It's finally time. The kids have moved out/you've landed that big time promotion/your penny-pinching is paying off/[insert significant life goal here] and you're thinking of a change of scenery. Whatever your life's circumstances, you're finally at a place to start thinking about your next home - your dream home - but what do you need to know and where do you start? Like everything in life, a little planning - in this case, some pre-planning - will go a long way in helping you to reach your goals and stay out of trouble.
We've designed hundreds of beautiful, completely original custom homes, and we'd like to think we know a thing or two about what it takes to take a distant dream and bring it closer to a possible reality. We'd love to tell you that every project we custom designed was built. Sometimes, an otherwise perfect fit house plan stays on paper, and other times timing and circumstances keep a project from ever manifesting into a built home. We understand this, and life goes on. However, there are common themes to successful projects that you need to know when designing your own custom home plans.
Here are 5 mistakes to avoid and helpful tips to guide you as you look to design your custom home!
Don't rush into the unknown//Get your facts straight
An unfortunately common (and easily avoidable) mistake we've seen clients make is commissioning us to design a home that's simply way too big. Sometimes, and understandably, a project grows outside a realistic budget. Other times that perfect plan doesn't fit within the constraints of a lot. In either instance, a lot of headache (and money) in revising a design could have been saved by getting your facts straight.
Let's face it. There are so many facets and steps to getting your dream home design from fuzzy thoughts in your head to a building to call your home. There's no way you can foresee every issue and know every step in the process, but careful pre-planning can save you incalculable amounts of stress and very real dollars. At every step of the process, ask questions, and make everyone helping you - especially your builder and designer - are doing the same. It's unreasonable to think that you'll be able to figure everything out on your own, but the more you can do to make sure everyone has accurate information, the better.
- Put together a wish list. Give your builder and designer references for the things you like - a houzz ideabook, is a great tool to use to collect your thoughts. Pinterest works great too! The more you know about what you want, the better your builder and designer can help guide the process to match your expectations and goals.
- Know your site's constraints. Check zoning, covenants, plat plans for dimensions, setbacks, and design guidelines. If you don't yet own a lot, you'll need to be extra careful to ensure your design will fit when you find it. Pay special attention you have enough room when designing a side-load garage.
- Learn about the process of designing and building your own home. This process can be extremely fun and rewarding, but be aware that it can also be as stressful and expensive, especially if you jump into it without reasonable expectations.
Don't under-value the cost of professional services//Assemble a team of experts
We're not the cheapest custom home designers. There, we said it. But like many things, a cheap knockoff is rarely worth it in the long run. We've had several clients find this out the hard way, trying out a project or two with another drafting company, only discovering that experience and quality comes cheap in comparison to the problems that can arise without it! One builder shared with us another drafting company cost him tens of thousands of dollars on one project alone because of mistakes and inconsistencies in the plan. Don't make this mistake by skimping on the professional services required to put together your home! This doesn't mean assuming the most expensive route is the best one, but do your homework and weigh your budget with your goals to ensure you don't end up spending more money in the long run by entrusting your project to someone without the proper experience, competence, and care.
The thing about a service is you are paying for something intangible. With a product, you exchange money for a physical object that you can immediately enjoy. With a service, you're paying for someone's guidance, expertise, and craftsmanship to bring about your goals. You can grab a $5 burger at a local fast food joint with sticky tables OR you can buy a gourmet burger and eat it under the stars by candle-light for $50. Even with similar ingredients - ground beef, a bun, some condiments, and likely the same frozen fries - the value in the high-dollar burger is in the experience. In a similar way, the difference in price between builders and designers is going to be in the level of service, expertise, and competence you'll experience throughout the process. While you may end up with a home either way, a good builder and designer team will help you to cut costs where appropriate, save headaches, and ensure you that your project will turn out successfully.
- Research and seek reviews and referrals. Chances are you have friends and family who've gone through this process - ask around!
- Find people within the industry to learn about a particular builder or designers reputation. Do they do good work? Are they fair and honest?
- Look for experience, with completed projects of a scope and quality similar to what you are looking to do.
Don't let your dreams grow out of control//Know your budget
I've seen it so many times. What began as a modest home, apparently initiated out of a specific set of design constraints - like a total area based on a price per square foot - becomes something far bigger than was reasonable for the client to afford. Talk it out - with your spouse, your builder, wise counsel - to determine an acceptable range of what you can afford. Ensure your budget goals are clearly understood by your builder and designer and try to start at the low end of your budget - it's always easier to add after your builder has a chance to provide a thorough bid of your plans.
- Ask about incidental costs - for plans, overages in design, permits, fees - that may not be included in an initial quote from your builder.
- Understand what sorts of things can affect the cost of a project - added time, quality of finishes, changes, unfinished rooms, complicated structural conditions.
- Have your builder show you examples of their work they've done that's in your budget.
Don't confuse wants with needs//Prioritize
"We'd like to remove 200 sf, but we don't want to cut room from here, here, or there." We'd all like to have everything we ever wanted with a price tag we can afford. Unfortunately, reality and experience shows that we have to compromise at every stage of life. The same is true when designing your home. That wish list you drafted at the start of this process is going to have to be refined, and sometimes you'll have to go without.
- Be realistic. Work with your builder to set reasonable expectations of size and quality and communicate these goals to your designer.
- Separate your wish list with needs and wants. You need 3 spare bedrooms, a functional kitchen, and some nice spaces to entertain on the holidays. You may not need a sports court or storage under your garage. A good custom design will balance your goals and ideals with a great plan that you will enjoy for a long time.
- Consider planning ahead. If there are some items that you aren't able to add into your project right away, ask your designer to work in a way that an addition is feasible in the future.
Don't ignore your designers advice//Trust the experts
Your Aunt Sally is not a builder or a home designer. So when she suggests that you simply must have your walk-in closet access your pantry for a convenient mid-night snack, don't be surprised when your builder and designer raises their eyebrows. There is much to be said about asking many friends for their advice and ideas, but trust your design team. You are paying for their service and expertise - take advantage! Focus more on relating your goals than in dictating specific details. A good designer will understand your priorities and will help you in coming up with a design solution that won't look like it's from another planet.
- Ask questions when you don't understand. Sometimes understanding why something is drawn or designed the way it is will open your eyes to see possibilities that you hadn't thought about.
- Make sure your builder and designer are communicating well. Both parties have different skill sets and an eye for different details. Take advantage of both.
Designing a custom home can be daunting but it is certainly doable and the rewards can be extremely fulfilling. The fruits of your diligent efforts to understanding the process, assembling the right team, and paying attention to your budget can mean the difference between a beautiful finished home and a never-realized dream.
If you are looking to design a custom home, we would love to earn your business and show you our capabilities and expertise. Call us today at 402-445-0489 to set up a free consultation!
Over the dozen years we've been in business, we've had our hand in thousands of projects - from expanding and modifying our collection of originally designed house plans to crafting custom solutions all across the country. We've had our share of remodel projects, created unique versions of many of our plans for hundreds of builders, and have helped hundreds of families create custom home designs of every size, shape, and style. Our work has been featured in the Omaha Street of Dreams several times now, and we continue to challenge ourselves to be the best home designers in our area!
With so many projects, we'll admit it's tough to keep track of every project through completion. A favorite office routine is to cruise around town after lunch through the newest neighborhoods and marveling at the great work our builders do with our custom plans. While we don't have tons of photos of every project, we've found four beautiful ones that represent our diverse range of custom designs. Enjoy, share, and contact us at 402-445-0489 to schedule a free consultation with our talent designers for your next custom home!
Contemporary Cottage Custom
Wow, just wow! We were commissioned to design this progressive custom home design for the 2014 Omaha Street of Dreams by G Lee Homes. This up and coming builder wanted to put together a home that stands out from the crowd, putting a modern flair on a cottage craftsman style. This plan featured open entry, living, and kitchen spaces with contemporary finishes, and a totally unique second level. This home was so cool to design and very rewarding to walk through, hearing the crowds ooh and ah at the SOD.
This custom home design was a lot of work and full of beautiful details. The client was looking to put a home on a lake that everyone would look twice at. Outdoor living was heavily emphasized with a huge deck and patio that wrapped around the back of the house. I remember checking in on this one during construction and was seriously impressed, even with just the framing in place! Front to back, this house is a masterpiece! Hat tip to Choice Homes for this one.
Images courtesy of Choice Custom Homes
Contemporary Custom Home
Here's an exceptional home we designed for a client with refined taste. This custom design emphasized clean lines and open living spaces. This family loves to cook, so, as you can tell by the photos, this kitchen was seriously cool! Jesse Calabretto proved once again his impressive attention to detail in this beautiful build!
Images courtesy of Calabretto Building Group
Mountain Rustic Dream Home
Last but not least, this custom design project is kind of a legend around the office. At the time, this home was one of our biggest projects and pushed us to our limits. On paper this thing was impressive and in person even more so! Jordan Michael Signature Homes made this project come alive with gorgeous finishes in every nook and cranny. The client for this project wanted his entire to reflect his love for the outdoors, with heavy timber details and rustic elements throughout the project. The great room really is a great room with tall cathedral ceilings, wood trusses, and a floor to ceiling stone fireplace that ties it all together.
Images courtesy of Jordan Michael Signature Homes
Are you next?Every year we draw up plans for dozens of beautiful custom homes. We know good design, and we can take your dreams from a napkin sketch or a cluster of ideas in your head to a full set of plans to build your dream home. Our work speaks for itself and we're constantly attracting new clients referred to us by satisfied friends and family. Give our talented team of designers a chance to make your dreams a reality. Give us a call at 402-445-0489 to schedule a free consultation by phone or at our office in the Shoppes of Legacy in Omaha!
The Tiny Home movement is sweeping the nation, with folks reconsidering their priorities and going "big" by going really, really small. Whether you are looking to significantly downsize, or just for a small plan to build out in the middle of nowhere, consider a tiny home. These efficient designs aim to get the most out of a small space, and are great projects to build yourself.
Our latest Plan of the Week is our own take at this unique perspective on home design. Meet the Kristine!
Kristine is a cute little tiny house plan that would make a great cabin. It's got a lofted sleeping space over the kitchenette. If you have some land and are looking for a modest home design to create a place to getaway and unplug from the world, this one may just be for you!
This plan has even been designed to allow for a stackable washer/dryer combo, and has cathedral ceiling to make it feel open and spacious even with a minimal building footprint.
The sleeping loft is above the kitchenette and is tucked under the cathedral ceiling.
Finding the right plan to build is not an easy task. It takes patience, an attentive eye, and even some luck to stumble upon that perfect fit house plan that combines the right look with a functional floor plan and economical price tag. While we aim to design every plan to be "just right" for someone, it's unrealistic to expect a plan to meet everyone's needs. Every builder is different - with unique clientele, building methods, and style. This is why we strive to design new house plans in a variety of sizes and styles. We're growing our portfolio of uniquely designed plans every week!Every once in a while, however, a plan catches the attention of more than just a few. The Cavallari 2 story house plan is just that, attracting more builders to it than nearly any of our other home plans. And builders aren't just building it once, they're coming back to us to modify it in a variety of clever and unique ways to make it even better for them and their clients! Perhaps it's the compact building footprint and simple construction that keeps costs low and construction time down, or the handsome exterior and efficient floor plan. Whatever the case may be, this plan is a hit and perhaps now would be a great time for you to share in it's success!The Cavallari is a tried and true house plan and we'd love to share it's success with you at a significantly reduced cost. For just $500, half the original price, you can own this plan for yourself.This deal is only available thru 05/18/15.
We're excited to release our first 3d flyaround of our latest 2 story house plan, the Faust! With every new plan, we'll continue to provide extra 3D views and these awesome videos to help you and your clients understand and fall in love with our beautiful designs.