Four Simple Rules for a Successful Custom Home Project

Custom home design is a great way to incorporate unique details and create a home that has never been built before.  However, the process of building custom homes can be a tricky one.  Managing all of the players, stages, regulations, etc. can be overwhelming, especially to those new to building a custom home. Springhouse Architects has pulled together four simple rules to help make building a custom home in Ohio, or anywhere else, easier on your timeline, wallet and sanity.  While these may seem like simple tasks, if you keep these four things in the forethought of your planning decisions, it will help you create a very successful residential project.

Start with a residential architect.

While most architects may talk to you about their training, experience or passion for building - this isn’t the most important reason to start your building process with one.  Hiring an architect from the start gives you more control over the entire construction process.  You become the lead decision-maker from the point of original design, rather than reacting to the methods, pre-determined materials, and trends of others involved in the process.  An architect serves as your guide; evolving your needs, and your vision, into a thorough plan.

It is important also to use a licensed, experienced, residential architect.  A professional specializing in custom homes maintains a great deal of knowledge about new materials, design options, common challenges, permits and logistics needed to build a house compared to a commercial structure.  More importantly, they will have a better understanding of how to watch your personal budget versus working with other financing structures.  There is often a great deal of emotion tied to your residential project.  You need somebody that has been a guide to others before.

Choose an awesome builder!

Put a good builder to work with a great set of architecturally created plans, and they will build you a great home.  However, they control a lot of things like money, timing, materials, etc. It is important to have your own set of plans, crafted from your dreams and budget, so you can consider different builders for your project.  Sitting down with a builder and looking at your blueprints makes a world of difference.  This allows them to ask you questions about your project that are specific to what it is you have already planned rather than you considering examples of their past projects.

Make your choices on time.

Sticking to a timeline for decision-making is one of the most important ways to help eliminate the stress of completing a construction project on time and within your budget.  Putting off one small decision can snowball into delaying more and more aspects of your project.  Let’s say you want to wait to decide on your bathroom tile until you can see some other options.  You put off the decision two weeks and think “no big deal”. Unfortunately, this is a big deal.  Delaying that tile choice has now pushed back your cabinets being installed on time.  Now you put your cabinet contractor off for another two weeks, but he has another job to be on.  Your one decision on bathroom tile has now pushed back your project almost a month.  Your architect can help you consider all of these moving parts and guide you through understanding the impact of your decisions.

Another important aspect of making choices on time is understanding your builders time table.  Make sure to ask them, “How will you be communicating your schedule to me and how will you be letting me know what decisions need to be made when?”. This will help you plan the research you may want to do on products or materials to keep your project on time. This will also allow you to keep your builder more accountable for the timetable they have agreed too.

Watch your money.

Making your choices on time puts you in more control of your project and helps make sure you stay on budget.  Staying within your budget can be overwhelming, especially when you are choosing materials.  It can become very easy to go to a store and find the perfect chandelier for your dining room that completely blows most of your lighting budget.  You have to stay conscious about the purchasing decisions you make and ask yourself “okay, are we going to pay for this out of pocket, up our budget or backtrack?”  Most of the time, you should start with backtracking.  

With all the items needed for a residential project, it will be easy to go over budget without thinking about the increasing bottom line.  Keep your budget in mind and try not to alter it too much.  One great tactic is to keep everything under budget except for one thing.  Splurge on one really nice thing.  Spend the money where you think you’ll get the most impact.  For example, if you enjoy gourmet cooking, spend it in the kitchen.  This will help you focus on one exciting item and allow you to stay within budget in other aspects of your purchasing.

There are many other aspects of building a custom home, however these four simple rules can help you, the owner, have control over your project.  Springhouse Architects has many different resources to assist you when planning to build your first custom home.  For more information on planning your custom home, click here to download a free copy of Sheri Scott’s “Dream Inspire Design”.

Todd Reding