A Custom Home

So you think, how about a custom home? Let's do this right and get what we want. Now what?

Well first things first. Give me a call. 

I am here to make the process easy and fun for you and answer any questions you have. Even as you are just wondering.

But for starters let me list some basics about the process. And a few truths I shouldn't share. And just so that I won't loose you while I am telling you how it is, here are a few pictures to wet your whistle. This could be yours:

 (This is a 1,885 sf custom home laid out around a courtyard we designed and built in Harrisburg, NC, for a family of 4.)

(This is a 1,885 sf custom home laid out around a courtyard we designed and built in Harrisburg, NC, for a family of 4.)

 (This modern home in the University Area counted 3,472 sf and included a separate studio apartment. A custom design and build for an elderly, partly handicapped, couple with a live-in son.)

(This modern home in the University Area counted 3,472 sf and included a separate studio apartment. A custom design and build for an elderly, partly handicapped, couple with a live-in son.)

How to get there? Well here it goes:

 

Design

This is the best part. Here we conceive your future home together. You and I. To start out, I'll take you by your hand, listen, and go through all the dreams and wishes you have and those you were not aware of. This includes aesthetics, rooms, materials, details, colors, size,  budget, cost, and time. We look at other designs, talk about your lifestyle and activities, consider changes your life might bring, the things you want and those you don't. We also talk about the actual property this home will have to work with, about sunlight, topography, privacy, and views. We also talk about structure, construction methods, and energy efficieny. Everything goes on the table so that we know what this house has to respond to and accommodate. 

Once we understand your needs fully, I start the design process with simple napkin sketches, figuring out the functions, size, and rough look. We'll look at it together and make changes and then move on to a schematic design. This will provide you with full floorplans and one or two elevations. That's when the house will start to come into focus. This, too we look at together, discuss and make changes to.

Next I close my door a titch and go through a design development phase, where the structure, heating/cooling and plumbing systems are worked out. Wall sections, every elevation, every detail will be considered and drawn up. It'll cause for some changes and for the quality of the design to be sharpened. As I look at every corner, I'll adjust and make changes. At the end of this marry-go-around your house will be fully designed. We again evaluate it together and make adjustments as needed.

At this point I can throw in a full cost analysis of the construction cost, but more about that later.

At last I lock my door and throw away the key. I get down and dirty and turn all of this into a set of construction drawings, looked over and sealed by a structural engineer. This is a tool to communicate to banks, trades, and city officials. As we have discovered the intricacies of your home, I'll have to figure out how to communicate them to everyone clearly and put them at ease. So that the house get's built the way we imagined it.

At the outset of this entire design process, I provide you with a proposal and full contract that spells out all the steps, drawings, fees, and payment schedule. 

 

Construction

While the construction drawings will allow any builder to put your house together, I can also offer to build it as well. Looking at a design holistically, from the first line on the paper to the last paint drop drying, allows me to truly craft this home into its full potential. Understanding cost and construction skills and being able to respond to them during the design, will also allow us to tighten up the budget and give you every bang for the buck.

It all starts with a full construction cost estimate, which as mentioned, we can include during the design phase. If we do it early we can adjust the design to our findings.

As a GC I secure building permits and facilitate the county's plan review, plan the construction schedule, employ and mange subcontractors, research, order, and purchase materials, insure the building code is met and inspectors satisfied, finance each portion of the construction until bank payments come in, supervise all work being done to ensure quality and adherence to the plans, solve ad hoc head scratchers, and make sure things are getting done. 

During the construction it is also part of my tasks to communicate well to you. I have to make sure to share with you every fixture, appliance and finish that are chosen and allow you to make changes as you see fit.

As I provide a warranty for your home, I will let you pick form a pre-selected list of vendors and manufacturers to insure prompt delivery, exchanges, and timely repairs.

We look at the final color selection together, as well as flooring, tile, and cabinet selections. To ensure a smooth construction and allow for good decisions, I will communicate the timeline and deadlines to you ahead of time.

The rest I will take care of for you. You can visit the site, of course anytime you like or can chose to wait until I hand you a key and a bottle of Champaign.

I have understood over the years that being aware of your expectations and the communication of construction necessities are important for a smooth sailing. It means that I will communicate with you throughout the construction, and keep you informed to the extend that is right for you.

This, too, is proceeded by a full contract and signed documents for you lender.

 

The Lot

Here now are the two pieces that I have little control over and that will drive you mad. First is finding a lot. There is no easy way to sugar coat this. You have to be determined and go out there and look. With the help of a realtor (who, no offense to my realtor friends, rather talk you out of it and sell you a more expensive home), by looking online at Realtor, Trulia, and Zillow, and by pounding the pavement. We found the lot I built our own house on through a "sale by owner sign" on the side of the street.

Consider properties that are not a in a developer's community, since they most likely come with HOA restrictions that make the house you invision impossible.

Also consider the per square foot prices of homes around your lot to see if they meet the construction cost we'll discuss together. If you are really good, you'll find a property for cheap in an area with expensive homes.

If you are up for an adventure, I can give you also a few other ideas. Just let me know.

As you are looking around and are about to give up, make sure to keep me informed. I can look up information on properties for you and come out to take a look at a patch of dirt in person and help you decide.

 

Financing

The financing is complex, layered, and destined to make you rip your hairs out. It's all about the banks lending products, the appraisal, the depth of your pockets, and the real estate market. Here to, you have to do your homework and talk to banks, take a hard look at your finances, net worth, and how much aunt Ethel is willing to add. You'll be disappointed and worried,  will adjust to unexpected realities, and still charge ahead. Her are a few pointers.

You need cash. At least 20% of what you'd like to spend.

You are golden if you can afford the lot in cash. Otherwise you'll find yourself renting for a year or longer.

Smaller community banks have most likely the better loans for you.

The bank will only provide you with 80% or 90% of what the houses around you are worth. Not what you think your house is worth. Chances are those other houses are built cheaply. And we have to move within those parameters. The more cash you bring to the table the more you can do as you please. No chance to create an IPhone amongst turn-the-dial-hooked-up-to-the-wall phones by only looking at the bank. However, I can create wonders with what the banks give you.

There will be a construction loan at the outset and a mortgage at the end. Sometimes they are combined into one. The construction loan portion will provide partial payments, draws, to me or another builder as money gets spent on the construction. Your interest payments will increase over the course of the construction as more funds get issued.

Ask for how much of a loan your financial situation could yield, your down payment at the beginning (most likely 20% or 15% of the cost of construction, less the value of the land), closing costs including  an appraisal, maximum time for construction, and how much cash they'll expect you to have at hand during construction if any. The last part could be in some case certain retirement accounts, other ownerships you have, or nothing at all.

The value of the empty lot and my design fees count toward your down payment. In other words if you spend most of your cash on the purchase of your lot and that is around or more than 20% of what you plan to spend in total, you are only looking at closing costs and a few fees for the loan. However, keep in mind, the less you spend on the property, the more you have to play with on the actual house.

Ask me if your budget matches your dreams and what we can do with it.

Here are two more blog posts that shine light on the details of the real estate market and your budget:

McMansions

American Gothic - Drop the Pitch Fork

 

What Now

In many cases this unfolds as follows but might be different in your situation.

You talk to me about size, cost, and time, your dreams and aspirations. You find a lender and let them translate your finances to you. You sell your house, and move into a rental unless you can afford a lot out right. You go looking for lot and buy it. You come back to me and we start the design and end up with construction drawings and a full cost estimate. You go back to the bank. They will commission an appraisal of your future home and then spell out in detail the loan amount, closing details and what you have to show up with for the closing of the construction loan. You close. I build. You close on a mortgage that pays out the construction loan. Voila! You move in.

Still interested? It might all sound like a bit much. But the fun of creating a custom jewel in the end is worth all these steps.

Nothing compares to living in a home that is one of a kind, crafted specifically for you with skill, love, and attention.