Things To Consider When Building a Home
Unless you have extensive experience in home building and a lot of cash, you’ll be hiring a builder to construct your new home and you’ll need to obtain a construction loan. Identify a professional contractor and a reputable construction lender, both agreeing to your project details, your time line and all home specifications and you’ll have the home of your dreams.
Formulate a plan and execute it
If you’ve never contracted with a builder before, the prospect of working through the process can be very intimidating. Custom homes require you to work through many details and make many decisions. If you’ve done your homework, building your custom home is very satisfying. From landscaping to rooftop, the work of art and labor of love will be yours.
Pulling your team together
Make sure your home builder and lender are reputable. Ask for references, check to make sure they are properly licensed and review their ratings online with sites like the BBB and state division of professional registration. A good rule of thumb is ensuring your builder and lender have been in business for a minimum of 5 years. Better Business Bureau: www.bbb.org
Verify proper insurance and bonding
Make sure your builder has sufficient worker’s compensation and general liability insurance. If not, you may be liable for any construction-related accidents on your premises. Most builders are bonded. Before work commences on your site, verify their coverage, or get permission to obtain verification of coverage directly from the builder’s insurance agent.
Review your contract and warranty and seek advice
Make sure your builder provides a complete and clearly written contract. The contract will benefit both of you. Ask in advance to review your home warranty to verify all warranty coverage you’ll have upon completion. Consider hiring a real estate attorney to review your contract, and an engineer/project manager to oversee your construction project. An experienced representative can spot and deal with problems as the home is built.
Schedule a final walk-through before final payment
Make sure your builder and lender agree that the final disbursement to the builder will occur when the home is 100% complete, is move-in ready and you’ve conducted a satisfactory walk-thru. All components of the home must be working correctly. A “punch-list” to correct deficiencies must be in writing. Work should be completed within 30 days of the walk-thru.
Home Ideas Gallery
Emerging Products: Solar Roof Tiles from Tesla
Solar Roof Tiles from Tesla Could Make Your Roof the Star of the Neighborhood
Laughter rang out last year when Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduced Tesla Solar Tiles at the press conference by saying, "You’ll want to call your neighbors over and say ‘check out the sweet roof.’ It’s not a phrase you hear often."
It’s true that your roof is pretty much the last thing to generate a lot of excitement, but Tesla has a way of infusing energy and interest in nearly everything the company does. After Tesla shareholders approved the acquisition of SolarCity last year, Musk almost immediately showcased the new solar roof tiles.
What makes these tiles different from other solar products is that they resemble other roof tiles so closely that from the ground, the vantage point from which most people view a roof, the tiles are indistinguishable from standard tiles. Tesla introduced four versions of the tiles: Tuscan Glass Tiles, Slate Glass Tiles, Textured Glass Tiles and Smooth Glass Tiles.
Unlike solar roof panels that are installed on top of your roof, these solar tiles are both the roof and the solar panel. This makes them easier to install when you’re building a new home. If you want to install them on an existing home, you’ll need to remove the current roof entirely before replacing it with Tesla Solar Tiles.
In addition to touting the looks of these new solar tiles, Musk made news by proclaiming that installing a roof made of the solar shingles would actually cost less than installing a traditional tile roof. If true, this would be a huge breakthrough, since price has been a big obstacle for people when it comes to installing a solar tile roof in the past.
Cost Estimates of Tesla Solar Roof
Several green building experts and consumer-oriented sites have attempted to prove or disprove the claim that a Tesla Solar Roof would be less costly than a traditional roof, but because exact pricing has yet to be announced, price comparisons are based on educated guesses. One aspect some critics were quick to point out is that the majority of roofs are made of asphalt shingles, which are about 20 times less costly than a terra cotta or slate tile roof, the materials the Tesla roof imitates. So while a Tesla roof may be less expensive than a real terra cotta or slate roof, it’s not likely to cost less than an asphalt roof.
Consumer Reports estimates that a Tesla Solar Roof would cost between $70,000 and $100,000, based on the price guidelines provided by Tesla. A standard asphalt roof replacement, according to Consumer Reports, costs between $8,000 and $16,000. The range of prices depends on the size of the roof and the location. Labor costs are a big part of the expense, which makes it even harder to estimate the cost of installing a Tesla roof since it’s possible that a specially trained contractor will be required.
An exact delivery date for the solar roof tiles has yet to be announced, but some Tesla-watchers think the earliest possible date would be in mid-2018.
If you want to go green with your roof, an expanding range of products are available, including sustainable roof materials. Consult a roofing expert in your area with experience working with solar and sustainable roofs to determine what would work best for your home and your budget.
Emerging Trends: New Home Designs by Miller & Smith, McLean, VA
Building Trends for 2017
Housing trends come and go, but because of the cost and time needed to integrate changes in materials, technology, and layouts and get the word out to the professional design community, nothing happens quickly. And then there's the home owner, needing time to assess these new choices.
We asked homebuilder Douglas I. Smith, president of Miller & Smith, headquartered in McLean, Va., to share with us the homebuilding trends he's predicting for this year and beyond. His company, which started as a local builder in 1964, originally set out to reimagine how a Washington area home could look. Now they’ve become one of the area’s premier homebuilders with nearly 20,000 homes completed in the D.C. metropolitan region. They’ve provided many innovative new home communities over the years, with a focus on single-family homes and townhomes. Here are some of the home trends Smith sees in his crystal ball:
Virtual reality tends to be associated with gaming and popular culture, but it is also an ideal platform for the real estate industry. For homebuyers, instead of spending in-person time at unappealing properties, they now have the option to take 360-degree tours of the property, all from the comfort of their own home. Properties listed on Miller & Smith’s website make these virtual tours available for many of their model homes. This technology is completely transforming the process of touring and shopping for homes. He sees the trend evolving and expanding well into 2017. "The advent of new technology has refined the virtual tour experience in the residential real estate space. So whether we’re designing a mobile friendly, experiential website or sending a hand-held VR viewer such as Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear to an agent, homebuilders are now tasked with meeting the homebuyer where they are – on their mobile devices," he says.
Although many homebuyers have begun looking for "urban-suburban" locales without the maintenance required with a backyard, many still crave a personal piece of nature. Homebuilders are addressing this challenge with new homes that seamlessly fuse the outside and indoors, through the use of spacious rooftops such as the company's Upper West at One Loudon. They’ve created interior design concepts, such as flex spaces and multi-use rooms, and added patios and courtyards that are smaller but appealing. Several Miller & Smith homes, including Upper West and Brambleton’s Garden District in Ashburn, Va., bring the outside in with features such as open-air architecture with additional light, enlarged living spaces, which melds the living room with the backyard to create a feeling of continuity. Bringing the outside in, even in an informal setting such as a screened-in porch can make a home feel like an open-air sanctuary. Miller & Smith’s Grand Vista townhomes in Brambleton feature floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that connect to a large screened-in porch. The 16-foot glass wall becomes a focal point of the main level.
What’s more, the center section of the home can be opened to the elements, creating a seamless transition to the surrounding areas such as the front. The Greenwich single family home that is offered at One Loudoun has this feature of an interior courtyard with a standard deck that is adjacent to the kitchen and is flanked by large windows.
Outdoor rooms furnished as indoor spaces are another huge hit for homebuyers. Outdoor living spaces are becoming "smart rooms" in which the space is used for living, entertaining, and dining. In terms of aesthetics, materials such as wood and glass, wood paneled walls, and floor-to-ceiling windows/sliders are often requested. Outdoor rooms that allow seamless flow are highly desirable. What was once limited to homes on the West Coast or in the South has become a big drawer in four-season locations in the mid-Atlantic. The Next Level Homes at Upper West in Downtown One Loudoun offers an outdoor kitchen on the rooftop deck with the opportunity to add a fireplace of even a fire pit.
Say goodbye to missing remote controls and a basketful of electronics that you don't know how to program, use or pair with the right item. The integration of smart technology into new and retrofitted homes is becoming a top priority for many. The most innovative homes on the market now focus on having one central operating system—controlled through one remote—that cohesively coordinates and connects an entire home’s technology. These homes, such as Upper West at One Loudoun in Ashburn, Va., include built-in, high-tech features such as a top-of-the-line home network that connects to Wi-Fi painlessly. A standard home automation package has been included with a Control 4 processor and a dual band wireless router that is the technology control center of the home. Also included is automated garage entry lighting and a keyless entry lock on the front door. This enables the door lock to work wirelessly and communicate with other devices in the home. Homeowners can check their lock status remotely and securely lock or unlock any using a cell phone. They can even receive a text message when a child arrives home.
Home automation is on the rise in other ways--with lighting, locks, heating, cooling, and even your curtains connected to mobile devices. Connected homes and devices should make life simpler or solve a problem, but never overwhelm the homeowner. The most simple, user-friendly options will appeal most. For example, Miller & Smith’s homes at Upper West feature Aprilaire/ wireless thermostats that seamlessly integrate with the Control 4 system and allow homeowners to control all aspects of indoor air quality: temperature, humidity, fresh air and air purity from their smart phone app. Other smart upgrades commonly requested include:
- Dropcam for security;
- App-controlled lighting;
- Smart outlets – to turn appliances on and off remotely.
The old trend of distinct spaces for each need--watching TV, entertaining company, or cooking is passé. Smaller square footage to curtail costs and maintenance and more generations together full- or part-time means spaces are designed for greater flexibility. A living room can work to entertain, watch TV, do work, even be a casual eating spot with big coffee table in a practical material.
"Open floorplans" ring a bell, too. There’s little tolerance in the marketplace for the closed-off / one-purpose room of the past. The next evolution of open floor plans is the flex space — marked by a blending together of functionality and entertainment. The kitchen is adjacent and open to the great room, or dining rooms double as a study. Mud rooms, too, are now called "family foyers."
As is the case of the company's Next Level Homes at Upper West in One Loudoun "personal lobbies" are gaining favor, This is where homebuyers can includes cubbies, hooks for backpacks, a dog wash station or even a second set of washers/dryers to take care of the laundry they don’t want to take upstairs. The once standard "in-home office" as a separate room has also morphed into several "smart spaces" scattered throughout a home: an upstairs loft, nook off a great room, a space under the stairs.
Miller & Smith incorporates products that are environmentally friendly whenever possible. For example, Certainteed vinyl siding that contains 80 percent recyclable materials; low VOC paint for better interior air quality; sheathing and lumber that use the entire log for efficient use of resources, to name a few.
Forget thinking in terms of a style that's chic--no more industrial grit or feminine mod. Today. it's all about creativity that appeals to the homeowner with some common denominators that make it universally appealing such as color palettes that aren't too extreme or patterns in countertops and walls that aren't too dizzying. Moderation is the muse today. Gone are the days of matchy-matchy rooms and here to stay are rooms that incorporate different design styles. In recent years, new traditionalist has come into fashion because it allows more freedom to mix in different finishes, periods, and styles. Designers showcase these mixed styles in model homes giving buyers inspiration for their own homes. Industrial lighting mixed with more traditional furniture gives another twist--modern and also stylish.
Building a Home
Plan smartly from the ground up
What better way to satisfy the American dream than to build your own home. And in doing so you can meet the criteria for today’s fast-changing lifestyles, new definitions of family that fuel the desire for different floor plans, technological advancements that require special features, and a wish to save the planet by using new, more efficient energy sources and sustainable materials and systems.
Besides picking the best builder, developer, architect, or contractor, take time to be sure you cover these 3 steps that will help guarantee your top-notch results:
#1. Get a detailed contract that is specific to your needs, rather than a boiler-plate document culled from the internet. Many professional groups such as The American Institute of Architects have established contract forms that can be enhanced, says Chicago architect Allan J. Grant.
What belongs in most agreements? Everything (including the kitchen sink) from starting to estimated completion dates, materials, best practices such as daily time of arrival and departure, frequency of trash removal, a method to resolve problems, and payment schedule.
In fact, David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law in New York, says, "One of the most important contract provisions is the one that links your payments to the completion of different stages of the work: demolition; open wall work (plumbing, wiring. etc.); closed wall work (drywall, cabinetry, etc.); and finish work (painting, flooring, etc.)." You may be wise to have an attorney eyeball the contract before you sign.
#2. Learn to read a floor plan. Before the project gets too far underway, learn to read symbols on blueprint and elevation drawings that indicate what will be built. You can also check out a tutorial on YouTube. Many architectural glossaries online will also help you become better educated. "I don't expect clients to know how to read drawings, but it's a bonus if they show interest in learning," Grant says. "It's easier and less expensive to make changes in the drawing stage than during building--or rebuilding."
#3. Familiarize yourself with materials, appliances, and other options. So many choices abound. A builder may favor custom cabinets because of more detailed workmanship and better materials, but stock items may better fit your budget. An appliance salesman may recommend an induction cooktop when you've been happy with gas. And your friends may tell you that granite is so passé, and you must consider quartzite. "What's that?" you wonder. Understand differences in style, price, durability, and greenness. Grant likes to accompany clients to showrooms to weigh choices. "Appliance selections impact the layout; if we go with a 27" or 48" refrigerator, for example," he says.
Building a house means becoming part of a team. Put in your time, due diligence, and you'll reap the best results.
Share your building ideas with us.
Barbara Ballinger is a professional writer, author, blogger and speaker who has long focused on real estate, design, and personal finance. She has co-authored many books, including Successful Homebuilding and Remodeling, The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space, and The Garden Bible: Designing the perfect outdoor space. She regularly contributes to the National Association of Realtors® Website and magazine.
Margaret Crane is a nationally known freelance writer, blogger and journalist who has co-authored with Barbara Ballinger several books and articles on real estate, design and family business. Her byline has appeared in Realtor® magazine. With more than a half-dozen titles to her credit, Margaret’s latest design book is The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space.