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Does anyone have experience with building a custom home?


By Kevin   Follow   Sat, 17 Nov 2012, 4:46pm PST   13,321 views   171 comments   Watch (0)   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

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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swebb   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 9:38am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 52

Darrell In Phoenix says

"6months overschedule"??? Based on what contract duration? As a result of "50% cost 'overruns'"????? Were additional contract days granted as a result of these "overruns" i.e, change orders?

If not, why didn't the owner invoke liquidated damages? I think someone is talking out their ass here and it's not me.

Don't shoot the messenger, I'm just relaying what I have been told. For the record I trust my father's word over yours. He says "more than 6 months behind schedule" and I think 50% is in the ballpark for the cost overrun. Maybe he fucked up, but that's what happened.

Kevin   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 9:47am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 53

New Renter says

Kevin says

Adding 20 windows in a large modern style home is quite a bit, but not unreasonable. I imagine it added a good $25-50k to the price tag though. Our builder suggested budgeting $1200-1500 per window since we want high grade aluminum instead of vinyl .

Any particular reason for going with aluminum?

Like I said, we're going with a modern design. Fiberglass looks like plastic. Clear anodized aluminum is beautiful.

The downside is meeting the energy codes. Milgard is the only vendor I know of that qualifies.

New Renter says

Darrell In Phoenix says

bob2356 says

Nonsense,

Wrong again. 2x4 are prohibited for multistory structures.

And PS...... slapping together houses is barely considered "construction". Get out sometime and take a look around you.

@ Kevin: ARE you considering a multi-story house? If not this tangent is meaningless.

It may be meaningless, but I would never consider building a house with 2x4s regardless of size. The cost difference is inconsequential (it might actually be cheaper in a single story, since you could go 24" OC instead of 16"). In cold weather the 2x6 will pay for themselves in two winters.

Our actual building plans are for a two-story home with a walkout basement (so essentially three stories on one end).

swebb says

Don't shoot the messenger, I'm just relaying what I have been told. For the record I trust my father's word over yours. He says "more than 6 months behind schedule" and I think 50% is in the ballpark for the cost overrun. Maybe he fucked up, but that's what happened.

I don't know that he fucked up, but it sounds like he was dealing with a contractor that either:

a.) Ripped him off big time

or

b.) Low balled the estimate to get the contract.

b is *extremely* common amongst shady contractors. If you get quoted anything less than $150/sf average, double and triple check references.

Another common thing is providing an estimate for construction costs only, and not being upfront about the GC's fee, site prep, utilities, etc.

swebb   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 10:01am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 54

Darrell In Phoenix says

swebb says

The architect fees made up a significant portion of the overall cost.

Nonsense. 10% at the very max. and that is high

If you notice in my original message I estimated (with a ? mark, If I recall) 10%. As built, all in it was about 6.5% of the total. As planned without the land, it was closer to 12%.

In any event I consider that a significant cost, especially if it can be essentially eliminated by going with a stock floorplan.

Darrell In Phoenix says

Site specific problems can be a major pain.

Then don't build on it. Get another lot. Lots are cheap.

Kevin says

They bought the last riverfront lot available in the area they wanted to build. The lot was not cheap and buying another wasn't an option.

Custom houses mean custom problems.

Complete BULLSHIT.

Folks, when you hear "custom" as it relates to housing, know that you're getting bamboozled. It's just another way to inflate the price per square foot. There is no "custom" anything. Everyone builds to IBC. EVERYONE.

I did give an example of an unanticipated issue that was due to the custom design. If it had been a spec plan the porch-over-living-space problem would have been dealt with and "baked in" to the price. As it happened for them, they had to "solve" the problem when it came time to build. Maybe the architect fucked up. Maybe the builder took advantage of the situation. I don't know. All I know is that they had to spend a significant chunk of unplanned $, and I think it's fairly easy to attribute it to the custom nature of the house. Staircase, being custom, was also quite a bit more expensive than what you would get from a typical build. The south facing sunroom also added cost. I stand by my statement.

Darrell In Phoenix says

lololol. 6" walls is CODE.

Not in Kentucky. To humor you, I called my brother and asked him. He's in new construction on a daily basis. What he said to me was that "every once in a while you will see 2x6 construction"...the rule is 2x4.

Kevin   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 10:33am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 55

Darrell In Phoenix says

Kevin says

you get quoted anything less than $150/sf average, double and triple check references.

Don't be silly. We bid, win and build wood framed structures for a very small fraction of that amount.

In phoenix, where nobody wants to live and you don't have any weather.

swebb   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 11:08am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 56

Darrell In Phoenix says

are river front lots everywhere. There is always a substitute.

Oh, my bad.

Darrell In Phoenix says

And I stand by my experience that "custom" is simply another means to upcharge in the contract or add as a change order. Both are massively inflated. I know because I prepare CO's daily.

When I say custom, I guess I mean not only that you get to specify the floorplan and such, but that you will be doing things that are non-standard, more costly, etc. If you build dozens of the same home, you have economies of scale working for you, you learn any tricks or difficulties with the build, and you amortize those costs over many houses. When you do a one-off house, you don't have that advantage. On top of that you are probably building something that is more expensive anyway (100 windows, for example). I think the phrase "custom house" has meaning beyond just a way to charge more for the same thing. Take, for example, the cost of the architect. That is a cost that a custom home has that your step-and-repeat homes don't.

Darrell In Phoenix says

And we're in the heavy construction biz. And let me assure you, if you bought a new house with 4" walls, you got ripped.

Maybe so, but that's what you buy in Kentucky. My original point wasn't whether or not the additional cost of a 2x6 was worth it...I was just trying to help the original poster with his question. In my experience deviating from the local norm can be costly beyond the difference between a 2x4 and a 2x6. Maybe the whole 2x6 thing is complete BS and was used as an excuse to charge even more...but the fact is that they deviated from the norm, and it cost them.

Kevin   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 11:32am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 57

Usually when someone says "custom house", they really just mean "you get to pick from one of three floor plans and one of five counter tops".

Unless an architect draws up a unique plan tailored for your lot, nothing is custom.

Buster   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 11:57am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 58

upisdown says

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.

Since the architect cashed my checks, perhaps you may want to ask him if I am full of bullshit.

http://malakoutiarchitects.com/?page_id=42

New Renter   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 12:11pm PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 59

Darrell In Phoenix says

swebb says

Maybe so, but that's what you buy in Kentucky. My original point wasn't whether or not the additional cost of a 2x6 was worth it...I was just trying to help the original poster with his question. In my experience deviating from the local norm can be costly beyond the difference between a 2x4 and a 2x6. Maybe the whole 2x6 thing is complete BS and was used as an excuse to charge even more...but the fact is that they deviated from the norm, and it cost them.

No. It's what you choose to buy. People don't know any better and they hand over all power to guys like me, lying realtors, mortgage pimps and "inspectors". 2x6 perimeters might add 0.5% to my framing number. The labor is the SAME.

@ Darrell

Clearly as a builder you have a lot of information that is useful to Kevin. So can you please tell us how would you as a builder advise Kevin to handle things to minimize costs yet achieve most of his goals?

If custom plans are too expensive where can Kevin find thousands of standardized floor plans to choose his dream house from?

If he needs to modify the plans to suit his goals would a draftsman be a good way to go to save money or should he go to an architect? What kind of modifications to the plans might he be able to do himself?

If he wants to use a CAD model what software package would you recommend?

How should he go about finding the best GC for the job? What questions should he be asking of the GC and references?

What does he need to know going into the negotiations?

How can he minimize change orders?

What materials from what suppliers should he specify for the build? For example who makes the best aluminum windows? Which manufacturers suck or are likely to go bankrupt and nullify any warranty?

What are the common tricks a GCs may try use to try to wring more dough out of Kevin and how can Kevin combat them?

What tools should Kevin bring to the build to check the quality of work with? What should he look for?

What should Kevin buy out of pocket and what can he trust the GC to source? For example should he buy a wall oven himself? How about the water heater?

As a builder what do customers demand that you feel is a waste of money and what do they NOT ask for that in your opinion they should?

Buster   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 12:11pm PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 60

Darrell In Phoenix says

Buster says

Since the architect cashed my checks, perhaps you may want to ask him if I am full of bullshit.

lmao.... It's a development. You didn't pay anyone except a contractor.

Wrong again, probably like you were ignoring Nate Silver's prediction of the GOP implosion this month I bet. But of course you already phoned the architect to verify your ignorant assertion? No, guess you didn't.

New Renter   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 12:27pm PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 61

@ Kevin

How about a fireplace? Are you thinking gas, wood, pellet or electric?

New Renter   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 12:28pm PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 62

Darrell In Phoenix says

New Renter says

Kevin

lmao.... "Kevin"?

Yes Kevin, the OP of this thread.

swebb   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 12:53pm PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 63

Darrell In Phoenix says

That's it. You get to pick your IFS. And overpay for them by massive amounts.

So is that what all the confusion is about? You are talking about picking a floor plan and finishes and call it custom when we are talking about a house designed as a one-off by an architect?

New Renter   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 1:05pm PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 64

Darrell In Phoenix says

New Renter says

If custom plans are too expensive where can Kevin find thousands of standardized floor plans to choose his dream house from?

There's this thing called google. "Dream"? Are you a realtor?

Sure there's Google. There is also you, a builder who I had hoped should know a better answer to this simple question that "Google it"

An no, I am not a realtor. If I were don't you think I'd be trying to convince Kevin to buy an overpriced existing house rather than build one new? I can't get a commission on that!

New Renter   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 1:08pm PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 65

Darrell In Phoenix says

lmao

Is "Kevin" an alias? Possibly. Do I have anything else to call the OP? No. So "Kevin" it is.

Kevin   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 1:31pm PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 66

New Renter says

@ Kevin

How about a fireplace? Are you thinking gas, wood, pellet or electric?

Gas, if any. Not one of those bullshit fake log things. I view a fireplace as purely decorative though.

Kevin   befriend   ignore   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 1:32pm PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 67

New Renter says

Darrell In Phoenix says

lmao

Is "Kevin" an alias? Possibly. Do I have anything else to call the OP? No. So "Kevin" it is.

That would be the dumbest alias ever. Kevin is what it says on my driver's license.

New Renter   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 12:22am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 68

Kevin says

New Renter says

Darrell In Phoenix says

lmao

Is "Kevin" an alias? Possibly. Do I have anything else to call the OP? No. So "Kevin" it is.

That would be the dumbest alias ever. Kevin is what it says on my driver's license.

That it would. Makes one wonder what name is on "Darrell's" licence.

Bigsby   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 12:26am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 69

New Renter says

That it would. Makes one wonder what name is on "Darrell's" licence.

Darrell Troll.

New Renter   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 12:26am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 70

Kevin says

New Renter says

@ Kevin

How about a fireplace? Are you thinking gas, wood, pellet or electric?

Gas, if any. Not one of those bullshit fake log things. I view a fireplace as purely decorative though.

That does leave you with more options. Personally I liked the idea of the fireplace as a back up heater as it remains operable during power blackouts.

HeadSet   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 3:12am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 71

Darrell In Phoenix says

The truth is resale housing prices are nearly double retail construction costs. New construction is far far less costly than resale housing.

I wish that were true in my state.

Builders around here are sitting on thier lots. No one wants to build a spec just to be undercut by resale and languishing new construction. Contracts come first before they will even build one of their standard models, and the price is significantly higher than similar existing resales homes. I presume labor, material, and lot costs must decrease for the builder to profitably compete (which does not help the bulders who already bought expensive lots).

HeadSet   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 3:26am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 72

New Renter says

Optional – hardwire in Cat6 or better in all rooms. This might not be as necessary as wireless improves

Definately hardwire in new constrution, preferably Cat7. Wireless may improve, but as soon as you get 1gig wireless you may need 10gig wired for 4k TV or some other high bandwidth device that may come along.

upisdown   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 3:27am PST   Share   Quote   Like (2)   Dislike     Comment 73

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?

zzyzzx   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 3:39am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 74

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).

swebb   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 3:48am PST   Share   Quote   Like (2)   Dislike     Comment 75

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.

HeadSet   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 3:51am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 76

upisdown says

Contracts coming first has been the long term norm, but not really during the early 2000s.

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.

HeadSet   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 3:53am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 77

upisdown 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.

upisdown   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 4:09am PST   Share   Quote   Like (1)   Dislike     Comment 78

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?

upisdown   befriend   ignore   Mon, 19 Nov 2012, 4:16am PST   Share   Quote   Like (2)   Dislike     Comment 79

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 cours