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Old 01-19-2012, 09:57 PM
 
1,256 posts, read 3,184,966 times
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So we will be likely going with a custom home - we have begun to narrow down what we want in a home design by combining favorable features from the many homes we've seen and combining it with what I've learned on this forum.

For those of you who have worked with a custom builder - I know that it may be a slightly more stressful situation considering there may be more details and deadlines that you may have to go through vs simply going with a tract builder.

I have never built a home (nor owned one, I live in a 650 sq foot apartment) - though I recall some points from when my parents had DR Horton build their home.

Any tips and things to look for in a custom builder? What should I watch out for? Things that you guys wished you knew before you jumped into the fray with a custom builder?

And would you do it again?

I was really looking into Providence Custom Homes. Though my realtor has given me a few other choices including Calais builders, I found a particular home by Providence in Keller, TX that I want them to slightly modify and build wherever I find a great lot.

Providence

Thanks guys.
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Old 01-20-2012, 09:02 AM
 
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I'd do a deep web search for any builder to see if they have any negatives. Ask the builder for references, lots of them. Talk to as many of his homeowners as you can. Most people will open up and be honest. If he can't or won't provide, that tells you something. Find out who he uses as subcontractors and then do a search on them. You can get a Dunn and Bradsteet report on him to see if he pays his bills. Get a free BBB report on line. AND USE YOUR REALTOR! She's getting a nice commission to drive you around. Make her do some research.
Good luck. Hope it works out for you.
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Old 01-20-2012, 10:14 AM
 
1,256 posts, read 3,184,966 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ggolf View Post
I'd do a deep web search for any builder to see if they have any negatives. Ask the builder for references, lots of them. Talk to as many of his homeowners as you can. Most people will open up and be honest. If he can't or won't provide, that tells you something. Find out who he uses as subcontractors and then do a search on them. You can get a Dunn and Bradsteet report on him to see if he pays his bills. Get a free BBB report on line. AND USE YOUR REALTOR! She's getting a nice commission to drive you around. Make her do some research.
Good luck. Hope it works out for you.
Check that. Will do.

What about the build process itself? Any tips on that?

I've been talking with a few posters via DM and they have brought up that I should make sure we address foundation rigidity. Has this been a big issue in the DFW region for some of you?
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Old 01-20-2012, 01:27 PM
 
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the web site you should check out is called
Building a home on the gardenweb site

Building a Home - GardenWeb

you can search and read w/o joining but have to join to post--
not lot of spam associated with joining and the info is terrific
this is thread from doing a search for Dallas Fort Worth

Soil Engineer Before Building? - Building a Home Forum - GardenWeb

there have been posts more specific about DFW area--and much of the info comes from people outside of DFW area--but I think it is one of best-balanced sites w/o any real advertising masquerating as "advice"

it has professional builders/trades/regular home buyers who post questions and give insights
also has some great photos from actual builds which gives examples of other people's design/imagination and examples good/bad construction techniques
you can learn a lot following the forum/posts

also that site has forum for pool building and I imagine that is something you will do when you build this house

I have had conversations with both builders--Calais and Providence builders--years ago and am sure neither one remembers--but we were considering building custom home in Keller area at two separate occasions and/or buying home in two different neighborhoods and buiding "custom" on specific lot...
talked to many builders during that time frame--lot of them are still working
our problem was we thought we wanted a larger lot and thus needed to move out to Keller/Southlake/Aledo even when we were looking at areas/builders--
then we decided that was just too far a commute for my husband--
you don't have that problem since you are working much closer to where you are building

Calais owner/builder has more experience than Providence if I remember correctly but the guy with Providence was more interested in doing things like foam insulation at that time...
Calais guy might have changed his mind since then...and the price point for foam has dropped as well as gained more main-stream appreciation for it as better construction technique

I would suggest that you use TAD.org and research older homes that any builder you consider might have built--cause they have built spec as well as custom/owner homes
Ask the builder(s) for names/addresses/phone number for past clients--and certainly ones from as far back as 5 yrs at least--
some of those people will still be in their homes
you want to evaluate the quality of the home, the communication with the builder during and after construction, the lessons the homeowners learned during the process...

remember that the more difficult parts of building a home is being realistic--and patient
you rarely get as much home as you want for your price point
you always have problems--even great craftsmen can make mistakes, builders can have problems with suppliers/subs, and friction can develop in what people think initially is the beginning of a beautiful friendship...and YOU might not be the great person to work for that you anticipate

remember that you and your spouse can have very different tolerance levels for problems--
my experience is that a couple rarely react the same way to problems that develop when you consider building a home--
one person may be fairly inflexible about timelines, problems, lack of communication and the other is much more laid back--
one of you is often viewed as "the enforcer" by the builder/crew and the other is the good-time Charlie-which can create conflict within the marriage--
some people really have gotten divorced over problems that became apparent doing something like building a high $$ custom home...

you really should choose a builder not based on floorplan they have built--because you are having an architect draw up a custom plan and a "good" builder should be able to build anything from a 1600 ft lake house for weekend use to a 6000 sq ft McMansion...but realistically there is skill in building larger home--
different timeline is involved--and different knowledge base to certain extent--builder usually has to have subs with larger crews and more expertise since the finish-out details are more elaborate and require better quality-control

so it is diffcult for someone familiar with building homes around 2500 sq ft to build one with 6300 sq ft

And I qualify that "good" because that are variables--
some builders can be so bent on building the perfect house that they have trouble keeping a good subs...David Bagwell the developer was like that

Some builders have all good intentions but really poor organization/follow-through--
they might be great carpenters or know everything about plumbing a house or have great ability to source good products but they never pay their bills on time or can't manage a schedule

And some builders are so intent on getting enough work flow that they are too busy to visit job sites and oversee the construction...and eventhough you are paying them to do that and expect them to be there certain number of hours--they may only get around to YOUR job site once a week--or when you call with things you think are problems...
they probably have job foreman who will actually oversee the subs and your project--
so make sure you know who will really be building your house
some builders have worked with the same subs for years and totally trust them to do same quality of work and be dependable that they just don't see the need to visit a job site each day or week
MAKE SURE you know what your builder actually does once construction starts--

Some builders don't take calls outside of worktime or on weekends
if you go to the job site at 7pm after the subs are gone
and find that the windows were not installed like they were scheduled to be or the counter tops or the plumbers put wrong fixtures in the master bath or whatever...
your builder may not appreciate being called after hours as to why--

remember that most builders you would consider have been doing this for lot longer than you--
you are building one house--they have built dozens to hundreds over the course of their professional life--

same situation with people who are having their first baby and couple having number 8--
even if it is YOUR money being spent which always means you are more concerned and want your problem/need solved first--

finding a good builder means looking for one that fits YOUR personaliies, your pocketbook, your expectations...
some of them (like a car salesman or a prospective spouse) will promise you anything to make the sale

once you have signed the contract all bets are off then and you are dealing with reality of situation

you will need attorney (not the builder's) to review any contract you are expected to sign so that YOU are protected...
find your lot/land--buy it outright or with separate mortgage--and then contract for your build is my suggestion
two ways to build a custom house--
buy lot outright or with mortgage
1-contract with builder for specific house to be built and pay in installments/draws via funds or construction loan YOU take out from bank
2--the builder builds the house using construction loan from the bank and you buy the house from him after construction with your mortgage

You have more control over specifics with #1, builder has more control with #2--because whoever controls the money has the ultimate say so about construction oversight really
but #1 puts more pressure on you financially since you have skin in the game besides just earnest money/downpayment

NEVER do #1 without owning your lot and never do #2 if you own the lot...

probably most builders who are still working now are pretty strong financially--but remember that TX does not require ANY builder to be licensed...or even really to be knowledgeable about construction nor does any city/county either really

this FTW/Tarrant county builders' assoc might be one place to start if you have questions
this is link to list of builder/members
- Builders

Some builders are members of the National Assoc of Builders as well--
Steps to Building a Home, New Home Building Tips, Build Your Own Home

I know of some not so good builders who belong to both
so being a member in and of itself is not quarantee of quality

a builder can and often does encorporate for each type of project with one particular LLC...
this is legal and even very good builders do it...
but it protects them personally/legally not the buyer and often shields people from knowing about problems...

this is where a good local realtor comes in handy--
the person who helped us when we were looking for a home also works with many of the $$$ custom builders in Colleyville/Southlake/Keller areas and has for years
she knows lots of skeletons in closets

as far as I know Calais is a quality builderwith good reputation and portfolio of homes to prove it

other builders we considered when we were looking at custom building were
Jay Brown with Tahoe Builders--one thing about him is that he builds smaller # of homes each year than lot of custom builders in his price point
so that he is personally involved with construction of each one--keeps his profit down but at least when I spoke to him he wanted not to be stressed at diluting his time to cover so many projects that quality suffered--and he wanted personal time...

Greg Reid with Waterford Custom Homes
Waterford Classic Homes - quality custom homes since 1983 in NE Tarrant County Texas
know someone who is personal friend of his who went into construction business because of his personal respect for quality work Greg Reid did buiding my friend's home in Keller

Greg Wright
Providential Top Texas Custom Homes Breathless Homes Keller Texas Southlake and North Fort Worth
developer as well as builder so he is less likely to be personally involved at job site probably--you don't hire him so much as his company--but he builds some beautiful homes

Patrick Duffy (not the actor from "Dallas" fame)
Patrick Custom Homes
long history in Southlake/Colleyville/Keller area

Mike Gardner with Vintage Custom Homes
My Homepage
he built the home across from me in Hurst and is building home for friend of my neighbor's in same neighborhood--
less expensive than your proposed build I am sure--but he is good builderand has built homes much more expensive as well

Village Home builds mainly in FTW but they build a different flavor of home and always have--more European even before builders started following the "Tuscan" look
Village Homes : Custom Homes : Fort Worth, Texas

Don Ferrier--who was a "green builder" before most people knew what that was
Ferrier - Home

You may find that if you are buying lot in development that your developer controls your choice of builder--that you can't just bring in "any" builder but need to use one that he has on his list
this makes the developer feel comfortable that the homes will all have the same overall quality and he is dealing with a known quantity vs builder whose habits/financials he is not familiar with at all...but building custom homes in Tarrant county (and probably any other area) is also kind of incestuous...
builders/developers/subs kind of work as clique in that developers often go to same builders and builders go with same subs

one thing that may be difficult to understand is that the bidding process can be pretty complex and most subs don't want to do specific bids--this means that budgeting can have holes in it
you want to make your contract as specific as you can if you want to get the exact look you want
this means knowing up front all the myriad products that is necessary to build a house--
from the types of nails/hardware/insulation/paint to plumbing/lighting fixtures/to the edges of the granite countertops and the appliances...

if you go with $$$ amounts--like $X for appliances, and $Y for flooring choices, and $Z for lighting
that might be easier but it is less specific and more likely to produce problems because what you want is likely to add up to more than the budget amount--meaning you have to pony up more money...

check out the gardenweb site for some threads about house budgets and construction overruns
enlightening I think...

good luck

some people don't have the personalities to really deal with building a house and they don't find that out until too late...
hope you build a beautiful home that gives you pleasure as long as you live in it...

Last edited by loves2read; 01-20-2012 at 01:47 PM..
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Old 01-20-2012, 01:54 PM
 
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Geez L2R.... I didn't even read your whole post since it is massive. Thanks so much for the time you spent typing that out, I'm going back to read it now.

Post of the month!
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Old 01-20-2012, 01:57 PM
 
Location: Simmering in DFW
6,947 posts, read 18,732,690 times
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I have been involved with residential construction and rehab for 30 years. I will never have a place built from scratch again. But i prefer established neighborhoods anyway, so that lends itself to remodeling. I have had friends actually quit their jobs in order to monitor the process closely, if you have a career that demands much of your attention and focus you really should think very hard about the time and emotional commitment having a home built can require.
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Old 01-20-2012, 02:03 PM
 
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as Squirl says--building a custom home usually works one of two ways--
you totally trust your builder and just refuse to get as personally involved because you are paying a pretty penny for his oversight or
you or your spouse pretty much takes it on like a job--and invest your time/anxiety in overseeing all the details like you wish your builder would...
#1 would be impossible for most people I know who are spending that much money
#2 creates as many problems as it solves from what I have seen/heard...

and I don't know that IF YOU CHOOSE THE RIGHT BUILDER #2 results in any better a house in the end...

the problem is that many times it is difficult to tell problems that lie beneath the facade of a home that is already constructed and many times people are bedazzled by the "look" of a home and don't realize that what is underneath, out of sight is just as or more important...
so they buy a "beautiful" home and get one with weak concrete in foundation or pex plumbing that has staples making leaks they can't see until they go to remodel a bathroom and find mold in the walls...

and I know that there are some people who are so fixated on the negatives that knowing there is one thing "off" in a room can spoil their enjoyment of the house...
the guy we know who is a builder--and builds quality product--has always said there is NO perfect house/construction process--
there are always mistakes because it is a human process
you just want to do the best you can and stand behind what you build---
he does few jobs each year and only commercial construction now anyway but he would never custom build a home from scratch because most people were TOO picky and quarrelsome--he did not want the hassle--

Last edited by loves2read; 01-20-2012 at 02:11 PM..
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Old 01-20-2012, 02:03 PM
 
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1. Decide everything in advance. Once framing, heck once the slab is poured, is complete changes cost big money and cost a fortune.

2. Run miles of CAT 5/6 in the arctics down to dummy plates everywhere.

3. Floor a few hundred feet of the attic.

4. Check out droplet sprinkler heads.

5. Block for ceiling fans not one it two but several.

6. Consider finishing under stairs for wine or other storage.

7. Price water sprinkler fire protection.

8. Spec 1 5/8 or is it 1 3/4? thickness doors. Trust me.

9. Call an alarm co. before framing.

10. Use great locks.
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Old 01-20-2012, 02:56 PM
 
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So many good points. What are those doors you speak of? I was thinking making sure the doors were tall 8ft and solid core. There's more?

I will def call the alarm people.

I want to build a safe as well. Good point on the wine storage under the stairs. Very cool.


Quote:
Originally Posted by EDS_ View Post
1. Decide everything in advance. Once framing, heck once the slab is poured, is complete changes cost big money and cost a fortune.

2. Run miles of CAT 5/6 in the arctics down to dummy plates everywhere.

3. Floor a few hundred feet of the attic.

4. Check out droplet sprinkler heads.

5. Block for ceiling fans not one it two but several.

6. Consider finishing under stairs for wine or other storage.

7. Price water sprinkler fire protection.

8. Spec 1 5/8 or is it 1 3/4? thickness doors. Trust me.

9. Call an alarm co. before framing.

10. Use great locks.
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Old 01-20-2012, 03:01 PM
 
27,604 posts, read 45,080,155 times
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if a builder of a 900K house is NOT using taller, solid core doors as his standard spec, he is not the builder for you
many of the points mentioned should probably be what a "custom" builder in that price point will do as matter of course--
what did you see in the house you walked through and liked?

two points are worth considering with the builder
incorporating fire sprinklers (because in the country there probably might not be fire hydrants) and when the alarm company comes out--
most builders in this price point are going to assume that you will have an alarm company and probably have a system installed in a spec house--
for an owner-build you might want to upgrade some of the basics though and add camera-surveillance vs just exterior sensor alarms...

and with Wi-Fi being the name of the game, you might not even need to run Cat 5--
that is something to talk over with electronics person
check out the Garden Web site--
that is something you can probably find a thread about or someone with good info
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