Information and advice on the home construction process in Dallas, Texas.

In the past, we used to see more enclosed spaces. And (lately) people have been opening it up and doing more open floor plans in general. Now that we’re faced with the reality that we do have to use our homes as our working places as well, we have to be mindful of that and create the best of the interior, where function is just as important as the aesthetic.”

~ Oksana Kreiman, Interior Designer

One of the first steps in the process of building a custom home in Dallas is deciding on the right floor plan for your family and your lifestyle. For the past 70 years, one of the most popular styles in new home construction has been the open floor plan.

But what does that mean, exactly?

And more importantly, is an open floor plan still the best fit in 2021 and beyond?

The pandemic has changed how we view and use our homes, blurring the lines between home life and work life, aesthetics and function, and even indoors and outdoors. Now more than ever, we expect – or even DEMAND – that our homes meet all of our needs.

To that end, we are going to take a closer look at what an open floor plan is, and the Pros and Cons you should consider. This way, you will be better informed and can make your dream home a reality.

First Things First — What is an Open Floor Plan?

Prior to World War II, most rooms were single-function and separated by walls. For example, the kitchen, dining, and living areas were each individual rooms within the home, and there was little-to-no interaction between them. Even common or entertaining spaces were separate from other rooms.

Post-war improvements in materials and design made it possible to change all that. Interior load-bearing walls could be replaced with heavy-duty beams, thereby opening up the common areas and forming a “great room”.

Private areas such as bedrooms, bathrooms, and home offices still follow the traditional closed-off design. With an open floor plan, you literally get the best of both worlds.

The Benefits of an Open Floor Plan

(Open floor plans are) definitely more desirable for most buyers. I’d say about 90% of buyers want some sort of open floor plan in their house.”

~ Andrew Dellavecchia, Real Estate Professional

There are many good reasons why open floor plans are so popular among both buyers and those who are building a custom home.

PRO: More Room for the Size

With fewer partition walls, you can enjoy more room on the interior of your home without having to actually pay for a larger house. You make maximum use of the space you have.

PRO: Higher Resale Value

According to Realtor.com, a home with an open floor plan has an annual appreciation rate of 7.4%. That places it above other “premium features” such as a patio (6.8%), hardwood floors (5.7%), a fireplace (5.3%), or granite countertops (2.5%).

PRO: Flexibility

Because the kitchen flows into the dining area and because the dining area flows into the living area, there are no hard-and-fast limitations as to how you can use the interior of your home. If you want to make a change, all you have to do is rearrange your furniture and decorations.

PRO: More Interaction and Engagement

With an open floor plan, you are not cut off from family and friends just because you are in another room. For example, while you are preparing dinner in the kitchen, you can still keep an eye on your children as they play in the living room. In an open concept home, the family can be together, even when each person is busy doing their own thing.

PRO: Better Traffic Flow

Without walls and doors to get in the way, you and your family can move around your home easier. This is an especially-important consideration if you have a large family.

PRO: Shared Light and Better Air Circulation

Again, the lack of walls means that light is not blocked inside your home. Instead of independently lighting an individual closed-off room, the windows in an open-floor plan home work together to increase the amount of health-boosting natural light.

PRO: Better Air Flow

With an open floor plan, the common areas of your home will not feel cramped or stuffy. Because there are no obstacles, air can circulate more freely.

The Drawbacks of an Open Floor Plan

The thought was that an open and informal plan would create a sense of ease, but people are realizing that it also means everything has to be organized, or else the house can quickly feel cluttered.”

~ Andrew Cogar, President of Historical Concepts Architectural Firm

Despite the many advantages, there are nonetheless other considerations that you should be aware of.

CON: Higher Construction Costs

Because there are fewer load-bearing walls, contractors have to use more-expensive heavy-duty beams to support the roof and any upper levels. This could make a real difference in the final cost of your custom home.

CON: More Expensive to Heat and Cool Your Home

The typical open-concept home has high ceilings and large windows, making it much harder to keep heating and cooling costs down. On the contrary, traditional floor plans let you heat or cool individual rooms as needed. This is a major consideration in the Dallas-fort Worth area, where the summers are long and hot.

CON: Less Privacy

While an open floor plan promotes greater social interaction, it does make it harder to find a quiet space for studying or reading, unless you want to retreat to your office or bedroom.

CON: Noise Control

Without walls to block and absorb sound, a home with an open floor plan tends to be much noisier. This can be a nuisance if you are trying to relax, work, or have a conversation.

CON: Less Wall Space

The lack of partition walls means you will have fewer places to hang artwork, decorations, awards, and family pictures.

CON: Fewer Electrical Outlets

In the same way, fewer walls means fewer places to install electrical outlets. This can somewhat limit where you can place your electrical devices within your home.

CON: Harder to Keep Neat

While you might think that having a large open area makes it easier to keep clean, the opposite is often true. Because you can see everything at once, the common areas can quickly appear cluttered if you do not constantly keep them clean and organized. In an open concept home, organization is a must.

The Bottom line About an Open Floor Plan in Your Custom Home

As evidenced by their enduring popularity, many home buyers and builders prefer open floor plans. Although there are drawbacks, they are generally outweighed by the many positives. The best way to maximize your options and truly have the custom home of your dreams is to discuss the available open floor plan designs with your building team.

There are a lot of things to consider when building a custom home in Dallas — who to hire, the building materials you will use, eco-friendliness, the number and sizes of rooms, the amenities you want to include, and so on. But what is often overlooked is a design consideration that can mean all the difference when it comes to feeling comfortable and secure in your own home — privacy.

According to Realtor.com, 65% of owners say it is important to have a home that provides personal privacy. Yet 21% admit that they are not satisfied with their current home’s level of privacy. In other words, a significant number of people want, but cannot find, existing homes that meet their need for privacy.

Jeremy Burbank, the Vice-President at the Demand Institute, says, “The lack of privacy is more pronounced among younger households who live in cities and close-in suburbs.” That description certainly fits Dallas and some of the nearby communities. 

Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary away from the world, where you can escape from the constant noise and hustle and bustle of a busy metro like Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington. You want to keep the outside world from intruding and spoiling your peace, and you want to know what happens in your home stays in your home.

But there is also a need for privacy within the home, so you can separate the public and private spaces. For example, when you have guests over, you do not want the entertaining areas to encroach on private areas like family bedrooms or your home office.

With that need in mind, let us take a closer look at some of the things you and your contractors can do to build your custom home with privacy in mind.

Location, Location, Location

It is an old adage because it is completely true. 

In terms of privacy, peace, and quiet, where you build is just as important as how you build. For example, according to D Magazine, a Department of Transportation “noise map” found that the areas around Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Love Field, and the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base west of Fort Worth are the noisiest local neighborhoods.

How noisy?

Anyone unlucky enough to live nearby could potentially have to endure over 80 decibels every day, multiple times a day. To put that in perspective, that is roughly the equivalent of the noise produced by a garbage disposal. Neighborhoods near major highways are also to be avoided due to noise pollution. Busy traffic can produce up to 70 decibels, about the same as a vacuum cleaner.

To help you determine which DFW neighborhoods are most-affected by transportation noises, use this interactive map, created by the DOT.

But you have to consider more than just airports and highways, because sometimes, the trouble comes from the neighbors. For example, one neighborhood in West Oak Cliff  generated 320 noise complaints in just one year.

Keep in mind that the noise level of your home can also be affected by proximity to construction, railways, schools, sporting events, entertainment venues, certain types of businesses, and, of course, your neighbors.

There is good news, however, if you are looking at building a custom home within Dallas city limits, because local officials are trying to crack down on excessive noise.

All this means that you have to choose your build site carefully, and may even need to consider smaller nearby suburban cities or even more rural areas.

Soundproofing Solutions

After you have picked as quiet a location as possible, the next-best way to keep the noise level down in your home is to employ any or all of several different soundproofing options during construction:

  • Acoustic Panels — These sound-deadening panels are installed on your interior walls, not under them, and come in different thicknesses. Just one inch is sufficient to stop the noise of a train.
  • Floating Hardwood Floor — Sound penetration is reduced by the gap between the subfloor and the actual floor.
  • Carpet, Rugs, and Padding — Reducing vibration lessens sound transference.
  • Solid-Core or Insulated Doors — By installing solid-core wooden doors or doors with insulated foam cores on both the exterior and the interior, you will see a drastic reduction in noise.
  • Window Upgrades — Did you know that windows are typically the biggest culprit in your home when it comes to noise transmission? Triple panes, gas fillings, foam insulating within the window frame, bulb seal seats for the glass, and even the caulking makes a world of difference. Also, the materials matter, because wooden, vinyl, and fiberglass windows conduct far less sound than windows made of aluminum.
  • Wall Insulation — Spray foam insulation works best for dampening airborne noise, while fiberglass insulation is superior for impact noise.

Thinking Outside the Box

If privacy is one of your top priorities in your new custom home, you will definitely want to discuss this with your builder. There are sure to be house plans that satisfy your desire for privacy, although finding your ideal solution may mean looking at other-than traditional designs.

For example, one innovative idea may be to build your custom home with no ground-level windows facing the street. While you might expect that to lead to a darkened interior, you can compensate by adding a bank of extra-large windows in the back of the home. You could also increase the amount of natural light with the installation of a skylight, clerestory windows, or reflective solar tubing.  

And that is just one option. If you can be creative, you will find multiple ways to increase the privacy level of your home, while still showcasing your sense of style. 

Looking at the Layout

The floor plan of your home matters a great deal when it comes to privacy, from both guests and visitors and from other family members. While many of the noise-proofing measures reduce sound transference within the home, the right physical layout also helps prevent intrusions into private areas.

For example, family bedrooms or private offices should not be immediately adjacent to or accessible from public or entertaining areas like the living room. Instead, there should be some kind of buffer between the two. In a single-story home, this could be a guest bathroom or bedroom, while in a multi-level home, all the private family bedrooms could be placed upstairs.

Another way to promote privacy within your home is to have more bathrooms than bedrooms. If possible, each individual family bedroom should have a bathroom, and there should be an extra bathroom — or even a half-bath — for guests, near the public areas of the house.

Not only does this keep the personal area undisturbed, it also increases the resale value of your home.

Planning with Plants

Believe it or not, one of the best ways to protect your privacy at home is through strategic landscaping. In fact, you get the best of both worlds — privacy and natural beauty.

 Some suggestions:

  • Privacy Hedges — These are fast-growing evergreens that help seclude your property. Popular varieties include cherry laurel, box hedging, holly, and privet.
  • Trees — Mature trees provide privacy, beauty, shade, and can form a natural fence boundary around your home. Consider species such as Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae, Willow, Leyland Cypress, Eastern White Pine, or Paper Birch.
  • Climbers — Climbing vines can take your landscaping in a whole new direction as it covers fences and walls. And because many climbers are also flowering plants, they add a splash of color to your yard. Among the top choices are clematis, wisteria, trumpet vine, and climbing roses and  hydrangeas.

Finish with Fencing and Walls

For the ultimate in outdoor privacy, it is hard to beat a quality fence or wall. 

Most backyard privacy fences are  6 or 8 feet tall and are made of wood or vinyl. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Wooden fences — usually pine or red cedar — can be stained or painted any color, allowing you to create any look you can imagine. In the event of damage, you can purchase individual panels and pickets at any home improvement store, which means repairs are simple and inexpensive. 

On the downside, wooden fences require regular maintenance. An untreated wooden fence quickly fades and becomes an eyesore. Without that protective treatment, the wood is also susceptible to warping and rot.

Vinyl fences are made to be virtually maintenance-free. They do not rot and they do not require seasonal treatment.

On the other hand, low-quality vinyl fences are subject to UV degradation. In extreme temperatures, they can warp or become brittle. Color options are limited, and they cannot be painted.

Although they are considerably more expensive than fencing, boundary walls made from brick or stone protect your privacy, provide security, and give your home a stately appearance.  These walls are completely maintenance-free, resistant to the elements, and impervious to incidental damage.

Besides the price, the biggest drawback to stone and brick walls is the need for structural support limits their height. Taller fences might need to use a veneer, rather than the real thing.

The Bottom Line About Building for Privacy

As you can see, there is no one measure you can take to ensure your complete privacy in your custom home. It takes planning and coordination to employ several methods that complement each other, allowing you to enjoy peace and quiet, security, and privacy without sacrificing aesthetic appeal or function.

***Have questions or comments? Let us know below!***

When most people plan their dream home, they simply do not put enough thought into their windows. While they might care about the basics — the number of windows, for example — they neglect other important considerations that can make a huge difference in their long-term satisfaction.

That explains why over 60% of new windows are used in replacement remodeling projects, rather than new construction. But as any builder will tell you, it is always better — and less expensive — to do it right the first time.

To that end, let’s take a quick look at some of the things you should keep in mind about the windows in your Dallas custom home.

Materials Matter

Windows can be constructed from several different materials, each with their own advantages and disadvantages:

Wood — Most typically made from Pine, Fir, Knotty Adler, or Mahogany

Pros

  • Versatile, easiest to customize
  • Natural, eco-friendly
  • Woodgrain patterns create unique beauty 
  • Can be painted or stained any color
  • Excellent thermal performance

Cons

Wood Clad — The exterior of the wooden window is covered in another material, usually vinyl or aluminum.

Pros

  • Customizable
  • Interior/Exterior dual color options
  • Energy efficiency

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not available with most manufacturers
  • The exterior cladding can separate from the wood interior

Aluminum 

Pros

  • Least expensive
  • Resistant to corrosion, warping, and swelling
  • Low maintenance
  •  Slimmer frame profile allows more glass
  • Available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes

Cons

  • Condensation-prone
  • Worst thermal performance

NOTE: The thermal rating of most basic aluminum windows is so poor that they do not meet the minimum energy codes required in North Texas.

Vinyl — Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC — a type of plastic

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Resistant to corrosion, warping, and rotting
  • Extremely low maintenance
  • Very energy-efficient
  • Recyclable

Cons

  • Limited color options
  • Lower-grade vinyl windows are susceptible to UV degradation
  • Because vinyl is not especially strong, frames and sashes can be comparatively bulky.

Fiberglass — A composite material of glass fibers and plastic polymer.

Pros

  • Very strong — up to 10 times stronger than vinyl
  • Excellent thermal performance — 500 times less conductive than aluminum
  • Takes less energy to manufacture than vinyl or aluminum
  • Extremely low maintenance
  • Able to withstand temperature extremes from -40 degrees to 350 degrees
  • Paintable
  • Thin frame and sash profiles allow for more glass

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not available through all manufacturers
  • Requires very strict safety precautions during installation

Composite — The windows are made of two or more materials, such as resins and wood particles.

Every manufacturer that produces composite windows uses their own proprietary mixture, and as a result, the quality and performance can vary widely.

Glass and Gas

Because most of your window opening is glass, that glass package is the biggest factor determining how good the thermal performance of your window really is. Most people think that merely having a “double-paned” window is enough, but here’s the thing — “double-paned” does NOT mean “energy efficient”…it only means that there are two pieces of glass.

In DFW, always look for soft-coat low-emissivity (low-e) glass. This special glass is coated with a microscopic layer of metallic oxide which helps reduce heat loss during the winter and helps reduce heat gain during the winter, cutting each by up to 50%.

In top-quality energy-efficient windows, low-e is an important feature of an insulated glass package, where the window panes never directly touch the frame. Instead, each of the double (or even triple) panes is seated in a non-conductive bulb seal that prevents thermal transference and creates a closed air space.

The air in that closed space is then removed and replaced with a heavier-than-air gas, typically argon or krypton. This further slows down any thermal transference through the glass itself. A low-e, gas-filled, insulated glass package also helps prevent frost buildup or condensation between the panes.

Deciphering Window Ratings

Because you will hear a lot of lettered values thrown around when discussing windows, it is very easy to get a bit confused. But the National Fenestration Rating Council has standardized four values that determine energy efficiency.

  • U-Factor — Measures how well a window keeps heat in. The lower the value is, the better the window’s performance is. According to the International Energy Conservation Code, the U-Factor for a window in the Dallas-Fort Worth area should not exceed .32.
  • Solar Heat Gain Coefficient — Measures how well a window keeps heat out.  Again, the lower the SHGC is, the better. According to the IECC, the SHGC for a window in the Dallas-Fort Worth area should not exceed .25.
  • Visible Transmittance — This value shows how much natural light passes through the window. The higher the number, the less you may need to rely on artificial lighting. In the DFW region, the best windows will have a VT rating of .60 or greater.

***FUN FACT: Artificial lighting uses 15% of all the electricity in the United States***

  • Air Leakage — This value tells you how much air comes through the window when it is closed. Obviously, you want to look for the lowest number possible.

To make it easier to determine the type of windows that are best for your custom DFW home, the NFRC created this Window Selection Tool. After you have decided the type of window you need, you can find the specific manufacturers by referring to the NFRC’s Certified Products Directory.

What are the Hottest Window Trends for Dallas Custom Homes in 2021?

The pandemic changed the way most of us look at our homes, highlighting the fact that we need and expect more from our homes than ever before. How does that translate to what we want out of our windows?

Energy Efficiency

First, there is the aforementioned energy efficiency. Because we are spending more time at home, we want to be comfortable, no matter what the weather is like outside. And because heating and cooling costs are always rising, we also like the idea of saving money.

How much money?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heat loss and gain through windows accounts for up to 30% of a home’s  heating and cooling bills.

Larger Windows

Next, the idea that bigger is better now includes windows. Homeowners are requesting wider, taller windows and choosing the largest styles available. For example, while a traditional double-hung window may max out at 48 inches wide by 72 inches tall, opting for a fixed casement window means that maximum size can grow to an immense 72 inches wide by 80 inches tall.

Blurring the Lines

Homeowners are maximizing their space by erasing the rigid boundaries between the indoors and the outdoors. For example, instead of installing a boring bank of hung or picture windows, homeowners can instead open things up and choose a single large sliding window.

Not only does this make the opening a convenient pass-through to the outside, opting for one window lets more natural light into the home.

***FUN FACT: Exposure to natural light has several proven health benefits.

Accessibility

When designing their custom home, Dallas owners want it all — energy efficiency and savings, comfort, more natural light, versatility, and of course, convenience.

Advances in window and hardware technology make it easier for anyone within the home to operate its windows — the elderly, the physically challenged, and even small children. 

For example, earlier this year, Pella introduced the innovative and patent-pending Easy Slide Operator, which makes opening and closing awning and casement windows as easy as using a dimmer switch. Instead of time-consuming and possibly-difficult cranking, users can slide the window into the desired position.

The Bottom Line About the Windows in Your Custom Dallas Home

In some ways, choosing to install top-quality windows while building your custom Dallas home is an almost-foolproof decision. According to Remodeling, 65% of what is spent on a window installation is recouped as added resale value. That is on top of the energy savings enjoyed month in and month out.

And when you factor in the other benefits — added comfort, convenience, natural light, and ease-of-use — it’s easy to see why windows are worth a second look.

When you build a custom home in Dallas, you want it to reflect your taste and personality. But too many homeowners neglect to apply that same vision to the most personal room of all — the bathroom. As a result, they often settle for a bland, cookie-cutter design that is just like everyone else’s.

Not putting enough thought into your bathroom can leave you disappointed and may even cost you money in the future. For example, something as simple as having the right number of full bathrooms in your home can affect the value of your home by as much as 20%.

That’s not surprising, because bathroom renovations are the most-popular remodeling project, favored by 81% of homeowners. 

To help you stay out of that rut, here are the hottest current bathroom trends. We hope they inspire you to build your dream custom bathroom that is anything but boring.

Larger Showers and Bathtubs

Now more than ever, people want their homes to be a source of peace and serenity, and where better to find that than in your own private spa? That’s why so many people are opting for luxurious bathing choices such as:

  • Oversized Free-Standing Bathtubs — There is nothing more relaxing than a hot soak in a bathtub that is actually big enough for you. With a standard alcove-style tub, that is just not possible.

The difference in size can be very significant:

A standard tub measures 60 inches long by 30 inches wide by 16 inches deep.

A large stand-alone tub, such as this one by Badeloft is 75 inches wide by 47 inches wide by 23 inches deep.

Best of all, as the name implies, these tubs can be installed anywhere, giving you more design possibilities for your bathroom.

  • Luxury Walk-In Showers — A walk-shower creates a sense of elegance, eschewing a tiny, cramped area for space and freedom.

A standard shower stall can be as small as 30 inches by 30 inches.

A pre-made shower enclosure, such as this one from DreamLine, can be up to 72 inches long by 34 inches wide.

And that’s just a prefabricated option. If you go completely custom, your walk-in shower can be any size, with such luxury features as designer stone tile, bench seating, high-end fixtures, lighting, and even a sound system.

Smart Tech

We live in an age where connectivity equals convenience. We already use smart technology to control lighting, to keep our homes comfortable, to provide security, and in general, make our lives easier. According to a December 2020 survey, 57% of U.S. households already have at least one smart device, and over 80 million households intend to buy a new smart device within a year.

With those statistics in mind, it’s not surprising that people want to incorporate smart technology in their custom bathrooms:

  • Smart Toilets: Smart toilets are the most-desired feature in bathroom renovations or new construction. Although they can have a purchase price that runs into the thousands, the value you receive for that initial investment soon becomes apparent. Smart toilet features include:
  • Seat warmers
  • Night lights
  • Touch-free automatic lids
  • Bluetooth speakers
  • Water-level detectors — Since this feature can help prevent overflows, it may even save you money on your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Self-cleaning options
  • Health monitoring and disease detection
  • Smart Faucets and Showers: The main benefits of this smart bathroom tech are safer and more consistent water flow and temperature, energy and water savings, and the ability to conveniently control your shower remotely, via a connected device. One brand claims that it can cut your shower water usage in half. 

Underfloor Heating

Underfloor heating — also called radiant floor heating — is an extremely popular choice for new bathrooms. In fact, radiant floor heating increases a home’s value by over 3%.

More energy-efficient than traditional heating systems, radiant floor heating keeps your feet warm through the use of thermal radiation from electric heating pads or heated water pipes. Compared to radiators or wall units, underfloor heating has several advantages:

  • The warmth is felt sooner
  • Controlled temperature
  • Uses less electricity
  • Cleaner — Because it is not a forced-air system, it does not circulate dust and allergens.
  • Suitable for installation under any flooring type

Depending on the type of system, radiant floor heating costs between $5 and $12 per square foot.

Choosing the Custom Bathroom That’s Right for You

Bathrooms no longer have to be spartan, utilitarian rooms used solely for bathing and necessities. Today, your custom bathroom can be a private oasis where you can escape and unwind from all of life’s stresses. Because you spend so much time in the bathroom, it only makes sense that you are as comfortable as possible while you are there.

by: Wild Bill, aka The Texas Authority

About me: I’m a Texan, born and bred. I’ve been blessed to travel all over the world, and there’s some mighty nice places I like to vacation, but I’ll always come back to Texas. I am a small business owner these days, but I’ve been an accountant, financial advisor, Controller and CFO for literally hundreds of Texas businesses and business owners. I’ve been involved in local, state, and national politics, and I’ve been a provider for my family for over 50 years here in Texas. It’s a great place to live, so lean on me and listen up.

If you are over 50 years old, you’re a senior (at least according to AARP).  You may feel like a junior now, but as time marches on your mobility issues will likely remind you that you are not getting any younger.  Which means that the custom home you build today should be significantly different from the one you would build if you were 30.

A recent survey of older adults found that 90 percent would prefer to die in their own homes rather than move to a senior housing lifestyle.  So, if you’re building a custom home in Dallas, this is your opportunity to design a home that will not need modifications as you progress through your later years.

To begin, here are six major structural features that can be incorporated into your home’s design from the get-go:

1.  Single Story Living

It only takes one knee replacement surgery to understand…The ground-level floor plan needs to accommodate cooking, eating, bathing, sleeping and visiting.  Second levels can be part of your custom home’s plan, but they should be designed primarily for overnight visits from family and friends.

2.  Open Floorplan

The main living area should include spacious, open areas for easy maneuvering and good visibility.  Imagining the placement of your furniture before you move in will help in designing enough space in your dining area, living rooms, bedroom and bathroom.  

3.  Wide Hallways and Doorways

Halls and doorways should be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.  Think 36 inches or more to allow for easy entrance and turning.  And, consider that not all corners have to be squared.  Moving from a common area into a hallway can be enhanced by a 45 degree corner.  

4.  Flush Thresholds

Movement from one part of the house to the other should be smooth—no step-ups or step-downs. One area to give special attention is the transfer from the exterior to the interior of the house.  Many standard floor plans have a step-up at the door opening to the interior.  This can easily be a trip point for a person with balance issues, and a challenge for those in a wheelchair. (Think about carrying groceries from the car to the kitchen).

5.  Natural Light

Your design of your windows is obviously the biggest determinant for access of natural light into your home’s interior.

Natural light produces energy savings by allowing a homeowner, in certain cases, to use less heat, less air conditioning, and eliminate (or greatly reduce) the need to use artificial light. Research has proven that natural lighting helps people be more productive, happier, healthier and calmer. 

Colors close to white, such as light-colored pastels, reflect plenty of rays. An eggshell wash or other reflective paint finish will enhance the brightness.

Also, don’t forget the largest source of darkness in a room may be the floor. Get a light colored rug, carpet or hardwood flooring to help brighten up the room.

6.  Elevators and Dumbwaiters

Although expensive, elevators and dumbwaiters can be game changers for seniors. The convenience of being able to move both people and products between floors, without the use of stairs, can open up a variety of custom home design options you might otherwise not consider.

Where previously you may have been limited to a ground-floor living design, elevators and dumbwaiters make it possible for those with mobility issues to access upper floors, and create more living and entertainment spaces vertically, rather than having to expand the floor plan horizontally and consume more of the lot.

Other Ideas and Considerations

Now, as you think further about the interior features of your home, consider these ideas to make your everyday living safe and convenient for your mature years.  Chances are that no one will notice, and you won’t either until you reach those magic “golden years” when mobility becomes an issue:

**Consider a zero-threshold shower with built-in seating.

**Reinforce the bathroom walls so you can add grab bars later when needed.

**Lower your counter heights an inch or so, particularly in the kitchen and bathrooms. 

**Install lever-handled doorknobs and faucets wherever possible.

**Lower the electrical wall switches.  An inch or two will make a difference.

**Raise the electrical outlets, and add more of them throughout the house.

**Use pull-out shelving whenever possible.  Think kitchen and bathrooms.

**When specifying artificial lighting (in closets), add more, not less.

**Install non-slip flooring.

If these ideas are incorporated in the design phase of your truly custom home, the incremental costs will be minimal but the returns later in life will be monumental.  These features may even extend your years in your own home, forestalling a move to a senior living facility.

If you’re going to build a custom home in Dallas (or anywhere), you’d be remiss not to explore the “Smart Home” options available today. Smart home devices of all kinds now allow homeowners to automate practically every aspect of their home’s operations, from temperature to audio to lighting, to cooking and cleaning and many, many other things.

And, although some innovations may be costly, many of these devices actually reduce overall costs through the efficiencies of automation.

This article is a deep-dive into the newest technologies available for smart custom homes. To provide some organization of the many options available in the market, we will look at the technologies relevant to each segment of a home:

  1. Lighting
  2. Security
  3. Mowing
  4. Irrigation
  5. Home Audio/Music
  6. Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning (HVAC)

Why should you consider smart home technologies?

Convenience: Being able to control your lighting or engage your locks without moving is a huge convenience. Smart gadgets make such conveniences possible because you can control them remotely from a central point, generally an app on your phone or hub in your house.

Cost Savings: Installing smart technologies in your home may seem expensive at first, but many can lead to cost savings. Smart devices can ensure that only designated areas of your home use light, cooling or heating, for example. The best smart devices provide energy-saving tips by showing you areas of your home that are rarely used, and therefore require less resources.

Flexibility: Smart Gadgets are super customizable. You can choose when the lights come on and practically everything in your home that happens after that. This flexibility is only possible with smart technology.

The products mentioned under each category below are arguably among the best in their space. Of course, our list does not claim to be a comprehensive list so you may find other options with further research.

On to the breakdown by categories, below.

Smart Lighting Technology for Custom Homes

Lighting is vital to a home’s atmosphere and feel, so it makes sense that it is the starting point for most people interested in living in a smart home.  Lighting showcases the beauty of the design and structural elements of a home. More importantly, lighting controls the mood of a home. When used correctly, lighting can create warmth and improve the ambiance in an otherwise dark and gloomy environment. 

Smart lighting systems are designed to control lighting around the home automatically or semi-automatically, through programming. Many smart lighting systems are motion and voice-activated, while some systems come with a central control hub, and others are Bluetooth/WiFi enabled. 

For example, smart lights (bulbs) designed by Cree, LIFX, and TP-Link, connect over WiFi, while others, such as the newest Philips Hue bulbs, communicate using your smartphone’s Bluetooth feature.

Other smart lights (including the Philips Hue mentioned above) are compatible with Zigbee radios and, as a result, require a Zigbee-to-Wi-Fi bridge to connect to your router. Any of these smart bulbs may be controlled via an app on your smartphone or tablet, which can also be used to design lighting scenarios and schedules.

Smart light switches are an alternative to smart lights (bulbs). Smart light switches made by Leviton, Lutron, TP-Link, Ecobee, and other manufacturers communicate with your WiFi network and don’t require a central hub.

If you have already committed to a regular lighting system for your custom home, you can still make your lights smart by replacing the standard wall switch with a smart switch. You can do the same thing for lamps by adding a smart plug to the system. In both cases, the smart switch/plug will allow you to control the lighting remotely from your smartphone, laptop or tablet. 

We’ve researched and evaluated everything from basic white dimmable lights to smart lamps loaded with extra features like the Philip Hue Starter kit, which is arguably the best smart bulb on the market currently. 

So, if you’re in the market for smart lights, we can point you in the right direction with our recommendations below.  All of these smart lights mentioned have excellent customer reviews, and are popular among consumers for different reasons.

The Philips Hue Starter Kit 

As mentioned earlier, the Philips Hue is one of the most advanced smart lighting solutions on the market today. The starter Philips Hue lighting system comes with three standard screw-in smart bulbs, with smartphone app control and a hub that connects to your router.

The bulbs have preset lighting schemes that can complement each other, so it is recommended to use the bulbs in the same room for maximum effect. However, you can also distribute the bulbs to different rooms and control each independently from your app. 

The hub and app allow you to control the brightness, color, and timing of your lights. You can program the lights to turn on and off at specific times, such as early morning or evening. If you are light sensitive, you can use your lights as your snooze reset device instead of using an alarm clock. 

You can control up to 50 bulbs from the hub or app, and the lighting can be controlled over the internet from miles away. 

The Philips Hue is compatible with Amazon’s Echo (as is the LIFX system, below). Interestingly, the latest Philips Hue systems can work without a hub, although you’ll still need the hub to connect everything and unlock the full capabilities.

Smart Bulb by LIFX

LIFX produces a line of WiFi-enabled LED lights that can be controlled via a (fantastic) smartphone app. The bulbs are available in both E27 (screw connector) and bayonet (spring connector) mount. You can get LIFX bulbs to produce a variety of colors, including numerous shades of white.

The latest model, LIFX +, has the same 1,100-lumens brightness as its prior Generation 3 bulb, but now also includes infrared LEDs that illuminate at night to light up the room for your security cameras.

The only disadvantage of LIFX bulbs is their cost, but we are confident that you will find the investment worthwhile because they provide excellent luminance across the full color spectrum, and in different shades of white.

With the LIFX app, you can separate whites and colors, and alter the color temperature to mimic natural light at different times of the day. You can also synchronize many bulbs to give off the same color and brightness simultaneously.

The LIFX app is appealing because it allows a ton of adjustments and supports IFTT integration, which allows you to schedule preset actions such as having the lights come on when you arrive home, and go off when you leave the house. 

Leviton Décora Smart WiFi Dimmer

As mentioned above, rather than installing smart lights (bulbs) you can replace your light switches as a way to make your home lighting smart. 

The Leviton Decora Smart WiFi Dimmer is a smart lighting solution that differs from other systems mentioned earlier, because a) it requires you to replace your light switches instead of your light bulbs, and b) all it does is dim the lights.

If you don’t require innumerable color choices for your lighting, this system can be especially beneficial for rooms with many different lights which would be prohibitively costly- or even impossible- to replace with smart bulbs (great-rooms with dozens of recessed ceiling lights, or chandeliers with in-built lights, for example). 

Additionally, this system may be cheaper to maintain over time because if a bulb goes out you are not forced to replace a smart bulb, and instead you are replacing a regular bulb.

The best part is that the Leviton Decora Smart WiFi Dimmer is relatively affordable. You can get a basic unit for $49, and upgraded variations with more features are available as well.

It should be mentioned that smart switches are not limited to lighting. You can install them as your plug sockets as well, and thereby control anything plugged into that socket.

LifeSmart Cololight Pro Decorative Light 

The Cololight Pro falls into the decorative light category. This beautiful, smart light has an easy-to-customize compact design. The light, which consists of small hexagonal panels, can be shaped into various forms and programmed to show different colors, patterns and dynamic effects.

Lifesmart equipped the latest Cololight Pro with a built-in pickup module that allows the lighting effect to sync with music or sound. You may have seen this type of synchronized lighting in high-end bars or other entertainment venues. Today, homeowners are able to integrate such decorative light systems in their homes to improve the overall ambience and to make them “party ready.”

The latest Cololight Pro is compatible with Google Home and Amazon Alexa, so you can control it with your voice. According to the product specs, the Cololight Pro supports 16,000,000 colors, and comes with a 12-month warranty.

The only drawback of the Cololight might be its less-than-sturdy build. If you’ve handled other smart lights, you will agree that the Cololight is somewhat delicate – as is common with decorative fixtures. 

Nanoleaf Shapes Decorative Lights

Also in the category of decorative lighting, the Nanoleaf Shapes is another interesting system available for your home. 

Nanoleaf Shapes mix smart lighting technology with wall art, offering illuminated panels in different shapes and sizes. The system is fully customizable, allowing you to create your own designs by combining panels of different shapes. 

Nanoleaf Shapes are simple to set up and use, and can be controlled via a full-feature app that allows brightness control and more. You can get creative with Nanoleaf shapes. For example, you can set the lights to emit your ideal white lighting temperature for work, relaxation or entertaining.

Every area of your home will look better with Nanoleaf Shapes. You just have to place shapes creatively to inspire anyone. If you run out of ideas, use the layout assistant on the Nanoleaf app.

However, Nanoleaf Shapes are not meant for outdoor use. Also, the manufacturer advises against using the product in areas with high humidity like your bathroom. 

Nanoleaf Shapes come in hexagons, triangles, and mini-triangle panels. They are fitted with adhesives for easy placement. Like the Cololight Pro, Nanoleaf reacts to music and sound thanks to its built-in rhythm module. Also, Nanoleaf is touch responsive – the light changes when you touch the panel’s surface.  They are also compatible with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and other voice assistants.

So, there are several ways to control Nanoleaf shapes. You can use the Nanoleaf app, Nanoleaf remote, Google Assistant/Alexa, and the built-in controller (sound, touch, and power switch).

Smart Home Security Systems

Home security systems have come a long way in the past decade, and if you love the flexibility and convenience of smart speakers, thermostats, and lighting, then you will probably love the smart home security cameras available today. Like other smart gadgets, a smart security camera offers flexibility and convenience without losing its primary function, capturing movement.

A smart security camera will allow you to keep an eye on your home, especially when you’re not around. There are indoor and outdoor security cameras, with each type performing the same function with slight differences. For example, smart outdoor cameras feature LED lights to illuminate the environment when the motion sensors detect movement, while indoor models can help you monitor the activity of kids and pets around the house.

Smart home security systems are the ultimate upgrade, integrating indoor and outdoor cameras, video doorbells, garage controls and more. 

There are several fantastic brands in the smart home security market. Most of the products offer the same primary functions, so the differences are based on the flexibility they offer. Some notable models include Vivint Smart Home, Ring, Arlo, Netatmo, and Maximus.

Vivint Smart Home

Vivint Smart Home is a full-option home security system that includes video recording as standard and smart home capabilities as needed.

A video doorbell, outdoor and interior cameras, smart locks, and garage control are among the company’s core offerings. The interior video camera has two-way audio (allows communication) and a full 1080p HD video recording. You can program the system to send custom alerts.

The system comes with enough memory space to accommodate up to 30 days of continuous recording. Impressively, it has a speed dialler that can be used to contact you right away.

Vivint designed the security system to support multi-channel control. You can control the system via a home security panel, smartphone app, and voice commands (Alexa or Google Home). The omnichannel control makes it easy to pair the system with other smart home technologies, like lighting and HVAC. You can also integrate other wireless security solutions, like Nest, with Vivint.

To put things in perspective, Vivint Smart Home is superb for the following reasons;

  • extensive customization
  • feature-rich system
  • home automation integration
  • high-end, quality equipment

The Vivint system can be pricey, with the base pricing for the system starting at $599. Add to this the additional installation cost and ongoing monthly fees for active monitoring. For $29.99 per month, Vivint will monitor your home security round the clock. When alarms are triggered, the company will contact first responders and offer assistance remotely.

Frontpoint

If you consider yourself capable and would like to save on installation costs, consider getting a Frontpoint security system. It is a full-featured security system which is easy to install

Frontpoint is a simple and smart home security solution that utilizes a variety of wireless technologies including cameras, sensors, and a Frontpoint Hub. Every component of the system has been preconfigured to work directly out of the box, so it is considered a “plug-and-play” unit.

You can control the entire security system through the Frontpoint Hub, which functions as a single controller. The hub works with both WiFi and cellular networks, ensuring that your home security remains active if your internet goes down.

According to Frontpoint’s marketing material, the hub is smashproof, and it is fitted with sensors to detect a physical attack. If the system detects a forceful pressure on its surface, it will alarm emergency responders.

Frontpoint also comes with a mobile app for user convenience. The app’s interface is clean and easy to navigate, allowing you to activate your security system with the push of a button.

Brinks Home Security 

If age is any indication of experience and quality, then Brinks Home Security is a top product. Backed by years of research, experienced customer service, and technology, Brinks Home Security offers a security package for all types of users. The base package contains a Qolsys IQ touch-screen control panel, a wireless motion sensor, two wireless door sensors, plus a yard sign and stickers. You can get the base package for $199 and a monitoring cost of $39.99. 

If you want to add a doorbell camera, outdoor and indoor cameras, extra sensors and professional installation, you can expect to pay $699 for the security system.

Interestingly, the smart home hub is compatible with Amazon Alexa as well as Z Wave devices, and can be used with just about any other home automation device. Like Vivint, Brinks Home Security can integrate with Nest products.

You’ll have tamper-proof equipment, as well as cellular backup and cloud storage for video feeds, and a Live Assist function to use with any setup you choose. Brinks also provides alarm monitoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing for remote emergency dialing and the cancellation of false alerts.

Each kit’s price is determined by the features you choose, and there’s plenty of flexibility to customize the system specifically for your custom home.

Ring Alarm Security Kit

While the idea of a smart security system is appealing to most homeowners, the accompanying monthly monitoring and operational costs can be a put-off. For this reason, we added the Ring Alarm Security Kit to our list of smart security products to consider for your custom home.

Ring Alarm Security is an all-inclusive security system that is easy to set up and operate, without the need for a monthly subscription. The primary security kit comes with a base station, contact sensor, keypad, motion detector, and range extender, and is less expensive than most of its competitors. Extra components can be purchased separately, or can be purchased as part of the larger, bundled kits they offer.

The entire system works as a coordinated, single unit and relays status reports to your smartphone. As expected, you can control the entire system from the Ring app, which is compatible with Android and iOS devices. The app also supports Amazon Alexa control.

A backup battery in the Ring kit guarantees that even if the power goes out, the Ring kit will keep running for a full day, utilizing your cellular network to stay connected.

While you don’t need a subscription plan to use the Ring system, there are contract-free Ring Protection Plans that provide you access to member perks and savings on further security product purchases. If you plan to purchase other Ring products, such as video doorbells, sirens, smoke alarms, cameras, and more, the Protection Plan membership may be beneficial.

SimpliSafe Security Systems

If you’re familiar with smart security products, you’d agree that SimpliSafe is a well-known brand. Unlike some other alternatives, the company’s security system is available in 5 packages, which are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

SimpliSafe does not require a long-term monitoring contract. You are allowed to choose the monthly surveillance plan or to opt-out altogether.

$229 will get you the base package (The Foundation Kit) of this security system, which includes a base station, keypad, entry sensor, and motion sensor.

The most expensive package from SimpiSafe is the Haven Kit, which includes the same keypad and base station found in the Foundation Kit, and also includes four entry sensors, a key fob, a 105dB siren, two motion sensors, a panic button, a water sensor, a smoke detector and a freeze sensor. Clearly, the Haven Kit is designed for a larger home and provides advanced protection.

All kits come with a 60-day money-back guarantee (you can return it if it doesn’t work out), and you can choose from a variety of monitoring options, including expert monitoring and cellular backup, without committing to a contract.

Smart Lawnmowers

Today, thanks to smart technology, we have robots to mow our lawns. However, robot lawnmowers are still relatively new to the market, so it can be difficult to identify the market leaders in the industry.

For this article we researched smart lawnmowers and sampled user opinions to create these high-quality recommendations.

Redback MowRo RM24

Because it’s inexpensive without compromising quality or usefulness, the Redback MowRo RM24 may be the finest robotic lawn mower available for the average homeowner.

This mower is really designed for tiny lawns, since it will mow an area of up to a quarter acre on a single charge. The MowRo RM24 can also mow up to 30 degrees of slope, which is quite impressive.

The MowRo will mow your lawn once every 48 hours at the time you specify. Its brushless motor is whisper-quiet, producing just 65 decibels (about the loudness of a typical conversation), so you might even be able to use it at night without bothering yourself or your neighbors.

The MowRo is packed with safety features, so you can be confident that the mower won’t endanger your kids or pets if they are playing in the yard.  One example: the blades of the MowRo are covered by a guard that allows grass to pass through while keeping fingers out.

Landroid L

If your lawn is too big for the MowRo RM24, WORX’s WR150 Landroid L may be your best bet. This mower can tackle up to a half-acre of lawn and 20-degree slopes.

Equipped with built-in WiFi connectivity and a smartphone app that allows you to watch the mower’s progress, measure your lawn, and update your personalized mowing schedule from anywhere, the Landroid is truly a smart mower.

The Landroid is so clever that it can even design and propose a lawn-care regimen, depending on lawn size and other factors.

The mower’s rain sensor ensures that it never runs in the rain (despite its waterproof shell), so as to avoid the sloppy cut-lines that come with mowing wet grass.

Robomow RS622

The Robomow RS622 is a suitable alternative for bigger yards of up to half an acre with slopes of up to 20 degrees, just like the Landroid. The RS622’s most striking feature is its 22-inch cutting width, which is more than double that of some other robot mowers.

The RS622’s wider cutting deck essentially means it will mow your lawn considerably faster than the other alternatives on our list. The deck also offers a cutting height range of 0.8 to 3.5 inches, making it suitable for a variety of terrain.

While the RS622 doesn’t have WiFi, it does have Bluetooth and comes with a smartphone app that allows you to control the mower’s settings remotely.

The RS622 can link to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, meaning it can respond to voice requests like other smart home gadgets.

The noise level of the Robomow RS622 is one of its significant drawbacks. It can emit up to 74 decibels of sound at maximum power. While this is still quieter than a gas lawn mower, it is substantially noisier than our other top selections.

Smart Irrigation Systems

A smart irrigation system is an eco-friendly and cost-saving addition to your custom home’s landscaping, as it ensures that your lawn and garden get an adequate amount of water without wasting any of it.

Good smart irrigation systems come with a dedicated app, making them easy to operate. Rachio makes our favorite products in this category, but Wyze Labs has also entered the market with a low-cost alternative.

Rachio Smart Sprinkler Systems

Rachio is not a newbie in the irrigation industry; the company is among the best makers of smart irrigation systems. The Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller is the latest smart irrigation system from the company. 

The Rachio 3 combines the existing smart sprinkler control system with Weather Intelligence Plus technology and optional wireless leak detection. Thanks to the weather detection watering algorithm and programmable settings, Rachio eliminates the need to guess how frequently or how much water your lawn needs. Watering is adjusted based on the weather.

Rachio 3 is super compatible and easy to install. It can work with your existing sprinkler system and can be installed in less than an hour. You do not need any special tools, nor do you need to be an expert in sprinkler system installation.

The Rachio mobile app or the controller itself may be used to monitor and operate the system. Rachio connects to your Wi-Fi network using both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, ensuring that your Rachio 3 will not be competing with other Wi-Fi linked systems.

The Rachio 3 employs several technologies to keep your lawn hydrated, resulting in healthier grass, and is available with either 8 or 16-zone configurations suitable for lawns of all sizes.

Wyze Sprinkler Controller Systems

Wyze sprinkler controllers offer a functional product at an affordable cost. The newest Wyze smart sprinkler controller comes with all the features you need to water your lawn efficiently, saving both water and energy with its precise timer and functionality.

Purchase of the Wyze devices includes a one-year subscription for their Sprinkler Plus subscription package (ongoing cost = $10 per year), which works with weather reports to discharge only the optimal amount of water. 

Wyze Sprinkler features and Sprinkler Plus include:

● Smart Schedules: ​Water plants automatically based on hyper-local weather data​*

● Fixed Schedules:​ Water plants on specific days or times

● Quick Run: ​Easily start watering from anywhere with the Wyze app

● Sunrise/Sunset Settings:​ Schedule your system to start or finish by sunrise/sunset

● Sensor Ready: ​Compatible with most rain and soil sensors

● Weather Skips:​ Rain, Saturation, Wind, and Temperature skips​*

● Advanced Zone Insights:​ See the past, current, and forecasted soil moisture level for

each zone​*

● Easy Control:​ Start or stop watering directly from the device

*Requires ​Sprinkler Plus ($9.99/yr)

Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors 

Smoke detectors are a compulsory and invaluable home safety feature. Unlike traditional smoke detectors that only provide audible alerts when smoke is detected, a smart smoke detector alerts those in the home and also sends messages to designated responders. 

We found the two best products in this category to be the Nest Protect and First Alert Onelink Safe & Sound systems. The Nest Protect is outfitted with emergency lights to help you navigate out of a smoke-filled home, while Alert Onelink Safe & Sound comes with sophisticated features like an integrated smart speaker for voice control.

Nest Protect Smoke Alarm

Nest Protect is one of the best smart smoke detectors money can buy. With a futuristic design, the device has a square body and rounded corners, and is slightly broader than conventional smoke alarms.

Nest Protect is available in two power configurations, battery-powered and hard-wired. The battery-powered variant requires six AA batteries, while the wired model requires three for backup.

The AA-powered model’s battery life is dependent on usage, but should last for five years or more. The product’s lifespan is meant to last 10 years, after which it should be replaced (as is recommended for all smoke detectors).

According to the product use guidelines, Nest Protect is not designed for use in kitchens due to the high humidity of this environment, but can be installed nearby at a distance of three meters or more away from cooking appliances.

The setup is straightforward. The Nest Protect is ideally mounted to the ceiling using the backplate; however, it can also be wall-mounted. Installation instructions are supplied. Once installed, you can use the Nest app to manage the smoke detector. 

The Nest Protector includes a Split-Spectrum Sensor that detects any type of fire or smoke. It also features a carbon monoxide (CO) sensor.

When the Nest Protect detects a problem, you’ll first hear a verbal message, such as “Smoke has been detected in your home,” before the 85dB alarm goes off.

First Alert Onelink Safe & Sound

First Alert’s Onelink Safe & Sound is one of the best and most reliable systems available today. First Alert has been keeping homes safe with its range of smoke and CO (carbon monoxide) alarms for over forty years. 

The Onelink Safe & Sound is a smart alarm that connects to your home network through Wi-Fi and sends warnings directly to your phone. Unlike Nest Protect or other detectors, Onelink Safe & Sound has a built-in speaker and comes with Alexa included, allowing you to also use the device for entertainment. 

In addition to the speakers and Alexa capabilities, a photoelectric smoke sensor, a Bluetooth radio, an 802.11n (2.4GHz) Wi-Fi radio, a carbon monoxide sensor, an 85dB siren, and a microphone are all housed within.

You can get all the functions of Alexa through the device, such as voice-activated access to sports scores, the latest news and weather, and the ability to manage other smart devices. Also, you can play music from your Amazon library or your phone through Bluetooth.

The Onelink Safe & Sound is somewhat bigger than the Nest Protect, measuring 2.2 by 6.8 by 6.8 inches (HWD). In the middle, a 10-watt BMR (Balanced Mode Radiator) speaker is encircled by a multi-color LED status indication ring that also functions as a nightlight. The device uses multi-colored LED light to indicate use or actions. For example, when the device is active for setup, the led status indication ring flashes white. It glows green when idle, flashes blue when you connect with a phone and flashes red during an alert. When an Alexa voice command is processed, it shows blue and cyan colors.

The Safe & Sound may be used as a stand-alone alarm or wirelessly linked to other Safe & Sound devices. When activated, it will send a push notification to your phone with a red screen indicating that smoke/CO has been detected in the room. The screen has controls for contacting 911 and disabling the alarm.

Smart Speakers

A smart speaker is an excellent accessory to control your smart lighting systems, and a convenient entertainment technology for your home. 

Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home are the market leaders in this category. Amazon Echo has been in the lead for a few years thanks to its large userbase, dependable support and constant updates. Their device is powered by Amazon Alexa, while Google’s Home is powered by Google Assistant. Other smart product manufacturers have adopted both Alexa and Google Assistant, thus they have a wider integration than other manufacturers.

Amazon Echo

The latest Amazon Echo (4th gen) is wrapped in a near-spherical shell made from recycled fabric and aluminum. Amazon moved the trademark light ring from the top to the bottom of the device. The new Echo is still powered by Amazons Alexa. Like the Echo Plus, the 4th gen Echo is fitted with a built-in smart hub made by Zigbee.

This Echo sports Amazon’s AZ1 Neutral Edge processor for machine learning, which makes the Echo smarter and more efficient than earlier versions – particularly notable in the device’s improved speech recognition.

Critics agree that the fourth-generation Echo is the best Echo yet. If you’ve never used a smart speaker, the 4th gen Amazon Echo is an excellent smart speaker for a first-time user. It is equally great for experienced users, and provides excellent value relative to cost.

Google Home

Despite being released 2 years after the Amazon Echo, Google Home is a major competitor to the Echo and rightly so. This smart speaker from Google is designed for convenience and entertainment. You can get information, play music, and control other smart products through voice control. The device is powered by Google Assistant, which is Google’s proprietary AI assistant. 

Google Home can connect to Philips Hue lightbulbs, Nest thermostats, and Samsung’s SmartThings platform, among many other systems and manufacturers.

Google recently renamed Google Home speakers to Google Nest, so the latest smart speakers from Google are called Google Nest Audio, Google Nest Hub Max, and Google Nest Mini. The Nest Audio is a low-end product. 

If you’re not an audiophile, then the Nest Audio will serve you well. We will recommend the Nest Hub Max and Nest Mini if you want to enjoy superior sound and the smart features of Google Nest simultaneously. 

Google Home/Google Nest is a capable device, providing access all types of streaming and services, and the voice assistant is responsive. Overall, the device provides excellent value relative to cost.

Apple HomeKit and HomePod Smart Speakers

Apple also has products available in the smart home market, with its HomeKit cosystem and HomePod smart speakers. Characteristically, Apple promotes its security and privacy as part of the compelling features of the HomeKit ecosystem.

Apple’s HomePod speakers offer excellent sound quality and is compatible with AI powered assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa. The HomePod is one of the best sounding speakers in the market, producing big and clear sounds from its tiny box. 

Sonos Smart One

The Sonos Smart One is among the best smart speakers you can buy right now. The device delivers impressive sound quality and smart function simultaneously. Sonos equipped the Smart One with six internal microphones which pick up sound easily, providing one of the best user experiences available in the smart speaker market.

The design of the speaker is similar to the company’s previous Sonos Play:1 model. However, the Smart One adds a touch-sensitive capability which allows the user to control music by swiping or tapping on the top surface of the devicd, in addition to controlling the speakers from anywhere remotely through the included app.

Sonos Smart One supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and as some lesser-known AI assistants, as well as most streaming platforms.

Smart Audio Systems for Music

Technology has also gifted us with smart audio systems, which are different from smart speakers. Smart audio systems are designed to integrate with and improve your TV and movie viewing experiences, as well as provide superior audio quality.  These systems include multi-room audio capabilities like those from Audio Pro, Denon, and Sonos, and they have multiple speakers that can be placed in different rooms and controlled from an app.

Sonos Arc – the premium soundbar

Sonos products offer exceptional sound quality for a reasonable price. The Sonos Arc uses Dolby’s newest TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus sound codecs to provide the highest quality lossless audio available on cutting-edge Blu-ray discs and some of the most popular streaming services. It then improves the 3D soundscape by employing Dolby Atmos object tracks to bounce some sounds off the walls surrounding you, giving the impression that they are coming at you from all directions.

The soundbar sports subtle volume control, play/pause, and mute buttons that let it blend into the background, and features a basic status LED light that self-adjusts brightness based on ambient light.

The Sonos Arc weighs13.78 lb (6.25 kg), making it light enough for a wall mount. It has two reinforced rear holes for wall installation for a forward-facing mounting arrangement, although the bass response is naturally more focused when it bounces off a tabletop surface.

Multiple Sonos speakers can be paired to provide a  multi-room sound experience

Denon HEOS Multi-Room System

Denon is a favorite sound system manufacturer among audiophiles. The company’s products are as impressive as they come, and the Denon HEOS multi-room is no exception. The speakers offer punchy bass, clear midrange, refined tonal balance, and a simple app for controls.

If you want a multi-room sound system, consider getting the larger HEOS 7. It is powered by five Class D amplifiers and features two tweeters, two mid/bass drivers, a pair of passive bass radiators, and a subwoofer.

Each speaker is fitted with the same number of connectors on the back: USB, ethernet, and auxiliary inputs (the HEOS 7 comes with a headphone output too). There are additional buttons for pairing Bluetooth and connecting the items to Wi-Fi.

To connect the speakers to your wireless network, use the HEOS app and either attach an ethernet connection into the back of the device or use a 3.5mm connector to transfer data from your smartphone or tablet to the device.

Audio Pro Multi-Room System

This shortlist of excellent smart multi-room audio systems would be incomplete without the Audio Pro multi-room system. You can build out your multi-room system with any of Audio Pro’s speakers. The impressive Addon C5 speaker, Addon C3, Addon C5A, and the sonically superior Addon C10 are among the best speakers in the Audio Pro lineup. 

The Addon C5, Addon C3, and Addon C10 are nearly identical in appearance but for size. The Addon C5A sports a volume indication and a pair of microphones on its head for usage with Alexa voice assistant.

Among the four speakers listed, the ADD C10 has the biggest woofer at 13cm, the Addon C3 carries a 9cm woofer, while the Addon C5 and Addon C5A have a 10cm woofer. The Class D digital amplification power output for these devices matches their woofer sizes: 80W, 40W, and 15W.

On the top of each of the four speakers is a large circular volume control flanked by four smaller buttons for power-on, play/pause, input selection, Bluetooth pairing to the left, and pre-sets to the right.

Smart Technology for Home Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

If you’re serious about installing the newest smart technologies in your custom home, then a smart thermostat is a must-have. Only a handful of smart home gadgets can offer the comfort and energy-saving a smart thermostat provides.

Smart thermostats are more than mere temperature regulators. They can tell when you’re at home and when you’re not, so your HVAC system works only when needed, which can amount to significant energy savings.  In addition, many now come with features typically associated with other smart devices, such as speakers and voice control for streaming audio services and AI interfaces.

The latest smart thermostats come with multiple sensors that can be placed in different rooms to detect human presence, ensuring that the HVAC system works only in spaces that are in use.

Ecobee SmartThermostat

The 5th generation Ecobee SmartThermostat, the Ecobee 5, supports full Amazon Alexa integration, allowing users to utilize the Alexa calling, messaging, and drop-in features directly from the device.

The Ecobee 5 supports Amazon Music, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and a slew of other music players. In addition to controls available through the app, there is a small touchscreen display for controlling temperature and other features on the front of the device. 

In terms of connectivity, the Ecobee 5 features everything you want in a smart thermostat: smartphone app management, intelligent scheduling, and presence detection, which allows it to recognize whether you are at home or not and modify your HVAC system appropriately. The integrated remote sensor allows you to detect the temperature in different sections of your home and balance the system accordingly, eliminating the need for numerous zones. The remote sensor can detect human presence, allowing the system to adjust output based on where people are in your house. 

The remote sensor on the Ecobee 5 SmartThermostat has been entirely redesigned for this 5th generation device, with a battery life of up to five years, a pairing range of up to 60 feet, and enhanced wide-angle detection of motion activity. For mounting options, the system includes a new magnetic mount, a standard wall mount, and a traditional stand for more versatile positioning choices. The SmartThermostat comes with one sensor, and additional sensors may be purchased in packs of two for $79. At any given moment, the system can accommodate up to 32 sensors.

Nest Thermostat

Nest thermostats offer an excellent alternative to Ecobee thermostats, as they are feature-rich and reasonably priced as well. You can get a Nest thermostat for $129 on Amazon currently, and if you’re lucky, as low as $109 with a promotional price. If you want a more sophisticated thermostat, consider increasing your budget to purchase the Google Nest Learning Thermostat.

The Nest Thermostat has a side-touch interface that simplifies the hardware into slide-and-tap controls, eliminating the need to spin the entire thermostat ring to access the setting. Although the Nest Thermostat doesn’t come with a built-in smart speaker like the Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control, it does support Alexa and Google Assistant. Also, it allows remote control through the Google Home app.

Overall, the latest Nest Thermostat has a new app and look, and it is also less expensive than its predecessors.

Wyze Thermostat

Wyze Labs makes some of the most affordable smart thermostats in the market. For $78.98, you get a simple, smart thermostat with all the features you need to manage your home’s cooling/heating remotely. And, don’t let the affordability fool you, as the device supports Alexa and Google Assistant and can be controlled via the Wyze app. 

Once you’ve downloaded the Wyze app and registered an account, installing the thermostat is straightforward. The software facilitates initial configuration and programming by allowing you to build a custom schedule for home, sleep, and away temperatures for each day of the week and weekend, as well as for full weeks. If you don’t always want to be connected to your smartphone, you can access most of the thermostat’s choices via its onboard display.

Reminders to change your air filter are becoming more popular on smart thermostats, but Wyze goes a step farther than others. A percentage of utilization is calculated using the filter’s size and lifespan rating. It also allows you to save several filter types for tracking reasons. If you change to a better-performing filter during the year, you can just add the details of the item, and the software will keep note of it. Unlike the Nest Thermostat, Wyze does not track the overall operation of your HVAC system and does not give maintenance reminders or warnings.

Controlling Your Smart Home as a Unit: Smart Home Hubs

As your smart home grows, you’ll undoubtedly want to consider purchasing a smart home hub to connect everything together. A smart home hub allows smart devices from different brands to communicate on one platform, acting as the brains of the operation.

The most popular smart home hubs are the Wink Hub 2 and Samsung SmartThings Hub. SmartThings is considerably more powerful under the hood if you prefer to tinker, while Wink has a simpler, easier-to-use interface. In all, both smart home hubs function nicely with both iOS and Android, so they’re relatively platform-agnostic. Also, they have a wide range of smart home device compatibility; however, nothing is truly all-encompassing. So, before you buy, check out their compatibility pages (Wink, SmartThings). If you ignore this essential research, you risk spending unnecessarily to get smart devices that fit together efficiently.

We typically advise against single-protocol hubs, such as the one included with the Amazon Echo Plus, which only supports Zigbee. The more protocols your hub supports, the more flexibility you’ll have.

Voice assistants are also a good investment for the beginning of your smart home adventure. Nothing beats being able to control your lights, air conditioner, and television with your voice.

Both the Amazon Echo and the Google Home have a wide range of device compatibility, although Alexa is more compatible with smart home devices and third-party capabilities, while Google is more intelligent when answering inquiries and learning about your routine.

As you add devices, sophisticated controllers such as the Brilliant Operate and the forthcoming AtmosControl may be worth considering, which install a panel on your wall and allow you to control many of your smart home devices- even those that use different protocols- from a single location.

For those who want a voice assistant that shows the condition of your thermostat or the view from your security cameras, the Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub might be useful additions.

Choosing the Best Smart Home Products for Your Custom Home

Don’t assume you have to purchase everything at the same time. Start with a few devices, and you’ll soon discover which kind of integrations are most beneficial to you. Instead of collecting every device you can get your hands on, consider the pain spots in your day.

Focus on products with a wide range of compatibility and multi-channel control

For example, we consider voice control to be the most helpful aspect of a smart home. Voice control support allows you to operate your smart device without touching your smartphone or interacting with the dedicated hub, so it follows that smart gadgets with Alexa and Google Assistant support should be top on your preference list.

Compatibility is another important factor to consider when purchasing your smart devices. Most manufacturers of smart devices build each unit to be part of an ecosystem of smart things. The best smart devices are capable of integrating and communicating with a high number of devices. For example, your smart lock can notify your lights that you’ve arrived home, causing them to switch on.

So if you want this type of communication and automation, consider buying smart devices with high compatibility.

Smart Homes Have the Potential to Be Even Smarter

When dealing with smart gadgets, keep in mind that they are not as intelligent as you, so don’t be disappointed if your smart home doesn’t work as you envisioned.

You will learn that there is no single system or app that will manage all your smart gadgets seamlessly. Even if you purchase all your smart products from one brand, there is still a chance that one/some of the gadgets won’t integrate perfectly every time you use them.

Instead of worrying about the glitches and incompatibility of the devices, you can raise the synchronization and automation of your smart home a notch higher by using smart workaround tools like IFTTT and Yonomi. These tools coordinate devices and systems across brands and platforms, allowing the user to schedule a chain of reactions based on specific actions, such as a typical sequence which goes like this: “when I unlock the door after 6:30 pm, turn on the lights.”

Conclusion 

At the end of the day, smart gadgets should make your life simpler, not more difficult. Start your smart home design by focusing on activities that you want to automate. For example, if mowing is a challenge for you because you are busy or don’t want the constant responsibility of lawn maintenance, that is a great reason to invest in a smart lawnmower.  Similarly, if home security provides you with a level of personal comfort you desire, then automate it with smart devices.

Don’t get too caught up in constructing a cutting-edge, integrated system that will compete with the Bat cave or Ironman suit —you’ll be disappointed. Instead, focus on the areas of your day that are bothering you and start by building a simple smart system to solve those challenges.  Then add features and new systems as time and budgets allow.

1. ASK QUESTIONS AND DO YOUR RESEARCH

Since custom home building requires a myriad of decisions by you, the homeowner, we recommend gathering a significant amount of information before design and construction start. You could leave everything in the hands of the builders and architects, but if you want your new home to reflect your individual desires, you need to be familiar with the options available to you.

A good place to start is with materials. Inquire about design trends, durability, and costs. Then move on to other aspects of your custom home.  If you have trouble finding information, don’t be afraid to contact experts. Ask them everything that interests you…and keep on asking.

2. THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE

Try to make a rough plan of your next few years. How will your new custom home play a role in the next chapter of your life? Ask yourself important questions like: Do I plan to extend the family? Will I retire here? Do I plan to work from home? Should I start prioritizing my health?, etc. 

Plan your budget and the layout of your house based on the answers to these questions. For example, if you want to improve your health, you can build a small gym, private sauna, or a plunge pool. If, on the other hand, you want to have more kids in the near future, you might think about adding an extra bedroom. 

3. INVESTIGATE THE SURROUNDINGS 

Whether you plan to build a house in the city or the countryside, it is beneficial to familiarize yourself with the features of the area you are considering.

A visit with a real estate professional could uncover any plans for future development in your area.  Has the highway department projected a major expansion affecting your accessibility? Are any large residential developments on the horizon?

Be sure to check out the proximity of grocery stores, the level of care available at the nearest hospital, the response times on EMS and police calls, and the utility providers for water, sewer, gas and electricity.

Often overlooked is the school district of your proposed site purchase.  In Texas the majority of your property taxes come from your school district assessment.  Collaterally, in case of a resale, the school district’s reputation can be a beneficial factor.

A good source is neighbors.  After all, they have experience in your area that no one else has.

4. HIRE A LAWYER EARLY

Building a custom home is a large investment. If something goes wrong, financial trouble is almost inescapable. In order to protect yourself from these unwanted scenarios, it’s best to work with a lawyer as you begin the process. They don’t have to be present during the construction. However, some legal explanations at the beginning of your project, along with the availability of consulting services through to completion will increase your confidence and enjoyment as you build your custom home.

A lawyer will come in very handy for evaluating the construction contract and the building regulations. Apart from working with reputable and experienced building companies, this is the second best way to protect yourself from scams, mistakes, and amateur companies. 

5. CHOOSE YOUR BUILDER WISELY

Like any construction project, your choice of builder should be based on their experience, customer ratings, applicable certifications, and the quality of their portfolio.  More specifically, their experience and portfolio should be in-line with the type of custom home you desire.

For example, If you intend to design a modern masterpiece using exotic materials, you need a builder who is experienced in such designs rather than one that primarily builds traditional structures with traditional materials.

The builder should also be up-to-date with trends and innovations, and should provide materials of your desired quality that are backed by reputable manufacturers. 

The builders should also offer workmanship warranties and have a proven customer service record. There must be clear and transparent communication between you and the company. If you sense that the builder does not understand or approve your vision, feel free to look at some of their competitors.  

Building a house from the ground-up is a tough process, and the custom home building company you choose will determine your satisfaction for many years to come.

6. GOOD COMMUNICATION IS KEY

 Once you have decided on a builder,  discuss the appropriate lines of communication for you to interact during the building process.  Larger companies may have lead project supervisors who they entrust with your project.  Understand how the builder views the role of the person in charge of your job site.  Before you begin, define who the builder authorizes to talk to you and honor that person’s position.

A word of caution:  Don’t interact with the workers at your job site.  They work for the builder, not you.  Your interaction will be a distraction and may delay the timing of your project. Recognize that your contract is with the builder, not the workmen.

You will have questions.  You may have problems.  You might want to change some specifications.  Things will go smoother if you and the builder have agreed at the outset who your contact person is and what level of authority they can exercise.  

Like this article? You can read more here.

If you are considering building your own custom home in Dallas, now is the perfect time. According to the Dallas Business Journal, new home construction in Dallas soared in 2020, even after the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, the construction of new single-family homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area surged by 30% last year. To put that in perspective, that was the highest new construction volume in over a decade

Ben Caballero, the owner of HomesUSA.com, says, “Dallas-area new home sales continue to impress…Builders in the Dallas-Fort Worth market simply can’t build homes fast enough to meet the remarkable demand.”

Let’s look at the local trends to understand why this is happening, the best ways you can (and should) respond, and finally, how you can use this information to have the home of your dreams.

Dallas is Definitely a Seller’s Market: By the Numbers

54% of real estate experts who responded to the latest Zillow Home Prices Expectations Survey predict that DFW will be the sixth-hottest housing market in the country and outperform the national average. Right now, median home prices in the area have reached an all-time high of $330,000, representing an astounding year-over-year spike of nearly 32%.

Realtor.com agrees — their March 2021 Market Hotness Report says that the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington market is “heating up” and that inventory is moving 26% faster, both compared to 2020. On average, homes spend 16 less days on the market than they did last year.  

There are more house-hunters and buyers than there are homes for sale in Dallas. The total number of sales has increased by nearly 9%, while the number of active listings has gone down by over 25%. As a result, inventory is at an all-time low. Right now, the Months of Inventory in Dallas has dropped to 1.2 months. In May of 2020, the MOI figure was 3 months.

What are the Takeaways from All of This?

First and foremost, it means that for existing homes in and around Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington, it is absolutely a seller’s market. Existing homes are harder to find, they are being sold faster, and they are more expensive than ever. That is the reality for you as a buyer.

But looked at another way, these challenges present an exciting opportunity. Since it is getting harder and harder to buy a home, more people are building a home in Dallas. According to the National Association of Home Builders, there were 43,844 single-family construction permits issued in DFW in 2020. That makes Dallas #2 among all U.S. metros.

For you, that means that the best way for you to find the home you are looking for is to build it. YOU set your budget, YOU choose the plan and the features, and YOU work with your builder to make your dream home a reality.

If you have never had a home built before, let’s look at some of the hottest trends in Dallas custom homes.

Location, Location, Location: Where to Build Your Dallas Custom Home

Obviously, you need land to build your home, but it can be difficult to find undeveloped land for sale or a vacant residential lot within the city limits. You can stumble upon such a location from time to time, but not in any specific neighborhood, and not with any regularity

This issue has led to a suburban boom that is happening across the country in general, but in the Dallas area in particular. In fact, just a few years ago, Realtor.com ranked Dallas #2 in the country among cities with the fastest-growing suburbs. The standouts include:

  • Richardson (12 miles away): Population 121,323. Growth since 2010 +22%

For over a decade, Richardson has been included on a wide variety of annual “Best of” lists, including Places to Live, Safest, Places to Raise Kids, Workplace for Commuters, Happiest, Suburbs for Young Professionals, and Best Real Estate Market;

  • Carrollton (15 miles): Pop. 139,248. +17%

In 2020, personal finance technology company SmartAsset named Carrollton one of the Most Livable Cities in the U.S. and one of the Best Places to Do Business in Texas. In 2021, the company also named Carrollton as one of the Top Safest Cities Nationwide.

  • Plano (17 miles): Pop. 287,677. +11%

Over two dozen Fortune 1000 companies have corporate headquarters or major regional offices in Plano.

  • Allen (20 miles): Pop. 105,623. +25%

In 2017, CNN Money ranked Allen #2 in both its Best Places to Live and Best Places to Launch a Career lists.

  • Forney (21 miles): Pop. 27,236. +86%

Homes.com ranks Forney #2 on its list of the Best Suburbs to Move To in 2021.

  • Wylie (24 miles):  Pop. 53,067. +28%

In 2016, NerdWallet ranked Wyle as the #1 Small City for a Family.

  • Frisco (25 miles): Pop. 207,748. +78%

WalletHub ranks Frisco #6 nationally and #1 in Texas on its list of the Fastest-Growing Cities in America.

  • Little Elm (28 miles): Pop. 53,126. +105%

In 2013, the FBI proclaimed Little Elm to be the Safest City in Texas.

  • McKinney (32 miles): Pop. 199,177. +52%

In 2014, Money magazine rated McKinney as the Best Place to Live in America. 

  • Prosper (34 miles): Pop. 31,700. +264%

Conveniently, the North Dallas Tollway runs through Prosper, making for an easier commute.

  • Denton (40 miles): Pop. 141,541. +25%

Denton is home to two colleges: the University of North Texas and Texas Women’s College, with a combined enrollment of over 45,000 students.

  • Melissa (40 miles): Pop. 12,117. +158%

Melissa students graduate at a higher rate and score better on standardized tests than the state average.

Looking at the population explosions in these DFW suburbs, you can see that the top custom housing trend in Dallas is that people are flocking to the suburbs, more than happy to trade a daily commute for a happier overall lifestyle. 

What About Planned Communities?

Another growing trend that affects custom home building in the Dallas area is the expansion of master-planned communities. Because the development process takes years, these communities often have hundreds of empty lots available. Right now, there are dozens of master-planned communities in the DFW area, with tens of thousands of opportunities available. 

Although they are often thought of only in terms of pre-designed “cookie-cutter” houses, in reality, most master-planned communities do allow custom-built homes that stay within their architectural guidelines.

It’s the best of both worlds — the home builder adheres to standards set by the community and the owner gets the custom-built home of their dreams.

How hot is this particular trend locally?

According to RCLCO Real Estate Consulting, 4 of the top 50 fastest-growing master-planned communities are here in North Texas, each within commuting distance of DFW.

  • Woodcreek Fate (Little Elm)
  • Union Park (Little Elm)
  • Silverado (Aubrey)
  • Pecan Square (Northlake) 

Landscaping: Your Public Face and Private Space

For most people who build a custom home in Dallas, their landscaping is somewhat of an afterthought. They focus so much on the house itself that they do not give enough consideration to the flora and fauna of the surrounding grounds. 

That’s unfortunate, because your landscaping acts as your welcome mat to the world for both visitors and even passers-by, by expressing your personality and your pride of ownership. For yourself, your landscaped areas represent beauty, relaxation, and recreation, whether it’s for gardening, cookouts, or just getting in touch with nature.

Look at it this way — on average, Dallas enjoys 234 sunny days a year. That means you are going to be spending a lot of time outside. In other words, your landscaping matters.

And, if you ever decide to sell your home, the right landscaping can have a huge positive impact on the all-important curbside appeal to potential buyers. In fact, Turf Magazine says that upgrading your landscape from “average” to “excellent” can increase your home’s value by as much as 12 percent.

Longtime Dallas real estate professional Diane Bearden Barrett says there are 5 landscaping trends to watch out for in 2021:

  • Low-Maintenance Options: If you don’t relish the idea of spending hours maintaining your yard and plants, try incorporating no-fuss landscaping ideas such as lighting, rocks, statuary, or even potted plants, which typically need less care than in-ground plants.
  • Native Plants: Not every plant can thrive in the North Texas climate. Instead, opt for native plants like White Honeysuckle, Maximilian Sunflowers, Engelmann Daisies, Indian Paintbrushes, Post Oaks, and of course, Bluebonnets.
  • Multi-Season Plants: With a little bit of planning, you can enjoy flowers and greenery year-round. This means that your garden should have a mix of flowers and other plants that bloom during different seasons.
  • Pollinator Gardens: One of the most eco-conscious trends is to include plants, vegetables, and flowers that attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. This is an important contribution you can make, because in some parts of the world, 40% of butterflies and bees are threatened or have declining populations.

Outdoor Living Spaces Blur the Lines

Social distancing during the pandemic highlighted the importance of maximizing your home’s potential. Following this trend when planning your custom home could include building a gazebo, deck, pergola, firepit, or pergola to create an extra “room”.

In fact, multiple experts predict that outdoor kitchens and dining areas might be the next big thing in custom home design. What used to be as simple as setting up a grill and a picnic table in the backyard has evolved into a much more elaborate, yet-popular addition increasingly seen in new constructions.

An outdoor kitchen is exactly what it sounds like — the top setups will have virtually everything your interior kitchen has, including appliances, refrigeration, lighting, electrical outlets, plumbing, countertops, and cabinetry. The biggest difference is, in an outdoor kitchen, everything also has to be weather-resistant and able to stand up to the elements. 

Your Custom Home’s Interior: Spending Quality Time

In many ways, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forever changed our lives, including how we view and use our homes. Now, we expect more of our living spaces, demanding better comfort, functionality, versatility, and aesthetic value, and those expectations are reflected in these 2021 design trends for custom homes in Dallas.

The Home Office is Now a Necessity

According to Fixr’s 2021 Single-Family Home Trends Report, home offices are the most-requested additional spaces in new construction projects.

Even before the pandemic began, remote jobs in Dallas-Fort Worth were on the rise. Between 2005 and 2017, the number of full-time telecommuters soared 123%, to a then-total of over 160,000 people. In fact, pre-COVID-19, the Dallas-area remote job share was already above that of the average of the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas…and still climbing.

In 2016, FlexJobs named Dallas as one of its Top 5 Cities for Remote Work.

Because of social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates, working from home became the new normal. Consider these statistics about telecommuting and COVID-19:

  • 97% of U.S. companies cancelled their work-related travel plans.
  • 88% of businesses asked their employees to work from home.
  • Companies had 38% fewer employees actually in the workplace.
  • Having worked from home, 77% of employees now want to have a hybrid telecommute/workplace schedule.
  • Only 12% want to go back to the way things were.
  • Even with the vaccine and the ability to physically go back to work, it is predicted that by the end of 2021, up to 30% of employees will work from home at least one day a week.

Of special relevance, 29% of people who work from home find it hard to achieve a good work/life balance. 54% of remote employees feel stressed during any given workday, and 45% feel extremely anxious.

Part of the problem is that most people do not have a dedicated distraction-free workspace in their home where they can focus on their job. They end up working on the couch, the kitchen table, or in their bedroom, all places where they are sure to be interrupted. Including an office in your home design plans solves that problem.

Work Out Without Going Out

Similarly, the coronavirus outbreak changed Americans’ exercise habits. Sheltering in-place meant people had more time on their hands, and many decided to use that time productively. By June of 2020, 60% of people polled said they were meeting the physical activity recommendations of the World Health Organization. That was a significant 11% increase over their pre-pandemic fitness routines.

That is good news for local residents, because in 2019, the American College of Sports Medicine released their annual list of the Fittest Cities in America, and Dallas did not score very well, ranking #61 among the 100 largest cities in the country.   

COVID-19 also interfered with people’s ability to go to the gym, and many were afraid to even perform solo fitness activities like cycling, walking, or running. Stuck at home for months, exercise enthusiasts became accustomed to working out in-place.  

Now that lockdowns have ended, people want to keep enjoying the convenience of exercising at home, but they want their bedrooms, living rooms, and garages back. This is why there is a growing demand for dedicated fitness rooms where people can set up home gym equipment like weight benches, treadmills, stationary bikes, yoga mats, and other fitness products.

How hot is this trend?

The Washington Post reports that revenue from health and fitness equipment more than doubled between March and October of last year, climbing to $2.3 billion. Treadmill sales jumped 135%, and stationary bike sales nearly tripled.

Having It Your Way with an Open Floor Plan

In a poll of the building and design industry’s leading experts, 91% responded that open floor plans are the most popular option for new custom homes.

Again, this trend was influenced by the pandemic, as we all had to rely on our homes more than ever before. They needed to be not just our homes, but also our restaurants, schools, gyms, theaters, playgrounds, offices, and libraries.

Only one floor plan is this versatile. By design, an open floor plan is adaptable so the interior spaces of your home can fulfill whatever needs you and your family have at any given time.

Open floor plans are particularly popular with larger or growing families with hectic schedules. For example, on busy mornings when everyone is rushing around trying to get ready for school or work, the “traffic” moves a lot smoother within the great room common area than it would with the walls and doors of a closed floor plan.

Open floor plans also make it easier for family members to communicate and be together, even when they are doing their own thing. Because they aren’t separated by barriers, family members can talk with each other, parents can keep an eye on young children or pets, and everyone can interact, even while they might be individually cooking, working, studying, or playing.

Bigger is Still Better, But So is Versatility

With the aforementioned increased demand for home offices and fitness rooms, it is no surprise that most experts believe that new homes will be getting bigger. In fact, take a look at what people are requesting, in order of preference:

  • Home Offices
  • Extra Storage (closets, pantries, etc.)
  • Playing Spaces
  • Home Gyms
  • Learning Spaces
  • Disinfection Spaces
  • Meditation Spaces

Although some of these will most likely be separate rooms, in other cases, you can have your individual needs met by having multi-use rooms. For example, with the right storage, a learning space can easily convert to a playroom when lessons are done, or your meditation space can be in your fitness room. 

But either way, homes ARE trending bigger, in terms of both number of bedrooms and the overall square footage.

According to Today’s Homeowner, 89% of new single family home construction projects have 3 or more bedrooms. Even more telling, in 2010, only 35% of new single-family residences had 4 or more bedrooms, but today, that number has climbed to 43%.

The Bottom Line About Custom Home Trends in the Dallas Area

Ultimately, the choice of which trends, if any, you choose to follow when you build your Dallas custom home will depend on your preferences, your family’s needs, and your budget. We hope this information has served as a good jumping-off point that has given you something to think about as you start the process of designing and building your dream home here in the DFW area.

At the same time, we want to hear from YOU about your experiences during the whole process. Please leave any comments or questions and feel free to reach out if there is a specific topic you would like to see addressed.   

SOURCES:

Dallas-Fort Worth new home construction soared in 2020 despite COVID – Dallas Business Journal (bizjournals.com)

Dallas-Fort Worth new home sales hold strong, but market is tightening – Dallas Business Journal (bizjournals.com)

Zillow Q1 2021 Home Price Expectations Survey – Summary & Comments (economicgreenfield.com)

Market Hotness Index – Realtor.com Economic Research

Texas Quarterly Housing Report – Texas REALTORS® (texasrealestate.com)

Dallas Housing Market: Prices | Trends | Forecast 2021 (noradarealestate.com)

Dallas nails ranking as second busiest home construction spot in U.S. – CultureMap Dallas

Where are Texas’ fastest-growing cities? Check the suburbs | The Kinder Institute for Urban Research (rice.edu)

Dallas Ranks #2 For The Fastest Growing Suburbs – Destination DFW – Dallas Fort Worth Relocation Guide

The Best Small American Cities For Families (forbes.com)

Fastest-Growing Cities in America (wallethub.com)

FBI Names Little Elm The Safest City In Texas – CBS Dallas / Fort Worth (cbslocal.com)

Allen, Texas: MONEY’s # Best Place to Live in 2017 | Money

Carrollton Ranks as One of the Most Livable Cities in the U.S. | Latest City News | City of Carrollton, TX

The Best U.S. Suburbs to Move to in 2021 | Homes.com

DFW Dallas Fort Worth Master-Planned Communities (texasnewhomerebates.com)

North Texas Master-Planned Communities Among 50 Fastest-Growing in U.S. – CandysDirt.com

The Top-Selling Master-Planned Communities of 2020 (rclco.com)

How Much Does Landscaping Really Add to a Home’s Value? – Turf Magazine

Trends in Landscaping | Diane Bearden (dianebeardenrealestate.com)

Pollination and Pollinators (psu.edu)

The 8 Major Home Design Trends That’ll Be Big in 2021 – Redfin

https://comfyliving.net/work-from-home-statistics/-

Dallas works its way up the work-from-home ladder, report shows – CultureMap Dallas

Work from Home Before and After the COVID-19 Outbreak – Research Dept. Working Paper No. 2017 – Dallas Fed

Hottest home design trends for 2021 (globalsources.com)

Study: People in U.S. exercising more, but less intensely, during pandemic – UPI.com

Here’s How Dallas Ranks For Physical Fitness | Dallas, TX Patch

Home-fitness gear surges during pandemic – The Washington Post

Single-Family Home Trends 2021: Construction and Remodeling Report (fixr.com)

10 Different Design Trends That Will Be Everywhere in 2021—and Beyond (realtor.com)

Characteristics of New Housing (census.gov)

Trend Reversal:  Homes are Getting Bigger Again (inside.lighting)

2021 AIA Home Design Trends Survey – Q2 Home and Property Design

New Homes Bigger Than 10 Years Ago but Apartments Trail Behind (storagecafe.com)

Of all the decisions you will make on your journey to your dream home, choosing your builder is probably the most important.

If you make the right choice, you will have a genuine partner who will take your dream from concept to reality. By contrast, choosing the wrong builder can be a disaster.

As we are currently going through the process ourselves, we are documenting the steps and details involved in building a custom home, and sharing objective information so that other aspiring home owners can make informed decisions. 

The information in this article is intended to make the process straightforward for you, so come along as we share our checklist for choosing an experienced and affordable custom home builder in Dallas (or anywhere in the world). 

Why you need a custom home builder

If you’re still undecided about the importance of hiring a custom home builder, you should read this section.

Hiring a custom home builder is a smart choice for the following reasons:

1. Years of Experience & Knowledge in Home Construction

When you hire an experienced custom home builder, you are leveraging their expertise and experience to build your home. And, you’re saving yourself the stress of handling things and the risk of making a mess of things. 

Building a custom home is difficult and complicated.  It requires a great deal of knowledge, talent for construction and a wide network of solid industry contacts and relationships. 

When you engage the right custom home builder, you get a team of professionals who fully understand every aspect of building a home. 

Your custom home builder will be responsible for sourcing the materials, managing the process, and ensuring that construction is completed on schedule, accurately, and professionally.

2. Custom home builders have greater negotiating power

If you want the best products, labor and materials at the best prices available, consider hiring a well-established custom home builder. 

These expert home developers build several homes each year and have made strong connections with manufacturers and building material suppliers over the years.  

They are able to buy many components and materials in bulk, which allows them to negotiate lower prices, which benefit you.

3. Custom home builders work with dependable subcontractors

With a good custom home builder in charge of your home building project, you can be confident that they collaborate with top subcontractors in your region who can build your home to standard and on schedule.

4. It takes time and a lot of effort to build a house

Custom home construction requires time, dedication and construction expertise. 

Construction isn’t something you can do in your spare time. It requires active involvement, hands-on management, and your physical presence on the job site.

Choosing a custom home builder relieves you of the burden of managing all parts of your home’s construction, allowing you to focus on other priorities in your life.

5. Established and Proven Timeline Management

A custom home builder will manage your home construction project based on the specified delivery schedule. 

Professional home builders have perfected their skills through many years of trial and error. Consequently, builders have the necessary expertise to manage the development of your dream home.

They will schedule the subcontractors, check up on their work, and adhere to your deadline to guarantee that everything is completed accurately.  

Also, a good builder is capable of managing any delays that may have an impact on your construction financing. 

When to hire your custom home builder

The best time to select your builder is before you begin the design process. Bringing a builder on-board early in the design phase ensures that your house plan and budget remain consistent. 

During the house plan design process, a professional custom builder will ensure that:

  • The house plan can be built with your budget
    • When choosing a house plan, you may be tempted to build a castle for a home. Your builder will tell you what you can and cannot afford.
  • The design is structurally achievable
  • The house design is allowed by local building ordinances and property owners associations (usually Home Owners Associations, referred to as HOAs for short)

How to Find and Hire a Reliable Custom Home Builder in Dallas, Texas

Before we start, you should be aware that anyone can work as a builder in the state of Texas. State regulators in Texas don’t require residents to earn a license or certificate to work as custom home builders, as in some states

The downside to this fact is that people without experience can parade as top home builders, when in reality they are usually general contractors looking to make extra commissions on a deal. So, you shouldn’t accept any builder’s claims until you have verified them, and you have investigated their prior projects and resume.

Find a custom home builder in Texas through referral

If it is possible for you, this is hands-down the best way to hire a custom builder in Texas, or anywhere for that matter. 

If you don’t know anyone who has a referral to a builder in your desired area, you might spend some time knocking on doors.  Find attractive homes in the area and ask the owners who they would recommend.  

Find a custom home builder in Texas using the internet

You can find great builders on the internet as long as you know what to look for, and how to filter candidates.  There are rules to follow when using the internet to find your builder: 

Rule no. 1: Make your search as detailed as possible

Instead of searching for “Dallas custom home builders,” try searching for “award-winning custom home builders in DFW” or “Best custom home builders in North Dallas” (or any area you are interested in). Be specific about the location and caliber of expertise you want to build your home.

Be prepared to review dozens, if not hundreds, of companies who will show up in your search results for Dallas and Fort Worth, and other surrounding areas.

Rule no. 2: Filter by reviews and ratings

Reviews and ratings are good indicators of expertise and experience.  Start by ranking candidates based on their online reviews.  Try to narrow your list of potential builders to the top 10 companies through this process, then be prepared to dig deep to verify the reviews and ratings as well as other details about the prospective builder.

Rule no. 3: Investigate thoroughly

Trim the list of prospective builders to your top two or three by conducting extensive internet research and contacting them directly via their website or phone. Look for responsiveness, organization, and a physical address. 

If a builder responds within 24 hours of sending an inquiry, they are likely available to work, or provide great customer service, or both. 

Also, pay attention to custom builders with a physical office.  Although not absolutely necessary, having a formal office lends a degree of legitimacy and implied stability to a prospective company.

Online research tip:

Do as much research as possible to assess each builder’s experience, portfolio, team strength, communication style, values, industry reputation, and reach. If the builder checks all the boxes impressively, you should consider hiring them.

Helpful hint for reaching out:

Call the builder’s office or fill out the “Contact Us” form on their website. The communication that follows will give you a sense of their team’s responsiveness, professionalism, and eagerness to assist you.

Making the Final Decision

This will be the most time-consuming but vital element of the hiring process. You should organize a face-to-face appointment with each builder and ask to see a completed home or visit a current job site with them.

A face-to-face meeting will allow you to evaluate:

  • If their procedures and processes are organized, effective, and transparent
  • Their team’s strength and relevant experience
  • The builder’s communication style and personality

Visiting a worksite will help you evaluate:

  • If their construction and finishes are of high quality
  • Professionalism, cleanliness and safety precautions on the jobsite
  • How informed and hands-on the builder is with their clients and projects

Other indicators of the caliber of builder you are interviewing:

  • Are they on time for meetings, fast to reply, well-organized, and have sound business judgment?
  • Do you have the impression that you are their valued customer and a top priority?
  • Are they willing to provide detailed answers and clarifications to all of your questions?
  • Do they disclose any concerns openly and transparently while also suggesting workarounds?
  • Pre-construction services – An expert custom home builder will provide you with a full cost estimate (several pages that cover everything – even the brands used) for a fee. Pre-construction services such as this take time, so it is reasonable that a professional, established builder would want to be paid for their time. Not charging for such services may be a red flag. The builder may be either inexperienced and don’t know their worth, or they may be trying to make it too easy for you to commit to them because they don’t have clients.
  • Check to see whether they have insurance to cover workplace hazards and accidents. This cannot be overemphasized as construction comes with a high degree of accident risk. If the builder does not have liability protection in the form of insurance covering their workforce, then you may be held accountable for damages, medical costs, missed payments and even lost wages.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any allegations or complaints have been filed against the builder.  Keep in mind that companies can change their names easily and often, so ask if they’ve previously done business under other names, as well. 

Digging Deeper – Top 10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Custom Home Builder

  1. Do you have experience building the style and quality of home that I want?

While this may seem to be an obvious question, be sure to ask it and ask for specific examples of their work.

This question is vital because each house style has unique challenges, so it is better to hire a custom builder with in-depth experience building the house style you want. You want to be confident that your builder knows how to deliver a finished home without cutting corners or trying something new.

And if possible, ask for a walk-through of a completed project or ongoing construction of your style of house.

  1. Do you have an estimating process?

Most experienced builders will provide a preliminary estimate for the cost of your finished home, based on historical hard costs and current market trends.  One such example is the price contrast between the pre-Covid years (historical data) and the Covid years (current trend). 

Later, they will provide you with a detailed budget estimate which is prepared after the house plan and specs are completed.  As this estimate will be based on bids from suppliers, you should ensure that your builder obtains multiple bids from reputable vendors for each cost component at this stage of the estimation process.

  1. How long will it take to get an estimate for my home?

When shopping for a custom builder, you will contact different builders and ask for the same information for comparison. This is an opportunity to measure availability based on response time. 

You should ask the builders on your interview list for a timeframe to provide an estimate for your home. 

Builders that are swamped with work may give a long turnaround time, which could be an indication that the builder may not have time to get involved in the details with you or pay specific attention to your project. However, it can also indicate that the builder is in demand due to the high quality of their work. 

If you believe this to be the case, and you’re interested in hiring the builder, you can ask for their work calendar to manage a timeframe that works for both of you.

  1. Do you charge a fee for your pre-construction services?

This question is important to understand if you will be charged up-front for certain services, or if there will be an add-on cost during the construction phase. 

Pre-construction services are quite tasking and time-consuming, because a builder has to pore over the details of your house plan to identify cost-saving opportunities, review quotes from suppliers, and more. 

Every part of this process requires time and focus, so you should expect a fee for this service. 

Tip: Request pre-construction services when you’re satisfied with the builder’s portfolio, reviews, and response to interview questions.

  1. What is your project management-communication process; how will my requests, concerns, and questions be handled during construction?

During construction, you may observe house features that don’t fit your style or wish to add a specific feature to improve aesthetics. 

If your request takes the project outside the scope of work agreed upon, the builder’s project management process will help you understand if in-project changes are allowed and how such changes will be handled. 

A good home builder should have a process to accommodate requested changes, although they may add extra cost.

  1. Will my project be under direct supervision or assigned to another builder during construction?

Most custom home builders work as an organization, with multiple team members on-staff. As such, several people within the organization may handle the actual construction of their homes in process. So, your project may be managed by another builder on the team, different from the person you are interviewing.

There shouldn’t be issues if both builders are on the same team, but it is better for the builder in charge of costing and pre-construction preparation to manage the construction process. This way, you can be confident that the builder understands your vision from the beginning, and can deliver the vision you both agreed upon.

  1. How long do you expect the construction of this home to last?

After you are satisfied with the builder’s projected cost of building your custom home, you should ask about the timeframe. You want to know when you can move into your home and plan your transition accordingly. 

The response will vary based on the size and detail of your home, and it can take anywhere between 6 – 24 months to complete a custom home. 

Also, ask about the builder’s process for managing challenges during a project. Challenges could include a change to your home’s features, a shortage of materials, an on-site accident, etc. 

A good builder should have a process for handling such challenges with the agreed project completion date in mind.

  1. Do you offer cost-plus or fixed-price contracts?

To put things in perspective, let’s define these contract types:

A fixed-price contract means that a price for products and services has been determined and your pricing will remain constant, independent of actual production costs.

Cost-plus pricing refers to a contract in which the price is based on the actual cost of production, plus an agreed-upon profit or fee.

Each model comes with its own set of risks and rewards for both buyers and sellers. Some builders offer fixed pricing contracts when they can make cost predictions with accuracy and the outcome is defined, while other builders use cost-plus pricing because it mitigates their risk, and it is simple to understand and calculate.

  1. Do you have a work portfolio and customer references?

You should expect the builder to put their best foot forward by providing references. If they are not offered you should definitely request them, and specifically ask for clients who built a house similar to your design.

The builder may have to reach out to their past customers to get permission to share their information. However, if there is a hesitation to share references, consider it a red flag. 

  1. Finally, contact the references!

Make sure you contact the references provided by the builder. Expectedly, the references will be clientele who had a good experience with the builder. Still, these chats can be useful in determining the builder’s strengths and flaws.

Questions to ask your references include:

  • Did you have a good time working with this builder?
  • What do you think their strengths are?
  • Were they able to complete your project on time? If not, what were the causes of the delays?
  • Was the builder’s schedule communicated clearly?
  • Did the builder implement requests promptly?
  • Were you satisfied with your initial budget estimate?
  • How accurate were the builder’s budget estimates?
  • Was the project completed on time and within budget? What were the causes of the overages?
  • Did the builder make the costs clear and transparent?
  • How did the builder handle tense situations?
  • What role did the builder play after the project got underway?
  • Who worked on your project specifically? 
  • Who would you hire if you had the opportunity to build another custom home?
  • Was the project tidy and well-organized?
  • Were there any subcontractors on your project that you would strongly advise against or strongly recommend?
  • Since you moved in, how has the builder handled warranty issues?
  • Would you choose this builder again if you were building a new home?

General Contractors vs. Custom Home Builders 

The roles of a general contractor and a custom home builder are similar, but fundamentally different. 

As the title implies, a general contractor is responsible for the general management of the many sub-contractors or vendors working on a building project.

Simply put, a general contractor is the traditional team lead. They put together the team needed for a project, supervise the building process and ensure it meets your specification.

By contrast, a custom home builder is usually a construction business with an organization that specializes in developing and building custom homes from start to finish.

Custom home builders have the experience and capabilities to take on the entire project, from drafting to final finishing (consequently, custom home builders are also referred to as “design-to-build” firms). 

Advantages of working with a custom home builder vs. a general contractor

No subcontractor delays: When you hire a custom home builder, you get the full team for the project. You won’t have to wait for the custom builder to gather a team of subcontractors for the project, and that is a primary advantage of a custom home builder over a general contractor.

No bidding war: Possibly the most mind-numbing and frustrating part of working with a general contractor, rather than a custom home builder, occurs before the project is actually started. 

After the house plan has been approved, a general contractor has to show the plan to different sub-contractors to get bids. This opens the floor for a bidding war, as you and your contractor have to review every bid to ensure it is comprehensive and authentic. 

There is so much paperwork, price cross-checking, background checks, and interviewing involved that it can easily become an overwhelming experience. 

And while this may seem like a good way to control costs, keep in mind that low prices don’t equate to high quality.

By contrast, you won’t have to deal with this process or evaluate bids with a custom home builder. The entire project cost will be made available as soon as the house plan is ready, because the custom home builder will work only with his trusted sub-contractors and knows their prices.

Direct and streamlined communication: Another advantage of working with a custom home builder is simplified communication. As the property owner, you will interface with only the home builder. 

When you want something done or need changes, you simply send an email or put a call in to the builder, who will take action. 

With a general contractor, communication isn’t always streamlined. You may have to juggle communication between your general contractor and subcontractors. However, a general contractor can offer streamlined communication if they have excellent relationships with their subcontractors, so you must look closely at their customer reviews and contact their referrals to verify they communicate well.

Better Quality: With a custom home builder, the construction process works smoothly and more efficiently. A team of custom home builders will likely work seamlessly compared to a team put together for a project by a general contractor.

If you’ve led a group or party at any level or industry, you will understand the initial challenges an ad-hoc team faces in the beginning. So it follows that a team of custom builders will work better and produce excellent results faster because of their close work experience.

Red Flags to Check For When Choosing a Custom Home Builder

We have discussed the positive qualities to look for in a builder at length. Now, let’s specifically take a look at the red flags to check for when choosing a custom home builder:

1. They are unwilling or unable to answer your inquiries: If a builder is unable to answer your questions or unwilling to share information about cost, delivery timeframe or process, these are indicators that they don’t have the knowledge needed, or they are not sufficiently organized (or worse – might be a shady operation).

Whatever the cause, don’t use an unresponsive builder that avoids vital questions. You should be able to ask questions about anything concerning the service delivery.

2. They are late for meetings and take a long time to answer you: This is an indication that their priorities are elsewhere. You may be better off working with another builder if your preferred builder does not give you the attention you need. 

3. They always recommend cheaper materials: This could be a red flag depending on your perspective. Sometimes, a custom builder will recommend more affordable alternatives for a project because the client is overly cost-conscious. 

If that is not the case for you, then such behavior is a red flag. Your builder should provide the best materials that will make your home stand the test of time, and only look at cheaper materials if they offer better or different benefits.

4. They provide you with free quotations and hazy, one-page estimations: Nothing beats a comprehensive breakdown to show what is being purchased and the price. Anything short of a detailed quotation is suspicious. 

A good builder will take the time to explain costs because they understand that finance is a sensitive part of the business. You want to be confident that your builder has your interest at heart.

5. Their prices are out of line with other builders: Most builders source their materials from the same manufacturers or tap into the same labor community when hiring subcontractors or workers. 

So, the price differences between quotes shouldn’t be outrageous. If you find a really low quote (low-ball offer) compared to others, it is possible that the builder will cut corners to meet the cost, or perhaps they are using the quote as bait to get you to the discussion table. 

The latter is understandable, but you shouldn’t agree to work with a builder who will cut corners to meet a quote. 

6. They request a deposit or retainer above 10%: This is a sign that they may not have many clients or aren’t doing well. A deposit is only a security measure and, unless special circumstances merit, should rarely exceed 10%.

7. They are pushing for a commitment without showing sufficient proof of work or building trust: If you feel pressured by the builder to make a financial commitment, this is a red flag.

A well-established and highly regarded custom home builder will have plenty of business in their market, thus will not need to use pressure tactics to make sales.

8. Your “gut feeling” disagrees: “Gut feeling” is an important factor in human relationships, business, and decision-making in general.

A gut feeling can be described as your 6th sense. If something doesn’t feel right, it may not be right.

If a builder checks all the boxes on your hiring checklist, but you still feel a level of uneasiness hiring them, you should step away from the deal for a while to reassess the situation. 

Conclusion 

This guide is based on our experiences through the process of choosing a builder, so feel free to add your own criteria or requirements to your personal list to help you make the best choice possible. Building a custom home is possibly a lifetime commitment, so you want everything done right. And, if you decide to sell in the future, you want your home to be built well so that it holds value and sells as quickly as possible. 

Start your journey to a great home by choosing an experienced builder who meets or exceeds all of your requirements.

There you have it—a comprehensive checklist for choosing an experienced and affordable Dallas custom home builder. Of course, you can use this information anywhere in the country and around the world. 

Building a new home comes with all kinds of costs, some expected and some unexpected. These costs start to show when you’re in the early design phase of building your house, and will grow as you begin to add more features. 

Recognize at the outset that builders may offer a “customizable” home by offering upgrades to the basic features of their standard house plans.  Implicit in each upgrade is an upcharge. In the interest of helping all new home customers save money, we’ve compiled a few areas to consider, particularly in the early design stage.

Paint

As part of their initial cost offering, builders will usually offer a template of various neutral paint colors. These are typically referred to as “level 1” paints and will almost always be included in the cost of the house.

However, builders will may also provide other options for paints that will cost additional money. These options are usually referred to as “level 2” and above. Choosing upgraded paints can run up costs significantly.  There may not only be an additional cost for the upgraded color itself, but there may also be an additional charge for the labor to apply your unique color choice.

Repainting is relatively easy, and can be done at any time. If you want to save your building budget for other upgrades, consider going with the level 1 paint options offered by your builder and repainting later, on your own schedule and with your own paint choices.

Carpet and Flooring

Similar to the paint component mentioned above, builders will customarily offer options for carpet and flooring in a system of levels. With flooring options, level one will almost always be a least-expensive carpet option.

As with paints, flooring can easily be upgraded at any time. If budget is an issue, you can go with the builder’s low-cost option and make changes later- often for less cost than what the builder would have charged for similar upgrades. 

Granite Upgrades

Granite features will often be offered as an upgrade to standard materials. An interesting point to note here is that the difference in finished look and quality between the various levels of granite offered is not entirely noticeable to most people.  And, realtors will typically agree that it doesn’t matter so much what “level” of granite fixtures you choose.

Upgrading to any level of granite over standard materials might be a good choice up front, as upgrading later is not as simple as repainting or upgrading your carpet, and involves tearing out existing counter tops and fixtures.

Lighting Fixtures

Upgrading your lighting fixtures can be a great improvement to the overall aesthetic of your custom home, but can also be very expensive. As with other upgrade options, if budget is an issue, remember that you can always go with a lower-cost option now and then do your own upgrades in the future.

Having said that, there are a few cases where it can be better to upgrade lighting fixtures during the initial construction with the builders. These are cases where it may be difficult to upgrade certain fixtures yourself due to their complexity, or if they are relatively inaccessible after construction is complete.

Appliances

Pay close attention to which appliances are included in the cost of your home, and the cost of any upgrades offered.

Be sure to compare the costs of any upgraded appliances through your builder to those same or similar appliances available at stores where you could purchase them yourself. The cost difference can be huge, and may be the difference between spending $5,000 or $1,400 on a refrigerator, for example.

It is almost always more cost-efficient to purchase and install upgraded appliances on your own. 

Elevation

Elevation typically refers to the structural design for the exterior of your home, and changes can be very costly.

However, some elevation options such as larger windows, which allow more natural light into the interior, may be worth paying for during construction as they can be costly- and maybe impossible- to change later.

In other cases where the elevation choices are merely cosmetic, consider carefully whether it is worth spending the extra thousands, and sometimes even tens of thousands of dollars, understanding that these choices may not be adding any real value to the livability of your home or resale value.

Like this article? You can read more here.