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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@ palosantodesigns.com and Leslie at 505670-7578, email@example.com, and visit www.palosantodesigns.com.
MARK AND LESLIE GIORGETTI