You guys… I can’t believe we are doing this AGAIN. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about it, but also just overwhelmed cause we only finished our last house about 2.5 years ago. And that one took a whole lot of very literal blood, sweat & tears. So I was thinking about how many people are building homes in Utah right now– it’s crazy! The housing market is just wild and it seems like EVERYONE is building! There are SO many options when it comes to building too… production builders, semi- custom, and fully custom. You can use a general contractor or even manage the project yourself (which I pretty much never recommend unless you have experience with that sort of thing!).
Anyway, I wanted to go over some information I think may be helpful if you’re looking to build. First up, I’ve only built custom. The first house we built, was more basic, but still custom. I got to pick everything, but at the time I was only 23 so I didn’t have a lot of experience and just picked one granite for throughout the house, basically one tile for the floor and so forth. For some people that’s a good way to go because it simplifies the process. For me, now, it wouldn’t cut it because I see building a new home as an expression of myself. Kind of like creating an art piece that hopefully in the end will be tailored specifically to my family’s needs and lifestyle. Here’s a list of a few things that should be helpful if you’re considering building a custom home:
- Custom building takes time! Lots of time. If you want to go this route, be prepared for it to be like a part or even full time job sometimes. You will have so many details to pick out. Not just like flooring and paint colors, but like every trim detail, how the stairs will look (railing, side detail, how they are covered and so forth), the soffit & fascia style/color, the texture of the walls & ceiling and cabinet placement, etc. And that’s just scratching the surface. There are SOOO many details.
- Custom building doesn’t always cost more. Sounds crazy, right? The way that builders charge for projects can be very different. The way my builder works is a flat percentage of the total cost to build, which many custom home builders do… that means that if I save money on the products I use in the house, I end up paying less overall. Production builders typically charge for every upgrade that is made, which can be a lot if you’re wanting a more customized look. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing– they have to make money too, just saying that if you want a really customized house that maybe the going with a custom builder may actually save you money. Keep in mind, that as I mentioned in the first point, you are putting more of your own time in with custom building, it just may really pay off with savings!
- Choose a custom builder that is the right fit for you. You can interview builders and get to know them to see if you think they’re someone you’d like to work with. If you have plans made, you can also have them work up approximate costs on your plans as well as find out exactly how they bill their projects. And one of the most major things I’d recommend is getting referrals from friends/family who have used a custom builder. You often hear of people who “hate” their builder, but if you can find people who LOVE their builder then you probably have found a good one to work with. Custom building is a long process and will involve close work between homeowner & contractor– so having a good relationship with past clients speaks volumes for a builder. It means that the whole process was an overall positive experience for the homeowner and that’s very essential.
- Don’t Rush! If you’re going to build a custom home, you should really make sure you allow plenty of time for plans to be made and about 1.5 million revisions to get things just right. There are so many details as I mentioned before, that you need to really have the time to think through how your family lives and how to make the home most functional for you– that’s what custom building is all about.
- Prioritize your wants/needs. You can’t always have it all! I know, you maybe don’t want to hear that… and really custom building is the way to get most of what you want in comparison with other avenues, but in reality everyone has a budget. Even people who “don’t have a budget” have a budget. Or if there is someone who truly has no limit to what they can spend on a home, I haven’t met them yet! Typically you go into the process with a Pinterest board that’s overflowing with ideas and a vision that probably costs more than you can spend. One of the things I’ve learned through custom building homes is that you really need to know which things matter most and what you can live without or add later. With our last home, I left off some of the finishing details like molding throughout the house and added those things later after the home was complete. An example of this would be my office– shown above just after our home was built, and updated version with new details here. Another thing you can do is put more money into the few top wants and cut back in other areas to help even out the budget. For instance, if you want a big statement kitchen you can put more budget into that space and maybe less into the laundry room that isn’t seen as much. You can still make a great laundry room, but maybe go with a more cost effective tile, etc.
- Make sure you have extra money set aside! Construction loans require a contingency because there are unexpected costs that arise, due to changes or unforeseen circumstances. You want to make sure you pick a builder that is conservative in his estimates and allows an additional contingency. Sometimes builders over promise and under deliver because they aren’t familiar enough with the costs of things. Going with a builder that specializes in custom construction should help with this as they are more used to working with an open ended spectrum of finishes and selections. You just don’t want to get blindsided by costs that should have been foreseen by your builder. You can also plan to have your own contingency money set aside to ensure that you are able to get an end product you love, even if that does mean spending more than you originally planned to.
Ok, I think that’s it! There’s obviously a million things I could suggest, but those are probably the top words of wisdom I can provide and I checked with my husband to see what his top things were and there were basically identical to mine, so that’s sound advice, people! haha. I’d love to hear your own thoughts if you have recently built a home or are in the process. Different perspectives are always great to hear and consider. Happy building!
photos taken by Jessie Alexis Photography
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