Are you thinking of building the home of your dreams? The good news is that you can have everything you want in a custom built home; the bad news is that common mistakes in planning your home will make it expensive to build and you’ll live with errors you wish you’d caught earlier. The custom home I am talking about here is the home you sketched out on a napkin over dessert five years ago. True custom homes are designed and built from scratch, and in some ways are similar to a scratch built airplane; everything has to be reviewed and checked multiple times to make sure it will actually fly.This process is fun and you will end up with something that no one else has seen before. However, the risks of designing and building a custom home are high because of unknowns. Unknowns translate into money and risk.Follow these tips to minimize extra expense and surprises.
Choose your designer or architect carefully. Decide on a flat fee; paying by the hour will get you in trouble because custom home designs must be reviewed many times with many iterations. Make sure your designer uses a program that will allow you to see the plan in 3D. You will be able to virtually walk the home. Are you the designer? Great. Use a 3D design program. Plan on saving a lot of money but investing a lot of your own time.
Review the final plans again after you think they are perfect. If you or your designer skips this step, you will be making lots of in the field changes, driving up cost.
Once your perfect plan is done, blow up and print out the layouts for each room and analyze in detail where everything will go – from furniture to light switches. You will have more changes.
Pick a builder who is willing to make plan adjustments on the fly. Builders hate changes, but it is necessary with a custom home. Even with the best planning, you will discover dimensional problems that need to be corrected as the home is going up.
Research your builder bids carefully. How much experience do the candidate companies have in building scratch custom homes? Once you have bids based on the plans, you should visit three of the homes each builder is building/has built – one or more during framing, one or more after drywall, and several after the owners are in the home. If you can identify owners who have been in one of these homes for a few years and interview them, you will gain important knowledge about the process and the builder.
Even after all of this planning and careful management, you will see at least one thing you missed when you move in. I don’t know why this happens. I expect it is part of the “natural law of home-building.”If all of this sounds scary to you, then a better path will be going online and choosing a ready-made set of building plans. But if this sounds exciting to you, and you have a flexible budget, you will have a one of a kind dream home to move into.