The Blog

Government Regulation Hazards

Categories: WhiteStone | Posted: May 6, 2017

Government red tape takes time, money and skill to navigate. 

Some people don’t realize how highly regulated the construction business has become. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the costs of complying with government regulations now account for nearly a quarter (24.3%) of new home prices—30% more than just five years ago.

Some of these regulations are specific to the project, while others are hidden from the homeowners but raise costs for all projects. Navigating them and staying in compliance requires time, effort and knowledge.

Plans and permits. To protect public health and safety, building departments want to make sure that homes are built to comply with all applicable codes—the building code, mechanical code, electrical code and others. That’s why most municipalities won’t issue a building permit until they review and approve the project plans.

Plans that aren’t in full compliance will be sent back for revision. It’s up to the builder to work with the architect (if there is one) and the subcontractors to identify and correct potential problems before submitting the plans for review.

Inspecting the work. Once work gets underway, inspectors must sign off on it at various stages. There may be separate inspections of the foundation, framing, wiring, plumbing and insulation. The municipality will also conduct a final inspection before issuing an occupancy permit.

In addition to confirming code compliance, inspectors compare what’s being built to what’s in the approved plans. If the construction doesn’t match the plan, an inspector can stop work until the builder fixes the problem.

Inspections impact the job schedule. City inspections will add many weeks to the build cycle.  A crucial part of the builder’s job is to work with subcontractors to make sure the home is ready for each inspection at each stage, and to schedule inspections to prevent delays. The time to manage all of this is factored into the builder’s overhead. And of course, each inspection generally has a fee associated with it. It is simply a way for the city to collect fees.

Other regulations. Depending on the project and the municipality, more red tape can come into play. The builder might have to apply for zoning variances or work with the planning or conservation commission during site development. Homeowners’ associations will also have their own rules. We have even seen HOA with their own inspection department.

Some regulatory costs are hidden. Recently passed Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) safety rules include time-consuming recordkeeping burdens. A new Department of Labor rule mandates overtime pay for a wider range of employees. Some states have training, licensing and insurance requirements that cost time and money. Product manufacturers, distributors and suppliers also must comply with an increasing array of government mandates.The combined effect of permits, inspections and other regulations is to raise the price of materials, labor and project management.

None of the above is meant to minimize the need for regulation. All professional builders want to pay their employees fair wages and provide them with the training needed to do quality work. All aim to maintain safe, well-insured jobsites. All appreciate code inspections that protect their customers and reduce their liability.

But the truth is that the regulatory landscape is a hazard filled place. It’s important for homeowners to understand the costs involved, as well as the time and know-how required to navigate that landscape without incident. It’s one of the many reasons for hiring an experienced pro to build your home.

Universal Design

Categories: WhiteStone | Posted: April 19, 2017

Universal Design, or UD, is an architectural practice that allows occupants of all ages and capabilities to live independently and comfortably over a long period of time in the same house.

Thanks to changing demographics, UD is gaining mainstream acceptance. In addition to Baby Boomers looking for well-designed conveniences as they enter their retirement years, an increasing number of multigenerational and blended families (now one-third of all households) seek new homes that accommodate a wide range of ages and capabilities.

Done well, the UD elements of a new home are subtle, almost undetectable … until you need them. Then you’ll thank your builder for having the forethought and concern for your needs, whether for a young child, an elderly parent, or someone recovering from a short-term injury or long-term disability.

While you may have to look closely, here are some strategies that incorporate good universal design:

Wider hallways and doors. It doesn’t take much square footage and certainly no more construction time or cost to design and build slightly wider hallways and doorways. Not only does that subtle change make a home feel larger and more comfortable, but also easier to navigate.

Cabinet features. Long desired for bigger base cabinets, pull-out (or roll-out) shelves are an increasingly popular option for tall and upper wall cabinets, making their contents more visible and accessible. Regardless of age or physical capabilities, accessories such as lazy susans, door shelves, slotted drawers, and flip-down fronts enhance the storage capacity and accessibility of kitchen cabinets and bath vanities. Soft-close drawers, meanwhile, protect against pinched fingers.

Hard-surface flooring. Yes, it’s slightly more expensive than wall-to-wall carpeting, but a combination of hardwood, polished flat tiles, colored concrete, and resilient floor surfaces throughout the house is not only easier to clean and promote healthier indoor air quality, but also easier to traverse. Where needed, area rugs can soften the surfaces.

Lever handles. For doors, sinks and showers, a single-lever handle instead of a knob (or two) is both fashionable and easier to manipulate. A lever is a better option when you have an armful of groceries, are just able to reach the handle, or lack the strength for gripping. For faucets and showers, levers also allow easier temperature control, which mitigates scalding hazards. Also look for “D”-shaped handles or grips on cabinet doors and drawers instead of conventional knobs.

Appliances. Wall ovens and warming drawers, dishwasher and refrigerator drawers (set side-by-side, not stacked), French-door style refrigerators, and microwave ovens with flip-down doors are just a few examples of appliances that are not only popular but also deliver UD benefits of accessibility and safety.

Most of the homes WhiteStone Homes, LTD. builds is generally for a slightly older, well established crowd. We customize our plans to fit these needs. Not everybody wants them, but it nice to consider.

Thank you for considering WhiteStone Homes, Ltd.

SPRING IS HERE ( SORT OF )

Categories: News | Posted: March 11, 2017

The spring home buying season is here. Spring Break starts here this week. Some folks will spend the time with their families going on vacations. Other will begin a new search for for that new home. Welcome to WhiteStone Homes! We will be here all week. Our hours will be normal. We are here from 10am-6pm everyday except Sunday. Our hours are 12:00pm-6pm on that day. Need some help? Call our sales line at 210-571-0600.

HOW LONG WILL THE ESTIMATING OF MY HOME TAKE?

Categories: WhiteStone | Posted: March 11, 2017

There’s a reason that quality project estimates don’t happen overnight. Every home is a collection of thousands of individual components that range from large-scale assemblies like walls and roofs to small items like doorknobs and faucets. The builder has to consider every one of these elements when projecting what it will cost in time and materials to complete the home.

How long this takes varies by project type. For instance, a production builder that builds the same plan over and over will be able to generate estimates on the spot in its design center. That’s because even though the company offers some options to buyers, it’s really mass-producing a cookie-cutter product.

Custom homes are different because each one is unique. An estimate for a simple custom home can easily require 40 hours of staff time, and even more if it’s a complex architectural design. The logistics of getting the estimate done means those hours will likely be spread out over several weeks. We make modifications of our plans all the time. In those cases, making a quicker estimate is made much easier. In that case, 4-5 hours will is enough. Understand, we usually price an average of 3-4 new home estimates every week. That same estimator must also create purchase orders for sold home getting ready to start. The good news is you will probably get your estimate back with in one week.

The builder needs to calculate the time and expense for everything from having the plans reviewed by permitting agencies to framing the shell and installing the roof, mechanicals, interior finishes and landscaping. Assembling all these numbers is a massive project that requires experience, knowledge and organizational skills. And, of course, time.

In addition, the builder needs to ensure that the products being priced for the home are the ones the customers want and that the budget will support. In many cases, this means investing time to complete the plans and clarify the product specifications, or specs.

People come to the table with dramatically different assumptions about costs, so the builder needs to clarify these assumptions. For instance, the home’s overall quality level may indicate that it’s safe to base the fixture allowance on standard , but extremely high quality, Moen brushed-nickel faucets, until a discussion reveals that the homeowners are imagining something more expensive. This clarifying work may need to be done for every line item in the estimate.

The builder also needs to solicit prices from each trade subcontractor that will work on the home, from the excavator to the plumber and painter. This can be the most time-consuming part of the estimate. If getting the subcontractors’ bids in house weren’t enough of a challenge, those bids also need to be put under a microscope.

That’s because the builder needs to make sure that subcontractors’ estimates are realistic. For instance, if a drywall bid seems low, the builder has to know enough to ask the drywall contractor how many sheets the estimate was based on, and someone on the builder’s staff needs to check those calculations. When asking for bids from 10 trade subcontractors, it’s not unheard-of for one or two to submit inaccurate bids because they were busy and needed to get their estimate to the builder on deadline. That’s why bids must be carefully reviewed. You might think that an inaccurate estimate would still be honored by that trade contractor, but it likely would not be honored. That contractors would simply not do the job for that price when they time came to do the work.

All this work is about getting the estimate right. Taking the time to do a thorough and accurate job today will save time, expense and headaches tomorrow. It’s an area where patience pays real dividends.

The Gold in your Pocket- Do you tell your Builder what your Budget is?

Categories: WhiteStone | Posted: February 11, 2017

Should you tell WhiteStone Homes your real budget? If you want a successful project, the answer is yes. 

We occasionally meet homeowners who don’t want to reveal their true budget numbers. This lack of disclosure is not in their best interests and almost always sets the stage for disappointment.

Such reluctance is understandable, of course. Much of the online advice about hiring contractors treats the process as a poker or a don’t show the Builder the gold game, with the contractor as the opponent. This mentality leads people to hold their cards close.

But the adversarial approach is the least effective one when planning a custom home. You’re not engaging in a one-time transaction; instead, you are partnering with a professional who will transform your design vision into reality. Success demands that you choose a builder in whom you have enough trust to discuss how much you are prepared to invest. You can give a range rather than a hard number, but it needs to be realistic.

A reality-based budget is a crucial tool in the construction planning process. Most people have preconceived notions of what a home should cost, based on square-footage prices they have seen here and there. But these assumptions seldom support the designs and products they’re envisioning, and the result tends to be frustration. Putting your budget cards on the table is the only way the builder can paint an accurate picture of what is possible.

These solutions usually involve a bit of value engineering, which is a systematic approach to making intelligent tradeoffs that satisfy the homeowners’ priorities using the funds they already have.

Value engineering may include altering the layout, such as reducing square footage in a way that doesn’t take space from the rooms you consider most important. If you’re applying for a construction loan, a knowledgeable builder will also make sure to reduce costs in ways that don’t lower the home’s appraised value. For instance, the market will likely value the home the same regardless of its roof covering, so choosing standard composition shingles instead of that shiny metal roof could slash the roofing cost by 75 percent without affecting the loan amount.

The value engineering process can also include specifying less-costly products that, while not ideal, are easily upgraded later. For example, you can replace that $50 light fixture with the $1000 chandelier you want when you have the cash. Or you could opt for inexpensive carpet today and install hardwood floors in a couple of years. The builder will also ensure that you make the best choices today on items that aren’t easily upgraded, like cabinets and countertops.

This tradeoff process can go on until you have a set of plans and specifications that give you as much as possible of what you want without creating financial hardship.

The builder can’t do this creative work without an accurate budget. In other words, an honest discussion about money is a prerequisite to getting a result that will satisfy. But it all comes down to choosing a pro that you trust to be your partner.

San Antonio Real Estate: Buy New or Build Custom?

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 19, 2017

San Antonio custom home

In San Antonio we’re lucky. When it’s time for a new home – whether it’s moving up or downsizing – we have lots of options. There are plenty of resale homes on the market, new construction neighborhoods to choose from, and the option to buy the perfect piece of land and build a custom home.

So which one is right for you?

If you’re someone who enjoys the peace of mind that new construction brings (no roof to repair, no plumbing to fix, no old shag carpet to pull up) then you typically have two options. You can buy from a production builder (a builder who usually builds homes on spec within a specific neighborhood) or you can build a custom home.

Here are a few pros and cons of each.

The Big Trade-Off

Time is a big consideration when choosing between a production builder and a custom home. Because a production builder often builds on spec, you can often find homes that are completed or closer to completion than starting from scratch with a custom builder. Working with a custom home builder involves a longer lead time before your home construction can begin to make all the design decisions and, in some cases, find a lot to build on.

Often what you gain in time when buying from a production builder you give up on options. The closer a home is to completion the fewer design decisions you can make to personalize your home.

Location, Location, Location

You’ve heard it a million times. When it comes to real estate location is everything. When you buy from a production builder the decision about which homes go on which lots has already been made. So if you want a smaller or mid-sized home on a large lot, for example, you may be out of luck.

When you build a custom home you can choose the perfect lot in any neighborhood – not just in the primary neighborhoods where builders build.

When It’s Time to Sell

Typically a production builder builds hundreds of homes within one neighborhood based on a limited number of floor plans. Production builders often offer fewer (if any) customization options. That means that when it’s time to sell your home there may be several other similar homes for sale in your neighborhood – maybe even the exact same floor plan.  

When you build a custom home you’re less likely to face the competition of having the exact same floor plan for sale in the exact same neighborhood when it’s time for you to sell.

At Whitestone Custom Homes, we offer something for everyone. We offer available inventory if you need a home quickly and we also offer dozens of floor plans that you can build or modify. For more information about building with Whitestone Custom Homes visit a Model Home or contact us.

January

Categories: News | Posted: January 17, 2017

January is normally pretty sleepy. Not so this year. Can’t put our finger on it, but there is an optimism in the air. I believe consumers think things are settled and feel pretty good about the future.

The Basics of Successful Home Design

Categories: Building a Custom Home, Custom Home Design Ideas, WhiteStone | Posted: January 17, 2017

Designing your new home is a little like predicting the future. Often, couples come in, or families, and as we start the design process and mapping out a floor plan, I start to see cracks in the armor. The husband wants this, the wife wants that, one kid wants this and another wants that.

What it boils down to is that a lot of people don’t know what they want, period. It’s a little like being a kid in a candy store; there are so many options nowadays, not just in bedrooms and kitchens, but in accents, accessories, bells, whistles, landscaping and layout, that folks just start grabbing what looks good without a feel for how it all might fit together. That’s a great recipe for designing a home today that you may hate a year from now!

Our job then, is to help them understand not just the aesthetics of their various single design choices, but how they all fit together. And that’s the basics of successful home design.

Getting it Down on Paper: Starting with a Vision

The process of your home design begins quite simply, but realistically; in black and white. Using the Concierge Form we discussed in earlier chapters, we begin to make your dreams real by asking you to explain them. This is a breakthrough process for many clients who may know what they think they want, but only really drill down to specifics when they’re forced to.

Remember, building a home is a family affair. We encourage you to include the whole family, including everyone who will be living in the home, to help design it. This can take the form of you and your spouse filling out the concierge form before discussing it with your kids, asking your kids to help you fill it out or, in certain cases, handing every family member a concierge form, or at least a blank sheet of paper, and letting them know exactly what’s involved in the process.

This is a real opportunity for each family member to get down in writing what they want. This way, everybody should be happy, and more importantly, they’ll know upfront what the home will look like. This way nobody can complain—spouse, child or mother-in-law—nor will they be able to complain once the house is complete!

This will help everyone in the family make their voice heard when it comes to what they want…

 

  • In the living room;
  • In their bedroom;
  • In the garage;
  • In the front yard;
  • In the back yard;
  • In the loft/Game room;
  • In the outdoor cooking/living area;
  • In the pool area;

 

What’s interesting about this process is that it often makes the planned home real for my clients. I can see them getting excited about fixtures and faucets and features and as they begin to envision what their new home might look like, it’s almost like they get a new spring in their step.

My clients are motivated to build anyway, but this really brings it all together in a way that is both purposeful and visual. They can see the dream becoming a reality, and few feelings compare.

This process makes way for a clear and well-defined path for them to follow. Now, rather than just seeing a head full of unrelated pictures or picturing a meandering, curving mass of confusion, the line is straight and clear.

It’s time consuming to consider every room, all the variables and whittle down your choices. Brick or slate? Tuscan design or southwestern ranch style? Loft or Full Bonus Room? Hilly or flat? Game room or three car garage? These choices do take thought, time and even discussion, but as I like to say, clients evolve into “partners” in the home design and the process does require this kind of investment to pay off.

An Eye for Design: The Best of Both Worlds

Our sales staff is architecturally trained to be able to help our clients’ dreams become a reality. I like to call them “translators,” in addition to their other technical skills, because I often hear them listening to a client’s rambling explanation of some floor plan or feature or accessory they’ve seen in a neighbor’s house, or from the road, or in a magazine and magically our designers will not only be able to show it to them, but either draw it up on the computer or show them a sample of what it might look like in their home.

That’s why the concierge form and several of the other requirements we ask for—magazine clippings, sample floor designs, web links and other visual cues—are so important. The more information you bring to us to express your vision, the closer our designers can get to making that vision a reality.

Having designed dozens of homes in a variety of styles, we have a vast catalog of existing floor plans, designs and features that we can adapt to the client’s specific needs. So, building on the concierge form, our designers can blend the existing with new. This gives clients an even clearer vision when they can begin to see the house take shape, not just on paper but in living color, on screen, in print or in 3-D models—or even existing homes.

There is nothing like seeing a really great home, floor plan or design and enlisting a team of professionals to help you customize and personalize it for your individual needs.

A little bit of this house, a smidge of that floor plan, a garage here, a loft there, the landscaping this way, the lighting that way, and accent by accent, room by room, your house becomes a custom home.

Needs Vs. Wants: Where the Rubber Hits the Road

The next part of the process delves into separating what you want from what you need. We’re Americans; we all want everything. More toppings, more cheese, double-size it and add sprinkles, if you please.

But when you keep in mind that each element of your home design not only affects how the house fits together but also costs more, we get down to the nitty-gritty: What do you want and what can you really afford?

Here is where the design process gets real for a lot of people, because we still want to create a dream home for them, but we want to do it within the limits of their personal, professional and financial reality.

Yes, a built-in outdoor kitchen with stainless steel fixtures, mini-bar and dorm fridge. Resort style pool and camouflaged rock speakers is what every red-blooded American homeowner wants, but do they need it? Will it fit with the rest of the house design? Will the added cost of that luxury affect the size of, say, the garage or the den or the guest room or even the pool? Will it mean the difference between an outdoor kitchen and a pool?

Here is where involving your family, and the design team, as well as compromise and lively discussion can help. We don’t rush this process, but we do keep it moving for your benefit. We recognize that both the wants and needs are real to the client, so we generally take a week or two to really fill out these forms, gather these pictures, troubleshoot these issues, present the pros and cons of each feature until the client can see the forest for the trees and make clear, rational, realistic decisions.

Now we’re really cooking!

 

There is more to this. Next week i will finish up on this topic.

Building a Custom Home: 3 Ways to Find the Perfect Floor Plan

Categories: Building a Custom Home | Posted: January 17, 2017

Building a custom home

One of the best things about building a custom home with Whitestone Custom Homes is that you are in complete control. We think there’s no one better than you to design the home that’s the right fit for your family and your lifestyle. That’s why we offer an almost unlimited number of ways to design and build your dream home.

Take choosing a floor plan for example. We make it simple with three different ways to find or create the perfect plan for your home.

Here’s how:

Choose an Existing Floor Plan

One of the best ways to begin the process of designing a floor plan is to browse existing floor plans for ideas. At Whitestone Custom Homes we feature dozens of custom home floor plans on our website so you’re sure to find a design that fits. Easily sort plans by size or number of bedrooms needed. Some plans even include photo galleries to give you more ideas and inspiration.

Modify an Existing Floor Plan

Have you discovered a floor plan (from our list or somewhere else) that’s close to what you’re looking for, but not quite right? We can modify any existing floor plan to make it work for you. Expand or add rooms, move walls, turn a kitchen peninsula into an island with seating for six. Simply bring any plan to us and our team will work with you until your floor plan is perfect.

Create Something Completely New

Sometimes you have an idea in your mind and nothing else will do. We get it. That’s why we offer completely custom design build services to take your dream home from idea to reality. Even if you only have a few ideas in your mind and you’re not sure how they all fit together, our expert team can help you develop a design plan that works. In fact, many of our customers tell us that our team is able to make recommendations they never even thought of!

What’s best for you? Visit a model home location and talk to a friendly, knowledgeable team member who can help you get started. You can also request a private appointment to discuss your vision for your new home. Simply contact us today.

Custom Home Builder reviews: Meet 3 Whitestone Homes Customers

Categories: Building a Custom Home | Posted: January 12, 2017

Custom home builder

Choosing the right builder to build your dream home can feel a little like rolling the dice. How do you know if a builder is reputable? After all, a home is one of the biggest investments you will make in your life. Even if a builder gives you a great first impression during your initial meeting, how do you know you’re making the right decision?

One of the best ways to learn more about a builder’s history of success is to talk to customers who have already designed and built a custom home with that builder.

That’s why we’re introducing you to three Whitestone Custom Homes customers. Each one has a different story and wanted something specific for their new home. Learn more about their stories and their experience building with us.

Empty Nesters Live Out Their Dream

Sherry Davenport and her husband had always dreamed of living in the Hill Country. So when they became empty nesters they decided to make their dream come true. There was just one problem. Despite looking everywhere, they could not find the house that felt like home. Sherry had almost given up until she discovered Whitestone. After meeting with the team and reviewing plans, Sherry said she felt, “100% sure that I had made the right decision,” in choosing Whitestone Homes. Watch the video to learn more about Sherry’s story.

Family Finds New Fun

When the Hancocks made the decision to sell their home after 16 years it was a difficult decision. They loved their existing home and spending time together as a family in the backyard pool. But once they saw a Whitestone Custom Homes model they instantly fell in love with the home that felt both grandiose and comfortable for their family. We even worked with the Hancocks to have a pool installed during construction so they were already swimming in their new pool on move in day. “We’re very proud of this home and it’s with great joy that we’ve been able to show off the house we’ve built,” said John Hancock.

Watch the video to learn more about their story.

Ex-Military Builds First Home

The words “custom home” may conjure up visions of million-dollar homes, but that isn’t always the case. After 30 years in the military and moving from one rental to another, Patrick had a good idea of what he wanted when he decided to buy his first home. He didn’t need something grandiose, he simply had a clear vision for his home and did not want to compromise. After considering many different builders Patrick decided on Whitestone custom homes and he is now thrilled with his new home.

Watch the video to learn more about Patrick’s story.

What’s your story, and how can we help you build a home that you’ll love? Contact us for more information about our services or to discuss your vision for your new home.