There are two main ways to go about building a custom home. The first way is called the “Competitive Bid” model. We will explain this model below.
Our preferred model is known as “Design/Build.” This model puts the Owner and Builder together, as a team, at the onset of the planning and budgeting phase of the project. This provides the owner with the distinct advantage of having an experienced Builder, with their knowledge of building costs, oversee the development of the plans. This results in a set of plans that will be in line with the owner’s expectations for the budget.
The Design/Build Process
The process for a Design/Build is actually a fairly simple one. We have developed a path by which you can “test the waters” before taking the plunge.
Step 1 – The Introduction
We meet, get to know each other, and discuss some of your general goals and objectives in building a custom home. General pricing parameters are reviewed, along with addressing whatever questions you may have about us or the building process.
This introductory meeting is designed to remove that “nervous edge” off the concept of building a custom home by demonstrating that we’re good communicators, we truly care about our clients and their projects, and that our vast experience in building custom homes makes us an exceptional choice to build your home.
Step 2 – The Conceptual Design
One of our partner architects will create a rough first draft of your proposed home, which includes the floor plan(s) and the front elevation. Our estimating team will provide a corresponding budget to this conceptual design. Upon completion of both of these elements (plan and budget), you’re invited to a meeting with the Owner of Paramount Homes for a full review of both.
Step 3 – Design Development
This is the phase where we cut the architect loose. Upon review of the conceptual design, any changes or modifications to the plans are integrated into this next phase of plan design. In this phase, we’ll walk away with:
- Full-size plans (24” x 36”)
- Exterior walls dimensioned
- All four exterior elevations drafted
To the novice, these appear to be complete plans. Upon completion of this version of the plans, a corresponding budget is assembled, and the owner is invited to a meeting with the Owner of Paramount Homes for a full review of both.
Step 4 – Construction Drawings
This is the final phase of plan development. Final dimensions are input, engineering is compiled, and the project is prepared for the permit process. It would seem there’s little noticeable difference between this version of plans and the previous. In reality, there’s a tremendous amount of engineering and detailing that allows us to arrive at a final budget amount.
Step 5 – Construction
This is the most fun part of the process. Once construction drawings are complete, the project can be permitted with the local building authority, and work can begin!
The Competitive Bid Model
While we’re not intending to impugn either architects or homeowners (we love them both, actually), there are a few inherent drawbacks to the competitive bid model of home building. This model has a homeowner contracting directly with an architect for a set of plans, where subsequently a number of home builders will bid on the construction of those plans, and based on the homeowner’s selection criteria, a contract is awarded. Here are the drawbacks;
#1: Typically, neither a homeowner nor an architect are as in touch with construction costs as a builder, so it’s not uncommon for the plans to exceed the targeted budget, especially in dynamic markets like ours, where costs are constantly changing. I have had countless interactions with homeowners who, unfortunately, have had a fantastic set of plans developed, only to find out after the plans were completed (and paid for) that the plans were well beyond their budget.
#2: It’s not uncommon for “scope creep” to occur when an architect and a homeowner are working together on a set of plans; the creativity, the excitement, a slightly bigger room there, a really cool feature there, a little optimism, and the plans for a 4,000 SF home with nice finishes can easily evolve into plans for a 4,500 SF home with lavish finishes, and the costs to go along with it. In the design process, there needs to be someone with a keen eye on the budget, and in most cases, neither the architect nor the builder have the day to day experience to do that effectively, resulting again in a significant chance that the plans will exceed the budget.
#3: Once the plans are completed, it’s difficult for a homeowner to procure “apples to apples” bids from multiple builders. Barring a detailed and thorough list of specifications for the project (which, in all of my years, I’ve never seen one), there are way too many variables to a custom home for the bids to be comparable. What’s the allowance for cabinets, countertops, flooring, fireplaces, appliances, light fixtures, etc.? What are the details and specs for the HVAC system, the plumbing system? I could go on and on.
Unfortunately, the typical homeowner does not know the information he or she needs to be able to do a good analysis of the bids that they have; in other words, they don’t know what they don’t know, and that’s not a good position to be in when you’re trying to make a decision as to who your builder will be.
Certainly, if you’re a homeowner who has plans in hand, we’re happy to assemble a budget for you and have worked with many of our customers in this manner. But if you have a choice, we have found the design/ build model to be much more effective in serving our clients’ needs.