What to Consider When Building a Custom Home

Memorial Village Traditional | Frankel Building Group

Here’s How to Get Started in the Custom Home Building Process

It should come as no surprise that a lot goes into building a custom home. After all, in a truly custom home, nothing is predesigned, preselected or pre-anything, really. As a custom homebuyer, you will be faced with hundreds of options coming at you all at once, but don’t call your battle dragons just yet, Daenerys. 

Rather than dragging your feet with decision after decision by yourself — such as finding a lot (but then discovering it’s not buildable), finally getting the piece of land under contract, determining your budget, actually designing your home and then making change orders — you’ll find that the most efficient path to moving in your home is with a custom home builder. 

Regardless if you build with us, there are a number of steps in the custom home building process you must think through — such as land acquisition, soil tests, permitting, style guidelines and more. Whether you’re just beginning to consider building custom or you’ve been cutting clippings for your seventh vision board, let’s discuss those steps, and how you can begin the process today. 


Finding Land to Build Your Custom Home

Memorial Palladian backyard

While a significant portion of time is spent on the actual design and construction of your home, the first step in this entire process is to find a lot to build your house on. Why? Location determines the parameters and limitations of your custom home — structurally and aesthetically. 

Let’s take an example from our hometown of Houston. If you want to live in the Houston Heights, a historic district in northwest Houston, you must design your home according to the neighborhood’s historic district design guidelines that were developed by the City of Houston. Oftentimes, if you’re planning on building in a historic district such as The Heights, there will often be design guidelines (or restrictions depending on your perspective) that your architecture team must follow when designing your home and floor plan. 

In addition, the quality of the land itself can affect how you build: zoning, wetlands and septic connections are all factors in the design-build process down the road. 

This is why it’s so important to hire an architect or building professional to ensure the land you’re about to buy is viable for what you’re envisioning. Architects can evaluate a piece of land and tell you the design advantages and restraints of the land. Here are some of the questions we ask ourselves and clients when considering a piece of land (which also affects the price of the property): 

  • How big is the lot? 
  • Are the utilities already available? If yes, is the existing plumbing dated and does it need updating?
  • Will your builder need to demolish an existing home or structure?
  • Are there zoning issues?
  • How is soil quality? 
  • Is the property at an include or sloping?
  • What’s the average home value in the neighborhood?
  • How close will the neighbors be?
  • Are there enough old trees to shade the yard and home? 
  • What is the style of the other homes in the neighborhood? 


Designing Your Dream Home & Developing an Architectural Program

A 2D rendition of a custom home built by Frankel Building Group

After you know what piece of land you’ll be building on, now comes the fun part: Designing your dream home. The options are literally endless. That’s why finding an architect and developing an architectural program, a list of goals you want your home to achieve, is crucial. 

When creating your custom home, go big and go uniquely yours! This is the chance to make your home unique to your family and lifestyle. Are you a wine connoisseur? Add a wine room or wine wall that cradles your best Bordeauxs. Don’t skimp during this step, as you can always scale back if needed due to land restrictions, timelines, budget, etc. 

Here’s what we recommend considering when planning your luxury home: 

  • Identify what works and what doesn’t work in your existing home. Think about your daily routine, and what you love the most about it. Love sitting outside on the patio drinking sweet tea with your family and friends? This is important for the designer. Now, think about what irritates you: The kids and your pets keep getting dragging dirt in the house? That’s a design feature in the form of a mudroom!
  • Research design styles. Did you know that modern and contemporary are two completely different styles? In addition to viewing our gallery of custom homes, look up on Google different design styles and pick two or three that interest you. The five main design styles we build are traditional, transitional, contemporary, European and modern. 
  • Compile design ideas and architectural elements. Once you determine the style you like, scroll through Houzz or Pinterest and compile a set of features you’d like to include in your home (i.e. yoga room, wine cellar, media room, etc). You can even go old fashion and pick up a copy of Architectural Digest and tear out styles you’d like to model in your own home. 
  • Separate the needs from the wants. Now that you have identified what works and what doesn’t, your preferred design style and favorite design ideas, let’s separate all of these things into two categories: wants and needs. If you have 1,000 bottles of wine, you need a place to store them. However, you might not need that second-story balcony but would love to have it if possible. For each item, ask yourself, “If I didn’t have it, would I miss it?” Then, you know your answer. 

There you have it: the building blocks of your dream home! However, we admit the number of options can be a bit overwhelming. That’s where designers and architects comes in. These ladies and gents are trained in refining your vision and turning into a 3D format. 


Building and Constructing Your Custom Home

Bellaire Transitional kitchen

After you approve your custom design, it’s time to start building your home! Well, not really… 

During this transition phase from design to build, your builder typically will handle the homeowner’s submission and permitting. We do this to ensure that nothing delays your build such as issues with the city. This phase is much easier on your end, but there are a few considerations you must be aware of: 

  • Too many change orders could delay your build. Almost always, you’re going to want to make changes to your home’s design after approval and well into the construction phase; it’s perfectly normal! However, if you’re having too much trouble making final selections in this phase, it might delay the construction. 
  • Excellent communication with your builder avoids headaches. “Lost in translation” is a famous saying (and a critically acclaimed film) for a reason. Sometimes, there is a disconnect between construction and design. Moreover, there might be a disconnect between you, the homebuyer, and the designer, which then the project manager has to relay, which then affects the general contractor. You start to see how things can get jumbled fairly quickly. That’s why having direct, open-line communication and liking your builder’s communication style are critical to avoiding headaches (if any) down the road. 
  • Will your new home be energy efficient? Besides being more environmentally friendly, LEED-certified homes can save you some serious bucks. If you’re interested in building green, it’s important to find a builder who builds green. These buildings, which use specific building materials, offer a multitude of benefits, including:
    • Better air quality for your family (fewer allergens)
    • Better return on investment (higher resale value)
    • Better water efficiency (lower water bill)
    • Better energy efficiency (lower electric bill)


Your Custom Home Is Complete! Now what?

Memorial Modern Estate breakfast nook

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the custom home building process AND this article. Now that you’re homes complete, what’s next? There can’t possibly be another consideration after all of this, right? Well, turns out there are a couple more things you should consider as a custom homeowner: 

  • Home care. Caring for your home after it’s built is just as important as designing and constructing it. Home care — such as generator maintenance, stucco washing, roof cleaning and pool maintenance — ensures that your home will continue to look as good as it did on move-in day. 
  • Warranty. Life happens. Things break. Having a warranty on your home ensures that if something does happen to break, you’re covered and won’t be surprised with a $5,000 bill for a new HVAC in the middle of August. We’re sweating just thinking about it. 

We admit these considerations only scratch the surface of the hundreds of decisions you must make when designing and building a custom home — but that’s the fun part! While the custom home building process may appear laborsome, the ability to choose every single detail in your home is an unforgettable experience and something unique that you can always treasure.