Building A Custom Home

Today we’re going to talk about building a custom home, things to avoid, things to think about early on in the process. Some of the first things to look at are setbacks on the piece of property, particularly if this is a brand new custom home. Make sure you know where your utility hookups are, whether or not the property is going to be using a septic tank or sewer system, where water is available, and whether there are curbs and gutters in place or not. Those are some of the basic things that you’re going to want to know about your specific piece of property. We can do a lot of that research with you. When you’re developing a custom home, specific things that we would like to work with on a property including the views, the setbacks, and the lot converge are the kind of things we put together in a basic program to get started. It’s important to know what’s built next door to your home, what it looks like next door, and how that’s going to relate to your particular project. Building too far from the street can be an issue. We’re working on a project right now that happens to have a 460 yard driveway that we’re negotiating with the fire department on because they want us to asphalt the entire driveway. The budget for that is going to be somewhere around $50,000-$60,000. If we can gravel it instead of putting asphalt in, we may be able to save the owner quite a bit of costs. Consider the distances that you’re developing in particular if you have a large piece of property and we’ll go through that with you more in detail.

The fire department has a number of requirements particularly, when building in the mountains with high fire zones. They want to build using fire resistant materials and now with new homes we’ll be putting in fire sprinklers at least in California. Some of the other things to look for are where are the utilities access hookup locations and what might be the local landscape requirements. Particularly in those high fire zones there are certain types of plants that they don’t want you to use because they will be too much fuel for a fire. We take a look at that carefully. One of the other things to think about is does the property that you’re working with have a homeowners association. If it does, that’s another round of review and comments. The planning department will want to know what the exterior house is going to look like and how it compares to the other homes in the area. Sometimes they have requirements like two types of materials particularly on a front elevation. We like to with a custom home we like to make sure that the four elevations agree with each other and we’re not just building a façade on the front so you know it looks great for the photographs.

So some of the other things to think about are unlicensed folks working on your project or what they call owner-builder type of project. A lot of times we’ve seen situations where a contractor will ask the owner to pull the permit. This is called an owner-builder project. You are allowed to do that as the owner of the property however there are a few pitfalls that you want to be aware of. One is if you do pull the permit you also need to pull workers compensation in California. That will cover you for your insurance. The person that pulls the permit is responsible for those contractors or the work crew that’s on the jobsite. Even driving to and from the project. Hopefully this doesn’t happen, but say somebody gets in an accident and you don’t have workers compensation that could be a real problem. That’s one of those pitfalls you want to avoid. We can talk to you about that more in detail as you get further along in your project. Another thing is that if you’re working with a handyman generally in California the pricing that they’re allowed to charge is around a $500 limit. You can check with your local building department, but handyman projects are not qualified to do larger scale projects unless they have a general contractors license or a contractors license that applies to the work that they’re specifically doing. So it’s very important to see that and make sure that the insurance is in place and that the licenses are appropriate for the project and type of work that they’re doing for you.

Something else to think about, if somebody implies that it’s simple and it’s really easy and quick to get the project done, that’s kind of a red flag. There are a lot of steps and a lot of processes to go through and we recommend that you have a full complete set of drawings that represent the work that you want to do on your property. Because that is a document that you will be providing to the contractor for them to do the work and actually define the scope of work on a project. Another thing to keep in mind is being careful not to over design or design yourself out of your budget. Look at the drawings early on in the project and identify what’s going on. Look at where the light switches are, the layout, the door layout, things like that. We’ll go over those with you but it’s very important to get that down on paper the way you really want it so you’re not changing those kinds of things while framing is going up. That will cost you a lot more money. The right time to look at that is in the design phase and then review it in the construction document phase. And make sure it has the layouts, the support, the equipment, the lighting, and switching is where you want it before you start or issue a contract for work.

Those are just some of the things to consider on your project and we’d happy to go in more detail with you in a free consultation. We hope to hear from you soon!