by Joe Cooper
Have you ever walked into a pre-planned home and said, "It's nice, but it doesn't have…." According to Builder Online, pre-planned homes can lack certain elements that homeowners either want or need--a panoramic view of the mountains, a guesthouse in the backyard, a second floor with full wheelchair access. If you desire a house with that "extra special something," or with a feature necessary for your family's wellbeing, a custom home might be the perfect solution. With a custom home, you can oversee the design, preparation, and construction stages of the homebuilding process, and ensure that your one-of-a-kind creation has the right balance of beauty, functionality, and comfort.
Many homeowners wait years before taking the plunge and building a custom home. Maybe they were pressed for time while the kids were in school, or the stress of their nine-to-fives sapped too much of their energy. Regardless of past limitations, those who do embark on the custom home journey may find that the rewards are well worth the wait. In addition to letting your creative juices flow, "building custom" can prove a sound investment, as unique floor plans and well-chosen materials often draw higher prices than tract or pre-planned homes.
Building a custom home means wearing a variety of hats--researcher, planner, budget manager, construction manager, and yes, designer. But don't be intimidated! You can have fun and make good decisions while carrying out each of your responsibilities.
When designing your custom home plans, start by making a list of pros and cons about your current home. Most of us have a lot of experience with living situations, and can easily determine what we love and what drives us absolutely crazy.
Next, think about the fundamentals--bedroom size, kitchen layout, storage space, and how many levels you'd like your home to have. A few good questions to ask during the design phase include:
• Will your family grow in the future?
• How many bathrooms do you need?
• How about guestrooms?
• Two-car garage or three? (Or more?)
This is where an architect or designer can help. Don't feel like you need to create a floorplan from scratch; architects and designers go to school for that kind of thing. However, having an idea of what you want can help steer your custom home project in the right direction.
Building a custom home can be a great opportunity for contractors. Jake Goldberg, founder and CEO of Chicago-based building company Goldberg General Contracting (GGC), described the importance of custom home building to the publication Builder Online. "When you do quality work, an architect becomes a repeat source of referrals, but the ultimate acknowledgement comes when they ask you to build their own house." Mr. Goldberg calls custom homes the "calling card" of contractors.
When it comes time to find local contractors for your custom home project, be discerning. You deserve the best for your investment! Good contractors know this, and are eager to please their clients from groundbreaking to completion. To ensure that you hire a qualified, professional custom homebuilder, ask each of your candidates the following five questions.
• Are you licensed with the state?
• Do you have a list of references?
• Do you have photos of previous work?
• Do you have experience building custom homes?
• Are you active in industry associations?
In addition to interviewing a prospective contractor, consider talking to his/her previous clients. This is an excellent way to find out whether or not the contractor communicates well with customers, stays on schedule, works within the allotted budget, and produces high quality, custom work.
"Custom Homes--How to Select the Right Builder," Home & Design Magazine
"Get Niche Quick," Builder Online
About the Author
Joe Cooper writes home services and design articles and manages corporate communications. He holds a bachelor's degree in American Literature from UCLA.