing this lower level space which becomes more cost-efficient than paying to frame a second floor for additional space.
  • Provide solutions on how best to build the home while maintaining the beauty of the lot without demolishing all the trees, natural scenery, and light.

Where do the materials come from?

At Distinctive Homes, where we source our materials from matters to us. From maintaining a low carbon footprint for transporting your materials to supporting local businesses, we keep this step of the building process high on our priority list. With a big investment such as building a home, you want to make sure you’re getting the best build for your buck. Another standard for all our Distinctive Homes builds is sourcing items from the best brands in the building business. In doing so, we source our materials through RGO, a local Calgary flooring company that operate on the highest standards for our builds. As well, we source our countertops from top-end companies like Cambria, the very best in counters.

Is your home built green friendly?

There are more than one way to keep a low carbon footprint than just sourcing local. An important question to consider nowadays when building a home is how to make it green certified. Remaining conscious of our future and maintaining the beautiful nature on our doorstep, Distinctive Homes aims to build all their homes to the green certified standard. The upfront costs in a green home are far outweighed by the long term benefits from implementing these ahead of time. Green certified homes see benefits in a reduction in monthly operating costs, automatic rebate eligibility, improved resale value, and more. 

Building green homes reduce their environmental impact, both during the build and in the day-to-day operations of running the home. At Distinctive Homes, we are passionate about the program and pleased to work with customers in picking from a series of options to improve the quality and efficiency of their home.

Exterior view of our luxurious mountain home, our Everest unit.

Now for the building.

You’ve done your research, you’ve secured your space, you’ve settled on your loan, and you’ve designed the mountain home of your dreams. Now comes the building phase.

Our team at Distinctive Homes will easily be able to pair you up with the perfect General Contractor that understands your needs and will keep the build accountable and on schedule till the very end. Sourcing the best interior, kitchen, and bath designers, as well as bringing on the best landscape architect to maintain the rustic mountain look you crave.

All that’s left in the end is to move in and enjoy your newly built mountain home.