The Custom Build Process

blueprint There are a few different ways to go about building a custom home. Remember, the key word here is custom. By definition a custom home is a home designed to be built on a specific lot.

There are many homes that are built for a client from stock plans that builders, architects, or designers have already designed and built for others. There is nothing wrong with this approach, and it can sometimes save the client money on the design process. These designs can often be adjusted to customize them for other clients. That said; there are also some limitations to the design that go along with using a stock plan. The primary one being orientation on the lot for optimal energy efficiency and views, as well as floor plan limitations like room size constraints, juxtaposition of public and private areas, and specific building envelope restraints.

The following is a summary of the “lot specific” custom home building process:

The client purchases a lot on which to build their home. This can happen with the client having chosen an architect/designer or builder beforehand. If the client has not already chosen either, they can now start interviewing architects and/or designers, as well as builders. The client will want to keep in mind that the relationship with the builder is going to be a long-term one. From the commencement of construction through the warranty period, it can be well over two years. If the builder is helping during the design process the relationship will be even longer. The same things that make any long-term relationship successful and fulfilling apply; communication, honesty, empathy, and compromise, among others.

jim outside

There are a couple ways to start out. Some people will choose their builder and then work with the builder selecting who will draw the plans. Others will select their architect or designer first and then choose a builder to help with the design process, or wait until the plans are completed and have the project competitively bid by one or several builders. I have gone through the process in all of these ways. Choosing your builder first or choosing an architect/designer and then the builder are my preferences, as it pulls together the design/build team at the start. The builder can often facilitate the design process with his or her experience in the field and knowledge of value engineering for a more cost effective project. The build out time can be reduced because the builder has helped incorporate elements into the design that will make the construction process more efficient, thus reducing the construction loan interest. Some clients feel uncomfortable committing to a builder at the very beginning. They might feel that they have no influence on the pricing for the home at the end of the design process. Many homes are built using a competitive bid hosted by the owner or the architect/designer with great success. Whatever process the client has the most confidence in is the best way to proceed.

Please keep in mind that the design process is an evolution, not a revolution. Give your self enough time to assimilate all the information and details presented. You may go to sleep one night thinking everything is just right, like Goldilocks surmised, and wake up the next morning unsure if you like it or hate it. Design continues throughout the entire building process. Some elements continue to evolve all the way to the finish of the project. That’s why it is called a custom home.

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