Custom built home

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by cocobolo, May 5, 2016.

  1. cocobolo

    cocobolo Member

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    Anyone here have a home custom built on their own lot? What lessons did you learn from the process? A lot of the listings say it is up to the buyer to research the lot. Is this something you and your builder worked on or did you find the lot with a realtor?
     
  2. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

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    Yes.

    Back in 2000 on a 4k sq ft home. Custom builder who hired his own general contractor. Bought the lot with the builder's assistance.

    Was given allowances for various things, like bathrooms, landscaping, etc. We bought fixtures cheap when HQ was going out of biz and moved money around to other areas.

    It was difficult to see plans and how they would look as a finished product. If I had it to do over again, I would have measured rooms in houses I liked and made sure bathrooms/bedrooms/kitchen were large enough.
     
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  3. Stratonator

    Stratonator Member

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    Nowadays, there are computer programs that can generate a 3D version of the house. Though it doesn't need to be rendered in great detail, having that available would make me more comfortable with giving the go-ahead as I've been in a number of houses with a poor layout. The flow of the rooms and walking areas is important to make the house greatly functional.

    If I could, I would bulldoze our house and have a new one built from scratch but the prices around here are crazy so we've renovated a lot of it and have made it as functional as possible given the layout.

    There are threads I've seen on various message boards about this very topic. I'd suggest performing a Google search for threads from people with experience in this area. You might uncover additional tips that might help you with ending up with the best home for you and your family.
     
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  4. cocobolo

    cocobolo Member

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    How did you guys pick a builder? There's this site called houzz with hundreds of builders in my area. Lots of them have good reviews posted. Need a good way to pair it down a little.
     
  5. Stratonator

    Stratonator Member

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    Check their BBB page.

    Remember that a lot of these websites only allow reviews to be published by charging the businesses a fee. In some cases, the businesses have the pull to remove negative reviews.
     
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  6. EricPeterson

    EricPeterson Member

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    We went semi custom, saved quite a bit on an architect and engineer. Our builder was good to work with, but we had a realtor as a go between which is nice if you need someone to be the heavy.

    Be sure to watch the progress and frequently visit the site, if something looks wrong, bring it up sooner rather than later, it is easy to correct early on.

    Shop around for finishes, we saved a ton this way.

    It is a great experience. But it takes some work and effort on your part.
     
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  7. Rezin

    Rezin Member

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    You've got a Realtor, a general contractor and an architect to help you, but you CANNOT abdicate your own responsibility, or you will pay for it. You have to stay on top of it. Each of those people has his own priorities, which are not necessarily yours, and you have to be aware of that. Not to say that they're bad people, but they do have their own priorities. For example, the contractor may have a full-time crew that is too small. Four guys can build a house, but six guys can build it faster and you may need that (or not.) If the contractor comes up with another job while he's doing yours, he may want to shift some of his more experienced people around to the other job, and you lose out, maybe having to put up with pick-up workers rather than full-time carpenters, who do bad work that you can't see. If you hire an architect, he'll charge you a percentage of cost...which means if costs go up for finishes and fixtures and change orders, he gets paid more even though he doesn't do more. Gotta keep an eye on all of that. A Realtor also gets paid a percentage, so he may try to unload a more expensive lot than you need -- he's not being a bad guy, he may be selling you "quality," and in his own mind, a better neighborhood, but he does get paid more, and you have to decide yourself whether a more expensive lot is worth the extra money compared to something else. You should know in advance what you want.

    I would suggest that if this is your first time doing a custom home, you devote a large amount of time to research, because some of the decisions you have to make will be quite subtle. For example, if you have young children, or plan to, you may want to live within walking distance of a good school. (Research schools and other services before you buy.) But you don't want to live right across the street from a school, because the traffic and school-related noise will kill you. If you travel a lot on business, you may want to live with half an hour of an airport, but not too close. Do you want to be able to walk to restaurants, etc? That will change where you live.

    You also have to decide whether the architect's design fits your lifestyle. Do you need a large rec room, known here as a guitar room? Does that mean you'll need a built-in humidifier that works with your heater? Do you need lots of closet space (answer is usually yes.) How fancy do you want the bathroom -- for only an additional $12,000, you can have a sauna put in, but the architect will get $1440 for drawing a rectangle on the plan and writing, "Put sauna kit here." I had an architect convince me that the front door "Is the first thing your visitors will see, the first impression they take away from you house." He wanted to put in a $3,000 door. I reluctantly said 'Yes,' and it turned out that his boyfriend made doors. The door I got was good-looking enough, but of a non-standard thickness that no standard hardware would fit, and for the nineteen years that I owned the house, was nothing but a pain in the ass. The same architect convinced me that I should have a narrow sheltering roof over the front steps, so visitors waiting at the door would have at least a little shelter from rain. But, because of the way the house was built, the sheltering roof was narrow...and meltwater during the spring/winter transition (this was in Minnesota) would drain onto the porch, which became a skating rink when it froze.

    What I'm saying is, this stuff is hard to see -- that's why you need the research, and need to think about all these things, and a lot more.
     
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  8. rolsen

    rolsen Member

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    I have no experience with custom built homes but as a homeowner for 12 years, I know what I really want or would rather have. I also know I have zero experience with home design but others do this for a living. I would opt for a selection of already designed plans rather than start from scratch myself. Best homes I've seen were designed by someone other than me, so why would I presume to do any better?

    Layout is everything. Wife and I (no kids) live in a 1850 sq ft home, but its carved into too many rooms (probably to look good on paper). I'd be happier and enjoy more elbow room in a 1600 sq ft home that had no formal dining room and no rec room.. just an open concept kitchen-dining-living room, master and a couple bedroom/office/hobby rooms. Entry spaces, hallways and little useless nooks are a waste of sq footage.
     
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  9. great-case.com

    great-case.com a.k.a. "Mitch"

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    Architects make mistakes, builders charge a lot to correct them and often an Engineer will be required to resolve Design v Build conflicts. Otherwise, you're in for a ride you will not believe. I wish I had hired and engineering firm from the start instead of a lone architect. Ala carte on services is tough to budget.

    My advice is budget 85% of your true financial capacity to the initial contract. You will need the other 15% to finish the job.

    A real money saver is to find a semi-custom design off the shelf, one that has been built before and checked out for completeness of the drawings. In a sense, I advise you to fire the architect before you hire one.

    Does you wife envision a magazine cover?
     
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  10. wstsidela

    wstsidela I'm bonafied Gold Supporting Member

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    I own a 4000sq ft custom-built home. I bought it directly from the builder. Saved me a lot of grief.
     
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  11. Glass Onion

    Glass Onion Toneful truth seeker. Gold Supporting Member

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    5200 sq feet.

    A massive undertaking. We already owned the land and a pre prepared house pad was there when we bought.

    Biggest undertacking I have ever gone through. Dont want to ever do it again but we love the house.

    I had a 19x24 foot two story room built off the back of the garrage and a control room built over the garrage that is joined with a pool room/theater room.
    I can sit upstairs and look down on the recording room.

    Those extras were a pain to explain to a regular builder contractor but it turned out great.

    If you have the patience it is worth having and feeling like it is YOUR house.

    I had to pick out all fixtures and colors and floors. Everything. Wife is a doctor. (Only way a poor teacher like me would end up here). She was too busy to do any of the work. So I got to play the n between guy with her and the builder.

    Do not be afraid to be an ass if you have to. Builders are trying to save as much cash as possible at your expense. They will try to fuh q. End of discussion. Be forewarned and be an ass if you need to. Check up on everything as often as possible. We lived right by the build site in a little 900 sq ft house with no central air or heat for 3 years cause it was already on the 21 acres we bought. We rebuilt the little house from the ground up. Her dad and I spent every weeknd for a year rebuilding it and that made me ready to oversee the big house and be a pain in the ass to the workers trying to cut corners.

    Again show up every day you can and look at all of it and take friends with fresh eyes.
     
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  12. swiveltung

    swiveltung Member

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    I've talked myself out of it before. It is a lot of stress for sure. Watch your builder and be sure to make only progress payments and for each payment receive material releases from the suppliers.
     
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  13. dB

    dB Member

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    Hire an architect, or someone actually capable of designing a comfortable, well proportioned and properly sited house. Worst case scenario, purchase plans online and possibly customize them a little. The majority of builder designed houses are full of awkward spaces, missed opportunities, and value engineering.

    Do you truly want a custom home? As in...you can't find anything you like from standard offerings, or you have a vision for the house you want to live in, and it's unlike anything else. For most folks who think they want a custom home, the reality is that a fairly standard home with a few custom embellishments would more than suffice, and spare them a lot of anxiety, frustration and money.

    For the record, I am an architect and am more than happy to talk someone out of hiring an architect/me if it doesn't seem like it's justified.

    If you do want to go all in on a custom home, check the math before you get too deep. I'm not sure what Chicago residential construction costs are like, but around here you need to be prepared to start at $300/sf, plus the cost of the land and sitework (including septic/well/clearing/grading/landscaping/driveway, etc). A 4000sf home, could be 1.2M on the low end, plus 200k for site work, plus an architects fee (10% on average) and their various consultants, plus the cost of the land. Easily a $2M project.
     
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  14. popinvasion

    popinvasion Supporting Member

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    I'm a licensed realtor but do work now for NVR(Ryan homes) in addition to some psychological marketing work.

    Be aware that many custom builders are not truly a custom builder. So you must ask yourself if it's worth the added expense. Many builders try to promote themselves as custom builders when they often offer similar offerings as a production builder. You can have a company like NVR build you a home anywhere. There is some customization but it's not custom. But you get more house for the money.
     
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  15. AaeCee

    AaeCee Member

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    We were the general contractors (me and wife) when we built our current home on our own lot. It was our third home, and since we used a builder to build our second one and were intimately involved with the entire process, we learned a lot. Our current house is kinda big (too big now that our last is entering college) at 6300 sq. ft., 9000+ if including our fully finished basement.

    My advice:

    -Only attempt if you have some degree of experience.
    -It is extremely time consuming. As the general, we collectively spent another 30+ hrs./wk. on the build, so don't do it unless you can handle that.
    -If you are married and both involved, be sure you're of one mind and the relationship is strong. It'll certainly test you!
    -You must be extremely detail oriented and prepared to stay that way through the entire build. No weekends off!
    -You must be very adept at shopping every aspect for the best price, as costs will vary widely with different subs and suppliers. Additionally, you need to be able to recognize a fair deal vs. a shoddy contractor/supplier.
    -You must be of calm demeanor and not easily rattled. The frustrations will be myriad and frequent.
    -You must keep the finances exceptionally disciplined, orderly, and organized. Once you start making the "might as well' type exceptions, costs can rapidly exceed any budget.
    -Don't even try it unless you're full bore enthusiastic. Equivocation at the start will quickly give way to frustration.
    -Finally and critical, we hired an extremely experienced, very tough, old foreman. The extra cost of his work was more than made up for through his judgement and skills in evaluating every aspect along the way. He was involved with our and two other custom builds at the time, and was some of the wisest money we spent.

    And I'll leave you with this: I'm really glad we did it, definitely saved money in the process, and learned a ton. We love our home, but will NEVER do it that way again ... 'Been there, done that'.

    Good luck if you decide to give it a shot.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2016
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  16. swlees

    swlees Member

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    We did, but the difference is we already owned the property and built our new house about maybe 50 yards from our old house and abandoned the old one once we finished. I can't help you on the lot purchase beyond get a good survey and that sort of thing.

    We built a timber framed home and customized the design some, which was not a problem with the timber frame company. Added more windows, changed rooms around some which was easy because of the open nature of a timber frame. We hired a contractor we had used before to do some major work on our barn. We knew his work habits and he has been in business locally for 30 years.

    It was actually a pretty stress free experience. I guess we were lucky considering some of the horror stories I've heard.
     
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  17. cocobolo

    cocobolo Member

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    Thanks all for the very helpful responses. My family and I have had two new homes built before by builders...i.e. the cookie cutter home and neighborhood. We really like the current home we are in, but the school district is not the greatest. Also wouldn't mind a little more land, less HOA restrictions, and I definitely can envision a better workspace/studio/gear room. So that's the impetus that sparked this idea.

    From what I've read about the full custom home on this thread...that's probably outside the realm of what I'd like to take on and what we'd need. So I think I'm looking for a home that is somewhere between the cookie cutter and the full custom. I started looking at the timber frame homes, kit homes, and ready made blueprints. Anyone else go these routes or something similar? What other solutions exist that are semi-custom?
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2016
  18. cocobolo

    cocobolo Member

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    popinvasion, I didn't know that Ryan built on lots they don't own. I've visited their models before, but the floorplans didn't meet what we wanted. Do you happen to know if they will build off plans brought to them or do they only build their models?
     
  19. swlees

    swlees Member

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    If you like the look of timber frame, that might be the way to go. (It can be too much wood for some people). There are many companies out there and the available designs run the gamut from simple to palatial. We picked a pretty basic design of 1500 s.f. from a company named Timberpeg in New Hampshire and we were able to make changes we liked without too much extra cost or difficulty. Most all of the timber frame designs out there now are super well insulated and very energy efficient.
     
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  20. popinvasion

    popinvasion Supporting Member

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    You know it might be conditional based on region. They may not offer it in all regions. But yes you can only build one of their models but there is many customizations. NVR also owns heartlandluxuryhomes.com and locally do build one off heartland homes as well. Would they offer that where you live? Might be worth asking. But again a lot is regionally dependent.
     
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