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Responses to Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns

  1. Where do we begin the process of building our dream home?
  2. How do I avoid being overwhelmed by the details?
  3. How do I select a builder?
  4. How do I compare builder pricing?
  5. How can I be assured the value of the project will equal or exceed the cost?
  6. When should I impose my personal tastes and desires?
  7. How can I easily determine if my desired plan is compatible with my lot?
  8. How can I find a lot that is suitable for my plan?
  9. How do I ensure I can build my house within my budget?
  10. How much time should I plan for the design and build process?
  11. Do I need an architect to develop my plan?
  12. Do I need a realtor to represent me?
  13. Do I need an attorney to represent me?
  14. What is a fixed price contract and what are its advantages?
  15. What is a cost plus contract and what are its advantages and disadvantages?
  16. How can I ensure the responsiveness of the builder once the project begins?
  17. What selections should I expect to make?
  18. How do the selections get made?
  19. How do I know the house is built to building code requirements?
  20. What should I know about warranties?
  21. Who should I contact to have my utilities turned on?

 

Q-1 Where do we begin the process of building our dream home? 
There are numerous places to start. The following are some suggestions which are in no order of preference: 

  • Find a builder who builds the style of home that appeals to you and is within your price range and has a reputation for reliability and credibility. 

  • Acquire a piece of land that you love. 

  • Look for a house plan already built, in a book, as a model or in a parade of homes that fits your needs or incorporates ideas that appeal to you. 

  • Find a builder that has a lot or a house plan or both that fits your needs. 

  • Hire an architect or plan designer you trust (check references first). 

  • Have a desired or needed geographic location. Go there and start looking. 

  • Talk to a trusted realtor or builder who will help you sort through the options. 

  • Ask friends, business associates or homeowners, in the area where you are going to build, for a referral to a good builder. 

As always, budget will determine the type of land and home you can acquire. To a great extent it will also determine your location. If you are from the general community you will already know, for the most part, where and what you can afford. Talking to experienced builders, in the area you want to build, will help you determine pretty quickly whether you can make things work. Realistic expectations are a must at this point. Priorities and options will have a way of surfacing once you commit to the process. 


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Q-2 How do I avoid being overwhelmed by the details? 
As with any sophisticated organization of men and materials, knowledge, experience, dedication and discipline contribute to the effective accomplishment of the task. The key is breaking down the total objective into manageable groups of steps that will be completed in a logical, organized manner. Generally, the builder you select is the critical component in this process. If you don't have a plan he can usually help you find one or provide and architect / designer to prepare a preliminary design. With a preliminary plan the builder can provide estimated pricing to determine if you are within your budget comfort level. Many times he can help you find a lot or direct you to someone who can. Not all builders have this diversity of skills and experience. Some only build, so you need to determine the capabilities of the builder you are talking to and, where he lacks experience, obtain the professional help you need. 

As with most matters, many of your selection decisions hinge on cost. A knowledgeable builder and his professional staff can help you sort through the almost unending list of options in a rational manner. If he doesn't know the approximate cost of an option he can certainly find it. Only with accurate and complete information can you make confident decisions. 


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Q-3 How do I select a builder? 
Selecting a builder is probably the most important of all decisions. In addition to experience, skill, dedication, and honesty, he needs to relate to you and your family. You can determine his qualifications for your project by doing any or all of the following: 

  • Check references by talking to homeowners and business associates. 

  • Inspect in-process and completed projects. 

  • Meet with him and his staff. 

  • Review his contract, specifications and related job organizational materials. 

  • Call his key subcontractors and suppliers to determine the quality of his working relationships. 

At Doug Myhand Construction, we feel the builder client relationship will last not just for the design and build but most likely as long as you live in your home. 


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Q-4 How do I compare builder pricing? 
This is probably the most difficult aspect of builder selection for prospective homebuyers. Obviously, you want to get good value for your investment. Everybody asks "what is your cost per square foot?" This is a virtually meaningless question because there are so many variables which can distort the comparison. The costs can vary significantly based on the style of plan, level of finishes, location and infrastructure required by the lot or community. 
We suggest the most accurate way to compare pricing is to ask for the following: 

  • Cost per square foot for main level square footage: If you build a home that is one level with an unfinished basement, all the costs associated with the site, garage, unfinished basement and deck or patio need to be reflected in the cost of the main level. 

  • Cost per square foot for basement finish: This will be significantly less than the cost of the main level finish because the exterior walls, windows, insulation, base plumbing etc. are already existing and you have infrastructure or other costs involved. 

  • Cost per square foot for second story finish: This should be less than the main level but more than the basement due to the need for exterior walls, windows and stairs but no costs associated with the main level. 

Once you have determined the cost, you need to identify what it includes. Walk with the builder through his model or a completed project to identify "standard" features. Ask about other components you can't see such as energy features and sound batts in the walls 

If this is not clear, contact us and we will be pleased to assist you. 


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Q-5 How can I be assured the value of the project will equal or exceed the cost? 
Project value results from incorporating the most broadly desirable components and finishes, including land. If you obtain these desirable components and finishes at a fair price value will equal or exceed the cost. 

If a financial institution is providing the construction funds they will require an appraisal of the project. The appraisal will provide a fair valuation of the project. 

Another factor that influences value is the appropriateness of the item for the project and how it relates to the total project value. For example, spending $4,000 for a pedestal lavatory in the powder room of a $250,000 production home probably will not increase the value accordingly. However, installing the same sink in a $1,000,000 home that has upgraded fixtures throughout probably would. How do you know what to select? An experienced builder, architect, realtor or interior designer can lead you in the right direction. 


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Q-6 When should I impose my personal tastes and desires? 
We suggest to clients that if they are going to be in a house for 5-years or less stay away from really unique features that don't have broad appeal. This could include interior finishes or spaces that aren't customary. If you are planning to live there 10-years or more, you can exercise much more freedom in your design and selection without the short term retail concern. 

You will apply this thought process for each area of selections. It can get complicated, however with experienced advisors you can proceed with confidence. 

As a builder, we go through this exact process each time we do a speculative home or build our personal residences. Since it is our money, we know how you feel. We are always trying to identify the most appealing features at the best price. 


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Q-7 How can I easily determine if my desired plan is compatible with my lot? 
Lot size and topography are usually the most limiting factors. If you have a 100' long house with an end load garage, you probably won't fit on a 120' wide lot. With setbacks and turn around requirements the house will be too long. A walkout ranch won't work very well on a flat lot. Depending on how much and which way the lot slopes will govern the type of home that utilizes natural features best. An experienced builder or architect is best suited to make this preliminary evaluation. We provide this as a free service. 


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Q-8 How can I find a lot that is suitable for my plan? 
When purchasing a lot you will most likely be dealing with real estate professionals. If either the listing or selling agent has land experience he can make this evaluation. However, it is also advisable to seek the advice of an experienced builder. The more difficult the project the more professionals you might need to involve. If soils are questionable you might need to have a soils engineer do a soil examination. If topography is not easily discernable or there are significant grades you should have a surveyor prepare a topographic map and so on. If a licensed architect is preparing the plan, he should be involved. Usually site features are not that ambiguous and the builder/ realtor evaluation is adequate. Whoever is helping you needs to recognize whether paying additional professionals will be a good investment. We suggest that any land contract should be contingent on resolving any questionable conditions. If you don't have a realtor involved, it becomes even more important to have a builder assist you. At Doug Myhand Construction, we provide a free lot evaluation. 


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Q-9 How do I ensure I can build my house within my budget? 
Develop realistic expectations by researching new homes in your area and inquiring about the elements that interest you. You need to get comfortable that your budget will allow you to include the features and the space that you require. A reputable, experienced builder will be able to provide you a preliminary budget range based on your desired size, layout and features. We always provide preliminary budgets that identify this cost range to help you start at and stay within your comfort zone. As plans progress, so do the cost estimates. At any point, you will be deciding whether the cost of a feature or size of an area is worth the additional cost. Keep in mind that from the start of the process it will likely be six months or more to complete the planning phase and another seven to twelve months or more to build so inflation will be a factor. Try to leave some room in your budget for this, as well as other items the builder probably does not include such as landscaping and window coverings. 


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Q-10 How much time should I allow for the design and build process? 
The minimum time you should expect for design and build for your custom home is five months to design and six months to build. These numbers represent the most optimistic in both categories and would occur only if you found a house plan that required few modifications and was modest in size. Obviously the larger, more detailed and complicated the project the greater the time. An average for our projects now is approximately six months for construction. A lot of what happens depends on how much personal time you can commit and how rapidly you can make decisions. The schedule availability of the other parties involved is also critical. Be realistic. Once you have decided on a floor plan, completed all the revisions and worked your way through all the details and finishes, the builder must then obtain the necessary permits and approvals. This includes architectural control committees for the community (if applicable) , building permits, utility permits and whatever else your area requires. This can be relatively quick or very time consuming. 


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Q-11 Do I need an architect to develop my plan? 
The complexity of the project should be the determining factor as to whether you need an architect or plan designer. Many times a builder will have a plan that meets 90% of your needs. In that case, the builder will usually have his agents modify the plan to meet your specific goals. The agent could be an architect or a plan designer. Starting with an existing plan also allows the builder to provide a more accurate estimate of the pricing. The builder can often provide preliminary sketches of the home you are trying to create from existing plans he has or ideas you supply. 

On more complicated and unique projects the architect is much more critical to the process and may be the first professional engaged. We believe that the most effective design scenario involves both the architect/designer and builder from the beginning. 


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Q-12 Do I need a realtor to represent me? 
Realtors can be of significant benefit to buyers moving into a new community. In addition to locating builders and real estate, they have intimate knowledge of value, schools, growth patterns and other important community features. They can be very well worth the fees paid. Many builders like us have realtors represent them who provide valuable services to both parties. 

For residents who are relocating within a community and already know the quality areas and builders, realtor services may not be as beneficial, other than providing a comfort level and negotiating service. 

The realtor may also provide a very valuable service in finding acceptable lots and locations for your project. The land market changes rapidly and access to the MLS may be critical. However, using a realtor for your lot purchase does not require using a realtor for the build contract. It is strictly your choice and you need to feel comfortable with what you do. After all, buying a home is likely the most expensive purchase you will ever make. You will also probably be doing it several times during your life. It can be very expensive if you make a wrong choice. 


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Q-13 Do I need an attorney to represent me? 
If you have a realtor and are using standard real estate documents you most likely do not need an attorney. If you don't have a realtor it is worthwhile to have the documents reviewed by an attorney for any significant deficiencies. 


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Q-14 What is a fixed price contract and what are its advantages? 
A fixed price contract is one where the price for the project is set at the contract signing and is based on the items described and represented in the plans and specifications. The price can be changed throughout the construction process by written change orders or allowance reconciliation's. 

The advantage of this form of contract is that generally all risk of cost increases, damage or loss is absorbed by the builder. 


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Q-15 What is a cost plus contract and what are its advantages and disadvantages? 
A cost plus contract is one where the builder charges a markup on the costs incurred in the execution of the contract such as many re-modeling jobs. In addition to hard construction costs, project costs may include the cost of site supervision, insurance, and setup. On a cost plus 15% contract, for example, the client would be charged $1.15 for every dollar the builder spends. 

The advantage of this contract is that the client will have knowledge of all expenses incurred and benefit from any savings realized throughout the process. The disadvantages are that if costs increase due to plan errors or omissions, inflation or inaccurate estimates the client pays the extra. 

In any cost plus contract it is important to determine who is responsible for costs due to site damage, vandalism, errors in execution etc. It is also important to understand what items are included as "costs" such as, supervision, insurance, realtor commissions, etc. on which markup will be charged. 

A variation of this is cost plus a fixed fee. In this scenario the builder establishes his fee based on the expected costs and fixes that amount. The fee does not vary except through written change orders. This scenario allows the builder and owner to work together to control the costs and provides the proper incentives to do so. 


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Q-16 How can I ensure the builder's responsiveness once the project begins? 
First, check references of any builder you are considering!!! Past client satisfaction is a good indicator of future client satisfaction. Second, the builder, as well as the client should be bound by a detailed, accurate contract, that includes time commitments which describe the obligations of both parties. There will always be questions you will need to have answered. It is the builder's discipline and business practice that determines whether he returns your call in 2-hours or 2-days. 


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Q-17 What selections should I expect to make? 
Theoretically, you have the right to make all the selections in your custom home. From a practical matter, you will probably be involved in the selection of only a few of the construction components and most of the finishes, which are loosely defined as "all the things you can see". You should choose a builder who incorporates as standard, most of the features and finishes you are looking for. By doing this, you will minimize the effort involved in selecting items which are outside the builder's envelope. Also, the builder won't always be saying " that will cost you extra". This can be uncomfortable for both parties as well as being inherently inaccurate in estimating the final cost. 


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Q-18 How do the selections get made and when? 
In order to minimize unknowns and surprises during construction, we attempt to have most selections made prior to contract execution. Proceeding through the selection process in a logical organized manner is essential. You and the builder need to set the criteria and general price range that fits your budget, then the builder can help you select within that range. Appliances, floor coverings, countertops, tile and cabinets are but a few examples. 


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Q-19 How do I know the house is constructed to building code requirements? 
In our area a combination of licensed engineer certifications and building department inspections provide the assurance of compliance with building codes and engineer designs. At each level of fabrication, an inspection is made before the installation can be covered. Final inspections are made at completion to insure code compliance for electric, plumbing and heating. In addition a final building code inspection is made which covers any number of things from smoke detectors and step heights to hand rails, address numbers and drainage. These inspections do not address the finish quality of the installation, but rather the functional and safety aspects of the home. In order to obtain a certificate of occupancy, all inspections must be passed. 


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Q-20 What should I know about warranties? 
A. Equipment and product warranties (i.e. appliances), received by the builder, are fully transferred to the client. The builder will not usually provide any extended warranty related to these items. 

For items not covered by these warranties Better Business Bureau and the National Association of Homebuilders has published a document titled "Residential Construction Performance Guidelines". This publication identifies "observable deficiencies", the related "performance guideline" and the "corrective measure". This publication attempts to reduce the subjective evaluation to an objective measurement. This is effective up to a point. There are always issues that arise which are not specifically covered and like beauty, much of it is in the eye of the beholder. When a questionable item arises, an agreement between the client and builder will need to be reached as to whether a deficiency exists and if so, what is a reasonable resolution. 

The inherent problem with custom homes is that they are handmade using thousands of individual parts installed under all sorts of conditions by varying levels of skilled craftsmen. There is no perfect component in a home. The question is, what level of perfection do you expect in the home you are having built? Before you commit to a builder, look at several examples of his existing product and determine if you will be satisfied with his level of finish work. It really gets down to your expectations. If your expectations exceed what is reasonable and customary then you need to be very explicit with your builder. 

The normal time frame for warranting construction and cosmetic deficiencies, other than product and equipment warranties, is one year for parts and labor.


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Q-21  Who should I contact to have my utilities turned on?

A.  To find out who to call in Lebanon or Mt. Juliet to have your utilities turned on, please click here for our convenient list.


"We love to build and it shows!"


 
   

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