The Home Building Process

Custom Home Land Search Tips

Considering or already looking for a lot for your home?

Acquiring the right piece of property to build you dream home can be a daunting task that is time consuming and monotonous.  Most people, armed with their Zillow App head to the hills to see what they can find in the land search quest.  This usually ends up with heat exhaustion, twisted ankles, mosquito bites, ticks and chiggars.  If your lucky, the rattlesnakes will leave you alone.

As things progress, questions will arise…

  • Where are the property lines?
  • Is this the lot?
  • Does the house I want to build fit the lot?
  • Is there power to the property? Is it overhead or underground?
  • Do I have to drill a well?
  • Septic Tank (eeeew… is that even sanitary?)
  • I don’t have a signal… Can I get a landline? Do I need one?
  • Can I build on the side of a hill? Is that going to cost more?
  • Can we maximize that view?!
  • Can we block the view of the neighbor’s house?
  • Is that a dry creek bed running across this lot?
  • Why is this lot so cheap compared to the others?
  • What school district is this in?
  • What are the county taxes?
  • Do I have to pay cash for the lot? Is it better to finance?
  • How much will it cost to build on this lot.

That’s just a few of the questions and concerns we’ve heard over the years; but that last one is in bold print, because it really is the bottom line.  When you’re looking at purchasing a lot, the evaluation process should focus on one thing.  With the budget I have in mind… Can I build the house of my dreams on this property?  Secondarily, Can/should I think about adjusting my budget if it checks all the boxes?

If you do decide to brave it alone and do your own homework, here are a few tips…

  • Take plenty of water and a few snacks
  • Have an idea where the closest place is for a potty break
  • Take a first aid kit
  • Narrow it down before you go
  • Be careful about trapsing through tall grass and wooded areas
  • Especially in Texas, respect private property
  • If you see anything painted purple turn around. Someone takes their private property seriously and know their rights
  • We recommend the Land Glide App at to assist in determining (generally) where property lines are located Google Maps can be helpful too.

Download our Lot Evaluation Checklist to make sure you are asking the right questions and making informed decisions OR… Call our design center today to inquire about assistance with your land search.  We have licensed real estate agents available to assist you with your land search, make offers, and negotiate a great deal for you… All at a discounted rate!!! Let us do the leg work!

Hiring a Builder Personality

Avoid These 7 Builders When Hiring a Contractor

Hiring a builder to build your dream home can be a somewhat daunting task.  There are many pitfalls and sales gimmicks.   I have personally seen some of these mistakes made as I have had the unfortunate opportunity to take over jobs that were started by unscrupulous builders that were fired or shut down by the bank. It’s always hard to see people in this position.  Below, you will find a short list of builders to avoid. Avoid hiring the wrong builder for the type of home you want to build…  If you are looking for a Custom or Semi Custom Home, obviously you don’t want to hire a production builder.  Some of these builders do have Custom Home divisions, but really, all these large scale builders are nothing more than a bank disguised as a builder.  Do you want a bank building your home?  Or, would you rather hire a professional who has experience building quality, high performance custom homes in the areas you want to build? Additionally, ask your builder what his experience is… Has your builder ever swung a hammer for a living?  Did he ever do any of his own work?  If not, can he really understand how to solve problems on the jobsite? Avoid Hiring the Cheapest Option…  The cheapest option is only the best option if your decision making process is based on the dollar.  There are many other things to consider when building a home.  Value is provided in many ways. Here is a short list of other things that add value.  Timeliness, cleanliness, experience, quality of work, ability to estimate properly and stay on budget. These are just a few intangibles that add value and reduce stress around the job. Most likely, your low bidder falls short in these categories. Avoid Builders Who Don’t Offer A Warranty… The industry standard in Texas is (1) Year Workmanship, (2) Years for all systems (plumbing, electrical, & HVAC) (10) Years for all Structural Items.  If your builder is not meeting this or (preferably) exceeding this, keep looking! Avoid Builders That Tell You They Offer “Additional 3rd Party Inspections”  Please understand… We of course encourage our clients to obtain 3rd Party Inspections if they want them.  However, we prefer that the client contract for these inspections on their own.  If a builder provides a 3rd party inspection from an inspector they use over and over again, is that really a 3rd party inspection?  Avoid Hiring Builders Who Are Not Local… Local knowledge is an important piece of the puzzle.  Knowing what foundation types are acceptable and the soil types in each area are extremely helpful in accurate preliminary pricing. But, it doesn’t stop there, knowing the ins and outs of the local market and customary building practices make for a smooth build. Beware of franchises and large scale builders that trade on being local, but are in fact an entire business model that we are not accustomed to. Avoid Builders That Use Bait & Switch Tactics… It seems like this might be kind of difficult given that you are building a custom home, but here is how this one plays out.  You come to the builder with a set of plans or choose a plan from “stock” the builder applies a set of low end specifications to the plan and gives you a price. You sign and pay a deposit, but as you go through the selections process, the price skyrockets as you go because your selections differ from the standard specs. Avoid Builders That Quote a Price/SF… The price per square foot is a WILDLY INACCURATE way of pricing a home.  This question is common, but has no real meaning. If you take 2 houses with different floor plans, there will be a number of variables that can never be reconciled. 2 houses of the same 2500 square feet can be shaped differently. One house could have more exterior and/or interior walls. This would use more lumber, drywall, fasteners, insulation, sheathing, stucco, etc. A roof with gables is typically bigger, or maybe it’s a higher pitch.  A typical allowance budget for a home of this size could be $60-$70k. With different clients making selections, that number could be $45k (for a frugal person on a budget) or $100k for those with a healthier budget and an opulent lifestyle. These are just a few of the variables.  This could result in a $50/SF swing either direction. Additionally, bait and switch tactics are common with the price per square foot model because it’s hard to know what all is included for that price.  
Custom Home Design

All About Our Signature Style, “Rustic Elegance”

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Throughout the years, we have seen the popularity of many different home styles, from the classic architectural styles studied in college to the modern takes on some of those styles like “Modern Ranch” or “Modern Farmhouse”. We have had the pleasure of working on many of these styles including Ranch, Tudor, Federal, traditional Farmhouse, and Craftsman.

Currently, we are finishing an extensive remodel that not only underwent a change of floor plan but a change of style as well. This house has been transformed from an English Tudor to a Romanesque Revival. While we love the diversity of architecture in our area, we truly enjoy building our signature style which we call “Rustic Elegance”.

Rustic Elegance is a blend of many styles of architecture. We will lay it out from top to bottom below…

The Roof

With this home, you will find many different roof lines. Some hips, a few gables and low-pitched sheds create a complex, but pleasing style with many points of interest. You may also find a dormer or two and second story or attic walls above roof lines. Galvalume Standing Seam is a favorite with this house.

The Exterior

This is where we really think this home shines. First, throw the rules out the window. The exterior can be just about anything. From rustic barn wood to stone or stucco, the key to “Rustic Elegance” is a marriage of different styles to include usually 3 different materials such as Stone (as a wainscot), Stucco, and Brick (for trims and accent walls), and heavy wood beams for that timber-framed look.

Between the roof and the exterior, this home drips with curb appeal and appeals to the masses with the clean lines and smooth surfaces provided by stucco, along with that rough, rustic use of timber. There is a little something in it for everyone.

We can also skew that one way or the other with material selection. Smooth stone will tip toward elegance and rough stone and tumbled, or handmade brick will tip toward rustic. For families that enjoy more of that rustic look, we can design and accent the walls in a way that looks like multiple houses or buildings were cobbled together fantastically to make one huge home.

The Interior

Moving inside, the key remains the same. Marriage of materials… Bring the outside in to provide accents. Same principles apply with regards to selections to suit your taste. Whether your motif is a fishing lodge in Colorado or stately spaces like the White House, your selections and furnishings will pull it off.

You would be surprised by how well the contrast of farmhouse shiplap and clean superb craftsmanship of a cased opening comes together to create an interesting focal point. A mix of high barreled, groin-vaulted, or stepped ceilings adds a touch of flair. Arches and columns can bring in a little elegance. Beams or open trusses can add interest to any room. From one room to the next, you must wonder what’s around the next corner.

Early on, when we began building this style of home, the Tuscan theme was very popular. We have found recently that this style fits very well with the recent revival of Farmhouse architecture and the “grayscapes” that typically accompany that style.

Many families have differing tastes within the family, and Rustic Elegance is, in our opinion, the perfect way to blend those tastes and create a unique look that is all your own.

Interested in using our Rustic Elegance style for your custom home? Call us to set up an initial appointment and meet our home builders.


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