Home building is not a one-man sport. From lot purchase to move-in date, you’ll add dozens of names to your home team roster. With hundreds of experts in the valley, choosing all-stars is no small task. Here is our guide to help you score big with a winning home team.
A home is probably the most expensive purchase you’ll make, and chances are, you’re not paying cash.
Aaron Brown, owner of Orem-based Advantage Lending and Box Home Loans, says credit unions may be easier to work with for construction loans, and their rates and terms can be better than banks.
But construction loans aren’t meant to last long — a home loan, or mortgage, is what will stick with you for 30 years. To find the best lender, rely on relationships — talk to people who have just built homes. Then think about three key questions.
“What type of loan parameters are you going to find from lender to lender?” he says. “What are the terms of the loan — what’s your interest rate? And how easy is the lender to work with?”
Once you’ve narrowed your financier tryout list to a few, visit each and get to know them (and their rates and fees).
“Put them through the ‘feel good test’ of who you want to work with,” Aaron says. “You want to know you’re getting the best product on the market.”
One of the best parts of building a custom home is customization. But that doesn’t mean you should draw your own floor plans.
There are three leagues of expertise when it comes to home design.
A licensed architect has earned a master’s degree, passed exams and has experience in the field. Architects typically do commercial work along with residential.
A residential designer has experience with custom home design, but there are no official licenses or requirements to the title.
A draftsman knows how to draw plans on the computer, but generally does not provide design ideas.
Aaron Inouye, of Inouye Design in Provo, says the best results come when the homeowner and a professional work as a team.
“It’s important for people to have a designer to add ideas to their own, so there’s a synergistic team approach,” he says.
Aaron recommends calling architects and residential designers to see who you feel most comfortable with — from a design philosophy standpoint, as well as a price standpoint.
Most people think “furniture” when they hear “interior design.” But it’s much more than that.
“We highly recommend having an interior designer involved from the beginning,” Aaron says. “We want that person there at the design stage so we can see what the homeowner wants to accomplish — with furnishings, flow, lighting, artwork — and incorporate that into the plan.”
If you visit a friend or neighbor’s home and like the interior, ask about the designer. Meet with a few interior designers and study their portfolios to see if you’re on the “same team” as far as style. Ask about fees up front and agree (in writing) on what will be done.
The Utah Valley Home Builders Association is a great resource for choosing a builder for your home team. Interview several recommended builders. Ask a builder’s former clients specific questions about their communication with the builder, experience with the subcontractors, the proposed and actual timeline, and the builder’s business practices.
Obtain three or four bids, remembering that the lowest bid isn’t always the best. Compare bids for more than price — make sure the same specifications and quality of materials are used. Also consider the personality of the builder — you’ll be working closely with this person, so make sure you’ll get along.
Flooring, counters, cabinets and paint
Like much of the home building industry, reputation is key when choosing companies to create the interior of your dreams.
“There is a substantial difference between those who have been in the business a number of years and those who are fly-by-night working from the back of a pickup truck,” says J. Tom Nelson, president of Burrows Marble & Granite.
Tom says to look for an established company that stands unequivocally behind its product. And because of the economy and the industry’s current environment, look for the companies that are working smart by marketing and advertising, rather than waiting for the phone to ring.
Furniture, accessories, fixtures and hardware
Using an interior designer doesn’t limit you to that designer’s offerings, so the options are endless when it comes to outfitting your home. And unlike choosing a builder or architect, where you work with just one company, you could use a different furniture company for every room of the house.
To find your home’s perfect accents, shop around — locally and online. Your favorite faucets might be sold on the Internet only, but that chic chandelier could be at a store minutes away from your house. So don’t limit yourself to one form of shopping — and don’t settle for items you don’t love.
Most of your time and energy will go into the structure and interior of the home, but don’t neglect your yard. A landscaping contractor can help you design your outdoor space and will know the specifics when it comes to climate and plants that grow well in the area.
To choose a landscaper, start by defining your needs and budget. Then, take a stroll (or drive) through local neighborhoods to see what you might want for your own yard. When you see spaces that impress you, ask the homeowners who did their landscaping.
Once you’ve gathered a few company names, meet with them to find out how long they’ve been in business, what services they specialize in, if they’re licensed by the state, if they’re insured, and the guarantees they offer. From there, if a clear winner hasn’t emerged, have the companies give you a bid and compare written contracts to see which landscaper will work best on your home team.