Before you begin chasing the dream of building your dream home, it is certainly helpful to arm yourself with as much information as possible, There are thousands of websites, television programs, books and seminars that you can sift through, but most will not relate to your specific situation. Also, most will not relate to the region which you will call home.
The process of creating your new home can be a daunting task, but much of the burden can be lifted by the trained professionals that will become part of your team.
The list of considerations that follows is certainly not all-inclusive; rather, it should be regarded as a starting point on your path to a new home.
meet the team
Creating your new home is a collaborative effort. Although several other players will enter the process at various points, the three main elements of the process are the Client, Designer, and Builder. That the client is a part of the entire process is obvious. What is not so obvious, but tremendously advantageous, is that the builder and designer both remain involved throughout the entire process as much as possible. The responsibilities of each part of the team may overlap at different points throughout the process, although it is best that all roles are defined as clearly and as early as possible to avoid redundancy and mixed signals.
Open communication between all parties is a must at all times during the process.
The expertise of the builder is beneficial in the design phase to keep budgets in check and to address various construction means and methods and the pros and cons of each.
The job of the designer is to make ensure that design intent is effectively communicated to the various project participants throughout the construction phase. The designer will also provide revised drawings to address any questions or changes that may come up during the construction process.
Buying any home is an expensive proposition. Creating a well-built custom home is certainly no exception. You already know that this will be a major investment. The expense will be significant, but you certainly do not want the added insult that it costs more than you expect. There are ways to guard against any sticker shock.
Have discussions with either a design or construction professional about what to expect with construction costs. You will find a variety of answers; however that may just suggest that you need to be more specific about your questions. For instance, most people ask about square foot cost to construct. This number is more difficult to explain than you might imagine. The reason is that each square foot of a house is different than the next. Kitchens and bathrooms are much more expensive than other spaces in the home, Garages, while certainly not free, seem like a tremendous bargain when compared to a kitchen. Additionally, your selections of finish materials, windows, doors, custom cabinets, plumbing fixtures and lighting components may all combine to drive your final cost skyward. It is the level of finish that is the biggest driver of increases in square foot cost.
codes, covenants, & restrictions
Building codes are just a reality of the building process; a necessary reality, and luckily, they are not difficult standards to meet. The reason building codes exist are primarily to ensure safety, accessibility and, more recently, to ensure a minimum level of energy performance. Everything about building codes dictates a MINIMUM STANDARD. There may be local amendments to the code that can either relax or strengthen certain aspects of building rules, but nothing in current local codes ensures a highly durable or truly energy efficient home.
Covenants and Restrictions are something altogether different. Each development has its own unique set of rules. Minimum house sizes, aesthetic standards, regulations about exterior finishes, and limitations on property use will potentially be a part of any covenant. Development-specific covenants can provide a level of assurance to some buyers by preventing some very egregious eyesores from popping up in the neighborhood, but they can also limit your ability to use your own property and build what you want. Carefully read the covenants of each development prior to purchasing your lot.
In addition to building codes and development-specific covenants, each municipality has rules about building setbacks, maximum lot coverage, building heights, accessory buildings, etc.
Consult with us if you want to understand the pros and cons of each development, and the restrictions that will impact the planning process for your preferred lot.
Also, consider this perspective; meeting the minimum of building code is like passing a class with a “D”. To ensure longevity of the home and to improve your chances of future satisfaction, let us help you get a better grade.
location, location, location
The size, proportion and orientation of your building site can have major implications on the design solution. Most homes that are constructed in the United States are built without much consideration to geographical location or site-specific issues. Many builders “borrow” entire designs from other parts of the country, from the internet, etc. These designs do not normally respect any regional context and they certainly were not designed with you or your family in mind.
Your house can perform much better, be more energy efficient, and will serve your needs if it is properly designed to meet the specific issues of your site.
The average American home has grown in size by about 1,000 square feet since 1973, up from about 1,500 square feet to nearly 2,500. Meanwhile, the average size of the American household has decreased from 3 to 2.5 persons. In addition to the increase in size, houses have also increased in complexity; more complicated plans and rooflines, more expensive interior finishes, and much larger garages.
There are advantages to (slightly) downsizing your dream home. Rather than spending on unused square footage, you can actually build a slightly smaller home that is more durable, efficient and quite likely with better finish materials. Shaving off just 100 square feet can potentially free up over $15,000 based on the price of basic custom home construction. That goes a long way to paying for more thorough design, better insulation, metal roofing, even those granite counter tops that you have your eye on.
When beginning the process of designing a new home, carefully consider your needs and wants. Consider that a home larger than what is actually needed may keep you tied to a very unwieldy level of mortgage payment. A large home will also mean increased time, energy, and money involved with heating, cooling, cleaning and maintenance.
The inclusion of a basement in a new home design has been nearly a foregone conclusion, at least in this region; however, it is completely appropriate to question this conventional wisdom. While basements have often been regarded as “cheap space” there are some problems that come with underground space. In this part of the country, we are not blessed with soils that drain well. Actually, the soils here represent quite the opposite condition. Being composed of high clay content, very near the water table, and having exceptionally poor drainage properties, local soils represent substantial problems for basement construction. Waterproofing and sump pumps can mitigate some of the moisture issues, but the potential for very expensive problems remains.
Moisture problems, even if very small, can create major problems. Indoor air quality can be severely compromised by mold growth. A mold problem that begins very easily with a small amount of moisture can be extremely difficult to resolve. Basements are optional, proper foundations, are not. Investing in a high quality foundation may be the most important step. The well made foundation, may increase the value of your home.
There are still valid reasons for making a basement part of your new home and should by no means be completely ruled out. However, since foundation and basement repairs are disruptive and expensive, it is advisable that you do not skimp on the quality of basement construction, especially with regard to drainage and waterproofing.
Most new houses look reasonably good from the street. But look at any other side of the house and you will likely find that design and craftsmanship were largely forgotten, or at least severely curtailed. Window arrangements are frequently poorly executed, cheaper materials are installed, and the careful massing of the front has given way to long, flat expanses of a single color of siding.
While it is a polite civic gesture to give your neighbors and drivers of passing cars something nice to look at, the reality is that homeowners spend precious little time looking at the front of their own home. The most commonly occupied outdoor space on any residential property is the back yard.
Experienced, thoughtful designers view the work of creating a home as a holistic effort. “Curb appeal” may help you sell your home at some point in the future, but it does little to improve your experience when you are inside or in your back yard. A fully integrated design strategy that satisfies all interior and exterior needs will give you and your family a much more satisfying ownership experience.