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Building a home can be hard work. There are many steps that need to be taken, a lot of homework to be done, and complex budgeting implemented. It is our goal at Lakeside Custom Builders to make all of this as easy as possible.

To help you along in the process, the following are answers to some of our most FAQs. If you have additional questions, feel free to contact us. We’re happy to provide our support.

1. You call yourself a ‘Design/Build’ Contractor. What does that mean?

Design/Build Contracting is a building process where a Contractor is involved with every aspect of the project from the very beginning of the design process to the completion of the project. Meaning, you don’t work with an architect to design your plan. At Lakeside Custom Builders, you will work with Bob who has been designing and drawing new homes and room additions for over twenty years.  He has been licensed to use the design software program called Chief Architect since 1998 and has studied many different designers over the years such as Donald Gardner, Frank Betz and Sarah Susanka, just to name a few. He will work with you through every step of the design process listening to your needs and what you want in your home design.

2. I’m wondering what a well and septic will cost?

Let us know which area or neighborhood you want to build in (the more specific you can get the better) and we will check with our well and septic subcontractors who can look up recent soil tests and septic systems they’ve done in the area and give us a cost estimate.

3. Does a custom home cost more than a pre-built home?

On average yes, but only due to the Owner’s choices. Does it have to cost more? No. As long as you’re making a true apples-to-apples comparison, there’s no good reason why a custom home would have to cost any more than a pre-built home (sometimes referred to as a Spec home).

What you need to understand is that typically a pre-built home has been built as cheaply as possible and without quality craftsmanship in order to have a more appealing sale price. Therefore, although it’s new, the important question is, will it last?

In the home building business you do get what you pay for.  At Lakeside Custom Builders we like to say “Custom doesn’t have to mean expensive.” Sometimes people confuse the word “custom” with “luxury.” We often build homes that have “luxury” features in them, but that’s because the homeowner wants them. All custom really means is “built the way you want.” So, if you want a simple home, we can build you a simple home. If you want a small home, we can build you a small home. If you want a smart home we can do that too. When we say custom, you shouldn’t think “expensive,” you should think “a home built just for my family’s needs.”

With all that being said LOL, there is one thing we can’t make affordable or do anything about, and that is “champagne taste on a beer budget.”  If you see it on a show or on the internet and it looks expensive, it probably is. Whatever you’re thinking the price might be, double it and you will be closer.

4. How do I get financing to build a custom home?

The best way is to get a construction loan. If you have already been approved for a construction loan with a lender you trust, that is great and we’re happy to work with them. If you don’t have a construction loan in place, we can help you choose one.

Generally, you will want to own the land before you start talking to a builder about design and pricing but if you’d like, we can also work with you and one of our lending partners to bundle your loan for the land with your construction loan.

There is of course always the option to pay cash (which some clients do).

5. Should I buy land before contacting a builder, or talk to a builder before I buy land?

As a custom home builder, our business model is such that we generally work with clients who already own the land they want us to build on. While it may be obvious that we can’t start building a home until you have a place to build it, what may not be obvious is that we really can’t design a home either until we know exactly what kind of building conditions we’ll have.

However, it can be advantageous to contact a builder while you’re still researching land as he can help you get a better idea of the kind of land you’ll want to build on and ultimately the land you end up with will dictate much about your home’s design.

If you don’t yet have a Realtor, we can connect you with one of our preferred real estate agents who can help you find your land.

6. I want to build a home, where do I start?

The first step is to find and purchase land to build on. We highly recommend that you hire a real estate agent for this transaction.  Once you have your land, it’s time to start talking to builders. Talk to them about your budget, your ideas for designs, and ask any questions you have. Then choose and hire the builder you want to work with and start building. We would love to talk with you and we’re happy to go out to your land for a site visit to see what you have (at no cost to you).

7. Do you have a model home or showroom I can drop by?

Lakeside Custom Builders is a custom design builder so we don’t have model homes or product showrooms. However, if you’d like to see some of the homes we’ve built in the past, we can arrange that. Most of our clients are now good friends and they love showing off the home we built for them.

Our suppliers for lighting, flooring, wall covering, paint, roofing, plumbing fixtures, furniture and more all have showrooms we will take you to during the building process.

8. What is the cost per square foot to build a new home?

While this is the most common question, it’s one of the most difficult to answer as the square footage cost depends on so many things. You have to take into consideration the design (simple, complex or in between), the style (French Country, Craftsman, Modern, or just four walls), the finishes (plaster or drywall, lots of beams, barn doors or plain white flat doors), exterior finishes (energy efficient smooth working windows or windows that will need replaced in 10 to 15 years, a stained front door 8’ tall or a plain steel door painted white, or something in between).

For example, let’s say we have planned an 1800 sq. ft. house that is currently costing $300,000 or approximately $167.00 per sq. ft. This house has standard Formica countertops throughout. If you were to change the countertops to quartz or granite, this would add $10,000, bringing the cost of the home to $310,000, which gives you a new cost per sq. ft. of $172.50.  You just increased the sq. ft. cost by $5.50 that fast by only changing one small detail of the home.

You can also look at it like purchasing a vehicle. While the GMC 2500HD Denali truck with automatic windows and locks and the Chevy 2500HD work truck with manual windows locks weigh exactly the same, they aren’t sold to us at a “per pound” cost. It’s their features that determine the final purchase price.  The Chevy with manual features is less expensive than the GMC with automatic features. The final cost of a home or vehicle is determined by the owner’s preferences and budget and is what makes it difficult to provide a square foot cost in the pre-plan stage.

9. Which is more expensive to build a 2-story home or a Ranch?

This answer surprises many people. A Ranch costs more for sure. Why? Let’s say we need 2,000 sq. ft. of home. If we put it into a 2-story home with 1000 sq. ft. on each floor, it will require a 1,000 sq. ft. foundation, a 1,000 sq. ft. roof, and 18 feet of pipe to get the upstairs bathroom to the basement. The Ranch on the other hand with its 2000 sq. ft. on one floor, will require a 2,000 sq. ft. foundation (twice the cost), a 2,000 sq. ft. roof (twice the cost), and possibly a 40 foot run of pipe to get the bathroom to the other end of the basement (twice the cost), and so on and so on. The 2-story home is more cost effective to build because 2,000 sq. ft. is compacted into a smaller footprint.

10. What kinds of architectural styles do you offer?

Just about any style, you can think of. We don’t work off a fixed set of floor plans and we’re not limited to certain styles. We often build homes that incorporate certain elements of more than one defined style to become their own unique blend.  That’s all part of the fun of building a new home.

If you’re looking for ideas, here are some of the styles we’re quite familiar with:

  • Contemporary
  • Contemporary Craftsman
  • Modern Contemporary
  • Country
  • Craftsman
  • English Cottage
  • Colonial
  • Traditional
  • Cape Cod
  • Log
  • Cottage
  • Mid-Century Modern
  • French Country
  • Modern
  • New England
  • Ranch
  • Prairie
  • Northwestern
  • Farmhouse
  • Victorian
  • Timber
  • Bungalow

Additionally, we love opportunities to build something completely new and different than anything we have done before.

11. Can you put together a log kit that I purchase?

To be perfectly honest, it’s hard for us not to cringe when people use the word “kit,” because it implies simplicity as if all you have to do to build a log home is buy a package of pre-milled lumber and assemble it like Lincoln Logs, instantly saving thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, it’s far, far more complicated than that.

To illustrate, let’s say you buy a “log kit” complete with an assembly guide and the hardware to fasten it all together. You think “I bought my land… I’ve got the materials… I just need to put it all together. How hard can it be?” The fact is, building a home from a kit is just like building any other home. Even with a kit you still need to factor in:

  • Permits
  • Excavation
  • Foundation
  • Utilities (gas/electricity)
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Heating/Cooling
  • Well/Septic or Water/Sewer
  • Windows
  • Roofing
  • Cabinets
  • Interior Trim/Mill Work
  • Flooring
  • And the big one… LABOR

 

Most people way underestimate the cost of building a log or timber frame home. The actual log or timber kit is just one small piece of the puzzle in building the whole house and it doesn’t make the cost of the homeless expensive.  These homes are very beautiful when finished, but the beauty comes at a much higher price than a conventionally built home.

Having said all that, we are fans of using pre-milled lumber packages in the proper context and for the right objective. If you’d like to use a lumber package in your home, you’ll find that we’re quite knowledgeable on the topic. For over twenty years we’ve had a relationship with one of the largest Midwest timber frame companies (The Beamery in Helmsburg, Indiana). We can both sell those packages and install them on your land if that’s what you’d like. Contact us to chat further about your timber project.

12. How can I find out which architectural style is right for my home?

Some people come to us with a very clearly defined idea of exactly what they want; having already made choices on paint colors, materials, styles, home layout and more. Other people walk into our office and say “I know I want 3,500 square feet on two levels but that’s all I know so far.” Either approach works just fine for us. It’s our job to get to know you and what you like. We can work with anyone no matter what planning stage they’re at. Our very detailed design process will quickly uncover what types of finishes and design features are important to you.

13. How long will it take to build my house?

There are many variables that effect time frames. How busy is the building industry right now, how big is your home, are we talking about a spring or summer build or a beautiful fall build that turns unseasonably snowy and cold the first of November when it’s supposed to be nice and in the mid-50s?

The important question is how we control the flow and process of the build. We at Lakeside Custom Builders do everything we can to keep your job moving forward at a reasonable pace.  Planning is the key. In most cases, you can expect a build time of about 5 to 7 months depending on size and style.

14. Can we build in the winter?

Yes you can. As long as we get the foundation in before the ground freezes below 1’ deep, a winter build is no problem. What needs to be understood though, is that it does take longer to build a home in the winter than any other time of year. Due to the cold temperatures, everything and everyone runs a bit slower in the winter.  We have had the pleasure of shoveling 12” of snow out of a 3,000 sq. ft. home while we were still in the framing stage. Fun times.

15. What is the standard size of a bedroom?

Since many of us grew up in a 10×10 bedroom or smaller as kids, sometimes we think we want our kids to have bigger bedrooms, or sometimes we even want them to be the same size as our master bedrooms. Most of our time in the bedroom is spent sleeping and unaware if the room is 10×10 or 16×16. Lakeside likes to look at room sizes by square footage. For master bedrooms, we feel 200 to 260 sq. ft. is a nice size. If you want a sitting area or a coffee bar in your master suite (yes we have had a coffee bar requested in the bedroom) then 260 to 320 sq. ft. would work. For secondary bedrooms 120 to 150 sq. ft. works nicely with the average being around 130 sq. ft.

16. What are your standard finishes?

This is another common question where the answer depends on other factors. Each one of our homes is custom-built for the family that’s going to live in it. With Lakeside Custom Builders, you are never locked into a “standard” level of anything. If you have certain finishes or building materials you’d like to use, we are happy to accommodate you (actually, we love special requests). You will always choose what goes into your home and what is right for your budget. That’s the beauty of custom building.

17. Can I save money by choosing an existing set of plans instead of going through the custom design process?

This is another popular question and it’s a great question as it can cost several thousand dollars to have a custom set of plans drawn up for your home. While saving on existing plans seems logical, our experience over the years has shown that the cost savings between creating a custom design vs choosing a “stock” home plan is basically a wash in the end with no savings at all.

Stock plans or plans on the internet are designed to fit a general list of requirements to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible. With a plan this generic, you’ll find yourself trying to fit your family and your lifestyle into a home that wasn’t designed with you in mind. Most people usually end up wanting to add more room and/or change the plan resulting in more costs to draw up the changes.

Think about it this way; when you’re building a home, every square foot costs you lots of dollars (let’s say $150.00 per sq. ft.) With this in mind, if a stock floor plan has 100 square feet of wasted space, you are paying $15,000 for space you’ll never use. Building a custom home avoids having unnecessary square footage in the first place. So while you may spend $2,500-$7,500 on a custom set of plans, you won’t have to build a home from a plan that will cost you $15,000.00 for 100 square feet of home that you don’t need or will never use.

When we begin our design process with a new client, we don’t ask you to choose from floor plan A, B or C.  Instead, we ask “How do you live your life? Describe an average day at home for you and your family.” Through a long line of questioning, we will discover a design that works for you. When you sit down with Bob, he’ll ask you questions such as “Do you have pets? Do you like to cook? Do you grill outdoors? Do you drink wine? Do you enjoy outdoor activities? Does the family watch a lot of movies? Do you entertain a lot? What are your hobbies?” and more. The answers to these questions help us come up with inclusions for your home’s design and layout; such as a nook in the kitchen for your pet’s dishes, or a big covered porch for entertaining around the grill or an island in the kitchen for a wine chiller. All these small considerations add up to the big picture of having a custom home designed with you in mind; without features, you don’t need and with no wasted space.

18. Can I save money by doing some of the work myself?

Sometimes people misunderstand how costs are calculated when building a home and they think savings can be gained by taking a portion of the work off their General Contractor’s plate. In truth, there’s very little savings to be had from the kinds of tasks a homeowner is able to offer.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that we as a builder are liable to build everything properly and put a warranty on all of our work. If we make a mistake, we fix it at our cost.  If a homeowner makes even a small mistake, the intended savings could be lost as the homeowner is liable to fix the mistake incurring further expenses as well as causing delays in the building schedule.

Many people will say “I can take care of the painting,” not realizing that painting is a task that interacts with the schedules and staging of more of the trades and materials than just about anything else. Almost every trade comes into contact with painting or is waiting for the painter at some point, so it can be very disruptive for the homeowner to be involved with this task.

Occasionally we have let a homeowner help with some of the work when building their home, but not to save money. Most of the time it’s because the homeowner wants to feel invested in the building process and put some sweat into the house itself.  Being able to say, “I laid these bricks in the patio with my own two hands” can be a great feeling. We just need to make sure your role is clearly defined to ensure there are no miscommunications.

19. Can I save money by building my own home instead of hiring a builder?

The answer to this question is complicated. Generally speaking, most people will not see the savings they’re hoping for by trying to build a home without hiring a General Contractor. Your lender may not finance a self-built home as many banks have rules against lending for a first-time, self-built home.  Be aware that rules will apply to you when building your own home; while you won’t need a General Contractors license, you’ll still need to pull permits, have insurance, maintain good bookkeeping, pay your subcontractors, submit draw requests to the bank, prevent liens from being put on your property, etc.

Have we met people who have built their own homes? Yes, we have. Have we met many people who have done it that would do it again? No, not many at all.  Will you save money doing it? Some do, but our experience has shown it’s rare. In addition, questions from subcontractors, suppliers, insurance companies, banks, title companies, etc., along with the headaches due to complications and a whole lot of other things will be overwhelming to most people. This is why there are builders with trained carpenters. Some things are better left to the experts.

20. I lost my home in a fire or tornado. Can you help me?

Absolutely. We re-built six homes simultaneously for families who lost their homes in the Washington tornado. We understand the insurance claims and payment process, we know how to work with clients who are experiencing the trauma of losing a home, and we’re able to help get you back into a new home quickly. Building those homes in a short period of time and processing the paperwork and billing for 6 different insurance companies has given us the experience you’d likely want during such a time of need.  If you’ve lost your home in a fire or other natural disaster, we’d be honored to meet with you to discuss your options.

21. I was having my house built but my builder went bankrupt. Can you help me?

Unfortunately, we’ve had to perform a number of what we call “salvage jobs” in the past. We’ve had calls from distraught homeowners who can’t get their builder to call them back and we’ve even gotten calls from homeowners who say “I had to fire my builder and my house is only half-way done. Can you finish it?” We’re happy to help in most of these cases. Just keep in mind that as unfortunate as it is, there can be insult added to injury in that it will end up costing you more due to the extra expense of us picking up where another builder left off.