Ready to build your custom home? It’s easier than you think!

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When you hear the word “custom” associated with the home building industry, you probably think of a one-of-a kind home with everything you ever dreamed, right down to the door knobs, at a price reserved for people with large, six-figure incomes. At one time, that was probably correct. But things are changing.

Today, there are myriad custom home options and a variety of different levels of custom home builders in the Houston area. There’s still the full-time, custom home builder who builds a few homes each year. There are higher-volume builders, who will customize a home by moving walls or adding square footage. There are even higher-volume builders who offer custom options in just a few areas of the home, such as kitchens with sunrooms or kitchens as part of the family room.

Keep in mind that a custom feature is not the same as an optional feature. Options are usually standard features that are perceived as adding value, such as built-in cabinetry, granite countertops, crown molding or finished basements. Custom features, however, are very personal. What one homeowner likes, another may abhor. So the added value literally is in the eye of the beholder. This is one reason why most builders will ask for you to pay for custom features up front.

By expanding the definitions and boundaries of custom home building, builders have given home buyers more opportunities to build their dream homes without starting from scratch. To customize or not to customize hinges on two things—what you want and how much you are willing to spend.

If you know what you want, have a budget in mind and do decide to plunge in, consider these four important steps at the beginning of the process.

Select a Custom Builder

The first step is to decide on a builder. You can begin by interviewing several builders who have been recommended to you by friends and associates who built custom homes. Contact your local home builder association for a list or recommendation of custom builders in your area. Be sure to talk with the builders’ referrals and look at their work. Any builder should be willing to show off custom work they’ve done in the past. Make sure you feel completely comfortable with your builder, before you tackle such a large project.

Choose a Lot

By choosing your builder first, you get the benefit of his or her assistance as you make decisions about the lot, the architect and the financing. Have the builder evaluate the lot you’re considering and comment on its appropriateness for the home you have in mind.  Working with your builder to select the right lot can help ensure you don’t discover any unexpected problems or costly modifications that need to be made to it before you start building. Involving your builder up front can also prevent you from overspending on the lot, building type or size of home you were planning.

Design Plans

Most architects are happy to include builders in the planning process. The design/build team of owner, builder, and architect allow all three to comment during the design phase and make innovative suggestions. Your builder can be extremely helpful to you as the plans are being drawn; commenting on construction details and costs to help keep the home within your budget parameters.

Research Financing Options

Now you have a builder, a lot and architectural plans. Most home buyers now need a construction/permanent loan in order to finance their dream home. The banks will reserve the right to approve the builder you choose. Many banks offer extremely attractive loans that initially finance the lot and construction and then convert automatically to a mortgage loan. These construction/permanent loans have made it very easy to finance a custom home. Some custom builders may be willing purchase the lot for you. When the home is completed, you can roll the amount of the home and lot into your mortgage.

With some research, careful planning and a little know-how, building your dream home can become a reality.




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