Everything You Need to Know About the Custom Home Process

Modern Custom Home Exterior built by St. George homebuilder
People constantly stress over the preliminary processes when building a home–we always see it. Who should the builder be, which location is best, and how will the floor plan look? With so much to consider, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. A select few won't even consider building a custom home because of the stress. That's why we saw the need to provide simple tools and advice to make the process a breeze. Our latest blog post gave tips on choosing a home builder for your custom home. Then, realizing we had just scratched the surface, we wanted to dive in—dig a little deeper and provide you with all the right tools. Our new mini-series, “Everything You Need to Know About the Custom Home Process,” highlights all aspects of the home-building process!

In this article:

  1. Selecting the Perfect Building Site
  2. The Creation Phase
  3. The Design Phase
  4. Obtaining a Bid from Your Builder
  5. The Construction Phase
  6. Closing | Welcome Home

1: Selecting The Perfect Building Site

Frontloader preparing building site for custom home
Good homes miss the mark of becoming great because of little details and missed opportunities. Dennis Miller Homes always pay attention to detail, and the land location is our “blank canvas.” Every piece of land offers some hidden treasure that needs to be captured, and this is what makes good homes great homes. This philosophy is the foundation for how we design and build.

General Location

The first decision when selecting a lot is determining which general location you want to live in. There are countless places in Southern Utah where anyone would love living. From Ivins and Santa Clara to Hurricane and Sand Hollow, there is a place for you and your family. So how do you choose? When raising a family, determining which school district you want to live in is an excellent place to start. You also might consider what St. George amenities, such as grocery stores or shopping malls, you’d like closer to home. Where do you work, and how long do you want your commute to be?

Part of the Neighborhood

Once you figure out the general location you want to build, the next thing to consider is where exactly in the subdivision you want to be. Do you want to build near the subdivision’s access, in a cul-de-sac, or on a corner lot? If getting in and out of a neighborhood quickly is essential, you may consider choosing a lot near the neighborhood’s entrance. The downside is that you will experience more traffic. Do you prefer a more secluded lot? Try and find a lot at the end of a cul-de-sac. Many people like corner lots because they are often larger. However, one thing to remember is that corner lots often require more landscape and maintenance. Decide what aspects you care about, and go from there.

How the House will be Oriented

As trivial as it may seem, the orientation of your home makes a big difference. Some people who live in colder climates are adamant about not having a house that faces north. They claim north-facing houses make it more challenging to keep the snow cleared of walkways in the winter. Although we don’t deal with those problems here in Southern Utah, there are still some critical things to consider. For example, are you going to have a pool? Maybe you would prefer a north-facing house so that your pool receives sunlight during the day.

On the other hand, if you want a cool place for your kids to play in the summers, a south-facing house will lend more shade in the backyard. The orientation of your house can also affect its energy efficiency. If you roughly know the layout of your home, you’ll have a better idea of what side of the street you want your lot to be.

Try and Capture Views

St. George offers some of the best views on earth. When choosing a lot, pay attention to the views that you will have when your home is built. Would you like your vistas from the front or back of your house? Also, how will your lot affect your solar exposure? How can you best take advantage of sunrises or sunsets? Considering each of things will help when trying to select a building site.

Here at Dennis Miller Homes, we believe site selection is just as important, if not more important, than the actual building plan. The building site will help us determine where we want to place windows, where we desire certain rooms to be, and how we want to position the home on the lot. So whether you have already found the perfect lot or are just starting the search process, we have the right team of professionals to ensure you capitalize on one of the most critical phases of building a home.

2: The Creation Phase

St. George Home Designs by DMH
The second step of the custom home process is our favorite. At this point, we get the creative juices flowing and start dreaming. We call this step The Creation Process.

The Creation Process involves brainstorming and dreaming. This process can be done independently or with us as we give input. We’re dreamers at heart, so we love to hear what types of things prospective clients have always yearned for in a home. However, even if a person has been planning the details of their home for years, when they hear the question, “What would you like in your new home?” almost everyone starts to draw blanks.

Because thinking about every aspect of your home can be overwhelming, we broke this process down into three different categories: Lifestyle, Features, and Style. Going about the Creation Process while keeping these components in mind will bring organization and clarity to the endeavor.

Lifestyle

Thinking about lifestyle is a perfect starting point. Some people start with features only to realize that they have unnecessary features or forget certain features they need. It is better to start by thinking about your lifestyle and then place the elements in a way that will support that lifestyle. Questions you should ask yourself at this point of the creation process include: Do I need space for entertaining? Do I want the main gathering space for my family to be in a great room near the kitchen or a separate family room? Do I plan to have visitors often who would appreciate their suite? Do I want more space in the house or more space in the yard? Questions like these help you figure out what is important to you. It will ensure that your home is perfectly functional and that you utilize the space you call home.

Features

As you brainstorm about lifestyle, you’ll notice that the next step, focusing on features, will come naturally. If you have decided you need space for entertaining, then more than likely, you are going to want a dining space and a large kitchen island or bar. If you enjoy St. George sunsets, you’ll probably want a covered patio. Is a jacuzzi tub or fireplace in the master suite something you can’t live without? Do you want your kids to enjoy a pool in the backyard? Some people feel that looking at other floor plans helps to get their wheels turning. Don’t worry about missing certain aspects; we will bring features to your attention that you may not have considered.

Style

Once you have thought about your lifestyle and the features you want to include in your home, style is the last thing to go over. How do you want those features to look? This is where your home will start to reflect your personality and creative taste. Do you want your home to look modern? You may like the cozy and inviting feel of french country. Do you want your house to take on the trendy craftsman-style look? Whatever style you choose, we have a team of professionals that are sure to bring all of the components of your home together so that it looks aesthetically flawless.

Remember that the creation process is a time to have fun. Try not to get overwhelmed—Reserve judgments on your dreaming. Let the ideas run free. Many people are surprised by the number of things they can include in their homes. As was mentioned above, we love this step in the building process because we get to have fun with our clients. One of the reasons a person chooses to build a home instead of buying a home is because they can experience this creation process. Make sure you enjoy yours.

3: The Design Phase

Custom Home Blueprints
When we talk about the design phase, think of floor plans. During this critical step, we take all the ideas and components you have come up with in the creation process and start sketching and designing your home. We start with rough designs and continue to iron out the details one step at a time until we arrive at a plan that we feel is flawless. When talking about it, the process seems simple enough. However, during this time, people often become overwhelmed, feeling like they have to get the process right the first time.

So what is the source of all of the anxiety?

The Problem

When individuals build a custom home, they want to ensure the final product is perfect. Who wouldn’t?  After all, the family will live there for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately,  when a customer gets to the design phase, most custom home builders require customers to pay for a set of plans to be drafted. To compound the problem, there are often fees when the builder has to return to the architect with any redrafting or changes. With that industry norm in mind, individuals feel pressured to get the house plan right the first time to avoid fees and unwanted costs.

Hence the anxiety and pressure.

Our Solution

One of the things we pride ourselves on here at Dennis Miller Homes is breaking industry norms. Custom home builders often charge customers to draft floor plans and make changes because they, too are getting charged. It’s not that they’re malicious and are trying to nickel and dime people; it’s simply business.

Lucky for us, we have arguably the best draftsman/architect in the area as part of our team. In addition, because we draft all our plans in-house, we don’t have to worry about being charged when customers need to make changes. Therefore, our customers can make tweaks and adjustments until their house plan is perfect.

Recently, a customer told us they were charged more than $15,000 for drafting house plans! He couldn’t believe we were doing all of it for free before he even signed a contract. He felt so relieved that he could bounce ideas off of us and make adjustments ensuring his floor plan would be just right.

Why is our change in the process such a big deal?

The most significant advantage of this process is the stress-free environment customers have when going through the design phase. They can get their house plan perfect the first go around. They can approach the design phase knowing that whatever they start with can be adjusted.

Tips for the Design Phase

Now that you understand our process a little better and the pressure of getting the design perfect is gone, what is the best way to approach this step? The first step is to bring all of the ideas from the creation phase to us. Then, when we hear you talk about your dreams and desires, in our minds, we will be piecing together a design and developing a rough sketch.

From there, we recommend looking at other floor plans and seeing different layouts. As we mentioned previously, looking at other floor plans will help get your wheels turning. However, some people need help visualizing how their house will be simply by looking at a floor plan. If you fall into this category, no problem. Come look at some of our previous projects and get real-life visuals. We love when clients walk through the homes we’re working on.

Once we start with a rough sketch, we’ll continue to tweak designs and make needed adjustments. Then, once you’re satisfied, it’s on to the bidding phase! At Dennis Miller Homes, we want to not only give you an outstanding product but we also want you to enjoy the journey. We feel that the flexibility of our design phase will leave you more than satisfied.

4: Obtaining a Bid From Your Builder

Two People Designing Custom Homes
One major thing we highlighted above was the importance of having our architect in-house. Because we have our architect in-house, we can adjust a client’s floor plan without having to charge them for a redraft. That advantage becomes critical during the bidding process. If, for some reason, we came in a little too high or too low, we can always add or take away components to the plan.

When it comes to bidding, we usually take one of two approaches with clients. We either bid out the project with our standard allowances or we go with a customized approach.

Standard Allowances

The Standard allowance approach is what most home builders will use. It’s the industry standard, and pretty straightforward. That standard allowance process is where a builder will draw up a client’s plan and then based on that plan they will start bidding on the house as if the client were to put the standard components in their home. As the building process occurs, the builder will then send the customer to their preferred vendor, tell them what the bid allowance is, and then have them pick components (such as light fixtures or appliances) that fall within that allowance.

The advantage of the standard process is that it speeds up the bidding phase and gives the client a little more time to decide on paint color, countertops type, floor coloring, etc. However, the main disadvantage to this process comes when a specific product a client wants is outside the allowance budget.

We’ve heard stories of individuals who got a bid from their builder and thought they were getting a steal of a deal. The contractor gave them a price based on the builder’s “standard allowance”, the contract was signed, the customer was excited, and the building commenced. Unfortunately, when it came time for the customer to pick out the features they wanted, they realized that the bid they quoted only allowed for features they did not want. The customer ends up having to file 5 or more change orders, and that killer price they thought they were getting starts to climb rapidly.

Ultimately, the customer is left dissatisfied.

The Customized Approach

While Dennis Miller Homes will undoubtedly bid on a home using the standard-allowance approach, we typically prefer clients to use a customized system. When we build your home, especially a custom home, we want you to have the features and components you want. Therefore, rather than give you our allowances, we send you to four or five of our leading suppliers and have you choose the features you want in your home first. After you’ve picked out what you would prefer to have in your home, we provide a bid.

The main advantage of obtaining a bid this way is twofold. First, if the bid comes in higher than you like, we can start changing features in your home while keeping the ones you absolutely can not live without. Second, once the bid is finalized, a few change orders will have to be processed, and the price you received at the beginning will be very close to the price you pay. Overall, this creates a better experience for you as the customer and us as the builder.

Remember, building a home should be fun. Most customers are surprised at what features they can afford, so don’t be afraid to splurge a little. If you get a quote using the standard approach, ensure you understand what the standard allowance will get you. If at all possible, try and use the customized approach. It will make your building experience a lot more enjoyable.

5: The Construction Phase

St. George Luxury Home Framing
When you get to the construction phase of building, the goal is to be able to go on autopilot. If you have done the preliminary steps the right way, especially the creation and design phases, you should be able to sit back and let the professionals do their thing.

However, there are unique opportunities that happen during the construction phase that we want to make you aware of. These opportunities will help you feel like a part of the building experience and ultimately make you love your house even more.

Walk-Throughs

If you have gone through the proper steps in selecting the right home builder, we recommend a laissez-faire approach during construction. The home builder is professional and knows the necessary courses of action to ensure a gorgeous final product.

You should schedule regular walk-throughs of the property where you and your home builder can walk side by side throughout the property.   This critical time will allow you to ask questions regarding the progress of your home to the contractor while they are on-site. Also, this time will enable the contractor to ask clarifying questions, ensuring that you are getting the product you want. Making sure these walkthroughs take place will speed up the building process and ensure that you and your professional are communicating.

Monumental Steps Of Building

We prefer our clients to participate in the construction process at Dennis Miller Homes. After all, this is the place you will call home. We want you to feel a connection to your house and start making memories the moment we break ground. A few parts of the building process are monumental, and we want you to participate.

Ground Breaking

The first step of the building process is breaking ground to pour the foundation. You have seen ceremonies for extensive construction processes where ribbons are cut, and shovels go into the ground. Although your home won’t be a skyscraper in New York, it will be the place that houses your family and memories. Be the one to put the shovel in the ground first and start the building process.

The First Wall

Another monumental step in building a house is putting up the walls. When the framed walls go up, the structure and personality of the home start to take shape. Help our crews lift your first wall and experience something special. One of our previous customers left us a very thoughtful review highlighting how much that moment meant to them.

Painting

Paint pulls out the personality of the homeowners. Once the walls are painted, a client will start to see some of their style infused within the home. So have some fun and help us roll on some paint for the wall of your choosing. Every time you walk by that section of your home, you’ll remember that moment with fondness.

6: Closing | Welcome Home

Custom Home Closing - Person uses key to unlock their new home build
We break the “welcome home” process into three subcategories: Final Walkthrough, Closing Documents and Handing Over the Keys.

Final Walkthrough

Once all parts of the construction phase have finished, and a “CO” has been obtained we will conduct a final walkthrough. During this process, we will walk through and inspect each room.

This is the time for your critical eyes to come out. As this final walkthrough takes place, ensure that the finished product meets expectations and every little detail is how you want it. Feel free to open and close cabinets, and check appliances, light fixtures, etc. This house is yours to move into, so make sure you love it.

Closing Documents

Once we have done the final walkthrough and tightened up any loose ends, we will sign the closing documents. Certain title documents will need to be signed and notarized by the right legal professionals, contracts with your builder will be finalized, and the proper exchange of money for services will take place. Just like any legal document, make sure you read what you are signing thoroughly

Handing Over the Keys

The only thing left to do is hand you the keys to your home. With a smile, we will thank you for the experiences we’ve shared and the opportunity we had to build your home. We will then present you with our closing packet, which will include the home warranty details, access to some of our preferred vendors in St. George and the surrounding area, and other pertinent documents. The house is now officially your home.

Welcome Home!

This series has been enjoyable for us to create. It has helped us take a step back and look at the different opportunities to ensure our clients have an incredible experience building a home. Whether you choose Dennis Miller Homes or another contractor to build your home, we hope that the outlined concepts will ease the stressful process often associated with building.  Remember, it’s not about creating a final product in a house. Instead, it’s about enjoying an experience as you watch your dreams of having a custom home come to life!

What are You Waiting For? Design Your Custom Home Today!
CONTACT