Q. How do I get started?
A. Assuming that you have a building site in mind, or that your builder does, you’ll have to decide on the basic type of house and the price range you wish to stay in. A meeting with your builder will lay out the square foot size for your price range. The next step is to have preliminary building plans drawn – which is simple sketch, to scale, of the floor plans and a front view of the house. You can have plans drawn by an architect of your choice or you could have a personalized hybrid of existing plans provided by your builder. Once we have plans, we’ll be able to tie down a cost estimate. At this point you’ll also have what the bank requires to start the loan process. We’ll then make any changes on the preliminary plans. When we’re satisfied with them we’ll send them out to have the final construction blueprints drawn.
Q. How long will it take?
A. The plans generally take 2 weeks for preliminaries and 2 weeks for the final drawings. The construction itself will take 4 to 5 months. Construction in the summer months usually goes quicker. The entire process from conception to completion generally takes 6 months. Often times we can complete the entire process in as little as 4 months by using an existing plan.Other times decisions mad during the pre-plan stage can take months in themselves.
Q. Will I go over my budget?
A. Probably some, but if you build with us, it will not be due to this contractor raising the price. It will be due to you wanting to add to or change some things as the house is built. Some usual changes are in the electrical – maybe you want to add floodlights or recessed can lights. Maybe plumbing – you may want to upgrade the kitchen faucet or the powder room fixtures. We will keep track of these changes with a change order form. Most people do end up adding $1,500 to $3,000 on average and some quite a bit more. The other way you can go over budget is through your allowance items or due to unexpected subsurface conditions on your lot; i.e., high plastic soils.
Q. What is an allowance item?
A. There are typically for the flooring, the light fixtures, the kitchen and bath cabinetry and the appliances. Most people do not know exactly what they will want at the beginning, so an allowance amount is included in the contract price. The owner then shops their flooring, light fixtures, etc., with that amount set up in their loan. If less is spent then the allowance amount, then a credit is given. If more is spent, then the extra expense is added to the sales price with a change order.
Any item may be handled as an allowance item if desired. Some other items also handled as allowance items would be the septic system, which can vary in cost, or a well
Q. What is subsurface condition?
A. Subsurface conditions are possible conditions beneath the surface of the ground that are not possible to know or not able to be calculated until excavation is underway.
Rock, high plastic soils, or the needs for excessive amounts of fill to be hauled onto or off the property are the most common subsurface conditions that can arise.
Rock is generally a problem when it is to the point that the usual excavation equipment will not work requiring the need for specialized equipment or blasting.
Plastic soils are a condition common in St. Charles County. Plastic soil is a type of clay. Its characteristics are that it expands and contracts based on the moisture present. It is a sound base but needs extra cushion and drainage precautions.
Q. What kind of windows and doors should I use?
A. Windows are generally going to be either wood or vinyl. If your interior is to be stained then wood windows are the usual choice. If you plan to have a painted interior you may want to use a vinyl window, which is less expensive. Exterior doors will generally be insulated steel units. Your contractor can discuss the different manufacturers.
Q. What kind of heat source should I use?
A. Natural gas is an excellent choice but may not be present on most custom home sites. Straight electric heat is too costly to run so generally your choices are either a heat pump, which are very efficient but tend to be costly, about double the cost of a conventional system.
Q. What about financing?
A. Financing for a custom home is similar to any other, in that you shop for your best deal on permanent financing. Once you have loan commitment for you permanent loan you’ll need a short term construction loan. Many banks offer both permanent financing and construction lending “in-house” to make it easier if you choose to assume that responsibility yourself. Some lenders may refer you to another bank. Another option is to ask your builder to assume the responsibility of “carrying” the loan throughout the process, relieving you of the immediate cost of ongoing interest payments while your home is under construction. The preceding serves as incentive to the builder to keep construction “on track and on time.” Regardless of who gets the loan it will be run through an escrow company.
Q. What is an Escrow company?
A. An escrow company is a third party whose job it is to monitor the progress of construction and release funds as the contractor issues voucher (checks/payments) for work completed. The escrow company assured the lender that no liens will appear on the property by collecting lien waivers from all contractors and suppliers before releasing funds.
The lender on the construction loan will require monthly interest only payments on whatever amount has actually been paid out to date. Usually the amount paid in interest is around $1000.
Q. Whom should I choose to build my custom home?
A. You should be comfortable with your builder and familiar with his or her work. You should feel that you can communicate well and that answers are honest and not misleading. You should check references of previous jobs and jobs in progress. Stop by jobs in progress and look at the workmanship. A builder in close proximity to the site generally preferred.
Q. What about service after we move in?
A. The builder should have a basic one-year warranty as well as all equipment warranties. You received a list of all of the individual subcontractors used on your home for future reference.