The cost of a custom home is not a simple number or formula. Just like buying a car or a diamond, factors of size, quality, features, and material grades must be considered. Other considerations include where features are located. For instance, if a builder states that they can build a very low cost home with granite and marble, you may realistically be expecting more than just one granite countertop in the powder room and just marble floors in the entry vestibule. Certain items are fixed cost, like a particular brand of oven. This cost will not vary depending on the size of the house. Other items are variable cost, such as drywall which will increase as the size of the house grows. Even here, it gets a bit complicated since as the size of the rooms grow, the cost for drywall per square foot of living space can go down since there are fewer walls per square foot. We recently completed a 7700 square foot home that cost less than $150 per square foot including landscaping and a pool. We also built a home, in the same time frame, that cost over $300 per square foot. A legitimate answer to this question can only be made after some discussion of your expectations and budget priorities. We regularly value engineer plans with owners, architects and subcontractors to insure that most wanted features are included and cost-effective alternates are selected to permit achievement of budgetary objectives.
2)HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
The same factors that determine cost impact the construction time. The builder acts as the coordinator to insure that workers and materials are present when needed to avoid delays. A range of time can generally be established only after determination of the scope of the project. We have built custom homes in under 6 months from permit to move-in. We’ve also required 2 years to create mansions with extraordinary details. Several recent homes in The Ridges typically took 14 or 15 months. The 7700 square foot home mentioned above took exactly 12 months from permit to Certificate of Occupancy.
3)DO YOU HAVE PLANS THAT I CAN USE?
With over three decades of experience, we have many plans that can be reviewed for ideas. Each home site is different and deserves a unique plan to obtain the best use of the property. Technology and tastes are constantly changing; the custom home should reflect these developments and your own lifestyle.
4)DO YOU ONLY WORK WITH SPECIFIC ARCHITECTS?
Our extensive diverse experience includes working with a wide range of firms from the very large to ‘one person shops.’ We continue to work with all architects and designers.
5)WHAT ARE YOUR FEES?
Since the inception of our business in 1977, we have always worked on a fixed fee basis for building custom homes. We consider ourselves a fiduciary of the owner and work in their interests by securing competitive bids from responsible subcontractors and material suppliers. We do not mark up bids or materials. Our fees are extremely competitive as we have learned to keep our overhead low and do not have multiple layers of management.
6)HOW DO YOU HANDLE CHANGE ORDERS?
Changes are a part of the process. Building the home is evolutionary and unforeseen conditions and opportunities arise. We do not mark up customary changes and work to get our clients the best possible value. We present all options to the owner for their final decision.
7)WHAT IS YOUR RECORD WITH THE STATE CONTRACTORS BOARD?
We are proud to have a clean record and have no past, present, or pending litigation. And we’ve successfully built custom homes for many attorneys as well as tract home builders!
We are also responsible for our own license. We have never had to hire others to ‘qualify’ us for a license or bond limit.
8)CAN A LARGER BUILDER GET ME BETTER PRICING?
Quantity discounts are available from major manufacturers on tract house items when purchased in box car quantities. On custom homes, the builder’s discount relationship with the suppliers has more to do with prompt payment and financial stability than selling 3 or 4 more units per year. The same principle is true with subcontractors. If a builder has a good reputation for payment and having the job ready for its subcontractors, then the builder accrues the best possible pricing. Some builders focus on building many homes at the same time and actually pay a premium for their subcontractors due to lack of proper preparation.
9)DO YOU ALWAYS USE THE SAME SUBCONTRACTORS?
We have an open bidding policy where responsible subcontractors are invited to bid. Prior to awarding a contract to a new vendor, they are thoroughly investigated for their current performance, past history and financial stability. Our detailed bid information packages insure that the bids are comparable. We never select subcontractors only based on price or ‘guarantee the lowest price’ to our clients. There is an irrevocable general law of price and quality. That is simple Economics 101.
10)SHOULD I WAIT UNTIL MY PLANS ARE COMPLETE BEFORE I HIRE A CONTRACTOR TO GET THE BEST PRICE?
Old school thinking, and common practice in Public Works projects, is to get a complete set of plans and put it out for competitive bidding. The anticipated benefit is that everyone bidding gives it their best shot so they can get the job. In reality, this creates an adversarial climate where opportunities to improve the home or find cost-effective alternatives are lost. Some builders have been known to keep mute on items that they know will not work so that they can charge a lot more for something through a change order. Bringing on an experienced builder early in the design process will create a team to deliver you the best product and value. As a graduate engineer, Steve Green has a history of many successful contributions to the value of a home with the architects, engineers and vendors for the benefit of his clients.
11)DO I NEED TO HIRE AN INTERIOR DESIGNER?
Many homeowners hire an interior design professional to augment the efforts of their architect or building designer. We have found that having a design professional on board in the early phases of design assists greatly in producing a better finished product in a more timely manner. Frequently, the architect will also function as the interior designer specifying the surface and finish materials. Occasionally, an experienced homeowner will elect to make their own selections. We urge caution here as mistakes in materials, colors and specifications can be costly.
12)DO I NEED TO HIRE A LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT?
For much the same reasons as an interior designer, a landscape design professional will assist in plant material selection and in enhancing the value of your home. Some landscape subcontractors will develop a professional plan with their own staff and provide plans free of charge for a first chance at the job.
13)DO YOU HAVE REFERRALS?
We have referrals from past and current clients, as well as clients for whom we’ve done multiple projects. We are currently working on a project for a client for whom we built a home for over 25 years ago. Subcontractor and material supplier referrals as important as well and we have many in all trades.
14)HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN BUSINESS?
Our first home was built in 1977.
15)CAN I BRING MY OWN SUBCONTRACTORS TO THE JOB?
We welcome the opportunity to work with experienced professionals known by the homeowner. They must provide the qualifications that are demanded from other bidders.
16)HOW DO I KNOW IF A BUILDER IS STABLE?
Ask current their clients and subcontractors if bills are being paid promptly. The State Contractor’s Board web site also lists any negative actions against a builder and shows their current ‘bid limit.’ That is the amount for which the contractor is automatically allowed to contract based on their financial strength.
17)WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF BEING AN ‘OWNER-BUILDER?’
An owner-builder can legally obtain their own permit and contract with subcontractors directly to construct their home. The understood objective is to save the fees of a general contractor. For small projects and some minor remodels, this could have merit, if you have the time. For a large project, especially a Multi-million Dollar custom home, the anticipated savings is usually never achieved since the subcontractors have to deal with an inexperienced builder (or less experienced ‘superintendent.’) The subcontractors consequently bid higher than they would to a general contractor. Hiring a general contractor provides you with experience in selecting subcontractors, processing billing paperwork, examination and resolution of deficiencies, following the plans, taking advantage of unforeseen opportunities, and scheduling work. A contractor has liability insurance and accepts the responsibility of mistakes. One costly mistake by an owner builder can easily pay a contractor’s fee. Hiring a ‘superintendent’ to ‘keep an eye on the job’ does not provide the owner with anyone to hold responsible for errors.
18)DO YOU FOLLOW ‘GREEN BUILDING’ PRACTICES?
Our first home built in 1977 included features of upgraded insulation, use of efficient lighting; advanced heating cooling methods, attention to solar heat gains and losses, use of natural materials, and even utilized solar pool heating and a retractable pool cover. In the ensuing years, we’ve always looked at ways to save energy and reduce the impact of the home on the environment, long before it became popular. We are up to date with the latest technologies and methods and recently completed a home with features such as special glass, photovoltaic solar electric panels, solar pool heating, tankless water heaters, upgraded insulation, reflective roof sheathing and a Smart House lighting control system.
19)HOW DO I START THE PROCESS OF BUILDING A CUSTOM HOME?
Give us a call or drop us an e-Mail. We’ll meet and guide you through the process and show you some of the work we’ve done in a personal meeting. Steve's personal cell number is 702-525-8001.