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Frequently Asked Questions

Our Frequently Asked Questions page in broken down into 7 sections. While the topic of building a home can generate a lot of questions, we have tried to gather the most asked questions and organize them here.

Each section below has the most asked question in that category. If you do not see the question you need the answer to, please phone or email us your question. If enough people have the same question, we will expand this section. And remember no question is too small, we deal with home plans all day so what might be obvious to us could be a total mystery to someone building a home for the first time.

Buyers Guide

Lot first, or plan first?

If you are shopping for home plans, it is important to consider if you will buy your lot or your plan first. 
One important consideration that may help you determine this is the local set-back requirements. Each municipality has its own rules about how far your new home must be from the edges of your lot and the middle of your street. Specific neighborhoods may have their own requirements as well.

If you are set on a specific neighborhood or a specific home plan, you have probably made up your mind on what will come first for you. However, if you are still flexible, check out some home plans you like in your size range and the average lot requirements of your building area. Compare that to the specific lots for sale, and see where this leads you. 
Lastly, if you have your dream home plan and your dream lot and they are not a perfect match, consider having our modifications department handle the changes needed to make them work together. We have often done slight size changes to fit lot restrictions with minimal impact on the overall interior spaces.

What style of home is right for me?

The style of  home will likely be dictated to some extent by the area and neighborhood in which you plan to build. However, there are other considerations when evaluating the style of home for you.

What is the size and age of your family? For example, if you and your spouse are planning to retire in this home, consider one with a first floor master or elevator option to improve your satisfaction in years to come. Families with growing children may appreciate a plan with a computer loft or bonus room as extra “hang out” space for the kids.

What special features are important to your family? Based on hobbies and interests, you may want to consider workbench space in the garage, a special media room or just a spacious outdoor kitchen for eating outdoors. Does a member of your family work out of your home part-time or full-time? Consider the types of office space you would like to have.

Just like when you are searching for a pre-built home for sale, set forth your must-have features and then search for the plans that have as many of your additional features as possible. Keep in mind that our in-house modifications department can help you make the close, but not quite perfect, house better meet your list of wants.

You’ve got your plan, Now What?

You have your plans, now what? There are multiple steps you need to take before submitting your plans to your local planning commission.

Your local plumbing contractor needs to draw in the plumbing lines based on your lot, the positioning of your home on your lot and the location of the water supply. They will use that information, along with the location of the plumbing fixtures shown in the plans to create your plumbing plan.

Additionally, your local HVAC contractor will draw in the duct lines for your home. Since energy calculations are different throughout the country (and world), it is important to have lines drawn to support the equipment your HVAC contractor has determined will best suit the size and climate of your new home.

We strongly recommend you have your plans reviewed by a local structural and truss engineer to ensure your plans will fully satisfy local building codes and be expediently approved. Different locations have different conditions, such as hurricanes or earthquakes that homes need to be able to withstand. A local expert familiar with your specific locale is best prepared to ensure your plans meet the requirements of your area.

Please remember to verify if your municipality requires a licensed Architect to stamp and seal the plans. You will need to arrange this if it is required in your area.

How do I select a builder?

Selecting a builder for your new home is as critical, if not more critical than, the selection of your new home’s plans. The success of the build and your satisfaction with the final product are absolutely contingent upon securing a quality, reputable builder to work on your new home.

Start by developing a pool of potential builder candidates. Ask for suggestions from your family, friends and work associates. Also, if you are building in a new neighborhood, consider asking your new neighbors if they would recommend their builders. An additional source could be attending a Parade of Homes or similar event in the area you are planning to build. You will be able to see the work of multiple builders first-hand.

Once you have located a few builders you are interested in working with, narrow down your choices by meeting with them. Confirm that they have built properties that are similar to what you are trying to achieve in terms of size, style and budget. Inquire about their schedule and the potential timeline they could offer for your build. If you have already selected your plan, ask each builder to bid on your specific home plan.

Ask to see sample timelines, invoices and other similar information from previous bids, to see how they work and the manner in which they report progress to you during the build. This will help you see how organized they are. Ask about specific crew experience, how they select subs, and similar questions.

Verify the reputation of the builders you have selected and contact the state licensing board to ensure your candidates all have up-to-date licenses and current insurance. Ask each builder for references of homes they have built. Contact these homeowners and ask about their work. Also, consider driving by some of the houses the builder has built and some of the sites they currently have under construction to see how tidy, organized and productive they are in working.

In the end, weigh the overall bids you have received with the references and overall rapport you have forged with different builders, as well as your gut instinct to make the best overall builder decision.

Should I be my own contractor?

Instead of hiring a builder to manage the building of your home, there is the option of being your own contractor. Proceed with caution if you are thinking about going this route.

First, being your own contractor is taking on the job another person would be doing full-time. The hours you will need to be on your property will be very early and you will need to visit the property very often. You and your spouse will already have dozens, if not hundreds, of finishes to select from exterior colors to doorknobs and cabinetry. Do you have the time needed to do the job successfully?

Second, it requires specialized knowledge. Will you be able to recognize things that are going wrong as quickly as an expert? How well can you read plans? Are you confident in your ability to trouble-shoot if you should have to resolve issues while building?

Finally, how will you locate reputable sub-contractors? A builder has an established set of subs they work with that they trust. Finding qualified and insured professionals will take time and effort and you may still encounter pitfalls along the way.

Financing Basics

Financing the construction of a new home is more challenging than obtaining financing for a conventional home purchase. Particularly in the current financing market, begin to search for financing early. Work with a mortgage broker that specializes in, or is at least familiar with, the unique loan products that cover home construction lending.

Convertible Loans

These loans cover your construction and then convert into a permanent mortgage without a second closing. This is a special product called a CTP, or construction to permanent, loan designed particularly for the needs of individuals building homes. As you build your home, it serves as a credit line, from which you write checks for your lot and construction costs. You will typically make interest-only payments during the construction phase.

Separate Loans

Some individuals find that two separate loans work better for their situation. Explore your options with a mortgage professional to ensure you are getting the best possible product for you specific needs.

Landscaping Basics

Designing outdoor living spaces is the fun part of building a home. The easiest way to choose a landscape and pool designer is to pick a professional whose signature style you like; someone who is fun to work with and has a sense of adventure. A good landscape designer will have specialized knowledge of the specific area in which you are building in order to make the most educated plans based on what plants thrive in your hardiness zone. Additionally, landscape architects often possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree in this field.

In order to design appropriate landscaping and hardscaping that will complement the home, the designer will meet the owners to learn more about their lifestyle preferences and budget, as well as to find out how the pool will be used. It is important that the homeowners try to define what they are looking for, which could be as simple as tearing out pictures of what they like and do not like from magazines.

Once hired, the homeowners should trust the landscape architect to use his or her expertise in designing a cohesive pool and landscape plan. A good landscape architect listens to the homeowner and is able to visualize what they want and translate those visions into a reality.

A landscape designer will learn about the orientation of the home and work to maximize views toward and away from the house. When done correctly, landscaping will define the scale and proportion of the home.

 

Selecting Exterior Colors

Selecting the exterior color for your home may just be one of the most difficult decisions to make in building your house. After the plan, the exterior color may make the next biggest impact on the overall outcome.

You want your home to look like it really belongs in your neighborhood, that it contributes to the cohesive look of your street. You also want to ensure the exterior colors are appropriate for the style of the home. Even if you are planning on this house being “it”, the very last forever home for your family, try to pick exterior colors that have universal appeal, just in case you change your minds and eventually want to sell.

Look at our books and magazines for ideas. Even if we do not have photographs of your exact plan, look at the color schemes used on similar home styles that you like. Drive around your new neighborhood, and see what color schemes other people are using to make sure your idea will blend well.

Selecting Interior Finishes

You are about to face hundreds of choices on interior finishes. You will be picking out every faucet, cabinet, countertop, tile, paint shade and doorknob for the whole house.

You can either do this on your own or with the assistance of an interior designer. Even if you do not employ the designer to complete the rooms with furnishings and accessories, many designers like to work at this finish level.

You can find ideas in our books and magazines or even visit some model homes or a Parade of Homes event. One popular method for developing a cohesive look is to start an idea binder with brochures, paint swatches, magazine clippings and other items that you would like to include. Seeing all of these in one place can help you make cohesive decisions. This is how interior designers tend to make decisions, gathering the materials they are considering in one place, like on a mood board, to help guide decisions.

One consideration to make is that you do not want to select finishes that are out of an appropriate price range for your neighborhood. You do not want to pick things that are too cheap and would be things most future owners would like to replace, but you also do not want to invest in finishes that are so lavish you would not recoup their cost. Make the exception for luxuries you simply cannot live without, like that steam shower, but try to keep most finishes on par for your neighborhood.

Also, consider the style of your home. For example, selecting Mediterranean finishes for a beach cottage might be quite unusual. Or the opposite, cottage finishes in a Mediterranean-style home.

Frequently Asked Questions about Custom Home Design

If you are looking for information on getting a custom home plan designed, please visit Sater Group, Inc.