For many people, designing your own home is a dream. The chance to tailor your home specifically to you and your preferences offers so much opportunity and possibility. But the process can be overwhelming. There are seemingly endless decisions to make, and we’ve all heard of the headaches and horror stories that come with building a custom home.
At Christiansen’s Contracting, we’ve been helping homeowners with custom home design in Oregon for more than 30 years. We’re ready to take your dream and make it a reality. For you, the future homeowner, most of the work will take place before you even break ground on your home. Here are 7 factors to consider when designing a custom home.
Who you hire to build your custom home is the most important decision. Hiring the right contractor will make all of the difference between a smooth, successful build and a disappointing, over-budget nightmare. Shop around. Take time to get comfortable with the builder and their process. Make sure your goals align regarding schedule, budget, and vision. Discuss how challenges and delays will be resolved. Find out if they use subcontractors or do the work themselves. Pay close attention to how they respond to all of your questions and inquiries—if they don’t have patience for your due diligence now, they certainly won’t later on in the process.
In addition to a contractor, you’ll also need to hire an architect and designer. Your contractor can provide references and recommendations if you need them, and some custom home-building firms offer all of these services under one roof. Just make sure that all three roles are adequately covered. Many people have a false understanding that all you need is a builder and architect, but the finer details often fall through the cracks without an experienced designer.
Always have an attorney review your contracts. Once you’ve chosen your team, it’s tempting to jump right in and get started with the design and planning phase. Even with a trusted builder, it’s smart to protect your interests. Building contracts typically favor the builder. An attorney will know what clauses to include to protect you if the project goes awry.
It’s okay not to know everything, that’s why you hired the perfect team. Building a custom home comes with endless decisions. Be upfront with your team regarding what features you are absolutely certain about, elements that you kind of have an idea about, and things you have no idea how to choose. This will give them a solid starting point and they’ll help you fill in the blanks. It’s okay to challenge them or ask them to back up any decisions, but lean on their expertise. They have years of experience and insight—that’s why you hired them.
For most people, budget is a major factor when designing a custom home. But it’s more than just the total price tag. How those funds are allocated is a major decision. Planning and working through a budget before you get started is tedious, but can make decisions down the road much easier. Discuss what features are most important to you and make sure there is a sufficient budget for them.
If you have to make compromises, spend the money now on things that will be more expensive or difficult to change in the future. For example, it may not be exciting to spend extra money on upgraded foam insulation or an energy-efficient HVAC system, but these upgrades will be much more costly after the home is built. Fixtures and finishes can easily be upgraded in the future. Now is the time to invest in the core of your home.
Even if you plan on living in your home forever, it’s still an investment. Make decisions now that will help increase the home’s value over time.
Designing the floor plan for your custom home is exciting. It’s the part of the process most of us dream about. Perhaps you’ve even sketched it out numerous times. But many people fall into the trap of designing the perfect layout, and not the perfect home. They get stuck in 2D. Think about your pain points in your current home—things that bother you, things that you wish you had—and work them into your plans.
Take time to consider how you plan to live in the home. Imagine yourself walking through it. Go through your morning routine. Think about chores such as doing laundry or putting groceries away. Do you usually enter through the front door or the garage? Where do you like to stash your purse or hang up your keys? The more you plan your home around your everyday activities, the more functional it will be for you. Designing the perfect theater room is exciting, but you’ll likely have to do the dishes much more often than you watch movies, so make sure you’re happy with your kitchen layout first.
Most homeowners wish they had more storage, but few people plan for it in the design stage. It’s not that exciting, but storage space is prime real estate in your home. Plan for adequate storage space, and make that space as efficient as possible. Having small storage spaces throughout the home is ideal, and a good architect can help you identify storage opportunities to maximize space and functionality.
It’s almost always the case that building a custom home will cost more than you expect and take longer to finish than you expect. Even with careful planning and budgeting, there will be unforeseen challenges that delay the timeline and devour funds. There may be site problems that require additional engineering, or the cost of materials went up since you budgeted.
Common sources of budget overages are upgrades and change orders. The builder may have priced the estimate based on builder-grade materials but you fell in love with more expensive tile. Or you walk into the pantry and it just feels too small and you want to expand it. While a small, 10% overage for tile or pushing a wall back may not seem like a big deal, these little overages add up over time. This is another reason to be very specific and thorough during the design and budgeting phase.
When designing a custom home, the planning stage is the most important. Make as many decisions as possible before the actual building starts. This will ensure a smoother, quicker process.
Christiansen Contracting is a design-build contractor. We provide services from pre-construction planning through project completion. We’re ready to take your dream and make it a reality. Contact us today for a free consultation on your custom home build project!