Do I have to use one of your floor plans?
How much cash down do I need?
Do you finance?
Do you have any spec homes or models?
How long will it take?
What is a cost plus contract vs a standard fixed contract?
Do I have to use your vendors?
Whats the difference between Production/Tract Builders and Tolaris Custom Homes.
1. How much per square foot?
In one form or another, this question is one of the most frequent requests we receive from our visitors. Unfortunately, it is also one of the few questions that we simply cannot answer very specifically. Can you tell me how much it costs to take a vacation or send my kids to college? How much per pound did you pay for your car? Or how much per thread did you pay for your sweater? What is the “average cost” of a dinner for two, or a wedding dress, or a fishing boat, or a gallon of gas?
All of the above questions contain so many variables that it is impossible for anyone to answer them accurately without first asking several additional questions and gathering much more information. The same is true when calculating the cost to build a new home of a specific type or size or quality level, at any given time, in a specific location somewhere in Florida.
Let’s begin by considering what square foot homebuilding costs really are — nothing more than the total cost of a given project divided by the total number of square feet in that project. In some markets the price per square foot is calculated on the total under roof amount. In Florida, it is common practice to calculate the price per square foot based on the actual “heated/air conditioned” square footage. So, a 2,000 square foot home with total construction costs of $300,000 would cost $150 per square foot to build. Spend another $50,000 on a gourmet kitchen, an elegant master bath, marble tiles in the foyer, a fancy curved stair, 10 foot ceilings, or any other combination of “above average” features or finishes and the price jumps to $350,000 but the square footage didn’t change. So now, that same 2,000 square foot house would cost $175 per square foot to build; an increase of 17 percent.
Now consider the structure itself. If the house in question is a ranch, with all of the finished area on one floor, the foundation and roof would both have to be large enough to cover the entire 2,000 square feet of living space. Turn that single level rancher into a two-story colonial and both the foundation and the roof are instantly reduced by 50 percent because the two floors fit into the same foundation and roof spaces and the second floor system became the “roof” for half of the area on the first floor. Increase the roof pitch from 3/12 to 12/12 and the roof area (including framing members, sheathing, and shingles) quickly increases by 35 percent. Of course, these examples are oversimplified because they don’t consider any other differences like the need to add the cost of stairs and take away the space they occupy, or in the case of a slab-on-grade foundation, the difference between the costs of a stem wall verses a monolithic concrete slab, but hopefully the point has been made. Costs of similarly sized homes can also vary considerably due to the shape of the building, the number of corners or offsets in the design, the type of foundation and required local footing depth, the pitch of the roof, and many other design characteristics that are not directly related to the size of the house.
Next we have all of the regional, governmental, political, seasonal, and unpredictable human factors. Development impact fees, which more and more state and/or local jurisdictions are charging owners or land developers, can range from a few thousand dollars to more than $50,000 per single family home. Labor and material costs can vary substantially based upon the time of the year, complexity or uniqueness of the project, good or bad economic times, jobsite conditions, regional markets, the unemployment rate, local building codes, construction moratoriums, zoning laws, covenants and restrictions, availability of supplies and workers, home owner associations, weather conditions, natural disasters, public or private water and sewer, and several hundred other factors. And, to make matters worse, there really isn’t any uniform method of measuring square footage or defining what is included in those numbers. Is your appraiser or Realtor using exterior dimensions or interior dimensions? How do they define heated or unheated space? Have they included the garage or unfinished loft areas in their calculations? What about decks or covered porches? Is the land included in the square foot costs? What about building permits, liability insurance, utility connections, wells, septic systems, driveways, sidewalks, landscaping…
Unfortunately, the only way to be sure that your homebuilding budget is reasonable is to identify and price every item that will be used to build your individual home and bid all of the associated subcontracts and labor costs. Of course, in order to do that, you will need to have plans and specifications and you will need to develop a complete and thorough estimate for your individual project. The obvious problem here is that not many people want to buy a dozen different house plans and then spend weeks or months pricing them in order to determine which one(s) they can afford to build. So, a more realistic approach to determining how much your new home will cost might be to simply work backwards. Start by contacting Tolaris Homes, and use our over 75 combined years of experience to determine how much you can afford to spend, then be realistic about the size of the house you need, and finally, decide what and where you can afford to build.
Use our Preferred Lender Partners to help you learn more about mortgages and calculate monthly payments for a given loan. After you have a good idea of your financial situation you can look in the real estate section of your local newspaper for homes that are in your price-range. Often, the advertisements will provide you with prices and square foot descriptions from which you can develop a square foot price. Then, visit several model home communities and tour model homes in order to see room sizes, the type of finishes, and the quality of workmanship that you should expect in that price-range. Be sure to take – and use – pencil, paper and a camera to record what you like, as well as, what you don’t like about the homes you will be touring. Also remember that many of the things seen in model homes often are not included in the price of the “standard model”. If you visit on a weekend, you might even be able to walk around the community and talk to homeowners that are working outside. Introduce yourself, tell them what you are doing, be polite and respectful, and you might be pleasantly surprised by how much information they will happily give you.
You may also want to check with local mortgage bankers, real estate agents, or friends who have recently built a new home or addition to see what type of “ballpark” numbers they can provide. Local contractors and homebuilders associations might be able to quote “average” home building costs and figures. However, before you put too much faith in “average” numbers, keep in mind that the only house that you really care about is the one that you are about to build. Home prices of $125, $166, $172, $180, $184, $192, $210, $218, and $328 per square foot combine to produce an average of $197 per square foot, which is a reasonable figure for Central Florida. However, the difference between the lowest figure and the highest is very substantial. While professional builders may be able to average their profits and losses over several projects, the typical homeowner or owner-builder probably cannot. So, regardless of how you finally come up with the numbers, be sure to take the time to review your finances, prepare a reasonable budget, and produce an accurate construction estimate for the specific home that you are about to build.
3. Do I have to use one of your floor plans?
No! We have a Preferred Trade Partner list that includes some of the best architects and home designers in Florida. We can build any set of plans that are approved and permitted by the local jurisdiction.
4. How much cash down do I need?
Call Tolaris Homes Preferred Lenders to assist with the appropriate answer for your particular finical needs. The fast answer is there is no fast answer. If you are financing the Lot and House or just the House construction (CP Loan). Today’s lenders are more flexible than just six months ago. Some lenders will finance both and some will only finance the construction loan. You will have to own the lot outright and the lender will sue this lot as collateral. We encourage you to contact several lenders, make an appointment with someone in residential lending (not personal or commercial lending) and pose the questions. Take along some up to date financial information and lay out your plans, goals, uncertainty and finances. If you have good credit and a responsible borrowing history I would be very surprised if you were not welcomed and come away much better informed. Go to at least two financial institutions, hopefully one where you have established a track record. Remember, banks only make money when they lend and right now is a borrower’s market if you are a good candidate. Expect any lender to require substantial equity and want clear evidence of progress as you draw down the building loan.
CP Loans are typically “interest only” loans, so you only pay for the portion of the loan you have borrowed. Construction loans are loans made to finance construction (usually made by developers, and sorts). Once construction is done, the loan CAN be paid back. Its high interest because it’s a short-term loan compared to a home loan (which can last up to 30 years).
5. Do you finance?
No! But we have several preferred Lenders that offer numerous options that can be tailored to meet your specific needs.
6. Do you have any spec homes or models?
At the present time we do not have any available “spec” homes or Model homes. The use of a Model Home is usually the preferred method to market production houses with only limited plans and available options and materials. As a true custom home builder, Tolaris Homes as no restrictions on any of these items. Your money, you get to spend it any way you want.
7. How do we get started?
Talk to the experts at Tolaris Homes FIRST. They will help you “value engineer” your floor plans and elevations. With over 40+ years’ experience as a Broker Realtor in Florida, we can bring this unique skill set to use to your benefit. You must always have an exit strategy. And we can help, with designing your custom home to protect your investment for when it is time to sell.
8. How long will it take?
The time it takes to build a custom home will depend on the size and complexity of the home, where it’s being built and the time of year. It could take anywhere from 10 to 16 months to build, depending on its size and assuming everything goes according to plan. This timeframe is based on the lot (land) being clear and ready to build on and that there are no construction delays due to weather conditions, change orders or any other factors beyond a builders control.
One of the biggest variables in custom home build time is the customer. There are many decisions that have to be made along the way, and if they are not made in time to get selected items when they are needed, the contractor can lose weeks of time during the build process. Change orders will usually extend the build time as well, and can cause substantial delays if they occur later in the build process rather than near the beginning when the structure has not yet been built.
In addition to the time it takes to build the home, you will need to account for time to have the home designed, or purchased plans modified, as well as having the plans approved by the local building department. For an architect-designed custom home, the design process can take three-to-six months or longer plus an additional month for permitting. If you are having purchased plans modified and checked by an architect, the timeline is considerably shorter, but can still take two-to-three months including permitting.
Another important variable is the weather. Rain or wind can delay construction.
Once you have a firm idea of what you want and are financially able to commit to the project, talk with us to help solidify your ideas and give you an estimate of the costs. After the costs are established you must procure a loan or pay cash. Procuring a loan can take weeks and month. From the beginning of the construction phase it should take about 10-16 months to complete.
Personalized Production Homes: Time to Build
The building process of a personalized production home usually takes between three and four months to reach completion; however, it can sometimes take up to six months, depending on the weather, construction supply delays and any requested customer design changes that are implemented along the way.
Because the floor plans offered by production builders have been built many times before, there are usually no delays in getting them through the local building department and starting home construction. The contractor knows exactly what materials are needed to build the home as well as the subcontractors that will be used. The subcontractors know what materials they need for the project as well because they have worked on the same or similar floor plan before. This allows all materials to be ordered at the proper time to ensure that the home construction flows smoothly.
The production home builder, or their selections coordinator, will meet with the home buyer to go over new and options before the home construction is started to ensure that all selection items are ordered and will be available when they are needed to avoid delays.
Just as in custom homes, the buyer is the biggest variable in production home building, if they buy the home before it is built. If they are not available to make selections in a timely manner, or make changes along the way requiring change orders to be generated and produced, there can be delays in the build time.
Most production home builders have developed good processes to avoid delays and can get a new home built with final inspection complete before the projected close date so the buyers can move in when needed, especially if they are on a tight schedule because of relocation or the sale of another home.
The Phases of construction are generally as follows:
1. Preparing the Home site
2. Digging, pouring and laying the foundation and slab
3. Installing the masonry walls
4. Flying the trusses
7. Plumbing, electrical, HVAC
10. Cabinets, Painting
11. Landscape Pool
The Bottom Line
If you are on a tight schedule, or have a specific date that you need to move into your new home, but you still want to have a home built so you can make personalized choices, going with a personalized production home is a safer bet as custom homes can often take longer than expected to build.
The decision about whether to buy a custom home or a personalized production home is a very personal one and one only you can make. You should take as much time as you need to study all your options, and only then will you be able to make the decision that is right for you and your family.
If you find yourself torn about which direction to make, you may want to visit some personalized production home builder locations to get a feel for what they have to offer. If after that you don’t find anything that suits your needs, you can always contact a custom home builder to compare the costs and options they have available.
9. What is a cost plus contract vs a standard fixed contract?
A cost-plus contract, also termed a cost reimbursement contract, is a contract where a contractor is paid for all of its allowed expenses to a set limit plus additional payment to allow for a profit. Cost-reimbursement contracts contrast with fixed, in which the contractor is paid a negotiated amount regardless of incurred expenses.
Cost-plus contracts first came into use in the United States during the World Wars to encourage wartime production by large American companies. They “allowed what were then small technology firms like Packard and to charge the Department of Defense for the price of research and development that none could pay on its own. This enabled the firms to create technology products that eventually created entire new markets and economic sectors”.
Types: There are four general types of cost-reimbursement contracts, all of which pay every allowable, allocatable, and reasonable cost incurred by the contractor, plus a fee or profit which differs by contract type.
Cost plus fixed-fee (CPFF) contracts pay a pre-determined fee that was agreed upon at the time of contract formation.
Cost-plus-incentive fee (CPIF) contracts have a larger fee awarded for contracts which meet or exceed performance targets, including any cost savings.
Cost-plus-award fee (CPAF) contracts pay a fee based upon the contractor’s work performance. In some contracts, the fee is determined subjectively by an awards fee board whereas in others the fee is based upon objective performance metrics. An aircraft development contract, for example, may pay award fees if the contractor achieves certain speed, range, or payload capacity goals.
Cost plus percentage of cost pay a fee that rises as the contractor’s cost rise. Because this contract type provides no incentive for the contractor to control costs it is rarely utilized
A cost-reimbursement contract is appropriate when it is desirable to shift some risk of successful contract performance from the contractor to the buyer. It is most commonly used when the item purchased cannot be explicitly defined, as in research and development, or in cases where there is not enough data to accurately estimate the final cost.
A cost-plus contract is often used when long-term quality is a much higher concern than cost, such as in the United States space program.
Final cost may be less than a fixed price contract because contractors do not have to inflate the price to cover their risk.
There is limited certainty as to what the final cost will be.
Requires additional oversight and administration to ensure that only permissible costs are paid and that the contractor is exercising adequate overall cost controls.
Properly designing award or incentive fees also requires additional oversight and administration.
10. Do I have to use your vendors?
Over the past 20+ years we have established incredible relationships with some of the most skilled craftsman in the state. These relationships typically produce the best prices, workmanship and service. While you may find cheaper prices from unknown sub-contractors or suppliers, price is not always the best tool for decision making. Our preferred trade partners, know our quality and customer service standards. They know if they do not adhere to our mission statement and customer service philosophy they will not invited back.
11. Whats the difference between Production/Tract Builders and Tolaris Custom Homes.
Custom v. Spec v. Tract Homes
What are the differences between custom homes, spec homes, and tract homes? These are common terms, but every potential purchaser of a new home should take the time to consider exactly what is meant by each term because there is a big difference between the three.
Below are the various definitions and the pros and cons related to each type.
CUSTOM HOMES – The term “custom” generally refers to a home that was built specifically for an individual customer. In other words, the construction of the house targets a particular customer’s specifications. That usually includes the floor plan, lot choice, selection of colors and materials, and all the fixtures that are included as part of the final product. While it’s true some custom homes are more custom than others, these homes commonly meet a consumer’s specific needs better than the other alternatives.
Semi-custom homes are generally built by smaller home builders who may or may not re-use architectural plans and are willing to customize them. Depending on the builder, changes can be as extensive as resizing, adding or deleting rooms or as simple as selection of interior and exterior finishes.
Generally speaking, custom homes are a collaboration between some combination of architects, builders, and home buyers. Designs may be planned around lifestyle, to capture views or to enhance privacy. Interior and exterior finishes are selected to create a truly one of a kind home.
Selection and personalization also come into play. Production home builders typically allow buyers to choose from pre-determined packages of finish colors and upgrades. For example, a buyer may be able to choose from 6 cabinet styles, 6 carpet styles and colors, and 6 countertop colors. Limiting choices is a good way of keeping costs down and therefore the sales price more affordable.
Semi-custom builders typically allow more latitude in finish selection. For example, you may fall in love with a cabinet style that is not carried by a vendor that your home builder is working with. Many semi-custom builders will try and accommodate the new vendor but the cost may be higher since your builder isn’t getting volume discounts with the new vendor. In the end, you will be happiest with the cabinets you bonded with and when amortized over a 30 year mortgage, the cost is likely insignificant.
A custom home build allows the most flexibility and can be a long, sometimes stressful and ultimately rewarding experience.
Choose TOLARIS HOMES, a builder who is very experienced in the Florida market and the area where you want to live.
Since you have elected to build a custom home, choose a plan that places room that will best capture the features of your home site. For example, if you’d like to enjoy the golf course views or lake from your breakfast nook and great room, make sure your floor plan situates those rooms on the appropriate side of the house.
Customize the plan to increase room sizes, eliminate rooms not needed for your lifestyle, has the desired custom features such as a Hearth Room, Butler’s Pantry, elevator, home theatre, outdoor living areas and suits the way you live.
Work closely with the TOLARIS HOMES team of experts and adhere to deadlines for selection of interior finishes. Quite a lot of thought and planning goes into building a custom home and you should be prepared to set aside time for visiting showrooms, your builder’s office, your home site and most likely an interior designer.
The cost of a custom home varies greatly, depending on the level of finish selected and it is always higher than the cost of a production home. In the end, you’ll find your reward when you wake up in the morning and find yourself in a home designed and built just for you.
Typically, you buy a lot, then hire an architect to design the house and a builder to build it. But there’s nothing wrong with doing this in a different order if you hire a builder you trust, for example, then ask him to help you find a lot and/or architect.
If your lot has an older house you plan to demolish, you must abide by your town’s teardown laws, which dictate everything from construction noise level to the height of the new house. Many towns also have design-review committees to ensure your design fits into the older neighborhood and tree ordinances that require you to save or replace mature trees.
Custom houses come in all varieties, from prairie to post-modern, but you should have at least some cash in the bank to buy the lot first. Getting a “lot loan” or “land loan” is a high hurdle today and has strings attached such as proof of utility access.
Best advice to others considering this route: Choose as many products as you can before construction starts. Make your specs very, very detailed so you don’t leave the builder guessing. Be at the site as often as possible.
But not every buyer has the fortitude to make the zillions of product, style and color decisions that custom building requires. Nor does he have the time, which takes from nine months to several years. And many cannot visualize a house from a set of blueprints.
Custom home buyers often participate in the actual construction process. No, they don’t get to drive the nails or finish the concrete, but they see the daily progress. It can be a lot of fun, though some find it a little scary too. Done properly, custom buyers are active participants who achieve a level of satisfaction when building their homes that no other process could possibly accomplish. They make many choices such as colors and styles of brick, tile, carpet, wall-finishes, cabinets, light fixtures, counter tops, and hardware. And that’s not necessarily all. Many of these items are purchased within an allowance budget, meaning the contract sets out a specific amount of money set aside for each category. It’s up to the buyer to choose what is purchased within that budget.
Some view the custom home building process as a partnership between the home buyer and their builder. They work together to design and build exactly what the customer wants. It is imperative the custom home buyer has confidence in their builder. The partnership between the buyer and builder will only be as good as the individuals involved. That means both sides must be fair, honest and worthy of the trust necessary to accomplish the mutual goals. There is an axiom in the business: “Know your builder”. That is actually pretty good advice.
Pros – The buyer controls the lot purchase, so location is never outside their control. They also have input into the design, so the number and size of the rooms should meet exactly the needs of the customer. The final price of the home is made up of the costs of its various components, resulting in better control of the bottom-line. Amenities important to the buyer can be included in the home while those not important or not wanted do not add to the cost of the home.
Cons – Probably the greatest deterrent to building a custom home is the uncertainty; a multifaceted matter. Customers question finding the “right” builder, their ability to find the “perfect” floor plan, how long it might take to build a home, whether they will be satisfied with the finished product, whether (as some jokingly suggest) their marriage will survive, and more. Simply put, the purchase of an existing home may not be exactly what they want, but they can see what they are getting the day they sign the contract. Building a custom home comes with a certain perceived risk that some people have more concern about than others. In my experience, if one is “non visual”, this process can be very overwhelming and stressful for both buyer and builder.
SPEC HOMES – The term “spec” is short for speculative home for sale. Builders, even custom builders sometimes build homes for sale with no particular buyer in mind.
If the custom house is a tailored suit, then spec and tract houses are clothes you buy off the rack.
The spec house is a speculative venture for the builder, meaning it was built with the intention of selling it for a profit, as-is or with minimal changes.
Spec houses are plentiful when the economy is healthy because builders can sell them quickly and use the profits to build more. But a sour economy means few builders are willing to take the spec-house gamble.
When specs are abundant, you can find one that’s half-finished, so you can make the rest of the product selections yourself. But when specs are few, many builders use their specs as models so they are already dressed.
Specs come in all sizes and shapes. They befit transferees who want “new” but have little time to house-shop.
Depending on how far along the building process is, it’s possible to still make some of the selections such as paint colors, tile, counter-tops, and more. A spec home will have much of the design efforts already complete. The builder has already made a lot of decisions regarding what will go into constructing the home.
It’s likely the builder’s decisions will be fairly conservative hoping to create a home that will appeal to the broadest market possible. There will usually be a few areas where the builder goes the extra mile, but generally speaking, the overall price of the home will be a major consideration. Depending on the price range of the home, builders will usually make their best effort to build what they think will sell easily. An experienced builder will know what people like and are willing to buy.
Some builders specialize in spec homes. They prefer building homes without the complication of working with a customer’s involvement. Other builders enjoy the process of working with their customers and would prefer building a custom home rather than a spec home. Still others make little or no distinction between the two.
Pros – Depending on the builder, of course, spec homes are usually a fairly safe investment. They will usually be well done, balanced in terms of amenities and upgrades, built in promising neighborhoods, and marketable. Many beautiful spec homes are built every year. Experienced builders who specialize in the spec home market stake their reputations on their decisions. These homes are often completed and ready for immediate occupancy. Probably the most appealing characteristic of a spec home is that the consumer can see exactly what their money is buying.
Cons – The greatest deterrent to buying in the spec market is the fact that the homes are very much someone else’s idea of what your home should be. Most decisions have already been made, depending on the phase of construction the home is in at the time of purchase. All the special features that might be nice to consider putting in the home are either there, or not. Finally, there may be features in the spec home that might not have been on your list of needs & wants, and those costs will have already been included in the sales price. The ideal situation in buying a spec home is putting one under contract in the early phase of construction to assure customization of your taste in colors, etc.
TRACT/PRODUCTION HOMES – “The Real Estate Dictionary” defines tract housing as:
“A dwelling that has a similar style and Floor Plan to those of all other houses in a development. Contrast with Custom Builder.
Example: Pleasant Acres is a Subdivision of tract houses. Each home is a 3-bedroom ranch-style house with the same basic floor plan.”
Tract housing can usually be delivered to the market at a much lower cost per square foot. Volume building makes it possible for the builder to purchase materials and contract for labor at a much lower rate than conventional home building methods. The reason is simple; the floor plans are one of a few popular plans the builder offers for sale. They might be reversed or include different option packages, but they are essentially the same houses built over and over, sometimes hundreds of times. Typically tract homes are found in larger cities.
A production home is typically built by large homebuilders that build the same plans over and over, usually in a number of new home communities throughout the state or region.
Tract homes have the reputation of being off-the-shelf, cookie-cutter housing. The builder constructs these in quantity and offers Model A, B or C.
The upside of a tract house is price. The builder buys materials in bulk and passes on the savings to you. Compared to the custom-home builder, he uses more components such as staircases that are factory-made, not built on-site. The tract-house builder offers standard amenities that are built into the price and upgrades that add to the price.
Thanks to the proliferation of homes products, though, today’s tract houses differ much more than did their 1950s counterparts. Also, some municipalities’ “monotony codes” force builders to differentiate by prohibiting, for example, adjacent houses to be the same color. Add landscaping and a decade of growing seasons, and your tract-home neighborhood can lose its “cornfield subdivision” look while appreciating in value.
The price is often the best selling point in track housing. Just how much savings might be at stake depends on which builder the tract builder is being compared to. There may be a significant difference when compared to a higher-quality custom home builder such as TOLARIS HOMES. The products are not intended to be the same. One is built to be very inexpensive, while the other is intended to appeal to an entirely different market.
Pros – The lower price is the obvious leader in this category. The floor plan is likely to be appealing to a mass market. There is usually little doubt about what type of house will be built next door, and the sub-division will probably build out quickly.
Cons – These homes are built with price-point as a major consideration, so the quality v. investment is almost always given a high priority. Elements like cabinets, hardware and appliances are the more obvious areas where money may have been saved, often at the expense of quality. Other areas might include framing components, paint grades, shingle weight, and carpet grade to mention a few. These components are not obvious to the typical buyer, especially someone not familiar with construction methods and materials. Lastly, resale value is the greatest disadvantage to a tract home. There is enormous competition when selling a tract home. Price is usually about the only thing that makes one more appealing than another identical house down the street.
Tract homes meet the needs a lot of buyers, especially first time homebuyers. They may be comparatively inexpensive and, while not always well suited for a short-term investment, the longer the buyer plans on living in the home the better this choice might be.
What is your budget?
You’ll need to have some idea of how much you are willing to invest in your home. The custom build process offers many “opportunities” to change and upgrade along the way, so it’s a good idea to add an upgrade and change budget that is reserved for adding in the upgraded cabinets or that beautiful mahogany front door. If you’re not sure where to begin with determining your budget, talk to some lenders in your area that specialize in new home construction loans and ask them to help you determine what you can qualify for (if you will be financing the house). Tolaris Homes also offers services or assistance with budgeting and financing.
Where do you want to build?
Location. Location. Location, right? While you may not be thinking about resale value of your custom home, you’ll certainly want to know that the area or neighborhood is one where you can be happy. Talk to your prospective neighbors, drive the streets, and visit the stores and amenities that you’ll be frequenting once you move in. Also ask your builder for their input on lots, locations, schools, commute times, and amenities.
Do you have to have the lot first?
With Tolaris Homes, No. Our sister company Tolaris Realty Group can help you find the perfect property for your custom home.
What do you want to build?
You don’t have to know before talking to Tolaris Homes, but start thinking about the things that are important to you: a particular style, outdoor spaces, storage, formal or informal, comfortable or elegant, and so on. Start a list, keep a scrapbook, and start clipping photos from magazines, newspapers, or the web. Tolaris Homes has idea books, plans, past work, or other material to help you narrow in on your unique needs and style.
Build for life: Do you need any special accommodations?
If you are retired or a middle of life homebuyer, you should be thinking of how long you plan to stay in your custom home and whether or not you should design for your later years. Some things to think about are single-level plans, wider doorways and hallways, and other ease-of-life and convenience features and design.
How involved do you want to be?
It’s YOUR dream home, so yes, you’ll be involved. You should talk to your builder about the level of involvement you want to have in the process. Many builders can accommodate homebuyer involvement from the usual color, style, plan, fixtures choices all the way to allowing you to do some of the finish-out. Know what you’d like to do and talk to your builder about your desires and expectations.
What is your time frame?
The typical custom homebuilding process is longer that a production-built home, so know that going in. Time frames can range from 4 months to a year or more. Know your patience and comfort level and tell your builder. You should also make plans for how and when to begin selling your existing home; and where you might live if there is a gap between sale and move-in.
Design-Build. You might say it’s a simple approach to construction. A team, working together from start to finish in open communication and purposeful collaboration to deliver otherwise unachievable results. It’s the notion that when owners sit at the same table with architects and builders, engineers and estimators, great ideas — the best ideas — are born. And the way is paved for creative solutions to take hold, resulting in costs minimized, schedules streamlined and efficiencies realized.
What is Design-Build?
Design-Build is a construction delivery method that provides owners with a single point of contact for both the design and construction phases of a project. One entity holds single-source responsibility and contractual risk for every aspect of a build — from estimation, assessments and pre-construction to architecture, schematics, engineering, subcontracting, construction and post-construction. Tolaris Homes, the Design-Builder, manages all contracts with companies, such as subcontractors, equipment vendors and materials providers.
The Design-Build process
The Design-Build process has five primary phases:
1. Selecting a Design-Builder
2. Pre-construction assessments
3. Architectural design
But unlike other construction methods, phases overlap, and all team members collaborate throughout the process to provide rapid project delivery.
Selecting a Design-Builder
The Design-Build process begins when you select your Design-Builder. In other methods, you would start by selecting an architect. To limit the potential risks associated with having one entity design and construct your facility, you may have a competitive bidding process for Design-Builders.
Because Design-Builders aim to find you savings throughout design and construction, you’ll benefit from using qualifications. That means you select the Design-Builder with the best credentials, experience, expertise and team. Alternatively, you can use a best-value selection method, in which you select a Design-Builder based on a combination of estimated price and added value in addition to experience, expertise and credentials. Our recommendation is to avoid using a hard-dollar, low-bid selection process. The reason? Design-Builders deliver the best value by evaluating budget solutions early in the design process and by creating continuous price estimates as the design progresses. Limiting your prospective builders to hard-dollar bids before they have a chance to get into the project can lead to misleading and uncertain estimates. Even worse, it can mean a project that doesn’t deliver what you need.
Benefits of Design-Build
Design-Build offers many unique benefits and advantages that other construction methods simply don’t deliver. It’s why 90 percent of our projects are Design-Build. Some of the biggest benefits of Design-Build are rapid delivery, a smooth process, better solutions and better communication.
As we covered in the Design-Build process section, Design-Build offers rapid delivery because design and construction happen concurrently and because there’s only one selection phase instead of two. The delivery method turns otherwise impossible timeframes into reality.
Time and again, Design-Build reliably equates to headaches eliminated, teams collaborating and owners pleased. The single-source responsibility afforded by Design-Build means there’s no conflicting recommendations from contractor and architect. Instead, one entity has total accountability for any and all construction and design elements. Owners know where the buck stops, and the way is paved for a smooth owner experience.
Better solutions and better value
In Design-Build, there’s no need to limit solutions to traditional ideas. The job is the boss. So teams are only limited by what’s right for the job. As ideas come to the table, teams work as one unit to analyze them, in full transparency, so owners are assured of getting the best materials, siting, schedule, design and more. This innovative process makes it possible for owners to see more options, make better-informed decisions and realize a better value.
Better communication and fewer problems
Delivering any successful construction program requires open collaboration between all team members. Design-Build facilitates it. All team members stay on the same page because everyone is working under one contract. And owners are kept up to date by a set contact from the Design-Builder. As a result, Design-Build is well suited for the most complex jobs, simplifying them so owners realize better quality, require fewer claims and receive litigation-free builds.
Design-Build cost savings
Due to its efficiency, Design-Build often reduces construction costs for owners. This may come as a surprise, given that Design-Build projects lack the hard-dollar bid phase that general contracting affords. But building smart with Design-Build pays dividends, reducing both real (accounting) costs and opportunity costs.
Taking just one of these metrics, unit cost, Design-Build can deliver a savings of more than 6 percent of total project cost. In a $1 million build — a relatively low-budget project — that’s more than $60,000 in savings.
Design-Build reduces opportunity costs
In many builds, Design-Build saves more in opportunity costs than it saves in accounting costs. Due to the smooth nature of Design-Build project delivery, owners can reduce time spent managing a build. And time is money. That’s time that can be put to use solving other business challenges.
So the speed of Design-Build becomes highly valuable.
Selecting Design-Build firms
Design-Build is a two-sided coin. Its greatest strength is the single-source responsibility it affords, and its greatest weakness is the risk associated with one Design-Builder holding all project responsibility. If you choose Design-Build, it’s more critical than ever that you select an honest, experienced builder you can trust.
Key traits of sound Design-Build firms
When evaluating Design-Builders, choose a Design-Build firm you can count as a partner. What does a partner do?
In our estimation, a partner is willing to contract flexibly with you and pass savings back to you. If a build comes in under budget and your contract doesn’t allow you to share in savings, then it incentivizes cutting corners. But if you share in any savings when a build comes in under budget, you, together with your Design-Build partner, incentivize quality.