Local experts provide insight on building your custom home.
In our homebuilding series, we’ve covered the decision to build, how to obtain financing, and designing your custom home. This month, we focus on the actual building process.
“From start to finish, the process will take six or seven months,” says Bennett Arey about the custom home he and his wife, Alexis, are building. “Construction started at the beginning of June, and in July they were working on pouring the foundation and starting framing. In September, the windows and exterior doors went in, shingles went on, and work started on HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. During October, we hoped to see insulation, drywall, and some flooring.”
Bennett and Alexis are working with Russ Anderson, of Anderson Homes, on their build. “We had heard good things about Anderson Homes from friends and co-workers, but when we participated in Parade of Homes, we fell in love with the overall aesthetic and feel of one house in particular that he had done,” says Bennett. “We did still receive quotes from multiple builders to make sure pricing aligned with our expectations, and in the end Anderson Homes was a good fit.”
Russ says his building process starts with plan design. “In the case of the Areys, they had their plan mostly done when they came to me for a bid,” he says. After the plans were nearly complete, Russ met with the Areys to discuss their desired finishes. They then prepared a comprehensive bid based on their plan and finishes.
“Once the Areys received all their bids, they selected Anderson Homes as their builder of choice,” says Russ. “We then worked directly with the Areys and our design staff to make final selections on their home.”
In terms of considerations during the build, Russ says the Areys’ project has been pretty normal. “Their goal was to get a home that met their personal needs while also making their new house payment something they were comfortable with,” says Russ. “Their lot section was the part of their project that took the most time and effort. I personally met with them to shoot grade and discuss pros and cons of the individual lots they considered.”
The Areys then used the guidance to select a lot that most aligned with their wants and needs.
Russ says that timelines are dependent on project size, homeowner selections, change orders, and the weather. “We give our clients a general time frame when we sign our contract and then, after framing, we give a specific schedule through completion of the project.”
The Areys are enjoying the build process so far. “Seeing the house start to take shape and look like a real house has us super excited to call this place home,” Bennett says. “We’re thrilled with the overall layout of the house and excited with a lot of the choices we made while working on our custom floor plan.”
When asked about the biggest surprise that’s come up while building, Bennett says: “I think there’s just a general sense of nervousness during the process — making sure you’re going to love every choice you make and still stay within the budget and timeline set. So far, our only surprise was our completion date being pushed back to January, which logistically provides some challenges for moving out of our current home.”
The Building Process
Tori Messenger, executive director for the Home Builders Association of Columbia and real estate agent for House of Brokers, says clients tend to choose their builder based on things such as style, price range, time frame, compatibility, and personality. “Your local real estate agents that know builders and have worked in new construction can be a great resource,” she says.
Jeff Hemme, founder and managing member of Hemme Construction, says it typically takes them four to 10 months to build a home, depending on the size. “From our first consultation to contract signing day can take as long as a month,” he says. “Between the first meeting and signing the contract, we have our clients work with our designer to make decisions as to what’s going in the home. This helps us guarantee the price and closing date and helps the client feel comfortable knowing they won’t be rushed to make any decisions under pressure as we’re building their home.”
Jeremy Spillman, owner of Spillman Homes, adds that the process of creating their plan can sometimes take 30 to 90 days depending on how many revisions are needed. “We strongly recommend clients take their time at this stage, no matter how many revisions it takes,” Jeremy says. He believes the cheapest time to make changes is before the build process actually begins; once the plan is in place, they move on to the specifications stage, where they pick hardwood, appliances, etc. “It’s all about aligning the allowances with their expectations,” he adds.
Jeremy says builds can vary from three to four months for smaller homes to well over a year for a larger, estate-style home. “Make sure your builder provides a schedule so you can at least see that there is a game plan, even though we all know delays can easily happen,” he says. “We plan for delays and go through that with our clients to create realistic expectations.”
Tips and Trends
“Select your builder before you start the design or lot selection process,” says Russ. “A quality builder is best equipped to guide you through the building process and assist in achieving your cost and design goals.”
Russ also suggests requesting at least three references — one from a previous customer that has lived in their home for at least five years, one from a customer that has lived in their home for at least two years, and one they are currently working with.
Jeff says getting educated on the process is key. “Buying a home is a big decision, but building one is an even bigger decision. Be sure that whoever you choose to work with factors everything into the price of the home when you’re getting quotes so there aren’t any surprises at the end. Also be sure that the contract is very detailed so you’re protected.”
Jeff says another misconception is that you have to have 20% or more of the home’s value as a down payment to build a home. “There are programs out there for end loans that are no money down,” Jeff says. “I would encourage anyone thinking about building to talk to a lender first. Learn your options for loans and discuss these with your builder.”
Jeremy also cautions on chasing trends. “Be careful with trends, as they’re just that — trends,” he says. “They will come and go and could leave your home looking outdated as soon as the next trend comes in.”
Jeff adds that homebuilding can be a daunting task for many people. “Again, this all ties back to getting educated,” he says. “Find a builder who is willing to spend the time educating you and helping you get through the process of building a home.”
Other Resources for the Building Process
Tori says there are many resources available to clients through the Home Builders Association’s website.
“The members are at the top in their field and are subscribed to a high code of ethics and high business practices overall,” she says. “They all are also bonded, insured, and licensed.”
Tori also believes one of the best free resources for people who are considering building or even remodeling a home is the Columbia Parade of Homes events. “There are two events each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. This year’s fall event takes place November 2 and 3 from 1 to 5 p.m.” she says. “It’s a great way for people to get ideas about top homes by top builders in town. It gives clients an idea of current trends and price ranges, and they can meet the builders.”