Custom Home Building Process in a Nutshell

With so many details to think about, where do you start the custom home process? While it’s easy to get overwhelmed, we like to simplify the custom home process by starting out just looking at only two things.What are these two things? I can’t tell you because that would give away our competitive advantage.All right. You twisted my arm. Here they are:Our process starts with two things: 1) you and 2) your lot. That’s it. Pretty simple.So I like to start things off playing Columbo. When we meet I’ll ask you questions that fall into just a four categories. Here’s a small sample of our routine:A. $MONEY$ category- How important is resale to you?
– Is return on investment your number one motivation or is it a lower priority and you just want to make sure you don’t do anything someone else would think odd when you sell?
– How are you going to finance your new home?
– If you are going to use a lender, is a construction loan, new first mortgage or new second mortgage best for you? Can you use collateral of other assets to improve your options?
– How much cash do you have to put into your new home?
– How much cash do you want to put in to the new home?
– Have you spoken with a lender (we prefer you use ours I’llexplain some advantages in future post)? – What tax bracket are you in? There could be some tax benefitsrelated to the project that may apply to your situation.B. Lifestyle category:- How long do you think you want to live in your new home? This usually factors in to energy efficiency and “green” options and calculating the pay-back period.
– Are you there for 5 years and then on to the vineyards of Oregon or is this your last home and you want us to design a master suite on the first floor or an elevator to get to the 2nd floor?
– When do you want to see the home started by? This can be a big factor when jurisdictions like Arlington, D.C. and Montgomery County are constantly changing zoning and building codes. Montgomery County just passed a law that takes effect in four months decreasing height and density in many neighborhoods & sprinklers will be required in all dwellings in two years (I’ll verify the exact date).
– When do you want to move in to the home?
– “by Christmas” is always a lofty goal and as long as you don’t mind me asking “which one?” (I couldn’t resist) we’ll always hit it.
– Where will you live during the construction (we have sources for short term rentals, but ask me early since they go fast)?
– Do you plan on in-laws or relatives coming back for any period of time? What bathroom will they use? What kitchen will they use? We just finished a home in Silver Spring with three kitchens
– one for the kids with 5 kids of their own, one for the parents and one for Aunt Lee, who visits during the summers.C. Your Future Home (and little bit about your current home) category- What are the features and amenities that you must have, or the project just isn’t worth doing? – What are the features and amenities that would be nice to have?
– What style home do you love?
– What style home do you hate?
– What bothers you about your current home?
– What do you love about your current home?
– How important are energy efficient features?
– How important are green features?
– Do you like open plans with a ton of natural light and views from front to back or would you prefer something more intimate and cozy?
– What ceiling heights do you want? How do you feel about two story spaces?
– Do you want a basement? If so do you want it finished?D. And Last but not least – Your Lot category – this is always a biggie, so big I’m adding these extra few sentences before I get to the.It always surprises and shocks me, like a slurp of Red Bull, when people don’t call us prior to buying a lot (I bet you can tell, it especially upsets me).There could be so many restrictions on lots, for instance: easements, setbacks, alleys, lot coverage, height, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., which you would never know just by looking at a piece of dirt with your eyes.We just completed two subdivisions, on two separate projects, that probably added six (unexpected) months to each project. And added thousands of dollars in engineering and permitting fees. In each case the owners were not aware of the restrictions until we performed our zoning analysis. And in each case they had owned the lots for many years.So checking the “buildability” of your lot is one of the very first steps we take. IF YOU’RE PURCHASING A LOT, please call me before you pull that trigger!Here are some things we look at (this is so critical I’m tossing out the regular bullets):
Zoning category Public utility easements Building restriction lines Established front yard building line Setbacks on all sides of the property Floor area ratio Year the lot was recorded Is the lot a conforming or non-conforming Specimen tree issues Tree Save issues Water Run-off Wetlands Due to the complexity of some of these issues, complete research and answers may be a few steps into our process. And to paraphrase a soon to be ex-senator, this stuff is way beyond my pay grade, so, Kevin, our excellent and unflappable architect, handles most of this.Well that’s a brief primer on how we start the custom home process. It all starts with you and your lot, as it should be.Next time I’ll give you an idea of what we do once we get your answers. But it’s 12:08 a.m. and I need to take out the garbage so I can earn my keep.Please keep the comments and critiques coming and let me know what’s on your mind. And I’d appreciate if you could tell me:
What would you love to see during the home building process that would make your life easier?
What frustrates you the most about the home design and building process?