Many people ask me the question. What is the difference between a production home builder and one that claims to be custom? The easiest way to try to explain it is to compare it to buying clothes. Lets start with the idea that you are looking to buy a suit. Many people are aware that you can buy a new suit a few different ways. You could go to a department store and buy something off the shelf. Of course there is different levels of quality and fit and finish depending on the brand and the price. You may be one of the lucky ones and find a suit in just the right color, and style that fits and feels perfect. If not, there is also the option of purchasing the suit and taking it to a tailor and having it hemmed in, or opened up, or whatever alterations you like to make the suit fit better and wear better. The next step up in the customization process would be to go to a custom tailor who would then make a complete one off suit just for you and your body type. Obviously, that custom made suit would be very comfortable and highlight your best features and would be just the colors you like. This is usually also the more expensive route even though the fabric may be the same as a top tier off the shelf suit. Its intuitive to understand that the process of selecting/cutting the fabric by hand, sewing it and making it a perfect fit for you is a more time consuming process than mass produced suits, but will be something that you would enjoy more than the off the shelf product.
Building and buying a new home is on a much larger scale similar. The houses in the production neighborhoods look alike because the choices in home plans and selections are streamlined and limited. This in turn helps the tradesmen working in the homes to learn what to expect each time and helps the homes to be built very quickly. The vendors already know things likevthe size of the foundation, the number of studs in the wall, where the outlets go, where the lights will be placed, the sizes and number of cabinets in the kitchen all before the house has begun as its been done the same way in the last 30 houses preceding that one. Its very much as close to the off the rack suit shopping as you can come to. Along with limited choices and zero to little ability to modify the plans to fit your lifestyle better the lot sizes are usually smaller for the homes to be built on. Shaving 10 feet off a lot allows a few more lots to be created and in turn increases the profitability of the neighborhood. This usually forces the homes to have front facing garages and other changes that allow this to work. All these sometimes subtle and not so subtle changes helps to drive the cost down and help families, who otherwise couldnt afford to, purchase a home. It is also good for those who do not have the time or just dont like to make too many decisions to move forward as the decisions are narrowed down. In most cases, its easier to pick a paint color from 5 choices than from a unlimited palatte.
Most custom homes are very much a tailored around you process. However, the enjoyment and smoothness of that process comes down to how well you and your builder gets along. It will be a lengthy process from the time you and your builder of choice sits down to begin to discuss what you like and want for your new home. The conversation should begin with what your expectations are in responsiveness, courtesy, amount of communication i.e. twice daily, daily, weekly, etc., even the forms of communication you prefer, and the amount of time you have to give to the process of building your home. The relationship you have with your builder will be a big part of your life for a year or more in the building phase from planning, to breaking ground weeks or months later to handing over the keys. Then there will be the warranty period. Many builders want to dive right in and assume that they are a perfect fit for all customers. There have been many projects that slowed to a crawl or became a tense stressful project just because there was mismatched expectations to what the builder was prepared to deliver vs the expectations of the owner. At Stephen Kay Homes, we want to be sure that there is a good fit personality wise and design wise. We like our clients to be engaged throughout the whole process. We usually set design milestones and goals to help keep the decision making on target and in keeping with the progress of the home. We are very much hands on the job site so our clients can relax and sit back and focus on the design and making selections and enjoying the process.
So how does the actual initial process go?
If the initial conversation goes well, then first step is to list what you the client would like and want in your new home as well as what the ideal home would feel like to you. We have example plans to help jumpstart that conversation, we never have to stay with those plans, but it can help start the thought process. The nice thing is that Carl has the ability to understand quickly what people are trying to acheive and begin to aid the design towards something that fits. He also is able to show what could be accomplished within the desired overall price. We will then draw up initial plans for the home and review those plans with you. After the final plans are finished and reviewed, they will be sent out to our trade partners for pricing. It usually takes about 2 weeks to get all the prices back. Then its time to have a budget meeting and go through the budget to determine what to add, keep, and eliminate in order to meet the overall amount of investment available in your new home. This will help create the budget for the home to be built off of and to give your bank officer the documentation needed to base the loan off of. Once the loan is in place, and the permits obtained, its time to break ground and the fun starts.