Custom homes have many similarities to quality furniture, but each of us defines quality differently. We shop for our clothes at stores with different levels of quality, we buy different car brands based on our desire and budget for quality and the same is true when building a custom home.
Borrowing from Williams-Sonoma's article, How to Find Well-Made, High-Quality Furniture, let's use their definition for different quality levels as people wonder if custom homes are “built-to-last” the way historic US homes have withstood the test of time. It's not that one level of quality home is better than another, it's a matter of buyers finding a home builder who's quality matches their expectations and budget.
- Good furniture (or custom homes) is readily available and good enough for the present.
- Better furniture is semi-custom with a lifespan of ten to fifteen years.
- Best furniture is totally custom, heirloom quality, and built-to-last.
Custom Homes Have Different Quality Levels
Most often the perceived quality of a house is based on the finishes used, i.e. what you can see in the finished home. Finish features are the ones homeowners pick like windows, cabinet styles and counter tops, lighting fixtures, flooring and more. Much of the quality that goes into custom homes, ends up hidden behind the finish walls. Digging deeper, lets' look at the factors home builders focus on to deliver quality custom homes.
- Structural stability from the framing down to the foundation, helping houses withstand severe weather.
- Quality materials and flawless installation to keep the house watertight, from the roof to the siding, trim and foundation.
- Energy and water efficient home systems (plumbing, electrical, heating, air conditioning and ventilation) to keep the home comfortable, healthy with budget sensitive.
- Custom home builders guide their clients in picking products and materials that are durable and easy to maintain. Where they have experienced problems, they will explain their issues with products to reach decisions that satisfy everyone.
- Attention to detail in how each home feature is installed sets apart quality conscious home builders. Check where materials come together to see if there are clean, square cuts in the trim around doors and windows, in crown molding and even outside in places seldom viewed like the foundation.
Quality Home Builders Offer a Great Experience
Picking the right home builder can be daunting as there are hundreds of decisions to make and limited knowledge of how your choices will affect the look of your house, and your ability to maintain your home. You want to pick a builder who offers the best quality craftmanship that your budget can afford, to insure you get the quality you want at every step of the construction process.
Learn what each prospective builder emphasizes in building their custom homes. You want to insure you share their views on quality, to insure an effective partnership as there will be lots of give and take on a day-by-day process. When we built our house, our builder called every morning at 7am and after a few days, we learned when to say “we're going to hold firm on this decision”.
Custom Homes Should Budget for Home Features
Few people building custom homes have an unlimited budget. Small decisions can have a big impact on your budget before you know it, so it pays to outline a budget for key home features and stay within your budget.
Work with your home builder to explore options on big ticket items like roofing, siding and windows. You want curb appeal and don't need to buy high end materials for every home feature. For curb appeal, pick one or 2 features to draw the eye. Maybe you can use native stone for an accent wall, combined with lower cost siding or windows. Remember we don't use our front doors that much, so pick features you'll enjoy seeing each time you come home. Maybe you want to spend more on the garage door, instead of a high-end front door?
Drive around and get ideas from older, historic homes with beautiful trim. It's amazing when you see a row of houses with a similar facade, yet the variations in front doors and window trim can make them look very different. Visit an architectural antiques company to find something unique to add to your home like the stained glass show here, which can add light to a stairwell too.
Photo credit goes to Nor'East Architectural Antiques in southern NH.
What features do you feel define custom homes?