What It’s Like to Build a House in Ontario During the COVID-19 Pandemic

You’re not alone if the COVID-19 pandemic is making you wonder:

“Is 2021 really the right time to build a custom home in Ontario?”

Like most industries, the home building industry has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s had an impact on everything from the design and building process to permits and financing.

Even when everything is going well, building a custom home is hard work. Throw a global health crisis into the mix and your new home could easily end up behind schedule and over budget ‒ especially if it’s being built on-site, rather than in a controlled indoor environment.

But here’s the truth: with the right plan, it is still possible to build a custom home with minimal stress in 2021.

Let’s walk through the process of building a custom home in COVID-19, making note of the differences between traditional homes and prefab homes during this time.

The Design Centre is Different

Before COVID-19, you would usually start your custom home journey at a Design Centre.

That’s where you’d meet your builder, make a plan, and choose everything from the roof shingles and siding to windows, flooring, cabinetry and more. You could even bring friends or relatives along for the ride!

Visiting the Design Center for the first time is always a thrill. You get to walk through model homes, meet your designers, and get a clearer vision of your future home in mind.

Nowadays, as a matter of health and safety, your first visit to the Design Centre (and possibly later ones) will probably be virtual.

Many Design Centres in Ontario are closed or have limited hours, often by appointment only. Relatives and friends have to stay home, though they may join the conversation remotely via video chat.

The good news is, many custom home builders in Ontario now offer a wide array of project photos and information on home models online. This is a great way to get an idea of what you want before you visit a Design Centre in person. You could even take a virtual tour!

Our Design Centres in Innisfil, Gravenhurst, Wingham, Minden, and Peterborough remain open, taking additional precautions to protect you, our staff, and the community. An additional Design Centre is slated to open in Sarnia this spring!

There’s a Chance Costs Could Fluctuate

If the terms of your build aren’t set in stone, you could be on the hook for some serious extra expenses.

New construction is already notorious for last-minute expenses, and if COVID-19 causes disruptions in the construction supply chain, the cost of materials could skyrocket after the groundbreaking.

Your builder may be able to switch gears and use alternate materials, but if it costs more, that’s something you’ll have to pay ‒ unless you’ve got an ironclad agreement with the builder that says otherwise. Last year, some homebuyers saw increases of $6,000 to $20,000 just in the cost of lumber alone!

Of course, that only applies to a house being built the traditional way on a building site. Royal Homes’ prefabricated building process, refined over thousands of homes, gets your home built squarely on budget ‒ no matter what the market’s doing outside our factory walls.

Financing is More Complicated

Right now, thanks to COVID, everything is taking longer than usual on the mortgage side.

Building permits, appraisals, well and septic inspections, title searches…the list goes on. Financial institutions have fewer staff than before the pandemic, and with more families leaving the big city, demand has gone up.

At the same time, lenders are doing more due diligence to make sure that applicants are able to pay their mortgages.

Since the pandemic has put many workers on shaky ground, some lenders are tightening their standards as well.

Expect Delays on the Building Site

When you’re building a custom home, it’s important to know how long it will take. This is crucial if you want to sell your current place first, or if you plan to rent while you’re waiting for your new home.

Due to all the delays in permits, construction, materials and financing, you should expect any new home build to go a little bit longer than normal during the pandemic.

Additionally, if you go with a traditional home build, you can’t count out the possibility the build will be stopped during a lockdown. During the first wave of 2020, non-essential construction sites were temporarily shut down in Ontario.

Prefabs are a different story. Since Royal Homes are built in our factory, not construction sites, we were able to keep building during the lockdown last spring. Our customers were beyond relieved to hear that their homes were still being built while the rest of the province was shut down.

Expect a New Kind of Walk-through

The final walk-through of your finished home used to be a big deal. You’d go through the house with the builder, inspecting it from top to bottom and learning how the HVAC, electrical, and other systems work. It was the moment when it all came together!

Today, the walkthrough is less a grand tour and more a thing to get over with. Since COVID appeared, many builders no longer accompany buyers on the walkthrough ‒ they just send a video explaining how the house works. A bit anticlimactic, but necessary in this day and age.

One big event that hasn’t changed, at least on the prefab side of things, is the house setting. Watching your home roll in on the bed of a truck is an experience you’ll remember forever. You wake up with a foundation and go to bed with a house! That should more than make up for a less dramatic walk-through.

Building a Home During COVID-19

The process of building your own home is daunting in times like these. Be sure to get as much info from your home builder as you can, so you know what you’re doing and what to expect.

While there are some new challenges, it is definitely a good time to build a custom home in Ontario. The housing market is holding steady, interest rates are low, and there are more reasons than ever to escape to the country!

We’d love to talk to you about building your dream home in 2022. Just find your nearest Design Centre to get started!


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