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  • Ed Cuming

7 Things to Know Before Building a Custom Home on the Central Coast

Many people dream of building a custom home. You can imagine exactly what you want your house to be and make it a reality. Building your own place also lets you skip over searching for a home to purchase only to find that the kitchen is too cramped or the yard doesn’t have enough space for your kids to play. Custom homes can also have those special features that most houses on the market don’t offer—like a sauna, built-in garage workshop, or extensive wine cellar.


Though you may be dreaming of your custom home, you’re not sure what you need to consider to actually get it built!


Here are a 7 things to know before you get started building a custom home on California’s Central Coast:


1. Location, location, location

If you’ve already decided to live on the Central Coast, you’re familiar with our great weather, friendly people, and beautiful landscapes. You may already know which city or region you want to set your sights on.


So what should you consider when selecting the land to build on? Property costs can vary greatly on the Central Coast, so shop around to find something in your budget with the features you desire like proximity to the ocean, wine country, or your favorite downtown center. You might consider building on a location that already has a home on it. This can save you the time and money needed to prep the land, since the site is already graded and has utility and sewer connections in place. You will just need to pay to demolish the existing house.


In our experience, the Central Coast is an area that is generally cautious when issuing permits in order to make sure new projects are appropriate for the location. This doesn’t vary too much across our cities and municipalities. An experienced contractor or builder can help you through the permitting process by working with local officials to give you a realistic picture of the time it will take to get the needed permits.


2. Work with an established builder

An established custom home builder will help your project go smoothly, manage costs, and deliver exceptional results. An established builder will have relationships with “tried-and-true” suppliers, laborers, and subcontractors—professionals who have proven their work is both quality and reliable. A builder who has worked many years in the construction industry has established and tested their systems for managing their team, managing costs, and minimizing waste—which will ensure your custom home build comes off without a hitch.


3. Find a reputable architect

Working with your contractor or builder, an architect will ensure your home is well designed to meet your needs while also satisfying your budget and timeline. An architect helps with the big picture, from the functional needs of your home to the emotional, stylistic, and aesthetic aspects of the place where you want to live. Each architect has their own style and approach, so selecting a reputable architect who is a good fit for you is important. If you aren’t sure where to start your search for an architect, we are happy to provide referrals or help you find a great fit for your custom home build.


4. Stick with licensed and bonded subcontractors

Licensed and bonded contractors and subcontractors are skilled laborers who have been licensed by the state and whose work is insured with a bond. This protects you as the homeowner in case of work that isn’t completed correctly. By working only with licensed and bonded subcontractors, you can expect quality workmanship, avoid risk, and maintain your right to make warranty claims should you need to.


5. Create a flexible project timeline

Just as every custom home is unique, so is the build process and the time it will take to complete. The size and complexity of the home will determine the timeline. Some factors like weather and permitting can be less predictable, so it’s important to build flexibility into your timeline. Working with an established builder will have the biggest impact on keeping your project on schedule. An experienced builder will have effective systems for managing your team—from architects and designers to framers and landscapers. Staying in regular communication with the builder is also key, so you can keep track of progress and make decisions as changes or adjustments arise.


6. Build wiggle room into your budget

Building a custom home is a fluid undertaking. A good builder will give you accurate cost estimates at the start of the project, but unexpected expenses can appear. Building some wiggle room in your budget will help you easily adjust when complications come up or you discover a special finish you just have to have in your future home. For new home construction, we recommend having a contingency of 3 - 4% of the total project cost which can be used if something unexpected occurs.


7. Expect the unexpected


The complexity of building a custom home means you’ve got to expect some surprises along the way. The important thing is to have an expert builder—backed by a talented team of professionals—who can be proactive in finding workable solutions while remaining true to your project. A trustworthy builder will anticipate and mitigate any issues and help you navigate the complexities of the build process. Organization, planning, and communication are key to making your project a success.

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