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Construction on Nantucket Part 3: Timing Your Build

20140325_122410 You have purchased your land and done your due diligence confirming zoning, checking for wetlands, perking the property and understanding the septic requirements. Now you’re on your way to your very own perfect Nantucket home. There are distinct phases of the construction process here on Nantucket.

And while the timeline can be relatively predictable, it’s good to remember that there are always outliers. Here, I will outline the general guidelines for understanding the building timeline on Nantucket.

First, you’ll need to hire a local architect or design team. Luckily, there are many talented choices on Nantucket with a breadth of experience. I recommend that you meet with a few because they all have a different approach, style and level of service. This will often be the team who will help you find your land engineer and help work through some of the Town’s boards: the Historic District Commission, and if applicable, conservation commission, planning board or ZBA (zoning board of appeals). This team will also help connect you to builders and project managers, so take your time and pick the right team for you.

The design and approval phase exists to get you a building permit. The following timeline assumes you know exactly what you want with only one version of plans. (Since this rarely happens, I suggest adding time depending on your personality and decisiveness.)

Design, in general, will take approximately 3 months. Working through the HDC (Historic District Commission) takes, on average, 2 months. While you may start designing your house from inside-out to meet the needs of your family and lifestyle, the HDC will design from the outside-in. Therefore, in reality you really won’t have plans ready the contractor bid until you have completed the HDC process. Once those plans are approved and you send them out to bid, you are likely waiting another month to 45 days to gather bids from contractors and make a decision on whom to go with.

Want a better understanding of the HDC process?  Watch the past meetings or live on Tuesday evenings on the Town of Nantucket’s on Demand video service.

Now we are 6 months into the process. Let’s assume the contractor is sitting on his hands ready and waiting for you to hire them. Next in the timeline? Scheduling the details. Your project start by digging your hole so it’s best not to begin in late December, January or February when the ground is frozen and temperatures are at extreme lows. If construction moves quickly with no design changes and no major delays on weather or schedule, you can assume that for a 4500 sq. ft. home with a partially finished basement and minimal landscaping, it will take 11 to 13 months of work from the day the excavator starts digging the hole to the day you put the key in the door. Thus, all said and done, it takes approximately 17 to 20 months to build a home on Nantucket from start to finish.

Now it’s time to enjoy!


UP NEXT: Expected costs per square foot to build on Nantucket.

Did you miss PART ONE and PART TWO of our Nantucket construction series? Click here to learn more:



Brian Sullivan

Originally hailing from Weston, Massachusetts, Brian came to Nantucket in 1996 intending to stay for just the summer. As often happens, he found himself being drawn in by the Island’s allure and immediately set about building a dynamic career spanning over 20 years in Nantucket real estate. Brian loves the puzzle and challenge of matching people to property, and believes that there is something for everyone here on Nantucket if you look hard enough. As one of the top brokers on the Island, to date he has participated in hundreds of millions in transactions and has been quoted by CNNMoney and Barron’s.

Brian truly embodies the Nantucket lifestyle, taking advantage of all the unique outdoor opportunities the Island offers and throwing himself into the local community. Seemingly squeezing 48 hours worth of work and activities into 24, Brian sits on numerous Boards and Committees, including the Maria Mitchell Association, and was appointed by the Nantucket Board of Selectmen to the Affordable Housing Trust. He lives on the Island year round with his wife, Tess, owner of The Hub Nantucket, and their son, Fisher.