Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Perfect Vacation Home

An aerial view of a vacation home on the beach at sunset.

Building a vacation home from scratch has numerous benefits over buying an existing property. Whether you want to create the perfect beachfront cabin to enjoy your summer holidays or simply want to make a home away from home, you’ll be able to customize the house depending on your needs and add some unique design quirks.  

In addition, you can add your own personal touch from size, structure, and layout to interior and wall color. And while building a vacation home isn’t exactly a walk in the park, it’s perfectly doable if you follow the steps outlined in this article. 

Find the Perfect Land for Sale

The most important step is to find the perfect plot of land. First, determine the budget you’re willing to invest in it. The cost will largely depend on the location and size of the parcel. Don’t forget to consider the costs for maintaining the property and determine whether you’re comfortable with them. 

Next, decide whether you want the parcel to be off the grid or prefer to be closer to town. Also, if you’re planning for the house to be a year-round destination, consider how easy it is to access the plot in the winter months. Once you find a potential location, check the zoning for any building limitations. Also, familiarize yourself with the neighborhood to ensure that you are satisfied with it. After all, this is a place you will be returning to time and time again.

Obtain Construction Financing

Financing is the next step in the process. Since this is not a traditional construction loan for a primary residence, you should start talking with lenders as soon as possible. Lenders usually have their specific criteria, and some may even not loan for these projects. Keep in mind that most banks will want to see a signed contract of purchase or construction that would detail certain aspects that may impact the loan. 

Prepare House Plans

When choosing your vacation home plans, you can choose between pre-made house plans and custom plans. Stock house plans usually cost $700 to $1,500, depending on the size and the house’s features. This is an affordable and quick approach, and you can customize the plan to your liking for a small additional fee.  

On the other hand, custom plans allow you to fully customize your house. A custom plan may also be required if there are certain limitations on the type of building the piece of land can support. Custom plans range between $1,500 to $3,500, depending on the square footage. You may want to hire an architect to assist with the plans. Some charge an hourly rate, whereas others charge a fixed percentage on the project cost, usually between 8% and 15%. 

Hire a Builder

Hiring a good contractor is very important as a lot goes into building a house, and a good contractor will ensure everything is coordinated and on track. For a vacation home, it’s also important to find a familiar contractor with local building codes and municipal offices. They will also have a strong network of workers and tradespeople to perform trustworthy work. Keep in mind that they typically charge between 10-20% of the construction cost.

Prepare the Plot

Prepare the site before construction begins. This might include excavating high spots or infilling low spots, removing wooded areas, and cleaning the plot from debris. Depending on the property, you may have to alter its topography to ensure proper water flow. At this point, you may want to hire a surveyor to verify the lot is good to build on and finalize boundaries.  

A vacation home with a blue hammock hanging in front.


The next phase is construction. First, the builder will lay the foundation and frame the house to support the floor, walls, and roof. From here on, the house’s exterior should be completed followed by installing the electrical, plumbing, heating, and insulation systems. The next phase is to install drywall, paint, and do interior finishing work before your builder installs the floors. There are numerous flooring options for vacation homes that are both functional and elegant. Tile may be better than carpet or hardwood for a beachfront property. On the other hand, hardwood may be preferable for a secluded cabin.  

Final Words

Building a vacation house from scratch isn’t right for everyone but has numerous benefits. You can customize it to your liking, add a personal touch, and be involved in the entire process. It’s crucial that you find the right land plot and hire a good contractor to turn your vision into reality. The building process takes on average six months. However, you need to keep flexibility in mind due to potential delays in subcontractor schedules and obtaining permits.

Scroll to Top