Considering a custom home? 5 things to keep in mind before building

Housing market still lacking in inventory, so custom-built homes a good option

Photo by Getty Images
Photo by Getty Images (Getty Images)

With the housing market still lagging in terms of inventory, many people are deciding to go the "building" route, in order to have everything they desire in a living space.

But what parts of the process should those interested in a custom-built home keep in mind?

Scott Frankel, co-president and principal of Houston-based Frankel Building Group, offered some advice, answering five key questions when it comes to building.

What are some advantages of custom-built homes?

The two obvious advantages are, you can have a place fully tailored to your likes and interests -- and items such as roofs, water heaters and windows won’t have to be replaced for years.

“The reason you go out and build a house is that you typically can’t find something that you like,” Frankel said. “If there was something out there that had everything you wanted, you would most certainly buy that. What we are doing is, we are offering an alternative to what’s not already there.”

What are the disadvantages?

Taxes and fees for permits often can be a nuisance and financial burden during custom builds, but the big disadvantage can often be the long process where things are constantly changing for a buyer.

“It can be very intimidating and from time to time, you may not know exactly what you are getting,” Frankel said. “A lot of what we are trying to do when we onboard somebody is to properly assess the things that they don’t necessarily know that they want, but may want during the course of construction. If a client didn’t know there was something that they may be interested in, that could be somewhat surprising to them later on and leave them disappointed. In the very beginning, we’re trying to figure out what you want.”

Why is it important to keep resale in mind for custom-built homes?

People who build custom homes thinking they’ll be in it forever often get a rude awakening shortly after moving in.

Whether it’s because of a job transfer, a desire to move into a different school district, a change in marital status, or any other reason, it’s important to make sure any custom-built home isn’t harmful for resale.

“We’ll have a client come in and say, ‘This is our forever home,’” Frankel said. “The truth is, it’s not your forever home and you will not live here until the day you die. Life changes. Your needs evolve. We really press on our clients the importance of resale even if it is not an expectation for you now. It will be at some point.”

Why is it important to find the right builder?

Because of the aforementioned lengthy process with constant changes, it’s imperative to find a builder who shares your vision of what the final product should look like.

“It’s not one or two things, it’s a thousand,” Frankel said. “You want to find a builder whose expectation of what a standard should be is aligned with yours so that you’re not being told everything is an upgrade. Their expectations of a home are similar to yours. This can be something as simple as appliances, or something as complex as how a window is installed.”

What kind of work do custom-home builders do?

In this day and age, there’s more of an emphasis on creativity and having homes be unique.

The days of Levittown subdivisions where all homes built are virtually the same are all but over.

“What I’m doing is architectural and decorative,” Frankel said. “It’s really complex interior design and a lot of engineering going in. There’s a ton of energy management and you’re trying to future-proof for the way that family that is living there will evolve over time.”

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