How much does a custom home cost?

My typical 2500-3500 SF living custom home costs $170 - $200 per sf of living area plus lot and closing costs. Costs vary depending on ceiling heights, level of finishes, size of garage, amenities, and site conditions. Piling homes typically cost $240 - $325 per sf of living area and varies greatly depending on features, amenities, porches, type and number of pilings, etc.  The smaller the home the higher cost per SF given the same amenities.  For example a $25,000 set of cabinets will cost $7/SF on a 3500 SF home, $10/SF on a 2500 SF home, and $14 per SF on a 1750 SF home.  Prices typically do not include lot improvements, pools, sea & retaining walls, piers, docks, boat houses, etc.

How can I commit to a design-build agreement when I don’t know how much the house is going to cost?

I discuss cost factors and amenity pricing with you in the first session so that Iím designing with a target budget in mind. My Design-Build agreement allows you to proceed with design without committing to construction. When the plans, specifications, and construction documents are complete you may elect to proceed with construction.  If so, then the design fee is refunded to you. If you decide not to build then all you have invested is the design fee.

How long does it take to build?

Design takes 3-6 months and construction typically 8-12 months. Elevated and larger custom homes can take longer depending on level of complexity, time of year, and how much general construction activity is occurring during your build window.

How do I control costs?

I will guide you through most of your amenity shopping. I estimate the job during during the design phase so most of the surprises take place before construction begins. I set realistic allowances so youíll have enough money built into the construction agreement to get what you want. This is where being a designer and a builder pays off. I know the costs of what I am drawing and how to maximize the design impact per dollar spent. In other words, maximum smiles per dollar.

How do you handle building for out of town and out of country clients?

Design and construction communications are done by email, phone, and snail mail.  I take lots of progress photos which you can view on this website.  We also have live action webcams so you can see what's going on any time from any device.  There isn't anything that can't be done or monitored by modern communications. In fact, 75% of my communications with local clients is done by email. It works the same whether you're 10 miles or 10,000 miles away. I have built for quite a few out of town and out of country clients.

How does financing work?

Most of my customers finance their homes with construction-perm loans commonly available from most local banks. The builder is paid in 5-10 progress installments beginning when the foundation is complete. The loan converts to permanent mortgage financing when the home is complete. The cost of your lot can be included in your construction-perm loan. If you already own your lot and have it financed with another institution then the first draw will pay off your existing loan balance. If you want to pay cash then I use a cash draw schedule similar to the one the banks use. We encourage you to select your lender during the design phase and pre-qualify yourself for the loan amount you seek.

I am qualified to work with VA lenders, also. The VA does not offer construction-perm loans but some lenders have a type of construction-perm loan that combines construction financing with a VA loan commitment.

Do you use the same subs on every job?

Yes, most of the time. I choose from a list of experienced and trustworthy subs who have worked for me 15+ years and that have satisfied me and my customers in the past. I select from that list almost exclusively. More importantly, I have a list of who not to use that I have accumulated over the years. Before I use someone new, I always check their current references, licensing, insurance, and examine their work.

How do you insure quality control?

I or my superintendent personally check everything all the time. We don't rely on anyone but ourselves to inspect the critical details during construction. I've been building homes long enough to see what goes wrong 7-10 years down the road that you can't see happening until it's too late. Flashing details, window and door installation details, and siding details will come back to haunt the home and you if not done properly. We have to inspect that lowest paid tradesman's work who often is the one who installs the kick out flashing on the roof that if not done properly will cause the wall to rot out and create tens of thousands of dollars in damage before it's discovered years later. If I build it, I make sure it's done right so I can sleep well knowing I won't be called back years later about water leaks and deteriorating materials. It takes more of my time but it's well worth the extra effort and gives me my clients peace of mind.

What is Storm-Tuff construction?

It is a combination of structual and life safety upgrades to your home which gives your home greater surviveability, your family absolute safety during hurricanes, and lowers your insurance rates up to 20%. Learn more about Storm-Tuff construction.

How do I protect myself financialy during construction?

Iíve heard horror stories about unscrupulous builders not paying their bills and the home owner getting stuck with liens on their property. 

Your first defense is dealing with a local licensed, experienced, and reputable builder. Check current references. Florida lien law provides many protections. In order for a subcontractor or supplier to file a lien on your property they must first file a notice to owner within 45 days of starting their part of the job. Only the builder and subs who have filed a notice can legally file a lien.

Notice to owners must be sent to the builder, owner, and lending institution. When your bank receives a notice they require that the builder submit evidence of payment in the form of a lien waiver before the builder can receive the next draw. Before the final draw is disbursed the bank requires that the builder submit final lien waivers on all subs and suppliers who have filed a notice and also provide a builderís final affidavit which states that all subs and suppliers have been paid. This insures that you will not be surprised by any unknown and unpaid subs filing a lien on your property.

Itís a common misconception that you need lien waivers on all subs and suppliers in order to be protected. The owner can never really know all the names of everyone who has worked on his job so you could never be sure of who was potentially not paid.

Florida lien law solves this problem by requiring subs and suppliers who want a guarantee of payment to file a written notice to owner to establish their right to lien a job if they are not paid. That gives you the complete list of those who can legally file a lien if they don't get paid. No one else can file a lien on your property even if they were not paid. All you have to do is make sure those whom you have received a notice to owner from get paid. You don't have to worry about anyone else.

I pay all my subs and suppliers on time so none of this is ever a problem for my customers. My credit references are available upon request.

Do you do cost plus jobs?

Yes, occasionally. If the job is very complex or the owner expects to make a lot of changes then I will consider it. Most custom home contracts are actually a combination of fixed and variable price components. The allowance section is usually the variable price portion which involves setting specific budgets for lighting, appliances, cabinets, carpet, etc. The owner pays for all expenditures over the allowances or is credited all expenditures under the allowances. It is important to set realistic allowances before starting the job so youíll have enough money to get what you want.

What warranties come with your homes?

Everything is covered for 1 year parts and labor. Usually if something is going to fail it will happen within the first 90 days. Appliances, roofing, AC, and other components all have extended manufacturerís warranties, typically 5 years.

Les White, Acorn Construction General Contractor, #RG0055853
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