DESIGNING YOUR DREAM HOME. A Buyer s Guide to Building a Custom Home. Sekas Homes

DESIGNING YOUR DREAM HOME A Buyer’s Guide to Building a Custom Home Sekas Homes DESIGNING YOUR DREAM HOME A Buyer’s Guide to Building a Custom Home...
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DESIGNING YOUR DREAM HOME A Buyer’s Guide to Building a Custom Home

Sekas Homes

DESIGNING YOUR DREAM HOME A Buyer’s Guide to Building a Custom Home

407-L Church Street, NE, Vienna, VA 22180-4708 Phone: 703-594-7449 | Fax: 703-242-2324

Copyright © 2013 Sekas Homes, LTD.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior consent of the author.


Sekas Homes Table of Contents Introduction – About Designing Your Dream Home and Sekas Homes Chapter 1 – Choosing between a custom builder and a production builder Chapter 2 – Selecting a quality custom builder Chapter 3 – Building on your own lot vs. a lot the builder owns Chapter 4 – Where to spend your money Chapter 5 – Outlining your expectations for your home Chapter 6 – Working off of a plan vs. a completely custom design Chapter 7 – Choosing your needs vs. wants Chapter 8 – Everything you need to know about building a green home Chapter 9 – Preparing yourself for construction Chapter 10 – How to Avoid Problems During Construction Chapter 11 – Things to Check Before Your Builder Hangs Drywall Chapter 12 – Everything You Need to Know About Change Orders Chapter 13 – The Top Five Mistakes Homeowners Make Chapter 14 – Getting Your Home Ready Before You Move In Chapter 15 – How to Successfully Navigate the Home Closing Process Chapter 16 – What to Expect After You Move In 3



Introduction About Designing Your Dream Home and Sekas Homes

At Sekas Homes, we’ve been designing and building award-winning custom homes in the DC Metropolitan area since 1987. From the early stages of land development to infrastructure design to the final finishing touches, we are committed to making dream homes into a reality through every step of the homebuilding process. We have a commitment to the highest standards of craftsmanship and exceptional service, and our distinctive design and building techniques 4

incorporated into our homes is unparalleled. We have earned our reputation by continually producing outstanding results and paying close attention to each and every detail in our homes, and they are always built to reflect and satisfy the needs, wants, and budget of our homeowners. Unique characteristics and exquisite details are incorporated into each home to elegantly define our product and further enhance its reflection of the homeowner. Client satisfaction is the most

important aspect to everyone as Sekas Homes and it is the foundation upon which we have gained our outstanding reputation. Our eBook, Designing Your Dream Home, is an extension of our vast knowledge of the homebuilding process and answers a lot of the standard questions our clients have about our products, services, and how a custom home goes from dream to reality.



Chapter 1 Choosing Between a Custom Builder and a Production Builder

If you’ve been thinking about building a new home, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is choosing between a custom builder and a production builder. Both types of builders present their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you’re looking for in your new home. A custom builder, such as Sekas Homes, is one that caters to creativity and, in most cases, luxury. Custom builders do things such as: • Build on a lot you own or a lot they own. • Build one-of-a-kind custom homes—many custom home builders also offer a variety of floor plan options that can be built as-is or fully customized. • Build single-family homes. • Build a smaller volume of homes, therefore allowing them to spend more time and attention on each project. • Build high-end luxury homes. A production builder is one that produces all types of homes, fit for many different types of lifestyles. They do things such as: • Build on land they own—generally in communities. • Use stock floor plans that have minimal options and choices for customization. • Build all types of housing, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, etc. • Build a large volume of homes every year, including multiple immediate-delivery homes. • Build homes for all price ranges. 6

+ If you’re not sure which type of builder is right for you, ask yourself the following questions.

Questions to Consider When Choosing Between Custom and Production Builders Ask yourself…



1. Do I have a difficult time making decisions? 2. After I’ve made a decision, do I usually struggle with changing it? 3. Is my schedule so busy that I rarely have time for the things I enjoy? 4. Am I a perfectionist? 5. Can I handle things that are out of my control? 6. Do I recognize that things aren’t always perfect? 7. Is my family life stable enough to handle a lot of activity? 8. Do I enjoy an ongoing project that is subject to changes? If you answered “no” to the first four questions and “yes” to the last four questions, then you’re ready to build a custom home. However, if you answered “yes” to the first four questions and “no” to the last four, choosing a production builder is probably the best choice for you—and the one you’ll be the happiest with in the long run! Building a home with a custom builder can be very rewarding and can help you create the perfect home you’ve always dreamed of, but you need to make sure you’re in the right place in your life to make it a complete success.

Wrap-Up The most important thing is to carefully consider the decision to build with a custom builder or a production builder before you begin the design-build process. Building a custom home isn’t for everyone—it requires a lot of time and there are a lot of decisions that have to be made.





Chapter 2

Selecting a Quality Custom Builder Once you’ve made the decision between a custom home builder and a production builder, your next step is to select a custom builder. Choosing a reliable, quality home builder should be the first thing on your list when it comes to building a custom luxury home. You’ll be making many decisions throughout the home building process—paint colors, cabinet doors, tiles, etc.—but none of them will have a greater impact on your home’s outcome than the builder you choose.

Three Qualities to Look for in a Custom Home Builder There are three key qualities to look for when it comes to choosing a custom home builder: 1. Trustworthiness – In general, building a new home is one of the biggest investments you will ever make—and when you choose to build a custom home, there are bound to be bumps along the way. When choosing a custom builder, you need to be sure he is trustworthy—you want someone who is going to be working on your behalf. In fact, your satisfaction should rank among the builder’s top priorities. When you contact your builder, you need to feel confident that he will give you a straight answer, and if there’s a problem, you need to be able to trust that he will fix it.


2. Competency – Can your builder meet your every need from the beginning of the custom home building process until the very end? Does the company have a talented and experienced design team that can create a home that perfectly reflects your lifestyle, tastes, and needs? Is the builder surrounded by an efficient and professional team that can respond to your questions and needs in a timely manner? All of these questions are incredibly important when it comes to determining the competency of your builder. When you’re building a custom home, you need to be sure the builder can expertly handle every step of custom home construction from start to finish. 3. Reputation – Another important factor in choosing a custom builder is whether or not the builder has a reputation for excellence in the community and the industry. Has the builder won any awards or received any good reviews among previous homeowners and within the industry? Is the builder a part of any nationally or locally recognized organizations for home building? Oftentimes, how the builder is perceived by the industry and previous homeowners can tell you a lot about how that company will be to work with.


Wrap-Up Choosing a custom home builder is a big decision, and not one that should be taken lightly. Evaluate the trustworthiness, competency, and reputation of all potential builders before making your selection.



Chapter 3 Building on Your Own Lot vs. Building on a Lot the Builder Owns

Once you’ve chosen your custom builder, you’ll need to decide where you want to build your home. In general, you have two main options: building on your own lot or building on a lot the builder owns.

Building on Your Own Lot Most custom home builders, such as Sekas Homes, can build their own home plans or completely custom plans on individual lots that are owned by the customer. However, whether you already own the lot or you want to purchase one, it must meet zoning and building regulations before anything can be built. Your custom builder should be able to determine if the lot is suitable for building a home by assessing and testing the following, as necessary: • • • •

Building regulations and zoning laws Sewer and water lines Demolition and lot clearing costs Percolation tests

Ideally, these tests and assessments should be performed prior to purchasing the property because you don’t want to be stuck with a lot that is unsuitable for the home you want to build.


Building on a Lot the Builder Owns If you don’t already own a property, most custom builders have lots where you can create your custom home. These lots can either be individual parcels of land or spaces within a designed community where you can either use a luxury plan they’ve designed, customize their plan, or completely start from the drawing board. Lots owned by the builder will already be tested and assessed to ensure they meet all building regulations, zoning laws, and land tests to ensure they are a suitable location for construction.

Wrap-Up There are advantages and disadvantages to both options, but you must decide whether you want to spend the extra time researching lots and finding an ideal and suitable place to build or to select a pre-approved lot that the builder owns. 12


Chapter 4

Where to Spend Your Money in a Custom Home More than likely, building a custom home is one of the biggest (and more important) investments you’ll ever make. It’s important to know how to spend your money in order to get the most from your house. There are seven majors areas you need to consider when determining how to budget your money:

1. Location When it comes to your custom home, location is everything. You could build a beautiful home with amazing details and features, but if it’s on a subpar lot or in a bad location, you could be in real trouble—both in terms of resale and what’s available for your particular lot. In general, it’s worth spending the extra money for a prime location, and it makes your long-term investment much more sound.

2. Kitchen You’re never going to hear someone complain about the kitchen being too big, having too much counter space, or too many cabinets. In fact, the kitchen can be a deciding factor for most people when it comes time to resell your home—and if you’re not planning on reselling your home, putting money in the kitchen is still important. It’s an area of your home where you’re going to be spending a lot of time, and you want the design and space to be perfect for your lifestyle.

3. Family Room

Whenever possible, add more space to your family room—never less! It’s a place for your family and friends to congregate and spend time together, and you’re probably going to spend many hours watching movies, playing board games, or chatting over cups of



coffee. It’s always best to make the family room a little bigger than you think you’ll need.

4. Room Size Related to the family room size, be sure that the room sizes throughout the house are going to be suitable for your lifestyle. It’s much more difficult—and expensive—to change the size of a room after you’ve moved in as opposed to during the planning stages. Make sure each room is going to be able to accommodate any furniture and belongings that it’s going to hold.

5. Bathrooms Pay special attention to your bathrooms and included updated features in all of them— especially the master bathroom. These are not only going to improve your quality of life but also your resale value in the future.

6. Storage Never underestimate the value of storage in a home. Add walk-in closets, linen closets, builtin shelving, and storage rooms wherever possible. They’re going to make your life easier and add to the potential resale value of your home.

7. Professional Design When it comes to your custom home, there’s nothing you’ll benefit from more than consulting with a professional design team. They will be experienced architects and home designers who have helped create beautiful and functional homes, and they’ll know how to include all your important features into a smart, luxurious floor plan.

Wrap-Up When you invest your money in the right places in your home, you’ll benefit from both a beautiful high-end home but also an excellent resale value in the feature.



Chapter 5

Outlining Your Expectations for Your Home

At Sekas Homes, our primary goal is to build you a beautiful, functional custom home that meets all your needs and expectations. However, you can’t be sure your expectations are going to be met unless they’re fully outlined before construction begins—and it’s very possible you’re not 100 percent sure what your expectations are, other than a beautiful luxury home. To ensure your home is going to meet your expectations, schedule a one-hour private showing of a home your custom builder has recently built. Walk from room to room, inspecting the details and features of the house, and ask yourself, “If I were standing here a year from now and this were my custom home, would this meet my expectations?” Take a moment to carefully inspect the walls and finishes, understanding that there’s no such thing as a perfect paint job. Run your hands over the trim work and feel for smoothness—again, complete perfection is always going to be incredibly rare. Ask the builder to walk you through every room in the house, discussing what minor imperfections can be expected in any custom home, and continue to ask yourself in every room of the house if it would meet your expectations. This process is incredibly important when it comes to your overall satisfaction with your custom home because the last thing you want is to find out 10 months from now that you and your builder had differing expectations when it came to your custom home. You both need to be on the same page about what is and is not considered acceptable or possible in your final product so you can both have something you’re proud of. A quality custom home builder, like Sekas Homes, will always strive to meet and exceed your expectations whenever possible, but without knowing and fully outlining what those expectations are, that can never happen.

Wrap-Up Take the time to schedule a one-hour private meeting with your custom builder to walk through a recently built home. Work together to outline your mutual expectations for the project. 15




Chapter 6 Working Off a Plan vs. a Completely Custom Design

At Sekas Homes, we offer three main options when it comes to building a luxury home with us: 1. Selecting one of our award-winning floor plans 2. Choosing a floor plan and customizing it to suit you 3. Designing a completely custom plan There are different advantages to each option and one is most likely more suitable to your lifestyle, design preferences, and overall needs. We’ll compare your three plan options below:

1. Selecting a pre-made floor plan There is nothing wrong with a pre-made floor plan, especially one that is stunningly done and suits all of your needs. Our talented team of builders and designers has crafted many award-winning floor plans that are both functional and beautiful, and one of them could be absolutely perfect for you with no changes necessary. If that is the case, and you find a floor plan you love, this is the perfect option for you.

2. Choosing a floor plan and customizing it

Many homeowners find that the plan they like is just almost perfect—this is where working with a custom home builder will really start benefiting you. You can tell your design team what you’d like to change, add, or alter in the house to make it ideal for your lifestyle and needs, and they can work with you to seamlessly fit everything into the plan. With this option, you need to ensure you’re very careful with the “cutting and pasting” method—you don’t want to create your floor plan so that you have to walk through a bedroom to get to another one. Consult with your design team and work closely with the architect to make sure this sort of problem doesn’t occur. 17

3. Designing a custom plan Perhaps working off of a plan doesn’t suit you and you want to describe your ideas to an architect and see what they come up with. Perhaps you want your home to be truly one of a kind. Whatever you want, a custom builder can provide—given the lot you’ve purchased is suitable for your demands. However, keep in mind that designing a completely custom home will take a little bit longer and will require more of you than selecting a ready-made plan. Make sure you have the time and energy to commit yourself to this project. No matter which option you pick—using a plan, customizing, or starting from scratch— you’ll be able to create a home that is exactly what you’ve always dreamed of.


Wrap-Up Talk with your design team to figure out which floor plan option is right for you. If you choose a custom plan or a semi-custom plan, ensure you have the time and energy to work through the design process.



Chapter 7

Choosing Your Needs vs. Wants One of the most important things you are going to do during the custom homebuilding process is thoughtfully considering the difference between your needs and your wants. This can actually be a lot more difficult than it sounds because what is a need to one person in the family could simply be considered a want to another or vice versa. Take a game room, for example. Your spouse may consider a game room essential to your home and entertaining guests, while you simply think it’s a want. This is a crucial discussion for your family to have before your custom design begins so you know what, exactly, you want in your home. To ensure your conversation about your needs compared to your wants is productive and successful, follow our simple process. It takes less than 30 minutes to complete, and it can save you a lot of time, heartache, and, in the long run, money.

The Needs vs. Wants Plan

Step 1 – Independently of one another, you and your spouse should sit down and write down all of your dreams for your new home, including needs and wants. These ideas don’t need to be in any particular order. Step 2 – Rank your ideas, starting with #1 as the most important thing for your home. Continue ranking and try not to obsess whether something should be #7 or #8—just make sure #8 and #35 aren’t reversed. Step 3 – Once you have both ranked your items, compare the lists that you have created and see where there are similarities and differences. You should use your two lists to make a master list ranking your needs and wants in your home. Once you have this master list, you can meet with your design team to determine the cost of your dream home, including all of the things you and your family absolutely need. The master list is an extremely effective tool because it will help you outline what is and isn’t essential to your home so you can make the most of your budget.

Wrap-Up It’s fun to dream about your new home, but when you’re working on making it into a reality, creating a master list is crucial! Save yourself hours of deliberating by working on your needs vs. wants with your spouse.



Chapter 8 Everything You Need To Know About Building a Green Home


Many discerning homeowners today are concerned with more than just a beautiful home—they want their luxury homes to be energy-efficient and renewable too. At Sekas Homes, we have always been dedicated to building green homes and offering renewable energy options to our buyers. However, most buyers have questions about their green options and how to create a sustainable custom home while still maintaining the luxurious lifestyle they desire. Below we’ll answer some of the most common questions homebuyers ask us about building a green home.

What makes a home green vs. simply energy-efficient? Green building, or sustainable building, involves making environmentally responsible and resource-efficient decisions throughout the building process, including the design, construction, features, etc. Green building for sustainable housing has multiple components, which are generally defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—two of the largest components are energy efficiency and renewable energy.


What is ENERGY STAR? The ENERGY STAR program was created by the EPA and the United States Department of Energy to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. In order to earn an ENERGY STAR label on a new luxury home, home builders must incorporate efficient insulation systems, windows, and heating and cooling equipment into their custom home designs. Additionally, homebuilders should include lighting and appliances already certified by ENERGY STAR because that equipment has already been deemed to maximize energy use.

What green options do I have when building a custom home? Depending on your builder, you could have a number of options. At Sekas Homes, we offer the following green or renewable options for our homebuyers: • Solar panels • Solar-ready homes – this means we will install the wiring for solar power, so if you decide to install solar panels, your home will be ready • High-efficiency windows • ENERGY STAR certified GE appliances • High-efficiency hot water heaters, HVAC systems, and bath fans • Low-flow toilets and plumbing fixtures • Energy-saving foam insulation for exterior walls • Reflective roofing plywood, including TechShield Radiant Barrier • Programmable thermostats • And other renewable products and services It’s important to know what your green options are when you’re building a custom home—what your builder can and can’t provide. If you have questions about a particular green option you want in your custom home, speak up! Your builder should be able to give you the full scope of what can and can’t be done for your home.



Why should I invest in an energy-efficient home? Some green building practices, such as installing solar panels, can be costly upfront. So it’s important to understand what the benefits are for you and your home. Saving money – Homeowners today pay a lot for their electricity—and that price is only going to continue to rise over time. Investing in a green home, by doing things such as installing ENERGY STAR appliances or solar panels, allows you to take charge of your energy spending and opt out of electricity rate increases altogether. Helping the environment – One of the greatest benefits of designing a green, sustainable custom home is that you are undeniably helping our environment by reducing your carbon footprint. When your home uses less energy from power companies, you are significantly reducing the amount of greenhouses gases you produce. In fact, if you install solar panels, they do not emit any greenhouse gases to produce energy for your home. When you bring green aspects into your home design, you’ll not only benefit the air we breathe and our ozone, you’ll help save eco-systems! When you don’t need to mine for raw materials, there is no need to destruct forests and destroy eco-systems. This means we can help avoid tragedies like the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the destruction of the Boreal Forest in Canada, which created toxic by-product ponds large enough to be seen from space. Creating energy independence – When you install solar panels, you can help lead the path for energy independence because you won’t rely on a power company for your energy—you can create infinite free energy from the sun. This is seen as one of the greatest personal benefits of solar panels, but it encompasses more than that. Many wars have been fought over our increasing demand for fossil fuels, and installing solar panels is one step toward creating energy independence for you and our country. It allows people to be self-reliant for their energy use and completely avoid the politics and price volatility of the energy market.

Wrap-Up There are so many reasons to go green and a quality custom home builder like Sekas Homes can help you do it! Find out what sustainable options are right for you and your family.




Chapter 9

Preparing Yourself For Construction

It’s incredibly important that you and the builder are completely on the same page before construction begins—think of how much easier it is to notice and fix an error on paper rather than once it’s been built. The following checklist doesn’t cover every single item you should cover pre-construction, but rather the main things that are important to check before construction begins. 1. Check the location of all the rooms, windows, and doorways—including which way the doors swing and which doors will get locks 2. Check all locations of outlet, switch, cable, internet, telephone jack, etc. 3. Verify the location of light fixtures, such as chandeliers 4. Verify the fireplace locations, as necessary 5. Check the location of the washer and dryer 6. Check the height of all finished floors and porches 7. Verify the building materials being used throughout the house, including carpets, hardwood, tile, etc.—don’t forget to check the material being used for porches, decks, and patios 8. Check all bathroom and plumbing locations 9. Verify all hose bib and electrical meter locations 10. 11. 12. 13.

Check the location and grade of the driveway, walkways, and sidewalk Verify the locations of all of the heating and cooling equipment, indoors and out Check the drainage conditions of your lot are all correct If necessary, verify the location of the pool, the depth, and any necessary equipment that goes with it

Wrap-Up Go through this checklist and any other concerns you have. Don’t be afraid to ask your builder questions or to explain things that are unclear to you. Your builder is here for you. His or her goal is to build you your dream home, and you make the job much easier when you’re transparent about your concerns.



Chapter 10

How to Avoid Problems During Construction

In chapter 5, we discussed how important it is to outline your expectations with your builder before construction begins. This can help alleviate most, if not all, of the potential problems most people have during construction. In fact, all of the most common arguments homeowners have with their builders could have been solved with clear communication on both ends. Read through some of our examples of common problems that come up during constructions and how to solve them or simply avoid them altogether.

Problem #1: “You never completed my pre-drywall checklist, punch-out request, etc.!” No matter what stage of construction you’re in, from the very beginning until the very end, if there is a problem that needs to be addressed in your home, make a list with your builder that you can both sign off on. This is the safest and easiest way to ensure you both know what is expected of you and to get things completed—if you notice additional items that extend beyond the initial list, create a separate list for these items and sign off on this as well.

Problem #2: “This shouldn’t cost extra!” Whether you’re adding an additional recess light to the kitchen or changing the carpet in the guest bedroom, get any changes to your original plan in writing. That means they need to be clearly communicated with your builder and added into your contract—that way the builder can provide you with any costs that will be associated with that up front.

Problem #3: “But the subcontractor said it was okay!” This is always a frustrating problem for both the homeowner and the builder. If the homeowner gets something okayed by the subcontractor, only to find out that it can’t be authorized by the builder, it can lead to a lot of “he said/she said” misunderstandings. You should always communicate any questions, concerns, or changes with the builder.


Problem #4: “This house isn’t perfect!” Almost always, this comes down to a problem of expectation. In chapter 5, we discussed how important it is to outline your expectations about your home with your builder. If you don’t have an honest conversation with one another about what is and isn’t possible for your home, it can mean a lot of unnecessary problems down the line.

Problem #5: “My builder isn’t listening to me!” Avoid this problem by having regularly scheduled meetings with your builder to update the schedule, voice concerns, and discuss any items the builder needs in order to move forward. This creates a simple way for you and the builder to communicate.

Wrap-Up The key to avoiding almost any problem during the construction of your home is clear communication. Talk with your builder to outline your expectations and understand the process of building your luxury home.



Chapter 11

Things to Check Before Your Builder Hangs Drywall

Once drywall is hung, your house will really begin to take shape—but before you reach this stage, there are a few things you should check with your builder before drywall goes up. 1. Check the room dimensions with your builder. 2. Ensure that all the closets—including bedroom, hall, and bath closets—are in the correct place. 3. Check all light switch, outlet, cable, internet, and phone line placements. 4. Verify the door swings for each room, and check to see if they will interfere with any light switches or sockets. 5. Make sure all your light fixtures and ceiling fans are going to be in the correct location—especially things like recessed lighting, chandeliers, and wall lighting. 6. Check for light penetrations through the walls—particularly in places where the wires go outside and the pipes and vents exit the house. 7. Check that all water lines are secure. 8. Verify the placement of all cabinets. 9. Verify the layout of the kitchen appliances. Work through this checklist with your builder and voice any other concerns or questions you have at the time. There are a lot of things in your home that are going to be much easier to fix before drywall is hung.

Wrap-Up The pre-drywall checklist makes sure your home is ready to go to the next stage of construction. Be thorough and make sure your home is ready.




Chapter 12

Everything You Need to Know About Change Orders During the course of your home’s construction, there may be things in the plan that need to be altered from the original design specifications—these are known as change orders. There are many reasons why a change order could be put into place, including: • • • •

A building material is out of stock A new or better product has become available There are shipment delays Changes in selections occur—for example, if you’ve decided to switch your kitchen counters from quartz to granite

The reasons change orders could be needed are endless—and they are very important to your construction process. Change orders mean that every change in your home’s design are clearly described, documented, and signed off on by you and your builder. This means you’ll never have to say, “But I thought you said….” Some things that are in a change order include: • • • •

A complete and clear description of the change taking place A fully researched price How this will affect delivery time, if at all Signatures from you and the builder



How Does a Change Order Alter Your Construction Process Custom homes can be built with absolutely no change orders required—although this is rare!—or they can require hundreds of them. Whether your change orders are large or small, they will invariably cause a small bump in the construction process because some part of the work will need to be paused in order to be sure everything is moving in the right direction. If a change order is required due to a material being discontinued or extensive delays in the delivery, the builder may propose a different material in order to stay on schedule. So, in the end, it’s always our goal to keep your custom home’s construction on course so we can meet our delivery date; however, depending on the change order, that can’t always be the case. It will ultimately depend on what is being changed and how long that takes to put in place.

Wrap-Up In the end, the change order is there to protect both you and the builder. It allows you to make documented changes to your home and understand how each change will affect the price and delivery date of your home.



Chapter 13

The Top Five Mistakes Homeowners Make

One of the best ways to ensure your custom home building process is a success from start to finish is to understand what the best practices are for you as the home owner. Here are some of the top five mistakes we’ve seen homeowners make and how to avoid or fix them!

1. Choosing everything solely based on price Although there is a time and a place for proper budgeting and comparing prices, there are a few things you really shouldn’t try to cut corners on, including: • The lot you’re going to build on – remember: location, location, location! • Choosing a builder – oftentimes, when it comes to building a custom home, you’re really going to get what you pay for. Don’t choose a builder simply because it is the cheapest option—choose them because they are the best option for you. • The floor plan – don’t purchase a ready-made plan somewhere thinking it is going to save you money if the plan isn’t perfect for your lifestyle and needs! If you’re going to need to extensively change portions of the purchased floor plan to suit you and your family, it probably isn’t worth the money.

2. Taking on more than you can afford Conversely, you need to know what you can afford. Having a budget and sticking to it is incredibly important—just make sure you’re saving money in the right places. (See chapter 4 for more information about where to spend your money.)

3. Making design choices without consulting anyone There are a lot of people who are going to have opinions about the selections you make in your home—most importantly you and your other family members. But it’s also an excellent idea to talk to your builder, a designer, and/or a real estate professional before you make design choices for your home.


4. Giving directions to workers or subcontractors This is one of the biggest mistakes we see homeowners make during the course of construction. You should only speak with the construction manager or builder for your home—they are the only people who have all the information for your project. Subcontractors and other workers only have pieces of the puzzle, and they can give you incorrect or misleading information without intending to.

5. Misunderstanding the change order process Change orders are an important part of the home building process—especially for custom homes. There are bound to be things that you or your builder will want or need to change during the course of construction. In the previous chapter, we covered what change orders are and how they affect your


Wrap-Up If you avoid these five common mistakes homeowners tend to make, you’ll make your construction process easier and more enjoyable!



Chapter 14

Getting Your Home Ready Before You Move In As your custom home nears completion, there are a few things you need to do before closing. In general, we recommend completing the following checklist approximately three weeks prior to your closing date. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Put your homeowner’s insurance info effect. Confirm your walk-through date with the builder—this can be a tentative date. Call to schedule the electricity in your name upon move-in Activate your phone service Call to schedule the TV/cable hook-up from the cable company Schedule the water service in your name Schedule the gas service in your name, if necessary Call any other services you’ll need—including pool companies, lawn services, etc. Schedule service with a moving company, if necessary


Wrap-Up Doing all of these things before closing will help ensure your home is ready for you to move in upon completion.



Chapter 15 How to Successfully Navigate the Home Closing Process

Once your custom home is completed, the final step is the completing the closing process with your builder. This is the long-awaited day for homebuyers—it’s when your home is finally completed and you’ll be handed your keys. The months of planning and building have finally come to an end and you’ll be given critical information about your home. This is the perfect time to ask your builder any lingering questions you have about your custom home before you move in.


A Checklist for Your Closing Process Every custom home builder’s closing process will be a little different, but you can expect most of the basic processes Sekas Homes follows will be included: 1. Complete walkthrough – You’ll go on a final walkthrough of the home, going over the punch-out list and ensuring everything has been taken care of. 2. Home procedures and maintenance – You’ll be taught how to run and use the different systems of your home and what sort of maintenance is required for the home’s upkeep. This includes things like learning how to use the programmable thermostat, when to schedule furnace maintenance, locating the emergency water shut-off valve, etc. 3. Manuals and warranties – You should be given a comprehensive binder or folder of information for your home, including all the manuals and warranty cards for the various appliances and systems throughout your home. 4. Service information – You should also be provided with a list of all the subcontractors that worked on building your home. Whether it’s your heating, plumbing, or another home service repair, if a problem arises, you have the contact information and know who to call. 5. Keys – The final step of the home closing process is getting your keys and garage door openers. You’ll finally have everything you need in order to move into your new home.


Wrap-Up The closing process shouldn’t be complicated—you just need to be sure both you and the home builder have crossed every “T” and dotted every “I” along the way.



Chapter 16 What to Expect After You Move In You’ve finally made it to the best part of building a custom home—moving in! Once you’ve gotten settled in and started showing people around the beautiful home you’ve carefully designed, planned, and built, what sort of things can you start expecting in your home? Your home was built with an incredible attention to detail and expert craftsmanship, but no home is completely perfect. New homes will always include some minor issues like small cracks and the foundation settling. That’s because your home is comprised of thousands of unique components that were added over a long period of time, and small adjustments, settling, and cracks are all completely normal.


Here are the five most common issues new homeowners experience after a few months: Cracking Crown Moulding – this is an incredibly common issue (particularly in twostory homes) and there’s virtually no way around it. It occurs as your home acclimates to the different temperatures and humidity levels from running the AC and the heat, but it doesn’t mean there’s anything structurally wrong with your home. Thankfully, a qualified handyman armed with a caulking gun should be able to repair the cracks very easily. Grout Cracking – over time you may notice small cracks in the grout in the corners of your tub or in other tiled areas. Again, a qualified handyman with the right sealant can fix this for you—and the sooner the better because you don’t want any moisture to get into the cracks. Expanding and Contracting Hardwood – when you have professionally installed hardwood floors (as opposed to a pre-fabricated kit), your floors are going to be susceptible to minor cracks over time as the wood acclimates to your home and the varying temperatures. We recommend allowing the hardwood to continually expand and contract for about six months before you make any repairs—that way you can be sure your hardwood has fully settled in. Doors & Frames Adjusting – again, just like all the other areas in your home, the doors and door frames are subjected to the varying temperatures involved with living in your home, including the AC and heat. Minor adjustments should be able to fix any issues you’re having. Sidewalk, Driveway, and Garage Cracking – as concrete is subjected to different temperatures, it expands and contracts, meaning there is the possibility that it will crack. Typically, cracks in concrete don’t need to be repaired unless they are causing problems (such as different heights on either side of the crack). These five things are the most common issues homeowners run into a few months after moving into their new home, but it is by no means a complete list. Any time you have a more specific question about something in your home, you should contact your builder to find out the best course of action.

Wrap-Up Every home is subject to settling and adjustments as the materials become acclimated to the temperatures and humidity levels. These issues are usually very easy to fix and don’t mean that your home is defective.




Sekas Homes 407-L Church Street, NE, Vienna, VA 22180-4708 Phone: 703-594-7449 Fax: 703-242-2324