Designing and building a new Houston custom home is an unique and rare opportunity for most aspirating owners. Most owners that have either experienced or researched the journey of building their own custom home understands that this is a long and challenging development of events. The time line is taxing on both your patience and ability to contribute to the design process, product selections and home construction decisions.
Designing and building a custom home is a privilege that financially secure and successful owners enjoy. It requires sufficient financial resources and a clear understanding of your lifestyle and your families personal needs to provide the direction that is necessary to make all of the decisions. One of the first and most important decisions the owner will need to make is which custom home building delivery process they will choose to use in achieving their custom home building goals. The following will be a summary of the alternative methods including their advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
Traditional Design to Bid Approach
The traditional method of building a custom home is that the owners purchase a lot, hires an architect to draw home plans and submits those plans for competitive bids to a small group (usually 3) of vetted home builders. This method of home delivery for custom home building has been conventionally favored because owners felt that this was the most efficient method of obtaining the best price for building their home.
Although the design to bid approach does provide competitive bid alternatives, by no means that it insure the owner of receiving the best price to build a custom home. This process does not provide for value engineering unless the owner request this service after the design process is complete. In addition, the need to value engineer will usually lead to longer delays resulting from the need to redesign if bid amounts are substantially over budget.
Design to Bid Process Summary
- Locate and Secure a Building Site – It all begins with selecting a building lot. The homes footprint is designed with the lot orientation in mind. Soil samples, tree preservation, setback restrictions and drainage are the primary concerns to address.
- Develop a Budget and Home Design Theme – Defining your construction budget is the next order of business. Your architect will require some direction in both budget range and design theme.
- Hire an Architect to Design Home – With your design theme in mind and your budget range defined it is time to hire your home plan designer. You will need to rely on your architect to design to your needs and lifestyle but to maintain a fiscal responsibility to the budget.
- Interview and Select Custom Home Builders to Bid – After the plans have been completed and approved you will need to request a small carefully selected group to bid the documents. You should already have two or three general contractors already vetted so you can swiftly move to a request for proposal.
- Value Engineer and Redesign to Meet Budget – It is not uncommon that the bids from your reputable general contractors will have to be valued engineered, redrawn and rebid to conform to your budget guidelines.
- Hire Custom Home Builder – Once the owner is satisfied with the plans and budget, you can negotiate terms and conditions, sign a contract and submit for a building permit.
- Custom Home Building Process – With permit and approved documents in hand and a general contractor commissioned to build your Houston custom home, it’s time to complete your product selections and commence with the required building site reviews and site visits.
Design to Build Approach
The design build approach is a collaborating effort that involves the architect, general contractor and the client. The owner defines their needs and desires and communicates to the design team. The architect then draws these ideas developing their visions into home plans. The role of the home builder during the design phase is to balance the client’s needs and wants with cost and buildability of the project deliverables.
This method serves the owners interest by saving redesign cost, reducing project time and reducing the owners frustration with the pre-construction process. One of the most positive benefits for the owner is budget control. Due to the design build collaboration of the builder and architect, there is a pricing function conducted after preliminary drawings are accepted to confirm the plan is in compliance with the budget.
Design Build Process Summary
- Interview & Hire Design Build General Contractor – You will notice that the significant difference in the two approaches is that you are hiring your general contractor first in the design build approach. A general contractor will act as your trusted adviser and advocate throughout the design and construction of your custom home.
- Locate and Secure a Building Site – Although you may have already identified a new home site, it is wise to get your general contractor involved in the evolution and final approval to purchase. They can also be helpful in the negotiations of the lot purchase.
- Develop Home Design Criteria and Budget – With the guidance of your custom home builder you will develop the home design theme and discuss conceptual budget cost associated with the design. These discussions will lead to identifying the best architect and engineer to collaborate with.
- Develop Design Build Team – The general contractor commissions the members of the design team. He will facilitate the hiring of the required design team. This is usually an architect and a structural engineer. As the clients need require, the team may also include interior decorator and landscape architect.
- Design Home Process – The actual design of the custom home is similar to the process of the design to bid process. It begins with the hand sketches of a concept drawing and moves to preliminary drawings. The final step in home plan designs is to create the working drawings. As the owners approve the preliminary plans the general contractor confirms the construction budget by providing a detailed schedule of values.
- Custom Home Building Process – There is little difference in the actual building of the custom home between the two approaches. The difference is in the general contractor being responsible for the cost of design omissions and errors. Under the design to bid method the owner pays for architectural errors and omissions. Since your home builder is a single source in this approach, the general contractor would be responsible for errors and omissions.
The Construction Management Approach for the Owner Builder
The owner builder home delivery method is when an owner assumes the risks associated having home plans prepared with the intent of building their own custom home. Historically speaking without proper guidance, this approach will likely result in a greater expense and more complications then the use of a custom home builder, unless the owner has the required special skills to facilitate such an achievement.
If an owner is committed to the owner builder method, they may want to consider hiring a construction management firm to provide guidance and leadership to the owners home building effort. The construction management approach is a process of hiring a competent construction firm to provide quality control and work site management over the construction process. If the owner wants a professional firm to facilitate the offsite administration tasks like subcontractor bids, accounts payables and cost control, they can hire a project management firm.
It is essential that when you are ready to build your custom home that you consider which of these approaches best serves your risk aversion and service needs before you select a home delivery method.