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

Every week thousands of people across the nation are searching the web for information on moving to Dallas and the North Texas area in general. Companies and individuals are moving here in droves due to our booming economy, laissez-faire government, low taxes and central geographic location.

Those who land on our blog are clearly contemplating building rather than buying a home here.  And while people read our articles for all kinds of related information, all of our readers want to know the same thing: 

How much does it cost to build a custom home in or around Dallas?

Whether you’re here because you can’t find an existing home to buy, or because you’re truly passionate about building your own custom dream home, understanding the process is essential to understanding the costs.

So, we decided to provide you with this comprehensive review of the costs, complexities, and inherent risks in building a custom home in Dallas or anywhere in North Texas.

Overview

Texas is a great place to build and live. There are practically limitless opportunities to develop private property, including building a custom home, in the state’s demanding but lucrative housing market.

According to current reports, formalized in a December study by Texas A&M University’s Real Estate Center, the number of existing homes available for purchase in the Texas market is at a historical low. Homes are being sold as soon as they are listed, often at above-listed prices, creating scarcity and making new customers bid for a limited number of available homes. 

At the same time, there has been a surge in demand for new, custom-built homes. The Texas A&M analysis further revealed that Texas has experienced a steady increase in applications and approvals for single-family building permits. The state’s five largest cities approved 11,818 permit applications in October 2020 alone (the most current month measured in the study).

In other words, you will be in competition with many others desiring to build a custom home, well into 2021 and beyond.

When you plan for building in 2021, be aware of the Covid pandemic’s increasing ripple effects on supply chains and the construction industry in general. For example, last fall, supply chain problems caused the price of lumber in Texas to nearly triple until a tariff was imposed to restore equilibrium. However, current prices remain at historical highs, and if unpredictable price spikes occur, thorough analysis of pricing options and a flexible building plan are your best protection against overpaying.

With all of this taken into consideration, this article reviews the possible costs of building a new home in Dallas, covering every aspect of the building process and the information you will need.  Bear in mind that the following analysis and suggested costs are an attempt to capture “average” costs of “average” new houses being built in Dallas and North Texas in general. Your individual preferences and budget for your custom home design will determine final costs.

Land Prices in Texas

Before you start to design your custom home, you need to know where your property will be located, because location will affect both the overall price of your custom home as well as the flexibility you have in your house design.

On average, a 0.25-acre of land should be enough to build a family home with room for a garage, garden, and lawn space. 

You must check with the community in your preferred location to know the restrictions and allowances for building a family home, as many communities today are creating rules for lot size, building specifications, and usage to protect their community and maintain aesthetics. 

As with many metropolitan areas, the average cost of land in and around Dallas (and Fort Worth, its twin-city 30 minutes west) varies widely by location.  You can expect to spend anywhere between $2500 – $3,000 per acre for undeveloped land around the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  However, in areas where development has already started, land cost may be much, much higher.

Just two years ago, the median price for an acre was $2411, inferring that land costs are rising over 10% each year.

When buying land, keep in mind that there are two types of plots:

  1. Subdivided lots

A subdivided lot is a larger piece of land that has been subdivided into smaller lots by an individual or developer. As this category of land is intended for development, you may find amenities associated with  the property, such as highways or other infrastructure, shared community facilities like pools, parks and playgrounds, or a gated security entrance to the development.

A subdivided lot is registered at the county level, and it may be subject to deed limitations or a Home Owners Association (HOA) – more on home owners associations later.

  1. Unplatted or undeveloped land

Compared to subdivided lots, an unplatted property is usually less expensive per acre, but more expensive to build on. This is primarily due to the sizable costs you will incur for grading, infrastructure, driveways, utilities, etc.

Choosing a House Plan

Once you’ve chosen your location, you can choose your home’s design and specifications. As you do, don’t overlook the following considerations:

Budget

Note that we discuss specific costs to help you calculate your budget in the sections below.

While this is the exciting part of building a custom home because you get to decide the look and feel of your design, it is important to make the decision with your budget in view. 

If you don’t correctly forecast your budget, loan financing, and the total cost of building a particular house style, with all of your specific upgrades and amenities, you may outstrip your resources to finance the project. 

Restrictions and Limitations

Another consideration before choosing a house plan is the restrictions that may be imposed by deed and by any property owners associations your land may be subject to.  

  • Deed limitations

A deed may contain restrictions on  how you can use your land. Deed limits will control what you can and cannot do on your property, as well as what you can build on it. 

  • Property Owners or Home Owners Associations limitations

If applicable in your home’s location, a property owners association (usually the Home Owners Association or HOA for short) in your neighborhood may play a huge role with additional regulations, usually found in the association’s bylaws. Over the last 40 years, the influence of Home Owners Associations across America has skyrocketed, and this is true in Texas. It is estimated that 75 million residents in the United States live in areas governed by HOAs, which have  building standards and rules which are created maintain the character of the community, and which homeowners are legally obligated to follow.

Costs by House Type 

Unless you’ve got a rich budget and an exceptional architect, at the end of the day your custom-built home will be based off of one of the following styles of houses.  And, while all of the home styles detailed below offer endless possibilities for customization, it pays to keep your design in-line with conventional standards if are concerned about resale value. Extreme designs appeal to fewer potential buyers, while more conventional designs appeal to more potential buyers.

With that in mind, let’s review the top 7 types of house plans in Texas.

Top 7 Types of House Plans in Texas

1. Ranch-style house

Texas is known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, so it should come as no surprise that one of the most popular house styles in the state is the  “Ranch” style house. 

The ranch-style house, which dates back to 1932, rose in popularity during the 1950s and 1960s and is still popular today. Ranch architecture is characterized by a (typically) straightforward, single-story floor plan, low-to-the-ground appearance, and an open structure design.

Ranch-style homes stand out with a low-pitched roof and (usually) an attached garage.  In Texas, their yard size is limited only by the number of acres the owner can afford. Modern variations of these homes promote an indoor-outdoor lifestyle, with wide windows and sliding glass door designs. 

While ranch-style homes in other parts of the country often have basements, here in Texas that is not typically the case.  We would ascribe this to a) the high cost of excavating our rocky land to create the space for a basement, and b) the general availability of larger land lots, allowing us to expand our living space horizontally rather than vertically.

When you build a ranch-style home, you are automatically creating an in-demand property. Real estate sales data shows that ranch-style houses are popular and have the highest sale-to-list ratio in several markets including Texas, Virginia, Portland, Phoenix, Chicago, San Francisco, and San Diego. Translation: a ranch-style house is more likely to sell above the listed price in Texas.

To summarize, here are the typical characteristics of a ranch-style house in Texas:

  • Single story
  • Open concept floor plan
  • Rectangular, “U,” or “L”-shaped
  • Devoted patio or deck space
  • Large windows and sliding glass doors
  • Low-pitched roofline with wide eaves
  • Often features an attached garage

Ranch Houses Come in Five Varieties

While most ranch houses share similarities, there are some details that can set them apart. Here are several distinct ranch-style designs that cater to various homeowner preferences:

California Ranch

The California ranch, also known as a rambling ranch, is distinguished by an L- or U-shaped frame constructed low to the earth. This sprawling, single-story architecture is meant to fit in with nature. The California ranch has a pool and a front garden. (Related: Aged people, 50 and above, prefer California ranch-style homes because they are low to the ground and easily accessible.)

Suburban Ranch

While similar to the California ranch with its L or U shape and open-floor style, the suburban ranch is more streamlined and asymmetrical in form. Also, it comes with a garage and a courtyard.

Split-level ranch

The exterior of the split-level ranch is similar to that of the suburban ranch, but it has two floors of sprawling living space. A split-level ranch house has a front door that leads into the living, dining, and kitchen spaces. Also, they have half-flights of stairs that lead to bedrooms and additional living space.

Raised Ranch

Like the split-level ranch, the raised ranch has multiple  levels of living space but with a distinct style. The raised ranch’s front door opens directly to a staircase that leads upstairs, with the kitchen and bedrooms usually on the upper floor.

Storybook Ranch

The storybook ranch is distinguished from other ranch types by its ornate features. This architecture includes diamond-shaped window panes, decorative brick or stone chimneys, and a steep, gabled roof.

The cost of building a Ranch-style house in Dallas, Texas

A ranch-style home in Texas costs the same as most house styles. You can expect to spend between $100 and $200 per square foot on average. At the low end of the price range, ranch-style homes are simply one-story houses, with low-to-the-ground profiles and easy access from multiple sides of the property. However, sprawling ranch homes tend toward the high end of the price range, with larger-than-average footprints which cost more primarily because of the additional foundation costs.

2. Craftsman-style house

Late-nineteenth-century Victorian homes were designed to showcase American engineering advancements and industrial invention with their over-the-top detailing. By contrast, the Craftsman revolution that followed was a direct counter-response, favoring hand-made products and buildings over mass-produced goods. 

At the turn of the twentieth century, the American Craftsman architecture movement evolved from the British Arts and Crafts movement, which evolved as a similar reaction to Europe’s Industrial Revolution (viewed by many as devaluing human labor).

Craftsman-style homes share many characteristics that make them easily identifiable, and they are as common today as they were more than a century ago. In contrast to Victorian-style homes, Craftsman houses prioritize horizontal lines, with low-pitched gable (triangular) roofs that extend beyond the home’s outer walls, sometimes revealing the beams. 

Craftsman houses adopt an artisanal approach to surface decoration, fusing hand-made local materials with architectural features such as brackets, lintels, and rafters.

The over-extended eaves of Craftsman roofs allow for large porches on the front of houses with tall, tapered columns across the perimeter. The exteriors of these homes were mostly painted wood cladding; however, stucco or stone accents were used very often as well—the general theme was an emphasis on earthy tones.

The interiors of Craftsman homes are as distinctive and essential to the designer as the exteriors. Craftsman homes use wood for designs, from the thick trim around doors and windows, squared beams around the roof, built-in bookshelves, and window seats. Other prominent features include a fireplace (or two). 

The cost of building a Craftsman-style house in Dallas, Texas

The national average for building a craftsman-style home is between $125,500 and $345,000, which is in-line with Texas. Size and choice of building materials drive price.

3. Contemporary-style house

Simply put, contemporary homes embody today’s architectural standards. The contemporary house design is a response to the ever-changing architectural trends of the twenty-first century.

Most contemporary homes have a minimalist feel about them, with architectural cues from postmodernism and deconstructivism mixed in good measure. Unlike other house styles, contemporary homes emphasize the quality and effect of the construction material on nature. 

There is a strong focus on renewable and natural materials – using recycled materials to build furniture or a container-home, for example.

Contemporary homes are popular because they incorporate nature and defy conventional architectural styles. Historically, the latest architectural style is usually the opposite of its predecessor. For example, the simplicity of Craftsman homes contrasts sharply with the over-opulence of the Victorian period that preceded it.

However, contemporary architecture does not follow this pattern. In reality, this style takes after its predecessor, modern-style architecture, in many ways. It took what worked, as shown by the reliance on clear, basic lines and a link to nature, and corrected what didn’t. Contemporary homes have a warmer design than modern-style houses.

Features of contemporary interior design:

Clear lines: The interior design, like the exterior, has prominent, clear lines. The furniture is constructed from a variety of geometric forms and recycled materials. There can be boxed furniture and round seats in the same room. 

Minimal decor: Contemporary-style design follows a minimalist and practical approach. That means only useful furniture or features are used. As a result, contemporary rooms look larger when plain.

Simple decoration: Contemporary homes use one or two pieces of artwork to create a focal point in each room. The walls are kept bare so that they don’t obstruct the space or detract from the natural landscape seen through the windows.

Neutral colors: The color palette of contemporary rooms is limited. Walls and furniture are usually beige, cream, black, or green. To add contrast, one or two objects in each room can have a pop of color.

The cost of building a Contemporary-style home in Dallas, Texas

From this brief description of details, it is clear that contemporary homes are unique and require specialized skills in both design and construction. Consequently, they are more expensive to build than a traditional American home. In this category we are not able to provide a reliable price range due to the subjective nature of the designs and their associated pricing, but you can expect to pay 25% – 50% more for a Contemporary-style house vs. a traditional house design.

4. Modern-style house designs

The modern style arose in reaction to the late-nineteenth-century Victorian architecture, which was overly ornate, cluttered, and fancy. Compared to Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco homes, modernist-style homes had a distinct lack of decoration and flair. 

These types of homes have a precise horizontal composition, wide-open floor plans, deliberate asymmetry, and large expanses of glass windows or glass walls. The goal here is to build a simpler home with an emphasis on functional features to eliminate needless parts and furniture. Consequently, modern-style homes are spacious and great for living. 

Like contemporary homes, modern-style homes merge the inside and outside with ground-to-ceiling windows, open spaces, and manicured exterior to improve the view. Nature lovers will enjoy a modern-style home because of its minimalist approach and nature integration.

The cost of building a Modern-style home in Dallas, Texas

The cost of a Modern house design built in Texas, with vast expanses of ground-to-ceiling glass and many different floor plans available, ranges from roughly $750,000 to $15 million or more. This wide range in cost can be attributed to the wide-ranging prices of the land/location opportunities available in different areas, the square footage desired, and the complexity of each unique design.

5. Cape Cod style homes

A Cape Cod house could be described as a traditional American cottage, as these charming and simplistic designs are recognized as symbolic American homes. 

Although they can be scaled to any size, Cape Cods are typically just the right size for an average American family. These types of homes are easy to heat and decorate. 

This popular American house style takes its name from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The origin of the Cape Cod-style is traced to the time of the first Puritan settlers. Cape Cod was an adaptation of the concept of an English cottage, tailored to suit America’s climate.

For example, the symmetrical architecture centered on an expansive, open living room – or “hall”- is English in origin. 

Cape Cod homes use steep roofs, originally to reduce the weight of snow in winter, while the characteristic low ceilings save heat, and the unique shutters keep out cold winter winds.  While they are not common in Texas, they stand out when done well.

Characteristics of a Cape Cod-style home

Cape Cod homes have a few distinguishing characteristics that make them stand out:

Exterior

  • Symmetrical look with a centered front entry
  • Roofs have a steep pitch, side gables, and an overhang
  • Dormers with gables
  • Shutters on double-hung windows
  • Siding made of shingles
  • Chimneys that are centralized
  • Simple exterior decoration

Interior

  • One or two story designs 
  • Ceilings that are low
  • A symmetrical plan with a central hall
  • Large, open-plan living area
  • Bedrooms in dormers or underneath eaves
  • There are few aesthetic details and the lines are clean

 The cost of building a Cape Cod-style house in Dallas, Texas

The cost to build a Cape Cod in Texas ranges between $163,000 and $326,000. As with other designs, size, finishes and additional amenities drive price.

6. Colonial-style homes

The history of American Colonial architecture is somewhat self-explanatory: it emerged as a standard house style in the American colonies under colonial rule (the 1600s to mid-1700s). There are examples of Spanish, French, Dutch, and British Colonial architecture in the United States, as immigrants from many of those nations lived in various areas of what is now the United States for different lengths of time.

Traditional American Colonial homes are generally simple in design. Brick and wood are the usual building materials, and they are rectangular, usually two stories, and somewhat symmetrical. The size and dimension of the roof determine the overall appearance of an American colonial home. Typically, American-style homes have steep, side-gabled roofs, and you can only see the triangular part of the roof from the sides. When you view from the front entrance, you only see shingles.

The cost of building a Colonial-style home in Dallas, Texas

Based on the features of this home style, you can assume  that it will be less expensive to build than some other popular designs. That said, you can expect to spend from $140 to  $300 per square foot to build a classic American Colonial home. The choice of material and finishes determine the final cost.

7. Tudor-style homes

For the last century and a half, many Americans have been drawn to the dramatic, romantic, old-world feel of Tudor homes. You don’t have to be a design expert to recognize a Tudor home. Their distinctive gothic appearance separates them from other more symmetrical, lighter, and modern styles. 

Tudor houses come in a variety of sizes. Smaller Tudor homes have a cozy, fairy tale, storybook look, while larger Tudors reflect the charming ideal of an English country manor.

Tudor homes are built with expensive materials, solid masonry, and decorative features. Consequently, they are costly to construct and are often found in affluent suburbs or estates.

Characteristics of Tudor-style homes

Unique windows: Tudor house windows pay a rare homage to medieval architecture. Windows are tall and small, with several panes that may be rectangular or diamond-shaped. The windows are usually colored.

Triangular front door: The front door is an essential architectural feature on Tudor houses. They usually have a triangular arch at the top and are surrounded by a colored stone that contrasts with the brick walls. Finally, Tudor chimneys are another noteworthy feature; they are designed to be striking visually and to improve the home’s appeal from both inside and out

The cost of building a Tudor-style home in Dallas, Texas

While there is no specific range for the costs to build a Tudor-style home, it is generally accepted that Tudor homes are more expensive than other house designs in America. 

In general, you can expect to  pay anywhere from  $50 to $155 extra per square foot than the standard  rates for a traditional-style home in your area. The increased costs are due to the expensive nature of architectural elements of a Tudor home, which are all custom-made by skilled craftsmen.

General Cost Estimates for Each Stage of Building a New Home in Dallas, Texas

Building a new home requires wearing many hats; you have to know a bit about design, furniture, finishing, and construction. But the primary concern will always be the cost of building. You are going to pay for the whole thing, so you should have an idea of what it should cost. 

If you choose to work with a custom home builder or construction firm, you will have a dedicated project manager who will outline the cost of each project stage.

Note that you should add a “buffer” of around 10% of the cost of each of the following stages, for unexpected changes or cost overruns.

Cost of House Plans and Permits

  • House Plans

You can expect to spend anywhere between $2,000 and $8,000 for a standard house plan, and far more for custom, elaborate designs. In fact we know several owners who paid over $100,000 for full custom plans for larger, elaborate home designs.  

A consultation with a qualified architect will provide you with an accurate estimate for the cost of your desired house plan, and as with most hired professionals involved in the building of your custom home, the best way to get an architect is through referral. 

Keep in mind also that you can find a variety of home design companies on the internet. Use history, reviews, and pricing to filter through the thousands of providers available.

You will need the following professionals to build and finish your home:

Architects: $130-$250 per hour

Engineers: $100-$150 per hour

Custom Home Builder or General Contractor: 10%-20% of the total project cost

Interior Designer: $50-$200 per hour

A word of advice: Allow your architect and contractor to collaborate on the house design, to ensure that your architect does not design anything unachievable or prohibitively costly to build.

  • Building Permits

Once you have selected your home style and design, and before you can begin construction, you must secure all necessary permits. According to HomeAdvisor, the average person spends $1,200-2,000 on permits and fees while building a home in Texas; however, prices can vary greatly based on local regulations.

Usually, you need a house plan to apply for a building permit. It takes around 11 weeks currently  to get a building permit in Dallas. Based on the permit application phases published by Dallas City Hall, you will go through a pre-screen, plan review, and application approval stages. 

The first stage is a preliminary check to ensure that the plans are formatted correctly, and all documents have been submitted. 

In the second stage, plan review, your plan will be reviewed based on the Dallas Development Code or the building codes of the city of your location.

In the third stage, your permit is issued once your plan has been approved and any outstanding fees/debts are cleared.

Permits are normally valid for the length of time it takes to finish constructing your home.

While the process of getting permits may seem overwhelming, it is a necessary step that cannot be overlooked or avoided. Homeowners who don’t have a building permit face steep fees, denial of insurance coverage, or even demolition.

Aside from the penalties, there is an even more critical justification to secure permits: your well-being and safety.

Municipalities require permits to ensure that homes are in compliance with current building codes. In Texas, these codes prohibit residents from constructing homes which might be unsafe or unsuitable for the standards of the area.

Construction Phases and Average Costs 

  • Planning phase – budget $18,000

Before you can start building, you need to survey the land, get a house plan, and obtain a building permit. Each step costs a significant amount of money, and you should budget around  $18,000 for this stage of the project.

The biggest expense here is the fees for obtaining a construction permit. Based on the current fee structure, you will be charged $0.004 per square foot for site plan review and $0.012 per square foot of building area for the plan review. 

Next on the list are the fees for sewer and water inspections, which can cost up to $4000. 

Also, if you purchased unplatted land, you may need to do excavation work which will require a special excavation permit.

Finally, be aware that the government could bill you as much as $2,000 (or more) as impact tax, which pays for public facilities such as bridges, parks, and water treatment, dependent on your location.

For a detailed cost breakdown of required permits, visit Dallas City Hall’s website.

In summary, for site preparation, survey, and house plan design (architectural design), you can expect to spend $18,000 or more. 

  • Foundation phase – budget $35,000 

The real fun starts with the foundation work. This is the stage where you break ground on your new home. Excavation or ground-breaking requires heavy-duty machinery and skilled operators to ensure that the land is level before laying the foundation of your home. 

While the size of your home’s floor plan may cause this cost to be higher, the average home budget for this phase is around $35,000.

Also, keep in mind that excavation costs may skyrocket if large rocks are discovered underneath your plot of land, which is common in many parts of Texas.

  • Home framing phase – budget $52,000 and expect to pay more

Prepare to be surprised. The frame of your house will be one of the most expensive items in your house-building budget, usually only surpassed by interior design cost. This stage can cost as much as $41,000 or more for a standard house of 2,500 square feet.

If the woodwork for the roof is not included in the cost of building the roof, you will need to add at least $6,000 to the framing budget. 

After the frame of the house is in position, you have to spend another $3000 for sheathing. Think of sheaths as the skin that protects the home’s frame. And, if you add aluminum or steel components, the framing costs can increase substantially.

Finally, due to the massive amount of lumber required to frame your house and the volatility of lumber prices, be prepared for unexpected cost increases in this phase of construction.

  • Exterior finishes phase – budget $42,000 

The exterior wall has one of the largest surface areas on your property. As such, it will cost a reasonable sum to complete the finishing (estimate for average cost = $19,000). 

Additional exterior finishing includes the installation of doorways, windows, and garage doors. You should expect those expenses to be in the range of $12,000. Roof finishes would cost an additional $10,000. 

  • Major systems installations phase – budget $44,000

In this stage, you will install several systems, including plumbing ($15,000), HVAC ($14,000), and electricity ($14,000). 

  • Interior finishes phase – budget $75,000 

The interior is typically the costliest phase in the construction of a home.  This makes sense, given that you’ll spend most of your time enjoying the inside of your home and the environment you create. 

At this stage, you will choose the finishes based on preference and in accordance with your house style. Do you like the look of granite countertops? Do you prefer hardwood floors? Do you want unique windows? Many such decisions must be made, each with their associated costs.

  • Landscaping and driveway work phase – budget $20,000 

Once the exterior finishes are done, the final phase of development would be focused on the external elements such as landscaping and a driveway ($7,000 each). These also include ancillary structures such as a porch, lawn, or deck (more than $3,000). Also, the final clean-up will cost up to $3,000.

  • Final phase, Miscellaneous Costs – budget $11,000

Aside from the “buffer” sums included at each stage of the construction, you should keep about $11,000 for miscellaneous expenses. These could include unexpected construction challenges, equipment replacement, additional excavation, or any number of other unanticipated costs.

Cost Savings: Do-It-Yourself vs. Hiring a Home Builder

Both your house style and choice of builder will have a tremendous effect on the price you will pay for your custom home in Dallas. If you have the time and the necessary skills, you can save anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 by managing the building of your house. 

Most of the savings come from being your own general contractor. You might as well call this as “payment for the stress” because overseeing construction requires physical and mental grit.

Building an average 2,500-square-foot home takes months, even with an experienced workforce and subcontractors leading the charge. If you choose to build independently, you will need to consider the nuances of planning, building codes, and coordinating trades and schedules. 

Unless you absolutely must reduce your costs, we strongly recommend using a custom home builder, or at the very least using a general contractor for the building and finishing. 

How long will it take to build a custom home in Texas?

Other things being equal, your house style and complexity will determine the construction time required. A simple, traditional-style house might take 8 to 12 months to complete. However, if you want to stand out in the Dallas architectural scene with a Tudor home, for example, you should expect the construction to take 10 to 16 months to complete. 

If you are wondering why the timeframe is significantly higher than the time posted by conventional builders, it is because those companies use pre-set designs and limited materials options for construction, reducing the overall timeline to completion. 

If you are building a truly custom home, you will need to design the plan from scratch, to your standards, and the customization process will be filled with back-and-forth consultations with your architect, builder and with contractors until you get the final design you want.

Also, building a custom home requires hiring specialists who may have tight schedules which you will have to work around, and which may prolong your construction schedule.

Conclusion

Building a custom home is a challenging but rewarding task. Since cost is a primary deciding factor, we’ve gone over the steps of building and the possible costs involved at each stage. 

It is important to note that there is no standard price for building a custom home, so the budget numbers provided above should only be used as a starting point. Be prepared to spend more, and be happy if you spend less, because the building process – even for similar house styles – is never the same.

What makes or breaks curb appeal? With a custom home, it may seem obvious. With everything in brand new condition, what could be more appealing than that? The truth, however, is that curb appeal is about more than maintaining a high quality condition of your home’s exterior. Curb appeal is character, charm, and beauty. It’s made up of all of the small details that together combine to make a house feel inviting through and through. And whether you’re a green thumb, or prefer things simplified for ease of maintenance, there are more curb appeal essentials beyond landscaping to consider. From your home’s color to the placement of your shutters (and more), we’re breaking down all of the essentials you need to make your home visually appealing for both you and your neighbors.

House Color

Getting the right house color seems like a no brainer, right? But requesting a yellow house, for instance, can mean many different things. A soft, almost pastel, yellow offers a cheerful, yet subtle addition to a home’s exterior. On the other hand, opting for a nearly-fluorescent shade of yellow will quickly earn your home the nickname of “lemon meringue pie” (tasty as a dessert, but not so great as a house color). The bottom line is that when you’re choosing your home’s exterior color, you want to take a few things into account. 

The first consideration is the aesthetic of your neighborhood. Do you live in an area where classic colors like white, grey, and blue reign supreme? Then skip the bright pinks or caribbean blues. Similarly, if your neighborhood is known for its artistic individuality and it has an inherently eclectic vibe, you can certainly opt for something a bit more saturated and vibrant. The second thing to keep in mind is that colors always play much brighter in the daylight. So, when choosing a bolder color, you should always opt for more subtle shades in general. For example, while you might be able to get away with a luxurious plum in a powder room or bedroom, on an exterior, it could read more like “grape soda,” so it’s safer to go with a softer shade that can work almost as a neutral instead. For the exterior of your home, playing it safe is usually a good bet. 

Front Door

Just as your house color can be either a major mood booster or a total downer, your front door has the potential to either shine or feel drab and outdated. While it may be tempting to choose any old front door that your builder recommends, remember that it’s one of the first things people see when approaching your home. So, you want it to fit your personality and home’s aesthetic. Someone who loves traditional elements and is inspired by the ornate details in a colonial home or french cottage is going to be much more pleased with a strong and thick wood door, perhaps with stained glass windows or a unique brass door knocker. Contrarily, for someone drawn to modern farmhouse vibes, a simple and straightforward door – perhaps with shaker-style detailing – will be their best fit. 

Now, whether or not you choose to make your front door pop with a unique color is totally up to you. Just be sure that if you choose a color, it works well with your exterior paint color and isn’t too neon-like in hue to blind passerby. A bright color is fine, but going overboard can be disastrous (and generally speaking, if you have a more saturated hue on your home’s exterior, it’s a good idea to create some balance and go for a more toned-down front door).

Shutters

Shutters can be absolutely stunning, no doubt. There’s something so regal and classic about adding them to each floor’s windows. However, if shutters are wrong, they are very wrong. You may not have noticed incorrectly-installed shutters in the past, but after reading this, we guarantee you’ll be able to spot them everywhere you go.

The first mistake some people make is simply buying shutters that are the wrong size. Your shutters should always be the size of your windows (after all, before they were merely decorative, they were meant to functionally close and protect your windows). A too-small shutter wouldn’t ever actually cover the entirety of your window, and even in just a decorative sense, it makes your home look stunted and odd. A too-large shutter looks a little less strange, but it also wouldn’t fit the “function” test, and somehow manages to feel unbalanced next to a smaller window. 

Another shutter mistake people often make is the placement. Remember – a shutter is supposed to, when closed, actually cover the window. So you want to install them on each wall facing the opposite direction. If your window is arched, your arched shutters should swing out so that the lowest point is facing the window and the highest point is on the outside. It may look opposite, but you have to remember that you’re placing it where it would functionally go (even if you aren’t using them functionally).

Front Porch 

There’s nothing quite like a spacious front porch (and a wraparound one is even better). But one of the biggest custom home mistakes we see is a front porch without any railings. That’s not to say it isn’t on the punch list for the future, but we promise that skipping this step is a major curb appeal faux pas. You see, railings are about more than function. Sure, they keep you safe and prevent you from falling and breaking your ankle if you take a step in the wrong direction. But beyond that, railings function in a very strategic visual way. 

Even if they are minimal and can easily be seen through, they work similar to fences, giving a sense that there is a barrier of privacy between your home and the street. It makes your front porch feel enclosed and comfortable, allowing you to fully relax as you watch passerby over a cup of coffee or a happy hour cocktail. Without it, your porch will feel bare and unfinished, to say the least.

The beauty of curb appeal is that it doesn’t take an extraordinary amount of work to get it right. By following a few basic color rules, paying attention to placement of exterior elements, and prioritizing both functionality and style, knocking out a final list of exterior home improvements is actually quite simple. And as far as home improvements go, it’s important to remember that something as straightforward as a new coat of paint can make a huge difference in the way your home looks and feels. The exterior, after all, has a large footprint and is perhaps the most stand-out aspect visually (especially since it’s the first thing anyone sees). So, the bottom line when it comes to perfecting your custom home is to remember that the exterior deserves to have the same attention to detail you’ve given to every other corner of your space. Trust us when we say that if you prioritize it, you’ll be surprised at just how incredible your home’s transformation can be.

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Creating a custom home can sometimes be misleading. “Custom” is often synonymous with “new” rather than actually being completely customized to your taste and personality. What often happens is that a custom home is built for an individual family, but it is also a replica of the neighbor’s home, or the home down the street. And while that makes sense to a certain extent given that different builders and contractors favor different styles, there’s still a level of customization that most people crave.

So, how do you truly customize your home’s look when faced with typical builder-grade fixtures, tile, and finishes? The answer is to get creative and source from a wide variety of vendors, including mom & pop shops, vintage and antique dealers, big box hardware stores, and online marketplaces. The wider you cast your net, the more unique your home’s look is bound to be.

Lighting

Lighting is one of the most overlooked elements of a custom build, and many people assume they have no other option than to use the exact same flush mount fixtures throughout their home. But nothing screams “cookie cutter” like taking that route, and trust us when we say that getting your lighting right is worth every penny because it will completely transform how you feel in each space. 

To choose your lighting, you’ll first want to narrow down the style you’re drawn to. And whether that’s traditional, modern, vintage, or a mix of all three and more, you want to maintain consistency throughout your home. Then, get your size and scale right. A too-small fixture is always a bad idea, and it’s better in general to choose fixtures that are slightly bigger than you think you’ll need. An oversized chandelier can look absolutely amazing over, say, a dining room table, but a tiny pendant over that same table will definitely seem off. 

When it comes to sourcing your lighting, don’t be afraid to check out different vendors, too. Especially if you’re drawn to popular styles, there are a ton of different options to choose from, and as long as you’re keeping to your overall home style, it’s actually preferred if you have different fixtures in each space. Now, if this feels overwhelming, that’s totally okay – lighting is a fairly straightforward thing to change as time goes on, so don’t be afraid to live in the house for a bit to determine exactly the types of fixtures you love in your rooms.

Tile

Similar to lighting, tile is a major game changer in a home – but with this finish, you’ll definitely want to get it right the first time because replacing tile down the road can be a costly and messy fix. But don’t go rushing to your local hardware store to pick up whatever white subway tile or grey chevron backsplash you first lay eyes on. Choosing a tile pattern and style takes a bit more finesse to give it the most longevity in your home. 

First and foremost, remind yourself of that style goal you had in mind while choosing your lighting. The tile you select should stay true to who you are and what you love because it makes a statement, no matter where it’s placed. Have a bold and whimsical personality? Go ahead and embrace a colorful graphic encaustic tile. Prefer things a bit more streamlined and minimalist? Probably a good idea to stick to neutral colors and simple patterns. Just be sure to follow your gut instead of following whatever happens to be trendy at the moment – you want to be sure you’ll love it 5, 10, and 20 years from now.

After selecting your style, you’ll want to explore as many tile vendors as you can, both in person and online. The benefit to in-person viewing, of course, is that you can really grasp the texture and feel of each piece. But with online shopping, you do also get a much wider range of options to choose from. Whichever route you take, just remember that tile is one of those custom items that can get pricey pretty quickly. The cost runs the gamut from an inexpensive ceramic tile to a large-scale marble tile made of natural stone. These and everything in between are gorgeous, but being aware of your budget while shopping around will definitely help you narrow down your selections and stop you from falling in love with something far outside of your price range.

Flooring

Flooring is another key element you won’t want to skimp on. And whether you’re drawn to engineered flooring like luxury vinyl tile or luxury vinyl planks, or you prefer a good old fashioned hardwood flooring, your flooring is a choice you won’t want to make lightly.

While it may seem easy to just choose inexpensive flooring to get it done, it’s best to consider all options on the market because it will affect the lifespan of your flooring. Will you have heavy traffic areas in your home, like mudrooms and kitchens, that will likely need easy-to-maintain and durable flooring? Are you someone who prefers the soft feel of carpeting under foot when waking up in the morning, or do you like the look of natural wood with a plush rug on top instead? All of these are key factors, and ensuring that you’re looking at a variety of flooring vendors to figure out what they offer is essential.

Faucets & Hardware

Finally, making the decision on your faucets and hardware is quite important. You certainly don’t want to choose these at random because the result will be a mish mash of clashing styles throughout each space. Instead, with these selections in particular, you want to try to maintain some sort of consistency throughout. Your door handles, for one, should be identical throughout the entire home, while the finishes on your faucets and cabinet hardware can vary from room to room (as long as you’re keeping things pared down visually in those spaces). Mixed metals can work in a room, but if you’re worried about the space feeling too cluttered or overdone, it’s much easier to keep it simple and stick to a single look.

Oh, and just as you’d reach out to other vendors with your lighting, flooring, and tile, you absolutely want to take a look through multiple vendor sites and shops to find the right look for your faucets and hardware. Faucets lining your hardware store aisle are perfectly functional, but often lack the stylistic and customized elements you may prefer in the long run. Similarly, choosing your cabinet hardware is incredibly important because while these pieces are small, together they have a big impact on the overall space.

A home’s footprint and layout don’t have to be 100% customized. In fact, in many cases, reinventing the wheel (so to speak) is entirely unnecessary – after all, there’s a reason builders tend to stick to certain floor plans again and again – they work! But building a custom home should still, at the end of the day, feel customized to your needs. And while furniture and decor certainly accomplish that, you want to make sure you aren’t skipping the more permanent elements in the process. From faucets to tile, there are endless options to choose from, and with a bit of searching, you’re bound to find the look that fits just right for you.

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Windows aren’t always top-of-mind for people building custom homes. Many think they’re about as routine of a choice as the location of light fixtures or doorways – what could possibly go wrong? The answer is a lot.

You see, when windows are overlooked, it can affect quite literally everything in your home – the way you feel, the amount of natural light, privacy, water damage, soundproofing, electric costs, and more. So, if you haven’t yet given a thought to where your windows will be located in your new custom home, take a few minutes to read our guide. By understanding several key factors, you’re certain to get it right from the get-go and will definitely avoid costly and unnecessary repairs down the road

Light & Direction

Understanding where your home is situated – that is, the direction it faces – is the most important starting point when selecting your windows. But if you’ve never stopped to consider this, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s one of the most forgotten components of a custom build for homeowners. Have you ever seen a new construction home with a single completely blank wall and zero windows on that entire side? They’re more common than you might think, and unfortunately, that’s a sure sign that the light in the home is minimal, at best.

Generally speaking, a home that faces east will receive the brightest light in the morning, while a west-facing home will see brilliant sunsets from its front windows. The south side of a home will always get the highest amount of natural light throughout the day while the darkest side of a home will be on the north side. What this means is that however your home is positioned, the choice on where to place your rooms and windows will determine exactly how much natural light streams inside.

The best bet is to place rooms that don’t need a lot of light (like the garage or bedrooms), on the north side of your home, and keep the common higher-activity spaces (like your living room or kitchen) on the south end of the building. Of course, in Texas, too much sun can mean higher electric bills in the summer heat. But that doesn’t mean you should ditch all south-facing windows for convenience. Instead, you’ll want to still keep that side of your home prioritized for light and place the light-friendly rooms in that area. You can always combat the heat with quality sun shades for your windows to save on energy, and the way that ample natural lighting will make you feel is abundantly more important in the long run.

Size & Scale

Speaking of light, when you’re choosing your home’s windows, you definitely want to take each room’s size and scale into account. There’s nothing worse than a beautiful living room with soaring cathedral ceilings paired with tiny windows fit for a small bedroom. Windows have the potential to bring a room to life, and just as you’d want furniture to fit your space like a glove, you want your windows to fit accordingly. 

Choosing the size is, of course, a personal opinion (after all, not everyone wants the lack of privacy that floor-to-ceiling windows can bring). But when in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to err on the side of larger windows. If you’ve ever been inside a small bedroom that still feels bright and cheery, it’s likely because the windows are sizable enough to let in plenty of light. By contrast, the opposite – a tiny window in a large room – tends to look stunted and out-of-proportion. 

Window Type

Once your direction and window size are narrowed down, you’ll need to determine the type of window that’s right for you. Style-wise, you’ll usually be faced with choosing between single/double-hung panes or crank-out/casement panes. There are other options as well – custom arched windows, glass block windows, bay windows, awning windows, and sliding windows, to name a few. But these are usually selected on a case-by-case basis, depending on your custom home needs.

Regardless of style, your window type really comes down to two functional factors: ease of cleaning and airflow. Windows like double-hungs (that open from the bottom or top and usually swing out for cleaning) or casement windows (when the full window cranks out from the home) tend to be easier to clean in general. Because you can easily access both the inside and outside of each pane, you can usually clean the entire window from one spot versus having to hire professional window cleaners each year.

As for airflow, you’ll need to decide precisely how much you’d like in your home. Casement windows (and similar-opening windows like awning or sliding options) tend to allow a full window’s worth of fresh air to enter your home. On the other hand, single-hung windows will only open halfway, meaning you’ll still catch a breeze, but it won’t be nearly as strong or cool as if the full window were open. One option isn’t necessarily better than another, but it does depend on your personal preference, so you’ll want to think about what is most important for you and your family.

Window Quality

Finally, determining the window brand that’s right for you is a must. Don’t simply go with whatever brand your builder suggests – do a bit of research on your end as well to find out their specific components, if there are any warranties (both on the window itself and on the hardware), and what their reviews are like. Something like a faucet or even a vanity are easy to change out down the road, but for windows, you want to ensure you get quality right away. 

You see, while windows are visually important for a home (as evidenced by each of the above sections), they’re also structurally essential. Anytime there is a hole cut into a home (doors, roofs, windows, etc.), it literally opens up your home to potential damage. And if these elements aren’t installed properly or they are poor quality, you can be subjected to excessive rainwater build-up or leaks, mold, rotting wood, or even vermin. Plus, a higher quality window will be much more sound-proof and sturdy, and can even provide a better seal to stop unnecessary heat or AC from escaping (keeping your energy costs low). So the importance of choosing windows that are reliable cannot be overstated. Always go for quality if you can swing it financially – we promise it’s worth every penny.

Windows don’t have to be complicated, but they do deserve some serious attention. Because no matter what type of window you’re drawn to, how much airflow you desire, or what level of cleaning ease you prefer, selecting the windows that will fit your vision of your dream home is a must. Over time, it will be one of the smartest investments you’ve ever made.

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by: Wild Bill, aka The Texas Authority

About me:  I have been the President of my HOA in Texas for the past 20 years.  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.

Depending on where you build your custom home here in Texas, you may be subject to the rules and restrictions of a property owner association. The popularity of such property owner associations, more commonly called Home Owner Associations (HOAs), has increased dramatically over the last 40 years.  

Today it is estimated that 75 million people in the USA reside in such “covenanted” communities, with standards and specifications that apply to all residents.  

Driving the popularity of these associations is the desire to protect property values and insure an ambiance that makes for a higher quality of life in the neighborhoods they govern.

So before committing to any specific HOA, it is imperative to understand the way these organizations work. Not all HOA’s are created equal.

The Basics

Property owner associations in Texas are formed as legal entities by the filing of a set of founding documents, typically described as “Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions”(CC&Rs).  

Usually these covenants are accompanied by a set of “Bylaws” which lay out essential standards for its residents to live by.  As the association matures, the governing Board may also develop a set of Rules to supplement these founding documents.  

Together these written instruments form the framework for a distinctive neighborhood.  All of these written documents should be available to the public at large, so you should request these governing documents and READ THEM.  

When you acquire a piece of property that is part of an HOA, these documents will become restrictions to your deed.  From that point on you will be required to subordinate your personal preferences to the terms and conditions set forth in them.

4 Things To Watch For

1.  Architectural Specifications

One of the primary goals of an HOA is to set standards for the construction and maintenance of the structures within the development’s boundaries.

Serious consideration should be given to the types of materials and design characteristics authorized by the CC&Rs, as they may limit your options for your new home.

Issues such as roof height, percentage of masonry, setbacks, and fencing specification may all be regulated, so any applicable CC&Rs should take center stage in the planning process if you are building a custom home.  This is why it is important to READ THE DOCUMENTS.

2.  Behavioral Restrictions

No one wants to build a home in a neighborhood that allows junk cars to be parked in the driveways, or one that allows animals to roam the streets untethered, or ignores rubbish and debris on a homeowner’s property. 

Do the CC&Rs for your HOA address these kinds of issues?   

Other behaviors that may be addressed in the CC&Rs are overnight parking on the streets, prohibition of invasive noise levels, operation of a business out of your home, rental restrictions and even visitor restrictions.  Again it’s important to READ THE DOCUMENTS.

3.  Association Management

With the increase in residential planned developments has come a proliferation of off-site property management companies to offer services that an HOA may need or desire.  

Although the general policies for the neighborhood fall to an elected Board of Directors, it is instructive to understand who runs the day-to-day affairs of the HOA.  

For example, if the community  irrigation system springs a leak on Saturday afternoon, who shuts off the water valve?  If the common restrooms clog up, who calls the plumber?  If a homeowner persists in accumulating debris in his backyard, who confronts the situation to effect a cure?

Attendance at a Board meeting should enlighten your understanding of who does what to maintain the standards and ambiance of your prospective community.  Additionally, you might reach out to the President or other members of the HOA directly, to better understand the culture and expectations of the community.

4.  Association Fees

The life blood of an association’s health is the amount of money available to carry out its prescribed duties.  These funds are derived from assessments levied on the property owners by the Board of Directors.  

Whether or not such assessments are reasonable is a subjective judgement call, but it must be noted that these financial obligations are mandatory and ongoing.  They must be considered as a cost of living factor moving forward, and you should expect to pay your dues.

Before committing to an association’s rules, it would be wise to understand what triggers an increase in fees.  Is there a limit on yearly increases?  What conditions permit a “special assessment”? Or are the fees frozen? 

An HOA operating without the ability to adjust to future inflation may be placing itself in a short-sighted bind.  And, ignoring the possibility of special circumstances which might arise could be risking the future for the convenience of the present.  The only way to know these factors is to READ THE DOCUMENTS.

Tips for Success

For additional insights into the character of your prospective neighborhood, drive the neighborhood.  Drive the streets in the daylight, and in darkness.  Drop in on weekdays, and on weekends.  And while you’re at it…

Talk to the neighbors.  Find out from them if there are any problems.  Take their pulse to see how they like living in their restricted community.

The Verdict

If your thorough examination leads you to commit to an HOA neighborhood, then commit wholeheartedly.  Be supportive.  Be a contributor.  Volunteer.  You are committing to a lifestyle that will preserve your property’s value, and enhance your quality of life.  Congratulations and welcome to Texas.

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Designing a custom home can be overwhelming, to say the least. From hardware finishes to wall paint, landscaping, windows, flooring, and more, there is an infinite number of options to choose from. And while that is, of course, the whole idea behind a custom home, it doesn’t make it any less challenging to wade through the details and narrow down your selections – especially if you’re new to the process.

So, what’s the solution? Do you simply go with the builder recommendations and settle for a carbon copy of the neighbor’s layout? Or do you fully embrace the stress and decision process in order to get what you really want?

Well, it turns out that there’s a middle ground and it entails hiring an interior designer.

Now, if you’ve never considered a designer or aren’t really sure what it is they do or if they’re worth the money, fear not. Today, we’re breaking down exactly what to expect when working with one, and we guarantee it’ll make that decision just a little bit easier for you to manage. Because when it comes to a custom route, we want you to get it right with the least amount of stress possible.

What does an interior designer do?

At a basic level, interior designers guide you from start to finish in the custom home building process, helping you achieve your ideal style, all while staying within your budget and keeping your goals at the forefront of the design. They’re different from the builder in that they are not working exclusively with the structure itself, but also taking into account how you want to use each space – all the way down to your choices in furniture and decor. Whether you have a spacious home office at the top of your “must-have” list, or you need to prioritize your growing family and your love of entertaining guests, an interior designer keeps your specific needs in mind and can make recommendations that will dramatically improve the layout and experience of your custom home.

How much does it cost?

The cost of an interior designer ranges dramatically, depending on the designer you use and the level of service they provide. Most designers will offer a range in their service levels, starting with project consulting and moving all the way up to full-service design work. Project consulting is usually reserved for small design challenges such as choosing paint colors or a furniture layout in a space. Full-service design work is the start-to-finish process that likely comes to mind when you think of interior design; a designer will run point on your entire project from the construction phase through to selecting your furnishings. 

The fee structure can be hourly or charged as a flat fee, but regardless of the method, you can expect to pay a “designer fee” for their expertise on top of the cost of any furnishings or decor. This can range anywhere from $1,000-2,000 all the way into the $10,000 + range. The reason behind the wide variety of charges, of course, is experience. The more veteran a designer is, the higher their hourly rate or flat fee will be. However, while you may be paying more, you’re also receiving top-notch service and they’ve spent their entire careers perfecting the design process, so it’s truly a hands-off and stress-free experience. 

What are the benefits?

Having an interior designer working alongside you every step of the way typically makes the custom home building process much smoother in the long run. Not only do they take the lead from a project management standpoint, but they also help to eliminate the overwhelm when it comes to selecting the right elements for your home. In a full-scale design situation, they work with you first to understand your lifestyle needs and the home styles you tend to gravitate towards. Then, they help you to stick to that goal as you progress through the entire custom building process. Rather than getting distracted by another shiny new finish, they keep you rooted in what you actually want, and take the vast majority of work off your plate. Plus, hiring an interior designer ensures that you won’t pay double for mistakes down the road like buying furniture that isn’t to scale or choosing flooring that doesn’t meet the needs of your busy family.

What are the drawbacks?

Aside from the high cost of hiring an interior designer, designers aren’t necessarily the right choice for everyone. If you’re the type of person who really enjoys a more hands-on approach and actually wants to be a major player in the custom building process, then having a designer on your team could be a detriment. It might feel like too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak. Additionally, you have to be very intentional about which designer you choose. Every designer has their own style, and it ranges drastically from ultra modern and minimalist to traditional and vintage-inspired. If you select a designer only for their cost structure, for instance, you may end up with someone whose design style is in complete opposition to your own (and you could hate the final product as a result).

What should I look for when hiring a designer?

This brings us to our next point: hiring an interior designer is a process. You absolutely want to avoid simply choosing a designer based on a single factor alone. Take the time to really vet your options before signing a contract. Price, naturally, is a top consideration. After all, you need to stay within your budget to build a successful custom home. But in addition to this, you’ll want to dig into each designer’s portfolio. Do their designs make you swoon? Or do you find yourself muttering “not my style” under your breath while viewing each photo? While designers do work for a wide range of clients with all different styles, they tend to have a “type” that they prefer to design for, and a quick look through their website and portfolio will tell you all you need to know. 

Beyond a designer’s style, you may want to have a call or consultation with several to determine if they are a good fit for you personality-wise. It may seem unnecessary, but remember that the custom home process is lengthy and there can be a lot of emotions wrapped up in each decision. You want to work with someone who not only has your best interests in mind, but also with someone you feel comfortable working with (even if things get a bit tricky or complicated).

Finally, don’t forget to take into account a designer’s experience in the industry. Newbies who have just started their careers can absolutely create stunning work, but sometimes they are a bit too green to take on a massive custom home project. It may be better to go with a designer who has a thick portfolio of work and a seemingly endless list of positive reviews from past clients. You’ll need to assess your comfort level with this.

A custom home is an amazing route to take in the DFW area – especially when you can choose exactly the finishes that you know will make you and your family happy for years to come. But before you take on the entire load alone, make sure you at least consider hiring an interior designer. It may make the process seamless and enjoyable rather than stressful and time-consuming. And as long as you follow this list of considerations when making that decision, you’re sure to end up with a designer who fits your style to perfection.

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by: Wild Bill, aka The Texas Authority

Quick summary for y’all transplants to Texas:  If you’re thinking about building a house here, watch out for the Homeowner Associations.  They are everywhere, and that’s part of what makes Texas great.  Keeps the riff-raff out.

Unless you’re building out in the sticks, your property and home are likely governed by an HOA.  And, there’s likely to be a group of neighbors who run that HOA and can be, let us say, exacting in their expectations.

BTW, I have been the President of my HOA in Texas for the past 20 years.  I’ve been an accountant and financial advisor and CFO for literally hundreds of Texas businesses and business owners, and I’ve been involved in local, state, and national politics and 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.

The background of the HOA

Homeowner Associations evolved as America evolved, coming out of World War II.

The concept of a “planned community” in America began to blossom after World War II with the development of Levittown, NY, on Long Island, which was developed primarily for veterans returning from the war as a place to live.

The community was designed with uniform construction standards and a loose-knit set of rules to govern the activities of its residents.  The success of this model became popular as residential developments increased over the decades and America’s residential housing market grew by leaps and bounds through the last half of the 20th century.

With the growth of suburbia came the increasing formalization of these residential property arrangements into legal organizations, which have today come to be known as Homeowner Associations.

Today in Texas there exists a body of laws known as the Texas Property Code, which governs the powers and limitations of these entities. 

Since homeowners typically subordinate many of their property rights to the Covenants and Restrictions of the underlying Homeowner Association, it is prudent to step lightly into the world of HOAs.

If you want to build a custom home in Texas, the existence of these kinds of restricted residential developments is a major factor to be considered.

Are you comfortable with property restrictions?

The answer to this question will determine whether you choose an HOA community—or not. Residential property owners tend to divide into two groups on this question:

The first group enjoys the unfettered freedom to choose.  Their point of view is that their residence is private property, subject only to their own individual tastes and desires.  Their independent nature, akin to the Texas mentality, asserts that a person’s home is their castle and therefore not subject to anyone’s rules or restrictions.  

Consequently, if they want to paint their front door lime-green and use a busted toilet as a planter on their front porch, they can do it..  If they want to park their riding lawnmower in the front yard and their first family car in the backyard, they can do that.  It’s their property!

The fundamental concept of an HOA is probably not for these people.

The second group, perhaps being at a different place in their lives, perceives that the ambiance of their living environment depends to a large extent on the housekeeping proficiencies of their surrounding neighbors. 

Committed to the upkeep of their own residence, they welcome the idea of a uniform set of rules in their community–and the ability to enforce them.  To them, it’s important that all residences be kept in good repair;  it’s important that the overall appearance of the neighborhood be pleasant—even delightful; and, that the usage be restricted to residential only.

HOAs have their advantages in this respect.

Since these two groups obviously don’t mix well in a residential setting, under current Texas law the Property Code sets up the mechanics of a quasi-governmental entity designed to give the second group exactly what they want.

A Homeowner Association can set standards for its entire community and thereby define architectural specifications, behavioral limitations, and penalties for a variety of deviations. 

Through the legal instrument of Deed Restrictions, part of the contract in any HOA-governed community, the association can require every property owner to subrogate their rights to the association’s Articles of Covenant thereby ensuring an enforceable standard of uniformity for the whole neighborhood.

So, in searching for the ideal location for your custom-built home, in Texas, you have two clearly defined options:   To HOA or not to HOA.  The choice is yours, and welcome to Texas.

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When building your custom home, landscaping may be the last thing on your mind. Considering all of the decisions that go into the interior of your home, it’s fairly easy to push it aside for a later time. But before you shelf the world outside your windows, you may want to at least come up with a gameplan in time for planting season.

Every area of the country, of course, has its own unique climate, and North Texas is no exception. So when it comes to your landscaping, you don’t want to start planting any old tree or flower on a whim. Getting the right mix of plants – and ideally perennial plants native to Texas – that will survive and thrive in the heat and in the proper soil is a must. Not only does it ensure the health of the plants themselves, but it also helps to establish your own peace of mind. And trust us when we say that a self-sustaining landscape design is worth every second of planning. In the long run, it’s far less work and it allows your home to blend in with its natural surroundings.

Large-Scale Trees & Shrubs

Perhaps the most maintenance-free of plant choices, trees and shrubs offer both shade and a variety of visual height and silhouettes to bring your custom home to life. Our state tree – pecan – is an obvious starter choice since its wide-spreading branches offer shade and an added bonus of fresh pecans right in your own backyard. Additionally, oaks and maples are great shade trees to plant given their hardiness in high heat climates and their vibrant autumn colors. For ornamental trees that add an infusion of color and sweet-smelling blooms to your yard, you can’t go wrong with crape myrtle, yaupon holly, Texas mountain laurel, or magnolia.

Ideal shade shrubs include boxwoods, hydrangea, yews, and Rose Creek abelia – many of which produce a show of flowers each year. For full sun areas, stick to junipers for added height and nandinas and Purple Diamond loropetalum for a splash of pink and purple in your garden.

Flowers

It’s always a good idea to add a bit of color into the mix, and given our sun-soaked land here in Texas, there are endless species available to use. Generally speaking, you want to layer your flowers in a way that balances things visually. Keep the higher-growing plants towards the back of your garden and the lower ones in front so each gets its chance to shine (and you don’t miss out on the array of gorgeous colors that will bloom). 

Salvia adds a beautiful purple color into the mix, is incredibly hardy, and keeps pests away while inviting an array of butterflies and hummingbirds into your garden. For show-stopping blooms, you can opt for hibiscus (Lord Baltimore or Moy Grande) or rose (Belinda’s Dream or Knock Out); both are larger than life and a lush tropical aesthetic to your landscaping. And of course, for flowers with ultra-fragrant and colorful blooms, be sure to pepper in some gold star esperanza, Fourth of July roses, Mexican plum, or sweet white violet. 

Groundcover

Groundcover plants, while not essential, are excellent landscaping options – especially if you’re looking to fill empty spaces or provide a layer of texture to your lawn. They also help to create a healthy environment for surrounding plants since they act as “rain gardens” of sorts, soaking up any excess hydration and preventing larger plants from being overwatered. They also serve to minimize weed growth and halt erosion and soil damage.

A few go-to groundcovers we love that provide a nice lush green color include straggler daisy, cedar sedge, silver ponyfoot, and horseherb. For groundcover plants that add a touch of color, consider incorporating primrose, phlox, or verbena.

Grasses

Of course, choosing the right grasses for your custom home’s landscaping is a must as well. Grasses can, admittedly, struggle to survive in North Texas for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the soil is not well-maintained or does not drain properly (and this is especially the case for custom home lots that have seen massive soil compaction during the building process), so getting the right balance of nutrients is essential. Other times, people plant the wrong grasses for the level of sun or shade that their lawn receives each day. Different species of grasses will thrive in different environments, so you’ll want to choose the right one so you don’t have to replace it a short time down the road.

In general, grasses that thrive in full sun include Bermuda grass and buffalograss. Partial shade grasses to consider include St. Augustine and Zoysia. Shade grasses are a bit more difficult to grow, but there are several species that do well overall in these areas. These include Mondo grass, fescue, and bluegrass. You can also opt for more ornamental grasses to add some height and texture to your garden; zebragrass, purple fountaingrass, pampasgrass, and inland sea oats are excellent candidates.

Whether you are drawn to the larger silhouettes of trees and shrubs, prefer a burst of color in your garden, or enjoy the simplicity of a grass-filled lawn, getting the right landscaping for your custom home is an incredibly important step in the building process. Because as thrilling as it may be to see your home come to life within its four walls, without a strategically-placed mix of plants, it will feel stark, empty, and completely void of curb appeal. And while landscaping is certainly lower on the list of items to complete, it’s something you definitely don’t want to skip.

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Today, we’ll be giving you an overview of the more significant differences between advanced framing techniques and traditional framing techniques. We’ll look at some of the pros and cons of each type of framing method, and help you determine why you might choose one (advanced!) over the other. So, let’s get started!

Advanced Framing and Why it is Better

Advanced framing is a green building strategy which uses a renewable resource (lumber) with maximum efficiency to achieve both cost savings and environmental sustainability. 

Also called optimum value engineering, it is a framing construction technique for homes that both reduces materials used and achieves a higher degree of energy efficiency vs. traditional framing. Homes built with advanced framing are structurally sound, provide more flexibility for interior design and wall placement, and generally require less labor and material costs when compared to homes constructed with conventional framing techniques.

The Biggest Difference

The most impactful difference between advanced and traditional framing methods involves the spacing of support members in the frame.  Advanced framing uses 2″x6″ vertical studs spaced 24″ apart, while traditional framing uses 2″x4″ vertical studs spaced 16″ apart. 

Because the spacing between the studs is both wider and deeper, advanced framing both reduces material usage (by about 30%) and creates additional spacing for insulation (roughly 50% more).

The added wall-cavity space allows more and better placement of insulation and minimizes the chance of insulations voids, which allow heat and cold to pass through the walls, reducing efficiency.

Additionally, the use of 2″x6″ vs. 2″x4″ lumber allows more space for more insulation and more efficient placement of insulation in corners, headers and around window and door frames.

The Best Difference (in our opinion)

In addition to improved energy and materials efficiency, perhaps the best advantage of advanced framing methods vs. conventional methods is flexibility in wall placement, which adds flexibility to design options.

Conventional framing methods require load-bearing walls throughout the house to support the structure and maintain balance. Homes framed using advanced techniques provide more flexibility to the architect/designer, as they do not require load-bearing walls to support the structure (this is usually true, but can vary with different house designs).

With an advanced framed structure your designer is free to place or not place the walls at all, because the structural wood panels, posts, beams, and trusses  do all the work to support the entire structure.

A final note in closing:  There is one component of advanced framing techniques that adds cost vs. some conventional framing methods.  That is, in order to achieve the structural integrity necessary to support the structure, advanced framing requires the use of structural wood panels in its construction.  While this is also an added energy barrrier which increases energy efficiency, depending on the cost of lumber at the time you build this may offset other materials cost savings provided by advanced framing techniques.  Also, please be aware there are a variety of other nuances and techniques which can be incorporated in advanced framing, with additional benefits not detailed in this article.  What we have covered here are the most obvious differences, so be sure to discuss any additional elements available with your architect, designer and builder.

 

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Did you know finishing your attic can increase the value of your custom home in Dallas, while also providing additional living or recreational space and utility?

There are many ways you can transform an unfinished attic into a living space. We’re going to discuss a few of those fun ideas while sharing some of our tried-and-tested tips to help you build out your attic space with minimum hassle. 

Things You Can Make Out of Your Attic Space

Guest Bedroom

Need a spare bedroom for your friends and family? The attic is the perfect spot to construct one. You can even build a small and functional attached bathroom to ensure your guests’ comfort. 

Library

If you love reading and collecting books you can remodel your attic space into a compact library. Make sure you utilize space efficiently to maximize shelving for your literary treasures.

Playroom

Unless your kids are genetically engineered to be neat, they are likely to be messy.  Many parents would love to provide them a space to explore their creativity, and converting your attic into a lively playspace is an excellent way to contain their chaos.

Home Office

No space left for your home office while building a custom home in Dallas? Don’t worry. You can utilize your attic space to construct one where you can work from home without any disturbance. 

Sun Room

Yes, you can also convert your attic into a bright and beautiful sunroom. Install skylights and large windows, and invest in comfortable seating to soak up the sun. Add a few plants to make your place look more tropical and relaxing.

Home Theatre

Get a large TV or projection screen, install theater seats or add bean bags, and grab the popcorn. Yes, transform your attic space into a home theatre that you or your family members and friends can enjoy day or night. 

Now that you know some of the fun things you can turn your attic into, it’s time to have a look at a few tips you should consider before you start a custom attic building project in Dallas. 

10 Tips to Consider When Constructing the Attic for Your Custom Home in Dallas

1. Make Sure Your Attic Meets Local Building Codes

Don’t even think about converting your attic space without pulling a permit. It will become trouble for you to resell your home without a permit. To apply for a permit, you need to get your attic project designed and approved by a licensed architect. 

Even if you plan to remodel your attic by taking a DIY route, you should get some paperwork done by the pro to avoid future hurdles.

2. Have a Larger Staircase and Landing

Attics designed to store boxes and leftover stuff do not require a larger staircase and landing. But when you plan to transform them into a living space, you need to consider adding both. The stairs should be wide enough to accommodate furniture, while the landing should have enough space to handle the top-turn of the stairs.

3. Have Your Heating and Ventilation Needs Covered

The next critical step is to check the capacity of your HVAC unit. Bring an electrician to see if your current HVAC system can handle the load of another room. If not, you may have to get additional ductwork done or add a new unit. If you’re on a tight budget, you may consider investing in a multi-split system.

4. Keep the Cost Factor in Mind

According to Home Advisor, the average cost of an attic upgrade is $49,438. But it depends on your project requirements and the custom elements your project includes. If you’re taking a DIY route, while you may save a lot on labor costs you should still budget for your attic upgrade in your custom home building budget, to cover other expenses you may have to bear to convert the attic. 

5. Call in an Expert for a Structural Analysis

Keeping your attic space for storing Christmas decorations doesn’t need you to think about the floor capacity. But when you expect your floor to hold furniture and people, then this aspect becomes more crucial than ever. You can hire an expert structural engineer or a contractor to conduct a structural analysis of your custom construction. They can guide you through the steps you can take to enhance the capacity of your attic space to support heavy objects and people.

6. Ditch the Drywall Ceiling

While the drywall ceiling is cheap, it is outdated and boring. You can turn a typical attic ceiling into something exciting by opting for a custom look or even with premium wood ceiling options. 

7. Choose Lighter Colors to Paint Your Attic

The next idea to consider is the paint for the walls and ceilings of your attic. Because these spaces are often smaller with fewer window options, lighter colors lend to a more spacious feel while darker colors may make the space feel smaller.  If you’ve been able to add a skylight or large windows, lighter paint palletes will definitely complement the outside light and brighten up the space significantly.

8. Add a Bathroom

We know adding a bathroom to your attic space is a costly investment, but if you’re going to spend any time in the converted space, it is worth it. Especially if you have turned your attic into a bedroom, you need to have an attached bathroom to make your living space more livable. 

9. Install High-Density Fiberglass Insulation

Instead of using cheap and unreliable kraft-supported fiberglass insulation, install high-density fiberglass insulation alternatives. Spray foam is also a good option, as is mineral wool, an insulations which is easier to install and yields professional results. 

10. Install Attic Flooring

Congratulations! You’re about to finish building out your attic space. The next step is to choose the flooring for the space you have just designed and constructed. While you can choose from a variety of options your custom builder can work with, Carpeting makes a smart choice as it will make your living space more sound-proof and adds extra insulation. 

There you have it – 10 Tips to Consider When Constructing Attic for Your Custom Home in Dallas.