Wines Under a Hundee

Though I love a great glass and have watched my share of documentaries about sommeliers, I am no wine expert. I know enough to enjoy Sideways and to find a great wine shop. I learned this last lesson in my early days of shopping for gifts. Will and I were in the cellar of our favorite wine store in Denver (, btw), looking for a nice bottle for a friend’s celebration. We overheard a nearby customer asking for a $450 bottle of Bordeaux. wine-1164591-639x433The store stocked the requested bottles but the manager was encouraging the buyer to look at a wine a fifth of the cost. The manager’s point was that the pricey, well-known label was charging for the name recognition but the lesser known wine was more interesting and at least as good.

I love the lesson that keeping the customer’s interests at the center of your business is more important than selling the most expensive products. In homebuilding, as in life, some products are worth the investment. SubZero makes a fantastic refrigerator. Asko dishwashers are quiet and efficient. Clark Hall Doors are beautiful. But depending on your priorities, less expensive options for all selections are easy (and fun) to find. Like a great wine, your home should age well and be a solid investment. Our goal is to help you cultivate that investment by making the best decisions throughout the process. Your home should a beautiful composition of carefully selected elements that might well equate to that $90 wine surpassing the best vintage of the most sought-after chateaux.

Understanding Costs

Planning Your Costs is a description of the elements involved in home construction and how they affect budgets. Most of these elements are impacted by decisions home owners make during the design and selection processes. However, unforeseen issues can also lead to additional spending requirements. We hope to help you understand what you can control so when you sit down to plan your home, you have information that will ensure your home is what you and your budget envision.

Discussing Priorities

Planning Your Home is a brief questionnaire designed to help buyers begin to prioritize options for their home design. As mentioned in last month’s post, if a home buyer approaches the architectural process without a clear understanding of their priorities, the design can quickly outgrow their intended size and budget. We have heard ourselves proclaim with enthusiasm, “Yes, of course we want to add that space. Why wouldn’t we?” (I designed a lovely “tranquility” room for myself because I met with our architect while parenting two teen boys). We want our home buyers to know that they are investing in spaces that will enhance their current and future lives. Tranquility can be achieved in many ways; smart planning is high on that list.

Finding a Custom Home Already Underway


Designs and Approvals (1)“Spec” homes are a terrific option for buyers who want a custom home without the commitment of starting from scratch. These are houses builders design, build, and sell as inventory homes. When you buy a spec (speculative) house, you will likely be purchasing a home already under construction. While this limits your input on the finished product, this kind of purchase allows you a speedier delivery and more traditional purchase process. Depending on when you sign your contract, Langhorne Custom Homes will work with you to complete the home with the finishes you desire.

Let’s discuss the stages of construction and our approach to choosing options and finishes. Please understand these processes reflect our standard approach but additional changes can often be made if the buyer is willing to delay delivery and/or finance alterations.

Stage One is all about architectural design, site engineering, and obtaining permits and other necessary approvals. Completion will likely be a year or more down the road but this is a critical time for making major changes to the layout or orientation of the home. You might consider committing at this stage if you know you love the location but do not need to move for at least a year. During this period, you will likely be able to make major structural changes. You like the house but want to add an elevator? The master bedroom is great but you want to change the layout of the bathroom? These are changes that might add weeks to your delivery but will be easy to design.

Stage Two is the time during which the “guts” of the house are built. The foundation is poured and the walls are framed. Once the concrete is poured, it is very difficult to change the the general layout of the home but the interior walls are still somewhat adaptable. Unless they are structural walls responsible for bearing weight as designed and engineered, we can move framing about to accommodate better flow, size, or feel of interior spaces. These changes will have negligible impact on delivery time. It is during this stage exterior finishes should be finalized and presented for HOA approval (if necessary). If you do not love the color of stone or roof we selected, we can work with you to redesign these finishes.

Stage Three is when the exterior surfaces are applied and the interior drywall is hung. This is an exciting time when the house really begins to take shape and we can see what it will look and feel like. This is also when we get serious about making interior selections. Floors, cabinets, and tile are selected and ordered. When we build spec homes, we work with extremely talented designers to choose finishes that work well with the home and will be broadly appealing. However, we know everyone’s tastes vary. Depending on our suppliers’ ability to make changes, we will try to accommodate your desires.

Stage Four is when the house style truly develops. Our fantastic subcontractors work their craft as they install flooring, bathroom tile, custom stairs, cabinets, and wood trim. It is at this stage when we finalize remaining selections (plumbing and lighting fixtures, countertops, door hardware, and staircase newels, balusters, and railings).  Until these elements have been customized by our suppliers (counter tops cut, railings manufactured, etc.) , you can make changes.

Stage Five is the polishing stage. We install remaining fixtures, shower doors, mirrors, wall color, floor stain, carpet (if any), and exterior landscaping. At this stage, if we haven’t installed it, we can probably change it. If we have applied the paint or laid the carpet and you would prefer different colors, we can make changes but they will likely result in short delays and additional costs. We can also work with you to create a landscaping package you desire. At this point, we will also begin our “punch-out.” This is when Will’s OCD and my scrutinizing eyes are unleashed. We scour the house for any flaws needing attention. You will walk the house and see tabs of painter’s tape pointing out any drywall, paint, or trim issues.

After the house is complete, buyers will be looking at this house in its final stage. However, buying at this stage still presents benefits you will not find when buying a resale or an inventory home from a larger builder. We will be readily available to answer questions or assist with changes you want to make. Want to add a wine room or in ground pool? We and our contractors will understand the inner workings of the house and will make any improvements fit seamlessly in your home. We want you to love every nook and cranny of your new home and will work to make sure any home we deliver fits your needs and vision to the best of our ability.

Going Custom? This is how you do it.

Going Custom-You have decided you want a newly constructed home but know you want something that is a more individualized than what you would find offered by medium to large builders. (We will discuss renovating an existing home another day). You will likely end up working with a custom builder. So, the next question you need to ask yourself is how much customization do you desire. Determining how much control you want over the design dictates most of the answers you will need before you pull up Zillow or call your agent. It is at this stage you should determine a basic budget (total amount you want to spend) and start talking with builders, seeking an outfit who will attentively, efficiently, and effectively deliver your legacy home. We believe Langhorne Custom Homes should be that builder but understand every buyer’s need to find the company or person with whom they are willing to entrust with this responsibility.

The Fully Customized House

The fully customized house is typically for someone who has envisioned the house of their dreams and is looking for capable and caring people to help them bring it to life. This approach requires the most legwork but will result in a home that truly reflects the life you want to lead. Be prepared to start by finding the right lot. At this stage, it would be prudent to bring in both your builder and your architect so they can weigh in on potential advantages and pitfalls of any piece of land.  Experienced builders walking new land are like forensic investigators and can uncover expensive problems before you become financially or emotionally invested.

Once you know where you want to build, you will sit down with your architect. These will be some of the most exciting and fun hours of the experience (watching our architect‘s team transfer our verbal descriptions into a gorgeous structure is always a blast) but be mindful of keeping your eye on your budget. Houses have a way of growing once you are sitting in front of some sketches.  Having your builder weigh in at this stage will help you understand price and construction issues before final plans are developed.

Construction begins and your home starts to take shape. Will and I both still get a thrill watching the house develop from concrete foundation to defined rooms with window views. Hopefully, you will have time to come out and smell the poured concrete and cut wood. Each custom home presents some small surprises as it is being framed (you might find a new place for storage or find a closet feels a little small). This is a great time to ask questions and make requests. Walls can often be moved or doors added.

Design selection begins in earnest as soon as the framing starts. Depending on your interest and confidence, you might want to hire a designer for all or part of your selections. We value the contributions of our terrific designer as she helps create the beautiful finishes in our spec homes. If you know what you like and would like to rely on your own eye and some solid recommendations, we have a list of terrific suppliers who all have people who can help narrow down your choices based on look, use, and price.

As the house develops and the finishes are installed, communication with your builder will be critical. At this stage, both you and your builder will be focused on budget and delivery date. Staying informed about both will be the best route to a satisfying finish. It is important to understand how design changes or delays can adversely affect both the bottom line and completion date. Your builder should also know your expectations. Again, open communication is integral to a successful delivery. Will and I consider successful deliveries to be those in which we have developed not only great houses but also friendly relationships. No one wants their dream home sullied by bad stories of any kind. Please consider allowing us to help you create great memories of building a fantastic home.

Not sure you want this level of involvement? Our next post will cover options including purchasing your home while the house is underway.