Deciding to build a custom home is exciting! You’ve decided to build the home of your dreams, meant to suit only you and your family in all the ways you’ve envisioned. It is a fulfilling project, but it can also be daunting and overwhelming. and you need a professional to guide you through.
“Some people truly enjoy the process of designing and building their home, and most love living in the home that they have customized for themselves,” writes The Washington Post. However, “If you haven’t figured it out already, building a custom home requires lots of work. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of steps and decisions to be made along the way — establishing a budget, finding the lot, getting the lot under contract, finding an architect, finding a builder, designing the home, making selections, choosing paint colors, making change orders, etc. That being said, if you educate yourself, assemble the right team and remain realistic with your expectations, building a custom home can be an extremely rewarding experience.”
Where & How To Start
So where do you start? Looking for a home site? Surfing the web for ideas? Finding an architect first, or a custom home builder first? There are arguments on either side. But either way, you want the two professionals to work together, and Harry Headrick of Expert Design & Construction believes that starting with the builder helps the consumer the most in the long run.
It doesn’t mean you don’t need an architect – just that it may make more sense to find that person second, and the builder first.
“We work with them through the process, and we’re helping value-engineer it as we go,” Harry says.” We can help avoid decisions that are budget-busting.” In other words, an architect may specify a type of stone that has to be shipped in from across the country, while a local builder may know how to source similar stone regionally, which would save you money.
You may wonder about the terms “custom home” and “luxury home.” Are the two interchangeable? Is every custom home built with the most upscale trends in mind? Nothing could be further from the truth. A custom home can be small, mid-size, or large – it’s just designed and built to suit you. Luxury homes tend to be grander on the scale, designed and built with more exclusive touches and more expensive raw materials.
So how do you find a builder to work with you on creating the home of your dreams? In ways very similar to finding a builder for a smaller project: By answering questions in ways that are important to you.
- Make a list of who will live in the house and how you plan to use it. What are their ages? Do rooms need to be able to evolve, such as a child’s room that will change as the child becomes a teen? Do family members spend more time inside or outside? What are your passion activities? Do you usually sit down to eat together regularly, or are you more apt to nosh in the kitchen one by one? Do there need to be two home offices, an upstairs loft playroom, a senior apartment downstairs? Does anyone in the household need special accommodations?
- Then, make your wish list. In a home that was made just for you, what are your goals for how the space is used? Do you covet an open floor plan, or are you more traditional in taste? Is this a one-story or two-story home? Is there a workout room? A gourmet kitchen? Do you entertain a lot, and want a home that accommodates a lot of guests? Do you dream of a room for a pool table and a big-screen TV? All these things go on this list.
- It’s time to interview contractors. If you know of a custom home builder who has built homes in your area, drive around and look at them. Ask your friends, family or co-workers if they know of custom builders. Visit review sites online and read consumer reviews. Then visit and interview your candidates in person, even visiting your proposed homesite if you already have one.
- Figure out your budget. While there may be a typical per-square-foot cost in your area for a new home, this number can vary wildly depending on the size of your home and the finishes you desire. This is a task you’re going to have to get some help with, most likely from your builder. However, your budget shouldn’t be your contractor’s first concern. It should be more important for him or her to find out your hopes and wishes for your new house first.
- Any potential contractors should be able to show you their work– a tour of homes in the area, or an online gallery or portfolio – especially of homes similar to your price range. Ask your prospective builders for recent references – and then talk to those new homeowners about how the process went for them.
- Which contractor most understood your goals and worked most clearly with your budget? That’s most likely the builder you want on this job. It’s important to have a good feeling going into the project – stressful situations and surprises do often happen during building projects, and you need a person who can solve problems efficiently and cost-effectively, from breaking ground to that final walk-through.