THE TEN STEPS TO CUSTOMHOMEBUILDING IS DESIGNED TO BE USED AS AN INFORMATIVE GUIDE TO INTRODUCING YOU TO WHAT CUSTOMHOMEBUILDING IS ABOUT AND WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THIS EXCITING PROCESS!
First and foremost remember that building a Custom Home is not a science. It is a process that evolves as you select, design and shape your dream home around your specific needs. No builder can sit back and look at your plans and tell you exactly how much the project will cost without first considering your wishes, needs, wants and location, all based on your specific plans and specifications. If a price is given by simply looking at your plans and tossing out some generic specifications, you best run as fast as you can from this one as he is fooling you into thinking he knows what he is doing. One four thousand square foot home is not the same as the next. Everything has to be thoroughly planned from the specifications to the blueprints with all the details from electrical layout to exterior elevations. Not being thorough in the beginning is like throwing a dart at a moving target. A set of plans with its approved specifications must be let out to bid before an exact cost can be determined. Who is this scenario most unfair to? The builder, who has to live up to your expectations of giving you what you initially told him you desired, than after all the additions and changes the project comes in 10% or more over budget. Or you, the customer, who believed the builder, was giving you everything you dreamed and expected based on a past model or concept only to find out latter that all the extras were not included and it is now costing you 10% or more than you had expected. A thorough specification sheet with all the brands, model numbers, selections and allowances spelled out are the most important element to any custom home project. The plans can then be drawn to those specifications, followed by the bid process from which each subcontractor will be able to formulate his bid based on your approved specifications and plans. The specifications and plans are the only way you can be sure you are getting what you want, along with a thorough understanding of those specifications and plans; then and only then can a reputable builder be able to assemble the final cost of construction for your dream home. The following guidelines should be used to help you along the process of bringing the dream of your custom home to reality.
1. Set up a thorough specification list (over and above that which is provided by the builder), using all brand names, model numbers, colors and types of materials. Do not trust or use generic terms used loosely throughout the specifications. This will only lead to disappointment and misunderstanding at a later point in time. Visit as many of the contractor vendors as possible to see, feel and touch the products he has listed in the allowances so you can be sure they will meet your requirements. We will be happy to provide you with a list of our specifications and subcontractor list. 2. Get a copy of the builder’s referral list and make the calls. He should be able to provide you with a list of current and past homeowners. You will be doing yourself a great disservice if you do not follow through with this most basic of tasks. You will be spending a great deal of your hard earned money and time with this builder. What better way than to save you a great deal of grief by asking the most basic and candid questions about him than from former customers. Also call the local municipalities, as the local building inspector should be able to inform you of the type of builder you are inquiring about. He will know best if he has consistent problems during the building process as will as his construction management abilities. 3. Select the location you would like to build your home. The cost of land along with the amenities it has or is lacking is the single largest area affecting the budget of your home. If you will be purchasing property from the builder you can be sure it is a buildable site allowing for the costs of Water & Sewer or that the soils are suitable for Well and Septic. However if you will be purchasing the lot on your own you will want to be sure that it has Water and Sewer available or the land has soils suitable for the installation of a Well and Septic system. This is where a small investment on your part will save you a lot of time, money and grief down the line. You will need a Soil Suitable Study, Perk Test and Septic Design done based on the footprint of your home and the location you want it to sit. You will need a basic idea if not the final plan of the home along with the count of the number of bedrooms to thoroughly determine whether or not the lot is suitable for the home you wish to put on it. An engineer will be needed to set the final location and elevation of the home on the lot to allow for proper drainage. This process can take up to four weeks and cost up to $1800. The county will be needed to give final approval of the site and septic design and in some cases the local municipality will need to give there final approval. This process can take up to six weeks or more of which the final set of plans is required to allow the county to determine that the final septic design meets all of their requirements. Another element to consider is the covenants and restrictions, which are in force to insure uniformity and consistency in the community. Although they serve a reasonable purpose they may add significantly to the cost of building. Be sure to request a copy of this document and read it thoroughly. There is no way of getting around these restrictions and they will be enforced to the fullest. One other note worth mentioning is this process can take up to 4 weeks before final approval is given. You will need to get a reservationon the agenda for the first available slot. These meetings will take place sometimes once a week but more often than not twice a month (at the least once a month). If the project does not pass on the first review you will need to make the necessary revisions and attend the next meeting for final approval. If that meeting is booked up you will need to get a slot at the next available meeting. 4. Find the plan you like, or at least the basic model realizing that it can be modified to your liking. Using our high end specifications as a guide, figure $280 per square foot of living space to give you a rough estimate of the actual building cost (of course this estimate can go up or down depending on your specific wants, needs and budget), with a decent amount of amenities (my specifications have been developed over time to include most of the popular items requested by today’s home buyer). The biggest cost factors in no certain order are: a. Footprint of the home (a ranch is more expensive than a 2 story) b. Number of bathrooms c. Number of fireplaces d. Exterior elevation – Stone being the most expensive, Brick ˝ the cost of stone, followed by Siding ˝ the cost of Brick e. Volume ceilings vs. flat ceilings f. Walk out lots will add up to $25,000 or more to the building cost, English basements (windows in the lower level), will add up to $15,000 or more g. Turrets, Bays, Sunrooms and Solariums all add significantly to the cost as will any unique shapes or features h. Roofing materials used – Slate is the most expensive, Cedar Shakes 2/3 the cost of Slate, Heavy weight asphalt shingles ˝ the cost of Cedar (approximate comparisons) i. Roof height, slope, valley’s and ridge lines, along with hips and gables all add to the overall appearance of the home, however they also add to the cost as well as copper flashings and chimney designs j. Appliance and Kitchen amenities as well as Bathroom and Fixture amenities can add significantly k. Flooring selections using natural stone materials as well as countertops using granites and marble can add significantly l. The interpretations of all finishes from real vs. faux to thickness and grades all add to the overall cost of the project m. Drawing a set of plans from scratch vs. using a stock set. One built in the past with even the slightest changes from stock will add to the drafting costs as load points change, rooms need to be rearranged as do the exterior elevations. More often than not it is simply more cost effective to start over than to modify a stock set of plans, as the architect does not have the time to erase and modify that existing set. Architectural time is expensive, given the time it takes to meet, draw and certify the plans 5. Determine the approximate costs associated with the specifications, plans and location you have assembled. This will serve as your preliminary budget 6. Bring this preliminary budget to your banker or accountant to help you decide if all the finances are in order to proceed with the final phase of the project 7. Based on your preliminary budget and your financial position, now is the time to determine whether it is feasible to continue with your plans or which areas you can sacrifice to achieve your ultimate goal, the construction of your Custom Home. This is the time to decide if a real financial commitment is ready to be made. Any steps from this point forward will begin to cost you real money. 8. Bring the project to the architect to finalize the plans specific to your needs using your approved specifications. This will cost up to two dollars or more per square foot and will require anywhere from four to eight weeks or more depending on how quickly you can make and approve final decisions. Remember the architect is there to serve you and he can only proceed as quickly as you can finalize the required decisions and give the necessary approvals. This must be looked at as an investment in the project. You will need the plans to build the home anyway and what better way to finalize the costs and arrive at the final budget than to complete this phase as soon as possible. Be as thorough as possible. The architect and builder should be able to help you determine placement of cabinet, electrical and bathroom layouts as well as the materials used throughout the home to stay within your projected budget. Just remember, every addition, upgrade or change no matter how minor or insignificant you think costs money in the end. Follow your initial budget specifications. In some cases the subdivision and/or municipality where you will be building may require architectural approval. In this instance it would be a wise decision to meet with them at there designated times to gain their acceptance and approval of the home as some of there their decisions may effect not only the blueprint and final look of the home but the final budget as well. It is not surprising to have them add windows, stone, brick or other architectural appointments to make the home acceptable to the community 9. The final process is to have the entire project bid out by all the parties who will be involved in the project. This process will take approximately three weeks. Each subcontractor will need the final specifications and plans to allow for the home, as it is to be built, to be priced out. Without this we are once again throwing darts at a moving target. You will not have a thorough understanding of the true costs involved and in the end you will be the one disappointed with the project cost overruns. As long as you do not make additions, changes and selection upgrades, then and only then will the builder be able to stick to his original contract price. The extra time taken in the entire preliminary phase of he project will have paid off in the end by giving you the satisfaction of relaxing during the construction process. I want you to enjoy this project as much as I do in building the home of your dreams 10. Once all of the above process’s are completed, all the engineering plans, stamped architectural plans and if required septic approvals and association approval letters will need to be submitted for the building permit. This process can take up to four weeks or more. All of this time and decision-making will finally come to a head when the permit is received and the excavator moves the first bit of dirt. It will now be five months before you will close the project and truly enjoy the fruits of your labor.
We have drafted these ten steps to give you a true and honest assessment of the process leading up to and building your custom home. We want you to be thoroughly educated throughout this process. We feel that a thorough and candid overview will only help you to understand and accept what lies ahead for you in this exciting endeavor. We wish you luck in your decision and we hope to be your builder of choice.