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As spring takes hold of us here in Santa Fe, many dream-home hope­fuls will de­cide to take the plunge and com­mit to get­ting their much an­tic­i­pated cus­tom home project un­der way. In our experience, there is noth­ing more valu­able than some care­ful pre-plan­ning to as­sure that the next steps you make will lead you di­rectly to mak­ing that dream a re­al­ity while avoid­ing stum­bling blocks.

Lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion. We have all heard this be­fore, but it can’t be em­pha­sized enough. The lot you choose to build on will dic­tate to a sig­nif­i­cant de­gree how eas­ily you will be able to achieve your goals, stay on your bud­get, and hit the time­line you hope for. Use a rep­utable Re­al­tor who is very fa­mil­iar with newhome construction when look­ing at land. When pos­si­ble, pre-select a builder who is in alignment with your core val­ues and then work with that builder and Re­al­tor to select the lot that will yield the great­est ben­e­fit to you. Covenants, ex­ist­ing ease­ments and set­backs, home­owner asso- cia­tion re­quire­ments, ac­cess to ex­ist­ing util­i­ties, and soil types will all have im­pli­ca­tions for the de­sign, costs, and time­line of your project. Take time to do the due dili­gence with your builder and Re­al­tor to make sure you knowwhat is go­ing to be re­quired of you on that lot.

Once the lim­i­ta­tions of the home­site are un­der­stood, and you have made the pur­chase of the land, it’s time to get se­ri­ous about de­sign. If you have pre-se­lected a builder, ask him or her who he or she prefers to work with for de­sign. Many builders have ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ships with ar­chi­tects and, bet­ter yet, some have in-house de­sign ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The in­te­grated de­sign-build ap­proach will yield ef­fi­cien­cies in pre-construction costs and short­ened time­lines, and per­haps most im­por­tantly, will en­able the project team to de­sign to your bud­get ef­fec­tively. We call this “value en­gi­neer­ing.” Be­fore you even be­gin de­sign work, make sure you and your builder have had a se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion about costs, con­tract struc­ture, and a pre-construction time­line.

When get­ting clear about what costs to ex­pect, be sure you and your builder are speak­ing the same language. Mis­un­der­stand­ings in the be­gin­ning about what “typ­i­cal” costs are, and what may be atyp­i­cal about your project, can lead to dis­ap­point­ments and failed projects. Re­mem­ber, builders and ar­chi­tects do not have a crys­tal ball, and no­body, no mat­ter how ex­pe­ri­enced, can pre­dict any bet­ter than 80 to 90 per­cent ac­cu­rately what the real costs of a project will be be­fore the construction blueprints are 100 per­cent com­pleted. That said, good de­sign-build teams can pre­pare you very early on with cost ex­pec­ta­tions within a rea­son­able mar­gin, and thus keep ev­ery­one’s ex­pec­ta­tions aligned and the home de­sign on track, so that the fi­nal “bid” doesn’t blow you out of the water.

When you have the right team, a clear un­der­stand­ing of what your build­ing site will al­low, and your cost ex­pec­ta­tions aligned, there is lit­tle to noth­ing that can stop you from mak­ing that dream home a re­al­ity.

Mark and Les­lie Gior­getti are prin­ci­pals at Palo Santo De­signs, a de­sign-build con­trac­tor spe­cial­iz­ing in high-per­for­mance homes. Mark is pres­i­dent of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders’ As­so­ci­a­tion, and Les­lie is a bro­ker with Santa Fe Prop­er­ties. Con­tact Mark at 505-670-4236, mark@ palosan­tode­ and Les­lie at 505670-7578, les­lie.gior­getti@sf­, and visit www.palosan­tode­


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