Home Builder Secrets

Home Builder Secrets

Home Builder Secrets

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Every industry has secrets and building is no different.  So what are the biggest secrets that a home builder might not be telling you?

1. Upgrades

There is no such thing as an “upgrade” on a custom home.  An upgrade is moving up from a standard, and nothing in a custom build is standard.  When you are having a custom home built, it’s all one-of-kind, so there should be no charges for upgrades.  Especially before you sign the contract, let alone during planning. The only time a custom home builder should charge you for an “upgrade” is when there are fees incurred from changes made AFTER the build has started.

2. Spray Foam

The most expensive product is not always the best option.  A lot of luxury home builders will choose an expensive product because it is seen as the better option but it doesn’t mean that it is the correct product for a particular application.

A lot of high-end home builders will say that spray foam is the best product for EVERY insulation application. However, spray foam that is not installed properly is dangerous.  Also, in some instances like a large wall, spray foam doesn’t work as well as other applications.  Expensive doesn’t always mean better, when greater value products can work just as well.

3. Little Changes, Big DOLLARS

This secret is a really big one for builders who do track homes.  They make their biggest profit margins from changes and upgrades that their customers order AFTER construction has started.  Track builders have the costs for their plans calculated down to the penny, they know their exact margins for their standard builds.  They hope and pray that YOU change your mind and want that ceramic tile in the bathroom instead of linoleum and that double oven and gas range instead of the standard electrical stove.  Make sure you are aware of ALL the costs associated with making changes after you sign your contract.  In order to fight this, we have create the Emmett Leo Homes Process, a step by step design process that allows us to make sure that every decision is made and confirmed prior to starting any construction.

See how the Emmett Leo Homes Process ensures that there are no upgrades and as little change orders as possible!

4. Energy Efficiency

The key to an energy efficient home is the air barrier, not necessarily specialty products.  The most important thing is keep cold air out and warm air in during the winter and the opposite in the summer.  A fully sealed air barrier around your entire house ensures that there is no way for unconditioned air to get in or out.

Improper installation of these products is the biggest cause of issues and inefficiencies. The correct product and installation make all the difference. This may be a clear plastic vapor barrier, spray foam or another product that prevents air movement across a membrane.  Before you put the drywall up, spending the money on a blower door test is worthwhile to ensure that the air barrier has been properly installed.

5. You don’t NEED a home builder, a realtor OR an architect when building a home.

You don’t actually NEED a home builder.  You CAN build your own house.  You won’t have to pay someone else, and you won’t have to wait on anyone.  You can make ALL your own decisions, pick out your own finishes AND take as long as you want.  The building industry has often hidden the fact that anyone can buy land, pull permits, draw houses and build a house.  But SHOULD you?  Using a great home builder WILL be cheaper than doing it yourself.  They WILL not make the mistakes you would.  They WILL find better solutions to problems as well as provide you with better pricing on material.  They WILL be able to do it faster, safer and with a higher quality and professionalism.  This is what we do, are passionate about and continually educate ourselves on processes, material and improving the quality of homes.

You don’t HAVE to use a realtor either.  Realtors and their associations have created the myth that you have to use them for every real estate transaction.  Realtors can help guide you through the purchasing process and there are some realtors out there that are phenomenal and worth their weight in gold, but you don’t need all their forms and certifications.  The legality and validity of a real estate transaction is based on the content of the contract, it could be written on the back of a napkin and, provided it has the correct information, still be a valid transaction.  HOWEVER, having a great realtor on your side is ALWAYS a bonus and can protect your backside.  They will help you negotiate, and they should be able to help you navigate the entire process.

You don’t HAVE to have an architect either.  You can draw it on a napkin.  You can have a draftsman or builder draw it up.  In fact, your uncle can do design it for you.   Architects are an expense, and one that most home owners don’t see the necessity for.  They add another layer of complexity, another person to talk to that slows down any decision making.  HOWEVER, they are amazing artists.  They design beautiful pieces of art.  Ones that take into consideration WAY more than anyone knows.  Sight lines.  Sunlight.  View points.  Flow.  Function.  Interior design.  Feelings.  They are irreplaceable.  Do you NEED them?  No.  Should you use one every time IF you can?  Absolutely!

Buy Or Build A House

Buy Or Build A House

Buy Or Build A House


Are you ready to move but can’t decide between buying and building?  This is an issue many people debate when they are ready for a new home.  Let’s look at some factors you should consider when deciding between buying a resale home that is already constructed or building a custom home, so you can decide on the best option that is right for you and your family.

There are a lot of important options and questions that you need to answer for your own situation.  The following are some of the most important issues you need to think about in order to form a quick and accurate decision.  

1. Total Cost

In order to make an informed decision about whether to buy or build a house, make sure that you are looking at the same things: ie. compare apples to apples.  The square footage, finish levels, material quality, and location should be similar between a house you are considering buying, versus one you are planning to build.

Generally speaking, the costs of building will be higher than buying a similar resale home. However, with a custom-built home, everything will be new.  Everything will be the latest technology available and will be under warranty.  Beyond just new appliances, this includes warranty on your foundation, mechanical and structural systems.  You rarely, if not ever, get a comprehensive warranty with a resale home.

2. Customization

Without a major renovation, when you buy a house, you get what you see.  The layout, location, and style of the home have already been decided.  It might be just what you were looking for, it might just need a few changes or it might not be right without major changes.

There are a lot of people that do not know what they want until they see it, but there are others who know exactly what they want. The upside of building a house is that YOU get to make the choices, so everything in your home will fit your preference, taste and lifestyle.

For more info about customization, make sure to download our FREE Home Building Planner Guide

3. Financing

Buying a house that will be your primary residence can often be purchased with an insured mortgage, with a very low percentage down.  This means you can often buy a resale home for much less out of pocket and you’ll only need to have a fraction of the final cost of the home.

Building a house will likely need more money upfront.  Depending on your builder and location, you might have to purchase the lot outright with cash, as most institutions will not finance bare land.  You will also need about 10-20% down to put down with your builder.   If you’re in a new subdivision, the builder might carry the lot and build costs but others may require something in between.  The financing situation for building may look quite different than buying a resale home.

4. Location

There are way more lots available in new subdivisions, but the problem is that they are exactly that, NEW.  There will be a lack of landscaping features like established trees, there will be construction happening throughout for years and there will be very little in the way of community or nearby amenities.  You might have a long commute to work and have to wait years for nice trees, schools, and shopping in your area.

Buying a lot in an established neighborhood generally means you will be better located.  You will be more likely to have more developed landscaping and big trees.  You will be closer to community centers, parks, schools, and shopping as well.

A vacant lot or a location where you can demolish and do an infill build can get you into a community that is already well established.  You can be centrally located in an older neighborhood with high demand and low turnover.

5. The Great Unknown

Building a house, with a builder you trust, means you don’t have much to worry about.  You’ll get a new home with warranties.  All your systems will be clean and modern with the latest technology.  Everything will be up to code and you’ll have strong structural and mechanical systems.

Buy a house has a lot more potential issues that might be hiding, even from a home inspector.  You won’t always know what you’re buying.  For example, an inspector can’t see behind the walls of a finished basement to locate issues with the foundation or weeping tiles.  Is that roof leaking or just getting close to needing replacement? Is there mold, mildew, or asbestos hiding in the walls?  Did the previous owners try their own plumbing or electrical repairs?

6. Timeline

You will need to figure out your available TIMELINE.  ALMOST nothing else matters until you figure that out. This is probably the number one consideration that can help you decide between building and buying a new home.   A build can take a minimum of seven months and can take as long as two years for a large, custom, luxury home.  If you have a strict timeline, you might not be able to wait that long before moving.

If you have to get into a home right now, you can buy an existing home while you build. However, if you can’t hold two mortgages, you could also rent someplace while your new home is being built.  Either option may mean moving twice in a short period of time; however, if building a home is where your heart is, you might have to deal with that inconvenience.