Does anyone have experience with building a custom home?


By Kevin   Follow   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 12:46am   11,275 views   171 comments
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I've decided that since I have to live out in the 'burbs anyway, I might as well live in the perfect house. 9 out of 10 builders around here just slap together the same old generic qasi-craftsman style homes with awful layouts and pointless features like tiny unusable porches and formal living rooms.

We have a crap ton of money and I'm overpaid.

We're looking to buy a few acres of land and then spend ~$800k to build the thing (architecture, land prep, construction, etc.)

Does anyone have experience with having a custom home built (particularly modern design; no shingles or crown molding here)? Was it worth it compared to what you could have bought for the same amount of money? How was the financing?

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  1. upisdown


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    1   6:19am Tue 20 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (3)   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    I think I already said this, but our plan is to go with an integrated design/build firm. Both the architects and the GC/CM work for the firm. A portion of the architect's fee is for them to be on site at least a certain number of hours per week.

    So, you've already hired somebody. Questions are pretty much a moot point now, huh. And they're aimlessly directed at the wrong people.

  2. upisdown


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    2   11:27am Mon 19 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (2)   Dislike  

    HeadSet says

    Contracts come first before they will even build one of their standard models, and the price is significantly higher than similar existing resales homes.

    Contracts coming first has been the long term norm, but not really during the early 2000s.
    You think that an old/older house should be priced the same as a new one? New technology, amenities, etc., and today's labor rates, versus paying for outdated everything(that hasn't been brought up to date) and part of that labor, that was incurred at lower(past) rates but paying today's rates for it?

  3. swebb


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    3   11:48am Mon 19 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (2)   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    Again..... why make a distinction when there is no difference?

    I think it's clear there is a difference, and I think you are being disingenuous, which is nothing new. It's a shame that you seem to have knowledge and experience that you could share but instead you insist on ridiculing people, being deceptive and evasive, and generally act like a troll.

    I think it's a good time to put you back on ignore.

  4. upisdown


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    4   12:16pm Mon 19 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (2)   Dislike  

    zzyzzx says

    No, but if I were to buy a new house, I would want it custom built so that I could have real plywood instead of tha engineered wood crap, real wood in place of particleboard, 2x6 or 2x8's on the exterior walls for extra insulation, and way less windows than all new houses have (since windows are energy inefficient and reduce your privacy).

    Custom built does not guarentee that plywood is spec'd versus OSB, unless it is specifically spec'd. Particle board isn't used at all in any structural way in ANY house, but Masonite type stuff is for finishes. And, 2x6 or 2x8 walls isn't really even nescessary in most of the US. What determines the structural design is heating and cooling degree days(climate), and of course location.

    Are you aware of some type of engineering study and testing that says OSB is an inferior product? Hint: the glue is the exact same in plywood(framing/structural) as OSB.

  5. upisdown


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    5   3:52pm Mon 19 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (2)   Dislike  

    David Losh says

    It's a great time to custom build, and there are a few builders here in Seattle, that are honest, and fair.

    Since the housing bubble burst, one of the positive things that happened was that all the inexperienced mopes that came into that industry to make a quick buck, went away.

  6. nw888


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    6   1:56pm Fri 23 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (2)   Dislike  

    YDavid Losh says

    Kevin says

    Just ignore him.

    You can not ignore the troll.

    He's cornered, battered, bruised, and beaten.

    He has not been able to produce anything.

    Now you can for sure ignore him. You beat the stuffing out of him, or her.

    You guys won't win with him. He's one of a bunch of losers on here that have made this site a pain to even deal with anymore. Sad people that hate their lives and themselves, and they lash out in a public and anonymous forum because it makes them feel good to be an ass.

    Successful contractor? That trolls on the internet being an asshole to everyone he talks to? Haha, what a dope.

    Don't hate us because you hate yourself Darrell. Loser.

  7. David Losh


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    7   3:11pm Fri 23 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (2)   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    Then post the link that you're denying you deleted.

    It's in my comment section dated November 5th, along with all the other Darrel, Stop Lying, and War comments.

    Now there was a time when Patrick kick me off of this site for going after a Real Estate agent that was making obsurd claims, but he let me back in.

    @Patrick BTW I did get your book for being a Premium Member. I'm thinking it may be more valuable if I don't open it, so I may have to buy a copy online.

  8. Meccos


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    8   1:17am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    We have a crap ton of money and I'm overpaid.

    you must work for the government...

  9. upisdown


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    9   10:21am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    I can assure you..... he wasn't. And Buster is floating a line of shit here.

    I was just trying to be nice. I should have just called bullshit though, because that's what it is.

  10. upisdown


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    10   10:32am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    bob2356 says

    In the end they were probably 6+ months over schedule, perhaps 50% over budget
    That's way below average for cost and time overruns on customs I've seen. They did well.

    6 month overages are below the average? Only if the builder wants to go out of business. Maybe during the peak bubble times where every mope with a pulse was somehow a "builder".

  11. upisdown


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    11   10:54am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    Kevin says

    Our bank is only willing yo work with builders with a track record of hitting budgets and deadlines.
    LMAO.
    Speaking of BS.

    Yes, the whole post is BS, and I'm not going to play along any further with it for somebody's amusement.

    Good luck "Kevin". LOL

  12. upisdown


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    12   4:36pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Buster says

    Nope. The house ended up with 60 windows, most of them quite large.

    You're trying to get everybody that reads this, to believe that you increased the total number of windows by 20, and that it had 60 total, and that you did not changed the dimensions or proportions of the floor plan.

    I'll say it again...........BULLSHIT. LICENSED architects have design parameters that they must, and do follow regardless of whatever ficticious HVAC modifications that you made, simply because it causes over-cycling of those units. That doesn't even take into consideration the comfort level, and overheating/cooling issues.

    I don't know if you're really that stupid, or that you think that everybody else is, as you.

  13. upisdown


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    13   12:09pm Mon 19 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    HeadSet says

    Not too long ago, builders used to make "model homes" along with specs homes to sell right away. Now the model homes are up for sale long before the subdivision lots are sold and very few specs are going up. Even some "Parade of Homes" and "Homerama" showcase homes are languishing for years unsold.

    It costs a lot of money to maintain those model homes, and the developer/builder pays for that by passing on the cost to each and every one of their buyers. Yes, eventually those houses are sold too, but in all reality, isn't a model home a very inefficient waste of available resouces? Usually the parade of homes-houses are pre-sold, again as was the norm.

    HeadSet says

    You think that an old/older house should be priced the same as a new one?
    I was refering to builders competing with houses that are only 5-10 years old.

    A house 5-10 y/o, is still technically out of date compared to a new house, is it not?

  14. upisdown


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    14   12:33pm Mon 19 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    LiarWatch says

    You want to make a distinction where there is none. If you believe there is one, DEFINE the word "custom" as it relates to building out a project.

    LOL, some people just want to believe that "custom built" somehow = a gold plated shitter. It's a marketing gimmick, and it's usually aimed at potential top-end customers that can afford to "design" each and every room. And pay for it they do.

  15. upisdown


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    15   3:14pm Mon 19 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    zzyzzx says

    Compared to plywood, OSB swells more when it comes into contact with water, especially at panel edges. Swell is generally greater in OSB than in plywood due to the release of compaction stress in OSB created during the pressing of wood chips into panels. Swollen plywood will return to its nominal thickness as the wood dries, while OSB will remain permanently swollen, to some degree. Swelling is a nuisance because it can uplift whatever materials lie above, such as tile or carpet.

    That's why it's not spec'd for exposure, isn't it. And, there's a minimum sub floor thickness or underlayment for tile because of flex/deflection issues. Swelling that affects carpet? Huh? Seriously?

    zzyzzx says

    Plywood floors are stiffer than OSB floors by a factor of approximately 10%. As a result, OSB floors are more likely to:
    squeak due to floor movement

    Seriuosly? Do you know what the 'squeak' is? It's the wood moving up and down on the nail. That's why subfloors are glued and screwed. It has more to do with deflection of the joist than anything.

    zzyzzx says

    Nails and screws are more likely to remain in place more firmly in plywood than in OSB.

    What the nails or screws are nailed or screwed INTO is more important.

    zzyzzx says

    OSB retains water longer than plywood does, which makes decay more likely in OSB than in plywood.

    They BOTH retain water/moisture. But, the glue is waterproof in OSB, and in framing-grade/structural plywood

    zzyzzx says

    OSB made from aspen or poplar is relatively susceptible to decay.

    Plywood doesn't rot? NOW I've heard it all. That's some source, which after reading the stuff that you apparently pulled from it sounds that it sells or manufactures plywood or is some type of plywood industry rag.
    If OSB is SOOOO terrible and according to you and your link, why is it used throughout the whole residential construction industy, and other types too???? And that architects nationwide spec it's use?????

  16. upisdown


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    16   3:20pm Mon 19 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    So does anybody else have real experience? Or is this just going to be an endless stream of dipshits telling me I'm an idiot?

    What is it you specifically want? Asking total strangers on the internet vague questions is wasting your time, and you should instead use that time and access to the internet to answer your own questions. And it's free.

  17. debtregret


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    17   3:28pm Mon 19 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    So does anybody else have real experience? Or is this just going to be an endless stream of dipshits telling me I'm an idiot?

    Hi: I have experience. I did exactly what you are describing, although on a far smaller budget (and also got a likely far smaller house). We finished the project in 2004, after spending about 2 years on it from start of talks with the architect to the end (which was not the end...). It was very difficult and trying, although much of that was my own stressing out over things.

    I could write a book about it all. So much depends upon the team assembled, how well each know and understand the others, the levels of integrity (when the sh*t hits the fan, as it inevitably will in any large project, people's true colors come out).

    The very short story is we got a beautiful house very close to what we had envisioned. There are only a few things I think did not turn out well, and they were the direct result of them not getting the same degree of attention in the concept and design phase as they deserved. Great work cannot be rushed and is only very seldom a happy accident.

    It is also important to note that we built a very unmarketable 1080 sq ft one bedroom one bath. This is about 2/3 or maybe a little less from what we first planned, but we decided we would build only what the budget allowed, and the budget was a mortgage that could be comfortably repaid on one salary, just in case. As fate would have it, the week construction finished my wife was laid off...

    I skimmed through the posts, and I think most of your questions are not yet relevant. For example, what kind of windows have the best warranty, etc. etc. If you are truly interested in having a high-quality custom build house, there is a huge amount of ground work to be done -- deciding the basic style, determining what size your budget will allow, finding an architect that you have a good rapport with. Once you have preliminary footprint and ideas about finishes, you can start to find a builder who you think will be a good fit (with you AND the architect) and then get an idea of how far apart the architects ideas are from the builders reality (it is the builder who will bring you down to earth vis a vis costs).

    Then you begin the hard work of redesigning to bring it within budget. Construction is at least 18 months away (at least it was for us...).

    One thing I remember is we set aside about 25% of the architect's fee (separate from his design costs) to allow us to hire him to be actively involved during construction to monitor and work with the contractor. It isn't as simple as just handing off the plans and thinking it will all work out fine, because it won't. Contractors make money by finishing things and getting on to the next project, not by taking great care to ensure the spirit of the plans are brought to life... This doesn't mean they will do shoddy work (at least the good ones take pride in doing fine work), rather that they are movers and doers, not contemplative types...

  18. upisdown


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    18   3:37pm Mon 19 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    zzyzzx says

    Yes. Of course it is. You can tell by looking at it.
    http://www.nachi.org/osb-plywood.htm

    LOL The assoc. of "certified" home inspectors? I think a licensed architect trumps a certified home inspector 24/7, to include professional standards and acccreditation, education, experience, industry R&D, etc., etc.

  19. Kevin


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    19   11:57pm Mon 19 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    rufita11 says

    an in-wall vacuum cleaner system for each room that emptied into a container in the garage.

    I don't understand this. What advantage would it have over a modern lightweight vaccum like a dyson?

    rufita11 says

    If I had your budget, I would go with a Dwell, Blu or an other pre-fab home--I love the modern lines and you can customize.

    Why would you go that route?

    The blu lines that I would actually consider are all $300+ /sf, not even including the cost of the foundation. Upgrading to NanaWalls cost $35k, but they're only about $9k retail and maybe $12k at inflated GC prices for instance. $9k to upgrade from ceramic tile to slate in a 12x12 kitchen?

    The layouts are all pretty mediocre too.

    As near as I can tell, Blu caters to people who live in Napa and don't really think about cost. $500k for a 2000sf prefab seems like a crappy deal compared to homes I know of that cost significantly less (including foundation, garage, site clearing, etc.)

  20. unstoppable


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    20   5:35am Tue 20 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    I'm doing a massive remodel of a turn of the century church, doing the ultra modern thing on the inside. It's fun and overwhelming at times.
    A bit of advice: I would recommend subscribing to fine home building their online library is a fantastic source for research. Buy a crap ton of books, pattern language By Christopher Alexander is thought provoking, residential interior design by Maureen Milton was helpful, renovating old houses by George Nash is an amazing book everyone should read, Not so big solutions, by Sarah Susanka is good. Set up an account on houzz and start clipping pictures like mad. Be prepared to think your significant other is a Martian based on their design ideas. Architects and interior designers are just over priced marriage councellors at times.
    Think about installing radiant heat, a security system, a range hood with a remote mounted blower, central vac and a whole house fan instead of a.c.

    Definitely read this: http://www.ahousebythepark.com/journal/

    Think about a wood burning fireplace, there are zero clearance units that work well with a modern aesthetic, and gas fireplaces are lame.

    Buy a gross of legal pads, sketch and make lists like a maniac.

    Don't put in stainless appliances or granite countertops, it's over people it's over.

    Be prepared for decision fatigue, and thoughts of suicide if you have to look at one more tile sample.

    Good luck and thank you for wanting to do more than throwing up yet another suburban shit box.

    P.S. the book and the website are good comic relief if you start taking modern design too seriously, http://unhappyhipsters.com/post/10522891099/uh-family-guess-what-we-wrote-a-book-just

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