Category: Article:

Putting Custom into Building Moderate Price Homes
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Zachary Custom Builders wants to put the custom back into the $350-to-$500 thousand dollar custom patio home market?a price range targeted today by production homebuilders.

Question is?can they build such a house in North Dallas and the Park Cities?

?We?re considered to be a true custom home builder,? said Zachary Custom Builder?s director of sales and marketing, Ted Cox. ?By that I mean that once a family has a lot selected, we?ll sit down and make a very detailed list of the features and amenities that are important to them and what the room count is, what the size of the rooms need to be. And then we?ll go to an architect?we use three architects?and literally design the home to meet the family?s needs.?

?A lot of builders call themselves custom builders, but in fact they have five or six floor plans that they?re trying to get a customer to sign off on. They might be nicely finished out and nicely built. But, that?s really I don?t think a custom home. To me, one of the keys to the ?custom? is being able to completely design and build your own home.?

Behind Zachary Custom Builders is Zachary Luterman, a builder of large custom homes in Dallas for about eight years when, in 1999, he won an unprecedented ten of eleven awards, including ?Best of Show? and the ?People?s Choice Award,? in the Dallas Homebuilders Association Parade of Homes for a 6,000 square foot French Normandy home in Frisco. Since then, Luterman teamed up with Steve McCraw, his next-door neighbor, and formed a partnership to build patio homes in Frisco. Their company opened an office in Frisco and has three available spec homes under construction with another four starting?all different designs. Concurrently, Luterman continues building luxury homes in the North Dallas/Park Cities, and the company welcomes the chance of building these patio/garden homes in the area, as well. But what would be the cost differential compared to building in Frisco?

Factored in the total cost of a home is the cost of the lot. In Frisco, lots for patio homes range from $65,000 to $120,000 and measure roughly 55 feet by 120 feet deep, according to Cox. Subtracting lot costs leaves building costs of $230,000 minimum to a maximum of $435,000. Based on the size of the home, a Zachary Custom Builder patio home typically runs between $110 and $120 per square foot for labor and materials. In other words, a 2600 square foot home would cost $286,000 to build, theoretically, for comparably sized homes in Frisco and Park Cities/North Dallas. However, lot preparation costs and foundation costs unique to the Park Cities/ North Dallas area would increase total costs.

?Everything we do is like a post tension, slab foundation,? Cox said. ?And because of the soil conditions in Frisco, we?re not having to do foundation piers; we?re not having to do pier and beam foundations. Those are things that could obviously raise the cost of the home. ? A pier and post tension foundation would add $6,000 to $10,000 over the cost of a post tension slab foundation; a pier and beam foundation would require an additional $30,000. Besides foundation costs, the choice of material for window framing could perhaps increase cost.

?A lot of people in the Park Cities are used to doing wood windows, either on the front of the home or, a lot of them, all the way around the home,? Cox said. ?We?re doing the double pane aluminum. That would be an additional cost for somebody who wanted to do all wood windows.? The only other additional cost for a Park Cities built home is landscaping costs, depending on the size of the lot.

?Architectural fees are going to be the same,? Cox said. Framing, roofing, and appliances should be similar items. But it?s the choice of materials, what the homebuyer wants, that dictates cost variance.

?That?s one of the things that makes us unique and a true custom builder is we will sit down and go over item by item in our specifications with the buyers to make sure that what we?re pricing is exactly what they want,? Cox said.

?Our approach to homes of any size?we start at a very high level of features and amenities that we want to make available to our buyers,? Cox said. ? Our thought is when a buyer starts to feel that things that they are asking for are extras, well there may not be a good feeling.?

So, how does Zachary Custom Builders absorb the costs?

?I think there are about three or four areas where savings come into play,? Cox said. ?Our architects recognize that we?re going to be around for a long time, and quite frankly, they have made some very special arrangements that they will work with our pricing. Our subcontractors are really going overboard to do that for us. They recognize we?ll probably build 30 homes next year. It?s in our interest to be successful and grow. And they recognize that. They?re willing to give some of the very best deals on their labor services because they know we pay our bills promptly, and we?re a growing company. And we use our craftsmen and our tradesmen on an exclusive basis. We have just one framing company, and that?s true with our roofing company and our foundation company. It?s really a partnership. Our craftsmen are our partners, and they?re passing on a lot of the savings. Our interior designer (Cindy Massengale) is the same way while she?s not a salaried employee of ours, she?s actually independent.?

?From day one, we?re offering our clients a lot more attention,? Cox said. After the initial meeting with the homebuyers, Cox forwards a list of client wishes to architect, David Viosca designer of the 1999 Parade of Homes award winner, Gary Covert, or Fred Wynn with Dallas Design Group Architects. In the follow-up meeting, clients and architect explore in-depth questioning and draw up plans, either on the spot or soon after. With their eyes on architectural detail, Luterman and Brian Donovan visit all construction sites daily, and the company provides digital photography for the clients? virtual visits on their computers at www.zcbuilderscom. .

?We?re going to make the building experience a fun experience for people,? Cox said. That?s a goal.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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