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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.

Custom Home Design Trends in 2017

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 10, 2017

Custom home design trends

Remember shag carpet, tiny bedrooms, and even smaller closets in the home you grew up in? Thankfully, home design is constantly evolving over the years. Advances in technology have changed our lives, but it has also changed the materials and construction process that we use to build homes. That means that things that weren’t even possible just a few short years ago are now in demand. This isn’t just about drop zones and tech centers, it’s also about the entire design of your home.

 

Here are just a few trends that we expect to see more of in 2017.

Walls of Windows

Thirty years ago a wall of windows would have meant sky high energy bills… they just weren’t practical. Today, with advances in energy efficient construction, we are seeing more customers choose oversized windows to maximize views and create a dramatic focal point for a formal living area, great room, den or master suite.

 

 

Flex Rooms

Thirty years ago the trend was to wait until the kids went to college to turn the extra bedroom into an office, craft room, guest suite, home gym or even storage. Today’s trend is to incorporate a flexible room like this one that can be used for a variety of purposes. Best of all, flex rooms can change as your needs change. A play room today could become a teen den tomorrow and a guest suite later on.

 

 

Outdoor Rooms

Thirty years ago an outdoor room may have been a swing set, a barbeque and perhaps a pool. It was a place to eat hot dogs and watermelon. Today’s outdoor rooms are much more sophisticated. Outdoor rooms often have “zones” similar to a home’s interior. This can include a full kitchen with breakfast bar for casual meals, a covered seating area for more formal dinners, and a fire pit area for after dinner conversation.

 

What’s the big trend you envision for your dream home? Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your vision for your new home, or to tour our available homes.

Good Times

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 23, 2016

Happy New Year. Home are expensive. We know that. That is not going to change. The great news is prices are normalizing in new home construction. Oil prices are down which has brought tons of labor back into our market. This is going to keep price increases to a minimum. Interest rates are still historically low but the FED is raising rates. If the GOP wins, i guess they will raise rates even more. If there were a better time to buy, i don’t know when it would be.

Inspections

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 24, 2015

During the construction of a new home, a professional builder is responsible for juggling a variety of inspections to ensure that a new home matches our client’s vision, meets agreed upon quality standards, is on schedule and complies with applicable building codes.

Customer Walk-Throughs. In addition to the final client walk-through before the close of escrow, we also schedule walk-throughs with our homebuyers during construction. These tours provide both parties with an opportunity to discuss the progress of the home in a very tangible way. As a result, homeowners feel more connected to the construction of their home and more confident in our abilities.

Client inspections breed confidence about a home’s value because they can see how their home was built and what it contains. We believe it better prepares them to take care of their home and provides a comfortable platform for our clients to communicate any concerns to us.

Government Inspections. Building permits are required for every new home built today. A permit is issued only after the local building department makes sure that the plans meet the building codes for a variety of issues, including occupant health, safety, and in some cases, energy efficiency.

At certain points during the construction process — for instance, once the structural frame has been completed — a call is made to schedule an inspection with the building department. The building inspector comes to the house and meets with the builder’s site superintendent. Together, they walk through the project to confirm that the new section of the home has been constructed according to the previously approved plans and that all work complies with the building codes.

Most often the inspector finds something that needs adjustment. Remember that is their job to find things. It doesn’t mean the job is not of quality job, but shows the commitment the inspector and Whitestone Custom Homes has to being open to new inspectors and anything it takes to produce a quality job. When the house is finished, the inspector’s final approval prompts a Certificate of Occupancy (or CO) that allows the homebuyer to close escrow and move into his or her new home.

Internal Inspections. In addition to the necessary, on-site inspections by the building department, we often conduct inspections of our own during construction, based on standards and expectations we’ve established as a company.

The most important of these internal inspections happens just before our buyers move into their new home. At that time, members of our staff tour the house to make sure systems and products (such as the furnace or dishwasher) are working properly and that there are no missing or misaligned finishes (such as switchplates or door casings). That process leads to the creation of a to-do list, often called a punch list. Items on the punch list are typically satisfied before the homeowners formally tour the house with the builder. This is the last step prior to the homeowners occupying their new home.

We welcome inspections of all kinds for several reasons. First, we hate surprises. We want to eliminate any issues or missing pieces prior to the close of escrow. Also, we want to spend time with our clients to demonstrate and explain the home’s various systems, point out key features, and educate them about the proper maintenance of their new house. Finally, we make these efforts so that our buyers are satisfied that we’ve delivered what we promised and met or exceeded their expectations.

Internal External Inspection. In the county, there are no building inspections. We hire and pay for an independent inspector to walk the home prior to sheetrock and at completion. This is an extra pair of eyes to insure quality home building.

 

Cabinet Trends

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 19, 2015

As a professional builder, we keep our eyes on emerging trends in the housing industry, from new structural materials and energy-saving systems to interior finishes.

One of the big trends we’re tracking—and accommodating for an increasing number of our homebuyers—is the use of cabinetry in a greater variety of rooms and areas in the house. No longer are cabinets just for the kitchen, bathrooms, and perhaps the laundry area. We’ve seen and installed them in outdoor and secondary kitchens, closets, wine rooms, dining areas, butler’s pantries, home theaters, game rooms, and other spaces where storage is a practical necessity. Beyond their practical value, attractive cabinets are a worthy aesthetic addition, as well.

Cabinet suppliers, especially those of manufactured products (as opposed to site-built units), have responded to this broader demand with features and finishes that fulfill specific functional needs and stylistic tastes.

For example, cabinet catalogs display a wide variety of components, including wine bottle and glass racking systems, dedicated storage for CDs and DVDs, cabinets to display—or hide—audio and home theater components, and even electronic hardware to raise and lower flat-panel televisions from the surface of a cabinet. In the kitchen or master bath, garage-like roll-up doors conceal unsightly countertop appliances, while other cabinets with glass fronts and built-in lighting highlight fine china, glassware, or even sculpture.

Suppliers have become hip to the outdoor kitchen trend by creating cabinet systems and finishes that better withstand the elements. No longer limited to stainless steel boxes and fronts (although that look has a certain appeal and durability), outdoor cabinets are either engineered with a polymer additive to look like natural wood or finished with coatings that adequately protect natural wood from weather and use.

In addition to improved function, cabinets now offer more variety in their style. Manufacturers offer a wide range of panel fronts, ranging from intricate and ornate designs to simple flat door and drawers that evoke a contemporary feel. They also offer more finish options, from dramatic paints and cozy glazes to stains that highlight natural wood grains.

One recent design trend combines different materials in the same cabinet. For example, a center pane of glass in a cabinet front could be framed with natural maple trimmed around the outside with a brushed metal rim. Another design approach uses one color for the perimeter cabinets of a kitchen and a complementary color for the center island.

These and other treatments allow us to offer unique cabinets to our homeowners, cabinets that are customized in both appearance and function. The cabinets that used to be mere “storage” have been transformed into furniture-quality fixtures throughout the home.

Framing

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: December 5, 2014

One of the most exciting and Fun parts of  construction of a new home is the structural framing stage. It is the time when two-dimensional plans take on three-dimensional shape. As floors, walls, and a roof rise from the ground, the owners can envision the finished home and walk through its spaces.

As a professional builder, we are constantly looking for superior ways to build. The framing stage affords several opportunities to construct a home faster and within the budget without sacrificing the home’s quality. In fact, the new techniques for framing actually improve a home’s structural integrity, performance, and durability.

Here are just a few of the methods and materials we consider for this stage of construction:

Engineered lumber. Like advanced framing, engineered lumber uses less wood to build a better structure. Engineered lumber is made from strands or chips of wood which are reassembled with glue, heat and pressure into large beams and I-shaped sections. Tough and stable, engineered lumber framing components allow us to span the longer distances common in popular open floor plans and high ceilings. Because of their strength, we can use fewer lengths of engineered lumber. Thus, the quality of the house is increased simultaneously with a reduction in labor costs. Because these products are frequently made from smaller and sustainably grown timber resources, instead of old-growth trees, they are more environmentally attractive, as well.

Panels and trusses. For decades, quality builders have used roof trusses (premade sections of the roof’s frame) to build houses better and faster. The same technology is now increasingly applied to floors and walls, with similar benefits. A house framed with panels and trusses is a truly amazing sight, seeming to spring into existence overnight. Furthermore, as skilled framing labor becomes more difficult and expensive to find, factory-built and quality-controlled panels and trusses allow us to create unique spaces and forms almost impossible with traditional framing techniques. Finally, even more than advanced framing and engineered lumber, these components reduce our waste stream significantly and leave a clean job site during what can be a very messy stage of construction.

Despite appearances, homes today are built quite differently than they were even a decade ago. Nowhere is that more evident than in the various advanced, engineered, and factory-built framing components and techniques now at our command. These systems allow us to build more efficiently and to a higher level of quality than traditional “stick” framing, delivering new homes that perform as promised to meet the needs and expectations of our owners.

 

Thanks Whitestone Custom Homes

Designing for Cost

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: September 6, 2014

This is an piece from my book. For more information contact me for a free copy of my electronic book. tr@whitestonehomes.com

After the concierge forms have all been filled out, the dreams turned into something more and more resembling reality, our design firm can begin creating what we call “working drawings.” These begin to flesh out the actual design of your house, in language that contractors and building professionals can understand.

At this stage, we can begin to put the cost of the home into clearer focus for you, going room by room to determine what each team will be responsible for, providing estimates and blending it all together on a cost-by-cost basis.

Our goal in the working drawings is to create a balanced design that blends what you want and need with what is realistic in terms of your budget, lot-size, materials, projected costs, etc. In this, we strive to meet what we call “a majority” of your needs. We’d love to get you everything you want and even everything you need, within reason.

It is the “within reason” where compromise is typically necessary. Then again, if compromise is good enough for Bill Gates, Tiger Woods and Frank Lloyd Wright, well, we all should feel a little better about that by now, shouldn’t we?

 

Prices are going up!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: August 20, 2014

The price of new homes is going up quickly. The price of new lots is crazy high and not going down. I swear every week we get price increases from our vendors and subs! One day interest rates will go up too. The recession was the best time to buy a home if you could. The past is the past. Now would be the next best time. We have entered a new era. The prices are high, but at least the interest rates are low.

To Build, Buy New, Buy Used Or Don't Move?

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: June 7, 2014

Chapter 2:

To Build, Buy New, Buy Used Or Don’t Move?

 

 

 

 

Not everyone is meant to build their own home. I frequently see clients walk into our showroom and, within minutes, I can tell they’re not really good candidates for future home builders.

Maybe they’ve heard about how “great” home building can be from a friend or family member, or maybe their neighbor just built a home and they were impressed with how it looked. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to get excited about building a custom design home, but the reality is often very different from the “dream.”

Many people want to build a home for emotional reasons; and that’s fine. We’ve already talked about how exciting it is to build your own home, to see your dream come to reality. But, a lot of folks can’t see past the dream, that illusion they have of what it means to build a home, and I can tell as soon as I start talking to them that they’re just not ready for the financial, emotional and physical commitment required to turn a dream into a dream home.

 

Leave Your Options Open

 

The question you have to ask yourself is, “Can I commit?” Not everyone can. Again, why would a custom home builder dissuade you from building a custom home? I’m not! But, I want to work with people who are ready, willing and able to make that commitment to the process of building a home, not just the emotion that makes them say, we should build something.

Building a custom home is not the only game in town. Never was and never will be. You have options; several of them. The way I see it, in fact, you have four choices when it comes to your home:

 

  • Build: You can build a new home from scratch, which is what we’ll be talking about in this book.
  • Buy New: You can buy a new home that no one has ever lived in before.
  • Buy Used: You can buy a home someone has lived, either directly from them or a Realtor.
  • Don’t Move: Finally, you can stay put.

 

Naturally, some of these options are more glamorous than others. Let’s revisit a few:

 

Buy New

 

Buying a new home has a lot of great benefits, including that wonderful “all new” factor that means you won’t have to turn right around and rip out the carpet or replace the air conditioner or fumigate the kids’ rooms. On the other hand, it’s “new,” not “custom new,” so you still have to abide by what the original designers built “for” you, not exactly “with” you.

 

 

Buy Used

 

Then, there’s buying a used home, one that could be five, ten, or fifty years old. Some people love to buy used homes, fix them up, work on them during all of their spare time and make the home an ongoing project. It’s a project for them, much the same way building a custom home is a project for my clients.

Others see buying a used home as a way to still get out of their rut, move into a new neighborhood, or maybe even get “more home for their money,” without the added expense of a custom or new home.

Oftentimes, buying a used home is the cheapest of these four alternatives, save from staying home. Materials, technology, property, workmanship, even craftsmanship was always cheaper once upon a time in the past than it is today, and so getting a great deal on an existing, “used” home can often satisfy those emotional cravings that make folks want to build a custom home.

Of course, used homes are not new and never will be again. It’s a lot like buying a used car. You could be buying a great deal… or a lemon. You simply just don’t know. You can take care to assure yourself that you’re getting a quality, “as is” home that won’t fall down around you the minute the former owners drive away, but a lot of people still aren’t comfortable with taking that risk. That’s why so many people buy new homes. They want warranties, new appliances, the latest energy technology, design- the works.

 

Stay Home

 

And lastly, I know it may not sound very “sexy” to simply “stay home,” but the fact is… timing is everything. If you’re not ready to build a new home, either for the expense, the compromise, the time, the energy or the collaboration, staying put could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars and months worth of headaches.

Making decisions like these – to build a home, buy new, buy used or stay home – will never actually be easy, but there is freedom in choosing. Once you go through the process of deciding which path to home ownership is the right one for you, you can settle in, be content and do the work that needs to be done to make that goal a reality.

But first, you have to decide.

 

New is Better; Custom New is Best!

 

Let’s talk straight: New homes, in my opinion, are better than older used homes simply because the advances in technology, materials, skilled labor, etc. You can start fresh.

 

Questions Lead to Answers: Prioritizing the Process

 

At Whiteside Custom Homes, we run a showroom, not a sales floor. And, I think that’s a pretty important distinction. By that, I mean we don’t expect you to walk in, buy something, and leave on your very first trip. In fact, we don’t want you to! Yes, we have salespeople and we want your business, but not at the cost of your peace of mind, or ours, for that matter.

I’ve spent so much time talking about the mentality of building a custom home because I believe it’s critically important to have the right mindset before you start; even before you decide to start.

Here are five questions to ask yourself before deciding to build a new home:

 

1.)  Do you have to be in control in all situations?

 

It takes a village to build a new custom home, and while you are most certainly the customer and eventual homeowner, you’re not necessarily the “boss,” if you know what I mean. The team we assemble at Whiteside Custom Homes includes knowledgeable experts, not just in the actual construction but the planning, organizing, implementation, design and facilitating aspects of such a significant project.

You will have people making suggestions on everything from flooring and landscaping to roofing and kitchen cabinets to faucets and all the way down to the nuts, the bolts and the pitch of the roof.

All of these people will be working for you, but they will all be working under their own steam and in conjunction with one other, meaning you won’t necessarily be in control of all situations at all times. Not everybody is okay with that, particularly when they’re spending new custom home dollars.

 

2.)  Are you excited by change or something new?

 

I always say that building a home is first an emotional decision, then a physical operation. That’s because the desire to build a new home doesn’t necessarily come from the smell of fresh lumber or the desire to put on a hard hat, but the stirrings of change within a particular individual, couple or family.

Building a new custom home is exciting and it should be exciting. You should be excited about it. It’s also about change- a lot of change. You may be going from 1,500-square feet to 4,000-square feet, from single story to two-story, from apartment or townhouse to a freestanding dwelling. These changes are adjustments and require a particular level of energy to commit to.

 

3.)  Do you need a new home?

 

Let’s shift from the emotional to the physical and ask, “Do you straight up need a new home?” This may seem like a simple question but the fact is many people who think they “need” a new home just want one. They want what their neighbors have, what their friends or other family members have, they want to keep up with the Joneses, or simply be the Joneses. That’s more want than need, and can lead to trouble when the design team start drilling down to details.

However, if the emotional want is matched with a physical need, then the motivation for building a new home becomes clearer and the process simpler. If you need a bigger house, a newer house, a smaller house, a different style of house, one with features you’ve always wanted and now can afford, such as a view of the setting sun, a better neighborhood for your family, a pool or garden or backyard barbecue outdoor living area, or lush landscaping, then the decision to build a custom new home simply makes more sense.

 

4.)  Are you a perfectionist? Do people actually *call* you a perfectionist?

 

No home is perfect; there is always compromise. If you are a perfectionist who can’t understand, abide or compromise, then the build is going to be long, arduous, unpleasant and, ultimately, unsatisfactory. Not because everyone didn’t try to please you, but because perfectionists simply can’t be pleased.

 

5.)  Do you and your spouse agree/argue most of the time? (FYI, most of the time is 80 percent.)

 

In the next section, I talk about your “building family,” but here I want to talk about your actual family, particularly your spouse. Do you argue most of the time? (And for the record, most of the time is 80 percent or more). If so, building a new home is probably not for you.

If you’re fighting under ideal conditions, before you start to design and construct a new home, then imagine what it might be like when the imported Italian Tile shipment is delayed by a few days, which sets back the schedule a week, which impacts the roofing team,  and the tile crew, creating a ripple effect that ultimately creates stress, challenge and delays for all involved.

Building a new home can be challenging for all couples, even the healthiest, friendliest and easiest going. But for those who already argue a significant portion of the time pre-construction, the challenges can turn the construction itself into a nightmare, which bleeds into your enjoyment of living in the home once it’s actually built. Are you prepared for that? Is your spouse?

Or, think of it this way; if there is a screaming match every time you and your spouse and your family go out to eat, how much more intense are those battles going to be every time a decision needs to be made on a new home?

 

I ask these questions of every client, whether formally or informally. Look, we’re a small family business with an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. That’s because we really do treat your family like our family, to the point where we, a). Want to see your dream of constructing a new home become a reality but, also, b). Don’t want to sell you on something you don’t really want, need or are ready for.

 

Building for Success: It’s a Family Affair

 

Think of building a home like taking a long trip with your extended family. Not just your wife and grown kids, but their spouses, in-laws, stepchildren, etc. Now add your travel agent!

Building a home takes time; from planning to conception to construction to completion, it’s a months-long effort full of ups, downs and compromises. What you want is a team, a “building family,” as we like to call it, that you’d actually like to go on vacation with for an extended time.

All parties need to go along to get along, to understand each other, to enjoy spending time with each other and, ultimately, to make important compromises based on price, technology, tools, skill, resources, etc.

I’m not saying we have to be best friends, but there should be a certain level of respect, understanding, and yes, companionship if we’re going to build a house together.

 

Parting Words

 

Listen, not every home builder is going to run you through a questionnaire to see if you’re up for the challenge of building a custom home with them. Most likely they assume you’re grown, sane adults who can handle the stress of building a custom home and, if not, you’ll either sink or swim along the way.

But, we build showcase custom homes and that requires a higher level of commitment from you and equally from us. We also consider you a part of the Whitestone family, and like all good family, we want to make sure you know what you’re getting into before you start the process, not midway through!

This is a book I want to be able to hand to my family; my brother or sister, parents or uncles, nieces or nephews. So, I’m speaking to you as I would speak to them. If I could tell them what I’ve learned after doing this for over thirty years, this is what I would say. I wouldn’t let my family rush into building a custom-designed home, so I’m not about to let you – my building family – rush into it, either.