We do not want to enter into a contract with the builder until we have the financing in place, however, summer is marching on and we were worried about getting the house started on time. In about another month or two it will start to get more expensive to build, primarily because after November 7, a 7% winter handling premium is applied to the cost of concrete and any masonry work has to be heated to ensure the mortar cures properly.
So, we met with the builder today and agreed to start some of the necessary soil engineering studies. These studies take about two weeks to complete and cost about $2500, but are required before a building permit application can be filed. If the financing falls through (which I don't think it will) then we're out $2500, but on the other hand, we could be two weeks ahead when the financing does come through.