You’ve finally made it. Building a dream home is something most of us think about, but few of us actually achieve. As the future owner of a custom construction home, you’ll have the unique opportunity to create your perfect living space from scratch, building your home to suit your lifestyle rather than adjusting your life to fit your surroundings.
Find a lender offering construction loans in your state
But everything worth doing takes effort, and taking your home construction project from concept to breaking ground to move-in ready can be challenging, particularly if you’re not well-versed in the ins and outs of the construction world, mortgage loans, permits, and the like. The best way to approach a complex task, like custom home construction, is to break it into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Custom construction rules and regulations will differ from state to state and even lender to lender. But a general framework holds true in almost every state in the Union. Today, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about the construction loan process, including:
- A detailed look at the types of construction loans you might use
- Eligibility and lending standards for construction loans
- How you can get a construction loan
- A comprehensive FAQ about construction loans
- And everything else you might need to know about construction loans in all 50 states.
What is a construction loan?
A construction loan is a type of loan used to finance the building of a home or other property. Construction loans are usually short-term loans with a term of one year or less. These loans are used to pay for the materials and labor used in the construction of the home or property.
Construction loans are typically interest-only loans, meaning that the borrower only pays the interest on the loan during the construction period. The borrower does not begin paying back the loan’s principal until the construction is complete. This can make construction loans a risky proposition for both the borrower and the lender.
Construction loans can be an excellent way to finance the construction of a new home or property. However, they can also be risky if market conditions change or you run into construction-related issues- which is not exactly out of the ordinary in the construction world. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the loan before you sign on the dotted line.
How construction loans work
Construction loans are usually short-term loans, lasting from six months to a year. They are typically interest-only loans, meaning that you only make interest payments on the loan during the construction period. You don’t begin paying down the principal of the loan until the construction is complete and you’ve taken out a permanent mortgage.
During the construction period, you will make regular payments to the lender, usually monthly. These payments go toward the interest on the loan and also toward the construction costs. The lender will also set aside a portion of each payment into what’s called a “draw account.” This is basically a line of credit that the lender uses to pay the contractor as the construction progresses.
The flow of funds for a construction loan is very different than the process for a traditional loan. Instead of a large, one-time payment, construction loans pay out in installments over the project’s life, with each payment called a “draw” and each payment request called a “draw request.” Remember that lenders have a vested interest in seeing your project through to completion. If you default on the loan, they will be left holding the bag.
This responsibility means lenders will often perform periodic inspections, either financial or physical, before funds are released through a draw request. While this might seem like kind of a pain, it’s actually very beneficial to have the bank involved, mainly because it puts pressure on the contractor who needs to maintain a sterling reputation with the bank to keep getting their business.
At the end of the construction, you will need to pay off the entire loan balance, plus any interest that has accrued. You can do this by obtaining a new mortgage, which will usually have a lower interest rate than the construction loan. Alternatively, you can pay off the loan with cash or by refinancing your existing home, assuming that you have the cash on hand or enough equity in your existing property to pay off the loan.
What do home construction loans cover?
Construction loans are used to finance the purchase of land, as well as the cost of construction materials and labor. In some cases, construction loans can also be used to finance the cost of permits and other fees associated with building a new home or commercial building.
A construction-only loan is a short-term loan (between 12 to 18 months) used to finance the cost of building a home. Homebuilders and developers typically use these loans to finance the construction of new homes. Construction-only loans are generally interest-only loans, meaning that the borrower only pays interest on the loan during the construction period. The loan is then paid off in full when the home is completed and sold. Once the construction is complete, you have to apply for permanent financing.
Construction-to-permanent loans are a type of loan that allows you to finance the construction of your new home and roll the cost of the construction into your mortgage. This can be a great option if you want to avoid the hassle and expense of taking out two separate loans, and it can also help you lock in a lower interest rate from the outset because many lenders offering a construction-to-permanent loan will let you set the interest rate for the entire loan at the time of the initial application rather than resetting your interest rate once the construction is complete.
Of course, there are several things to keep in mind with a construction-to-permanent loan. For starters, you’ll need to make sure that you qualify for a mortgage in the first place. This means maintaining a good credit score and a steady income.
Once you’ve found a lender and been approved for a construction-to-permanent loan, the next step is to find a builder and get started on your new home. This can be a fun and exciting process, but it’s also important to make sure that you’re working with a reputable builder who can get the job done right.
After construction is complete, your loan will then be converted into a traditional mortgage. At this point, you’ll start making monthly payments on your loan, just like with any other mortgage.
A renovation loan is a loan that is used to finance the costs of repairing or renovating a home. The house itself secures the loan, so the interest rate may be lower than with other types of loans. Renovation loans can be used to finance repairs or renovations that will increase the home’s value or finance repairs or renovations necessary to keep the home in good repair.
The loan can also be used to finance the purchase of new furniture or appliances for the home. The repayment period for a renovation loan is usually shorter than the repayment period for a conventional mortgage. A renovation loan can be a good option for homeowners who need to repair or renovate their homes but do not have the cash to pay for the repairs or renovations outright.
Owner-builder construction loans are designed for people completing the actual construction project on their own. These loans allow you to finance the construction of your own home. This loan type can be a fantastic option if you want to build your dream home, but you don’t have the cash in your hand to pay for it all upfront. With an owner-builder construction loan, you’ll get a lump sum of money to use towards the construction of your home. You’ll then make monthly payments on the loan, just like a traditional home loan.
One of the great things about an owner-builder loan is that you can often get a lower interest rate than you might with a traditional home loan. Lenders grant this interest rate reduction because you’re essentially taking on more of the risk by financing the construction yourself.
Of course, there are some downsides to an owner-builder loan as well. For one, building your own home can be a lot of work. You’ll also need to get all the necessary permits and ensure the construction is up to code. Additionally, if you’re not careful, you could spend more than you planned on constructing your home.
End loans are traditional mortgage loans that homebuilders, investors, developers, and home buyers can apply for after the completion of a property construction project. Construction end loans can be used for a variety of purposes, depending on the specific loan agreement.
However, some common uses for these types of loans include funding the construction of a new home or other building or financing the renovation or expansion of an existing structure. Additionally, construction end loans may also be used to purchase land for future development projects.
Construction loan eligibility
A construction loan can be an excellent option for borrowers who are looking to build their dream home. Unfortunately, not every borrower will be eligible for a construction loan. In order to be eligible for a construction loan, borrowers will typically need to have a decent credit score and a down payment of at least 20%. Additionally, borrowers will need to have a solid plan for their construction project and be able to show that they have the financial means to complete the project.
Construction loans can be an excellent way to finance the construction of a new home. However, not all borrowers qualify for a construction loan. Lenders will look at a few things when considering a construction loan borrower.
First, lenders will look at the borrower’s credit score. A higher credit score will generally mean a lower interest rate and better loan terms. Lenders will also look at the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio. The DTI is the ratio of the borrower’s monthly debt payments to their monthly income. A lower debt-to-income ratio will generally mean a better chance of qualifying for a loan.
Lenders will also consider the borrower’s employment history. A steady work history will usually lead to a better chance of qualifying for a construction loan. Lenders will also want to see that the borrower has a down payment saved up. The size of the down payment will vary by lender, but most will require at least 10% of the total loan amount, and most lenders will require 20%+ down to secure the loan.
Finally, lenders will also consider the value of the property that the borrower is looking to build on. The value of the land and the finished construction together needs to be worth at least as much as the loan amount in order for the borrower to qualify. This is because lenders want to make sure they’ll at least be able to break even on the loan in the event of a repossession.
Construction loans are available to first-time homebuyers, so if that’s you then keep reading. You won’t have to resort to credit cards, personal loans or tapping your home equity line of credit just to build or renovate a property as many lenders are happy to work with first-time homebuyers.
Several specific conditions must be met to qualify for a construction loan. Here are some of the qualifying factors for construction loan properties:
- In most cases, the property must be for personal, owner-occupied use. Investment properties do not typically qualify for most construction loans, although they are attainable in certain situations.
- The property must be located in an eligible area. Construction loans are only available in certain areas, so it’s essential to check with your lender to see if the area you’re interested in is eligible.
- It should also be of a certain size. Most construction loans require that the property be at least 1,000 square feet.
- Construction standards need to meet or exceed regulations. To qualify for a construction loan, the property must meet specific construction standards set by the lender.
Minimum credit score for construction loans
The minimum credit score for a construction loan is typically 680. However, some lenders may require a higher credit score, such as 700 or 720. A higher credit score will give you a greater chance of qualifying for a construction loan and may get you a lower interest rate. If you have a lower credit score, you may still be able to qualify for a construction loan, but you may have to put down a larger down payment, get a higher interest rate, or both.
Minimum down payment requirements for construction loans
Construction loans are different than other types of mortgage loans- mainly because they are not backed by any collateral. This means that lenders are taking on a bit more risk and, as a result, the minimum down payment requirements are usually higher.
For most construction loans, you will need to put down at least 20% of the total loan amount. This high requirement is in place because the lender wants to ensure that you are invested in the project and that you will not walk away from the loan if things go wrong.
There are some construction loans that will allow you to put down as little as 10%, but these are usually reserved for experienced borrowers with a good track record. If you are a first-time borrower, you will likely need to put down at least 20%.
You can put as little as 5% down and finance the rest with a regular mortgage. The downside is that you will be paying interest on the construction loan and the mortgage, which can add up to a lot of money over time.
How to get a construction loan
To get through the approval process for a construction loan, you’ll need to prove that you have the financial ability to pay off the loan by providing bank statements, tax returns, and proof of assets. You’ll also have to present a detailed construction plan and blueprints that includes a schedule of work and a budget. Before you begin shopping for a construction loan, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the construction process and what to expect.
Once you’ve found a lender and been approved for a loan, you’ll need to work with the lender to draw up a construction contract. This contract will outline the construction process and timeline, as well as the loan amount, interest rate, and terms.
During the construction phase, you will typically make interest-only payments. Once the construction is complete, the loan will need to be paid in full. When that happens, you can either sell the property or refinance the loan into a permanent mortgage.
Additionally, comparing offers from multiple lenders is essential. Be sure to ask about fees, interest rates, and repayment terms. This brings us to our next point…
Find a builder
Before you’re able to get approved for financing, you’ll need to find a builder. Lenders will typically not move forward on a project unless you’ve got a general contractor lined up or if you’re purchasing a home from a firm that builds custom construction on your behalf.
When it comes to finding a builder, there are a couple things you need to keep in mind. First and foremost, you need to find a reputable builder with a good track record- you don’t want someone new to the game or someone who doesn’t take care of their clients. You also need to ensure that the general contractor is licensed and insured to protect yourself legally and financially. Finally, you need to get a few quotes from different builders to compare prices.
Ask for recommendations
If you’re looking for a reputable builder, the best place to start is by asking your friends and family for recommendations. If you don’t know anyone who has had work done recently, you can also check online reviews. After you’ve found a few builders that you’re interested in, be sure to check their licenses and insurance.
Once you’ve found several builders you’re interested in, it’s time to get some quotes. Be sure to get a few different estimates to compare prices. When you’re comparing prices, be sure to ask about any discounts that may be available. Once you’ve found a builder that you’re happy with, be sure to sign a contract. This due diligence will protect you if anything goes wrong during the project.
Find a licensed lender
The best way to find a licensed mortgage construction lender is to ask around. Talk to your real estate agent, builder, friends, and family. If someone you know has recently obtained a construction loan, they may be able to recommend a lender to you. Once you have a few different names, you can start doing some research.
The internet is an excellent resource for finding information about lenders. You can read reviews, check out their websites, and even contact them directly to ask questions. When you’re talking to a lender, ask about their experience with construction loans and whether or not they are licensed in your state.
It’s also a good idea to get quotes from a few different lenders before you make a decision. This will allow you to compare interest rates and fees. Be sure to ask about any prepayment penalties or other fees associated with the loan.
Once you’ve found a few licensed mortgage construction lenders that you feel comfortable with, it’s time to start the loan application process. Be prepared to give the lender information about your income, assets, and credit history. The lender will also need to see your plans for the construction of your home.
Get your documents together
Construction loans can be a complicated process, but having all your documents in order will make the process much smoother. Here are some tips to get your documents together to apply for a construction loan:
Construction loan document checklist
- Tax Returns. Be sure to have your most recent tax returns handy. The lender will want to see these to get an idea of your financial history.
- W-2s. You will need to provide your W-2s from the past two years. These will help the lender determine your income and employment history.
- Pay Stubs. Get your most recent pay stubs available. The lender will want to see these to verify your current income.
- Bank Statements. Provide bank statements from the past few months. The lender will use these to verify your financial history and current assets.
- Construction Plans. Ensure that you have the most detailed and up-to-date construction plans available. The lender will want to see these to get an idea of the scope of the project.
- Construction Budget. You’ll need to provide a detailed construction budget. The lender will use this to determine how much money you will need to borrow.
- Personal Financial Statement. They’ll also be looking for a personal financial statement. The lender will use this to get an idea of your overall financial picture.
- Credit History. The lender will pull your credit history to determine your creditworthiness. Be sure to have your most recent credit report available.
- Property Information. If you are borrowing against a property, you will need to provide information about the property, including the address, value, and mortgage information.
- Insurance Information. You will also have to bring any information about any insurance policies you have in place. This includes homeowner’s insurance, life insurance, and health insurance.
You want to get preapproved for a construction loan so that you’re prepared when you begin the process of building your home. The first step is meeting with a loan officer to discuss your plans and what you need to get approved. The loan officer will pull your credit history and ask for proof of income and assets. They will also need to see a detailed construction plan to approve the loan.
Once you have the required documentation, the loan officer will work with you to determine the best loan option for your needs. They’ll consider the cost of the land, the cost of materials, and the cost of labor. The loan officer will also consider your credit history and income to determine the loan amount and interest rate.
After you have been approved for the loan, you will need to sign a contract with the lender. This contract will outline the loan amount, interest rate, repayment schedule, and any other terms and conditions.
Remember that you will be responsible for repaying the loan even if the construction project is not completed. You will need to have a backup plan in place in case you are unable to finish the project. It is also necessary that you stay within your budget so that you do not end up owing more money than you can afford to repay. If you are careful and plan ahead, getting preapproved for a construction loan can be a smooth and easy process.
Top 3 factors to consider with a construction loan
There are three mission-critical factors that you need to consider before you take out a construction loan.
Could your project face significant timeline issues?
Construction projects can often face significant timeline issues. It’s not nearly as easy as going on the NMLS and purchasing an existing house. Several factors can contribute to this schedule-busting tendency, like weather delays, material shortages, and problems with the construction site itself.
One of the best ways to avoid timeline issues with a new home construction is incredibly easy—you simply need to plan ahead as much as possible. But this is easier said than done. Planning well means having a realistic timeline for the project and allowing for some flexibility in case of unexpected delays. It’s also necessary to have a good working relationship with the construction team so that everyone is on the same page and aware of potential issues.
If substantial timeline issues do arise, it’s crucial to address them immediately. The next steps might be adding additional resources or making changes to the project plan. The goal is to get the project back on track as quickly as possible so that construction can be completed on time and within budget.
Do you want to simplify the borrowing experience?
You’ve probably got enough on your plate. Professional commitments, family, and all of the other little things that we call life demand most or all of your time. Even if you’re incredibly excited about your upcoming construction process, you probably don’t want to spend hours and hours calling individual lenders, trying to get them to quote you a rate, keeping notes, and repeating the same process over if you have to wait a month to apply.
In Japan, there is a business process called Kaizen. It basically means that you should always and continually improve your process. You should take the same approach with your borrowing experience, whether you’re an investor that regularly works with lenders or an individual homeowner trying to build the home of your dreams. Simplify the borrowing experience where you can leverage digital solutions like apps or websites that drastically reduce the time you spend on the phone with prospective lenders.
Do you have homeowners insurance in place?
If you’re taking out a construction loan to finance the building of your home, you’ll need to have homeowners insurance in place before the loan is finalized. Homeowners insurance protects your home and belongings from damage or destruction due to events like fire, theft, or severe weather.
It also provides liability coverage if someone is injured while on your property. Most lenders will require you to purchase homeowners insurance as part of the loan agreement. They may even specify the amount of coverage you need to carry.
If you’re already insured, you’ll need to provide proof of coverage to your lender. If you’re not already insured, you’ll need to shop around for a policy that meets your lender’s requirements. Make sure to compare rates and coverage options from different insurers before making a decision.
After you have your homeowner’s insurance policy in place, you’ll need to keep it active throughout the life of your loan. If your policy lapses, your lender may require you to purchase a new one or pay for the remainder of your loan in full.
Pros and cons of single-close construction loans vs. multiple-close construction loans
Construction loans can either be single-close or multiple-close.
A single-close construction loan is one where you take out a loan for both the purchase of the property and the construction costs. After construction is complete, the loan then converts into a traditional mortgage. With a multiple-close loan, you take out a loan for the purchase of the land and a separate loan for the construction costs. Once construction is complete, you then have two loans to pay off – the construction loan and the mortgage.
There are both pros and cons to each type of loan. With a single-close loan, you only have to pay closing costs once. Assuming that you qualify, you may also be able to get a better interest rate on a single-close loan than you would on two separate loans. On the other hand, with a multiple-close loan, you may get a lower interest rate on the construction loan than you would on a single-close loan.
The type of loan you choose and which option is best for you will ultimately depend on your individual financial circumstances as well as the particulars of your construction project.
Special construction loans for doctors, lawyers, and other professionals
If you’re a doctor, lawyer, or other professional, you know that your income is vital to qualify for a loan. But what if you’re still in training or haven’t started earning yet? You could still be able to qualify for a special construction loan designed for professionals.
What is a physician construction loan?
A physician construction loan is a loan that is available to people who are training to become a professional, such as a medical doctor or lawyer, or who have not yet started earning an income from their profession. The loan is designed to help you finance the construction of a home so that you can live in it while you complete your training or start your career.
How do physician construction loans work?
Physician construction loans work like other construction loans. You’ll work with a lender to get pre-approved for a loan amount and then work with a builder to construct your home. Once the home is finished, you’ll need to get a permanent mortgage to pay off the construction loan.
What are the benefits of a physician construction loan?
One of the biggest benefits of a physician construction loan is that it can help you finance a home even if you haven’t started earning an income yet. This advantage can help if you’re still in training or just starting out in your career. Another plus of a physician construction loan is that it can help you build the home of your dreams. You’ll be able to work with a builder to create a custom home that fits your needs and wants.
Additionally, a major benefit offered by construction loans is the fact that some lenders are willing to let you put as little as 5% down, with no reserve requirement- as long as you’re a professional. These loan programs are available for terms between 10-30 years, come with no reserve requirement, and have competitive construction loan rates where you can choose between fixed rates and adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) options.
What are the drawbacks of a physician construction loan?
Of course, physician construction loans are not perfect-they do have some downsides. Professional mortgage programs are all about customer acquisition- that’s why they’re willing to offer professionals such great deals. You’ll probably have to open a bank account with the lender, and you might be asked to move your paycheck direct deposit to the new account.
You may also see a slightly higher interest rate, somewhere ⅛-¼ higher, assuming you qualify for a professional mortgage and you only put 5% down. If you’re able to put more than 5%, you should be able to negate that higher interest rate.
Another drawback of a physician construction loan is that it can be more expensive than a traditional mortgage. This is because you’ll need to pay interest on the loan during the construction process and then get a permanent mortgage to pay it off.
How to find a construction loan lender
Construction loans are often challenging to obtain because they are considered high-risk. Lenders perceive this additional risk because the loan is based on the value of the property after it is completed and not on the current value of the property. As a result, construction loans are typically only available from specialized lenders.
If you’re on the hunt to find a construction loan lender, you need to talk to your bank or credit union first. They may not offer construction loans, but they may be able to refer you to a lender that does.
Another option is to search online for construction loan lenders.
Many online lenders offer construction loans, but it is a good idea to research each one carefully before applying. Before choosing a lender, you’ll also want to review and compare interest rates and terms.
Search several trusted, independent websites, and also make sure you use a private browser to ensure you’re getting accurate results and not results targeted at your specific device or user profile.
Once you have found a few potential lenders, you will need to submit an application. Be sure to include detailed information about your construction project and your financial situation. The lender in question will then review your application and decide whether or not to approve your loan.
If you are approved for a construction loan, the lender will disburse the funds as the project progresses. This disbursement schedule allows them to protect their investment and avoid paying the entire loan amount upfront, which could be risky if the project is not completed as planned.
Make sure to keep communication open with your construction loan lender throughout the project. Doing this will help ensure that the loan is paid back on time and that any potential problems are addressed quickly.
Construction loan FAQs
Construction loans shouldn’t be confusing. Find answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Is it harder to get approved for a construction loan?
Yes. Construction loans usually have higher approval standards than your standard residential mortgage loan. You’ll need a credit score of 620 or more, and a 20-25%+ down payment in most cases. Compare that to a 580 credit score and 3.5% for an FHA loan, and you can see how difficult it is in relation to FHA requirements.
Can I use extra funds to purchase items and goods for my home?
When you take out a construction loan, you never actually get physical control of the funds. The funds are paid directly to the builder, who only gets paid for the work they do- and you only pay interest on what gets paid out. You’ll save money if construction costs are lower than the original loan total, but you can’t use that money to, say, buy a new pool table or a signed Joe Montana jersey for your man cave.
Do construction loans cover the design phase of home construction?
They do not cover the design phase of construction. Home builders are responsible for self-financing the design phase of their home construction project. Additionally, before getting your loan, you must generate a builder’s contract, designs, an accurate budget, and a detailed construction timetable. These steps need to be completed before you even think about submitting a loan application.
What are construction loans?
Construction loans are loans used to finance the construction of a new home or other real estate property.
How do construction loans work?
Construction loans work by providing the funds necessary to pay for the construction of a new home or other real estate property. The loan is typically paid out in installments, with the final payment being made when the construction is complete.
What are the benefits of construction loans?
Construction loans can be a good option for borrowers looking to finance the construction of a new home or other real estate property. They can also be a good option for borrowers who may not qualify for a traditional mortgage.
What are the drawbacks of construction loans?
Construction loans can be a more expensive option than a traditional mortgage. They can also be riskier, as the borrower is responsible for the construction cost, and there is no guarantee that the property will be completed.
What are the requirements for construction loans?
Construction loans generally require a higher credit score than a traditional mortgage. They also usually require a down payment of 20% or more.
What is an average interest rate for a construction loan?
An example of the rate for an average construction loan is around 6.5%. Rates regularly rise and fall, and the actual rate you get depends on market conditions and your personal borrowing profile.
Can you use a construction loan to purchase land too?
Construction loans can be used to purchase land.
Can land be used as a down payment?
Yes! If you already own the land, the equity in the land can be used towards the down payment requirements for a construction loan.
Jump to individual state guide for construction loans
Special types of construction loans
Owner-Builder Construction Loans
Joshua Holt is a licensed mortgage loan originator (NMLS #2306824) and founder of Biglaw Investor. His mortgage expertise lies in the areas of professional mortgage loans, particularly for lawyers, doctors and other high-income professionals. Prior to Biglaw Investor, Josh practiced private equity mergers & acquisition law for one of the largest law firms in the country.