You’re dreaming of a new home. You’ve been having conversations over meals, scouring the internet for images and inspiration, and maybe even picking some specific details, and dreaming sweet dreams. Good for you, that’s a great start! Your journey has begun, and your path is leading to a new threshold: the transition from dream to reality. So, what now? What should you be considering when building your new home? Here are a few tips to help you along your way:
Is it a primary residence or a vacation home?
A primary residence usually requires a more complex layout and functional considers for everyday use. The “must-haves” between a primary residence and a secondary home are often quite different. For example, you may be willing to sacrifice windows in your primary home to accommodate built-in mudroom cubbies in your primary home whereas you may prioritize the window views in a scenic vacation home, leaving a simple bench for shoes and things. Likewise, you may not need a family room and a living room in a second home where you would prefer multiple, separate gathering spaces in your primary home.
Where will it be located in Western Michigan?
Climate is a big deal. Even between Chicago and Michigan, there are considerations about what building materials to use based on the weather and terrain. Is your home located in the woods? That means you have to consider LOTS of leaves falling on the roof in the winter, nuts falling on the roof from critters, actual critters running across the roof, access to the house from the main road (dirt driveway, gravel, paved?), and strategic artificial and natural lighting since the trees will obscure some sunlight. This is not withstanding the weather jet stream – how much snow you’ll get on average, how heavy that snow is and how long it typically lasts. In Michigan, if it snows 3” in South Haven…just 15min down the road in Grand Junction, it will snow 10-12” during the same snowfall.
Building on climate, the utility systems in your building will be a big line item in your budget. You’ll need to think about where your utilities come from – Natural or propane gas? Central sewers or septic tank? Fresh water or well water? This knowledge will guide your decisions on what is needed. For example, we highly recommend hydronic radiant floor heating. This uses water for the heating tubes and gas for the boiler. Some systems allow you to use the boiler for the radiant floors and your domestic sink water. Some systems have a proprietary boiler for the radiant and you’ll need a separate water heater for your domestic water. Your utilities may require a water filtration and/or water softening system. If you have propane, there’s a big ol’ tank that has to be located somewhere nearby on your property. These are all very important considerations to address (and get right).
Choosing the right Architect for your custom home
Choose an architect that is familiar with your location climate. A home built in California has different design criteria than one built in Michigan. For example: that stunning cantilevered great room overlooking a vineyard with floor to ceiling windows spanning 500 linear feet may be a slice of heaven in California. In Michigan? It’s really, really cold…it will end up being a $350k sunroom. Choose an architect that has a robust schematic design process where you can be afforded multiple options to consider and ample time to work out different concepts with early pricing takeoffs from your builder. Pop quiz: what does time equal? That’s right: money. Talented architects cost money. Talented architects are worth their weight in gold. They are leaders and their leadership will transform your project experience. They will spend the time to guide you through the design process and they will be your true advocate during the construction process. All architects are NOT made equal. Hire the good ones. Trust me: if you hire a low-bid architect, it won’t be long before you realize the value of the right architect was actually priceless.
Picking the a good local builder in Western Michigan
What’s more dangerous than hiring the wrong architect? Hiring the wrong builder. Builders are NOT a commodity, they’re an experience. Hire the good ones. What makes a good builder? Collaboration, communication, transparency, and craftsmanship. Your builder should be friendly. They should have strong examples of and references for their project management. Their pricing should be clear, easy to understand, and broken down by trade. Their prior work should be beautiful and on display.
What should you consider when choosing your builder?
Here are some more resources from our blog!