Building Your Home Wisely in 9 Steps – STEP #4

#4 Design Discussion

In step #3, you interviewed Builders and/or Architects that will help you design and construct the home of your dreams, within your budget, with good communication and with respect. Now it is time to get down to business and knock out your home design. Please go into this process with an open mind. Even though you might have a great design in your mind, a good builder will thoroughly analyze and address potential concerns so that your home will be structurally sound and functional.

You and your home have STYLE! – Let’s start with the basics and determine the style of home that is you. Is it Craftsman, Modern, Traditional, Transitional, French Country, New Orleans, Cap Cod, Colorado Western, or Tuscan? These are just scratching the surface of popular styles. Take a look at our portfolio for some examples. Although there are many styles of home to consider, you most likely already have a general idea of what style fits you best. Many times with couples there will be a meshing of styles. In the case of home resale, it is best to mesh two style that already work well together. 

In addition, it is best to have the exterior style of your home match the interior for resale as well. There are cross-overs in style that do work, but it is best to get opinions from professionals. Ask your builder, architect or designer to help if you are struggling to find your style and always include your builder in the discussions if you are working with an architect or designer.

Site Design Analysis – There is more to design than your style. Visit the build site with your builder/architect and look for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats. The design discussion must overlap with land selection (Step #3) because your design has to work with the land in which you plan to build. Example: If your design calls for a basement and the land is on a rocky hillside, you will likely need to alter your plan or pick a new site. Some plans just don’t fit the land. At a minimum, analyze the Soil, Area Climate, Orientation/Views, Slope, Landforms (trees & buildings) and even the Solar Potential, if you plan to utilize the sun in your design.

During the design phase you will be determining what type of windows, doors, lighting, room sizes/shapes, flooring, number of floors and even landscaping. When complete, the design should be a basis for the fee proposal, but remember that this is a “living document” that will likely be updated throughout the design process and even into the construction process. Alterations to the design need to be followed with a change order to show cost adjustments.

The design stage encompasses a lot more than we covered here in this brief post. Please keep in mind that this is a guide to help you work your way through the building process. There are many unknown variables in building a custom home or it wouldn’t be custom.

To start from the beginning of “Building Your Home Wisely in 9 STEPS” click here. Watch for our next post on our Facebook page.

Step #1 – Step #2 – Step #3 – Step #4

Building Your Home Wisely in 9 Steps – STEP #3


Because there are so many things to consider when choosing your land, and many of the decisions are based on personal preferences and situations, we highly recommend that you start a list of your own wants and needs. In addition, having a builder working with you during the process can help you find the correct site for all your needs.

In order to provide you with useful knowledge, while not being overly simplistic, we will supply you with five things you must definitely consider when searching for your plot of land. 

1 – Zoning and Restrictions

What are the restrictions to your property? Some communities have covenants, codes and restrictions that might not fit you or your family and you need to know the details. Below are a few examples:

  • Are there restrictions on landscaping? If you like to do your own creative landscaping you might have an Architectural Control Committee that dictates what you can and can’t do. Look into it.
  • Does your home fit the minimum home size? Some communities require that your home meet a minimum square footage. Can you afford their minimum?
  • Some areas are zoned for commercial or residential use. When the tree-line out your back window looks beautiful right now, it could be turned into a shopping center or gas station in a few years.
  • Is it zoned for a single structure? You might want to add a small guest house for your mother-in-law or workshop on your property. If it is zoned for a single structure – you would be out of luck.
  • Maybe you will work from home. Would your neighborhood allow it? Is there a limit on foot traffic or signage?
  • So you want a privacy fence. Are there restrictions on fencing in the covenant?
  • Find out all the covenants, codes and restrictions and read through them thoroughly.


2 – Bird’s Eye View

Just because the land you are standing on seems to be perfect, you must take a step back and look at all the connections to your potential building location.

  • If you have children, how are the nearby school districts?
  • If you are working outside the home, how far is your commute and will weather impact your travel?
  • How far away are the nearest medical services, recreational facilities, shopping centers etc.?
  • Is there a railroad, industry, highway or well traveled road nearby that will create noise? Sometimes noise is not noticed during the day when awake.
  • Write down your personal considerations or sensitivities.


3 – Utilities

Not knowing what companies are available to supply your utilities could be a critical oversight. Do not assume that you can gain access to everything you need and that the cost are the same everywhere. If you are far away from other homes you could be charged a large fee (sometimes really large fees) to have utility lines run to your property. If the land seems inexpensive, utilities might be the reason. Check to see how you can gain access to the following before purchasing your land:

Power – What will be required to have power supplied to your future home?

Water – Can you gain access to water from a utility company or will you need a well, or can you have a well?

Waste – Will you be able to connect to septic or sewer without outrageous costs?

Gas – Is there a nearby propane company or can a utility company provide you with natural gas or propane?

Phone – Although a landline is not important like it use to be, how many bars can you get with your cell service?

Internet – If you need to access the internet for your work while at home or if you children need access for school, you will need a solution.


4 – Property Setbacks

There are guidelines that dictate how closely you can build to your property borders, which could affect where you place your home or the size of your home. Contact your local building department or the homeowners association connected to the plot of land. Most the time you can work around the restrictions, but on smaller lots this is something you must investigate.


5 – Your Future Neighborhood

Last, but not least, try to picture what your neighborhood will look like in 5, 10 or 15 years down the road. This ties back to #1 & #2, but with a more skeptical view of how the future looks around your future home. When you picture the future consider how you would feel about the potential changes or how it would impact the resale of your home. Just because you believe this will be the last home you own, things change. Think of the worst possible scenarios and find out if there is something you can do to help avoid them from happening. If there is not, then you are buying at your own risk. Those risks could include a motocross track, shooting range, gas station, or liquor store next door or down the street. It might not be that dramatic, but it could be something significant enough to give you second thoughts. Don’t get caught up in the moment so much that you do not diligently investigate your future neighborhood.

In conclusion, your builder should walk the property with you and determine how much preconstruction work is required, such as the placement of utilities, a septic system and a driveway. Don’t be afraid to ask! Already own your land? Meet with your builder at your land to discuss potential issues and your plans.  Plans for your home design and land must match. The last thing you want is to begin building and later determine that your plan will not work because one or more of the things listed above. Don’t own land? Most builders can help you find a site or point you toward a reputable real estate agent who can help. If you use a real estate agent, be sure to include your builder to help you work through some potential issues.

Here are additional things to investigate regarding your land:

Natural Resources Rights (Mineral Rights, Water Rights etc.)

Maintenance Responsibilities (Who is responsible for plowing snow on access roads or mowing next to access roads etc.)

Step #1 – Step #2 – Step #3 – Step #4



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Building Your Home Wisely in 9 Steps – STEP #2


(If you missed STEP #1 – Click here to review quickly)

Finding the right builder to build your home should be approached similarly to hiring someone to fill a position of employment. If you are working with an architect and builder, you must make sure they work well together, in addition to everything listed below.

If you have never participated in hiring an employee you need to understand that you will have to consider many factors and research thoroughly. If you have been involved in hiring, you know that you don’t take the first resume that comes in that looks like they have everything in order.

Spend time getting to know your potential builders and do some research. Pictures on a website are a great starting point, but visit and investigate some of their homes for a quality check, learn who they are and request references.

  • Do they have the knowledge and experience to do the job properly?
  • How easily can you communicate with them?
  • Do they have an impressive resume?
  • How is the quality of the homes they have designed or built?
  • What do their references have to say about them? Request 2-4 references. Anyone that has built a home can give you 1 or 2 of their best work and satisfied customers. When speaking to their references be sure to ask these two question:
    • Would you ever have them do another project for you? Any hesitation or uncomfortableness, there’s a red flag.
    • How do they handle call-backs? If the builder ignores call-backs regarding legitimate issues, there’s a red flag.

All the above is great, but your investigation process is not over yet. Be sure to find out if they have workers compensation and general liability insurance? This is very important because if they are not a quality insured home builder, you could end up being liable for injuries to workers on the jobsite or for other things that go wrong. In addition to proper insurance, do they have any professional affiliations, like the Home Builders Association? What is their rating with the Better Business Bureau? If you are looking for energy efficiency, do they have qualifications like a CGP designation (Certified Green Professional)?

This is your home that they will be building! Be sure they can do everything you want at a fair market price and that they care about your home to be.

See our Checklist for Selecting Your Home Builder or Remodeler for more details and watch for STEP #3 of Building Your Home Wisely.

Step #1 – Step #2 – Step #3 – Step #4



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Building Your Home Wisely In 9 Steps – STEP #1


There is no way around it – building your dream home is a big undertaking and it will come with some challenges, but even bigger rewards. You have heard sayings like, “nothing easy is worth fighting for” or “The rewards for those who persevere far exceed the pain that must precede the victory.” The same goes for building your custom home. Great things come to those who are patient and the challenge is what makes the reward that much more rewarding. At Millstone Custom Homes, we want to work as a team to reduce your challenges while increasing your reward. Understanding these 9 STEPS are a great start to making your experience more enjoyable and the outcome more rewarding.


Yes, organizing your finances is often considered the boring part of the building process for most people. If you think about building, in it’s most basic form, you realize that the foundation is the most important structure. Without a good financial foundation your dreams will crumble before your eyes or create unnecessary stress that can last for many years.

The most important thing to acknowledge is that your land, home design and construction quality all impact the price of your home. A custom home DOES NOT mean it will be more expensive than buying an existing home. Spend time on determining what you TRULY can afford in the creation of your dream home. Understand that sometimes your dream can’t be converted directly into reality. Be open to adjustments to your dream and the likelihood of a “Happily Ever After” will be greater.

First you will need a construction loan. Ask your builder about their relationships with financial institutions. This can often pay off for you not only in your bottom line, but also by reducing the hassle of searching for the perfect lender. If you already have a builder picked out, be sure to include the construction loan in your interview (see step 2).

Bulk is less expensive than purchasing materials on an individual basis. This means changing your plans will change the cost. We can’t emphasis enough that you need to prepare a well thought out plan and stick to it as much as possible. More on this in Step 7.

If you do not have your own land, you must finance the land that you purchase in addition to the construction. This sometimes results in two closings which are accompanied by two settlement fees. This is often something not considered by those building their first home. Talk to your title company and builder to reduce confusion regarding your closing.

More often than not a good credit score, along with a down payment of at least 20-25%, is needed to qualify for your construction loan. For custom home borrowers, most lenders require more cash reserves to make sure that you have the funds available in case there are any extensions in the construction time. Save up and don’t try to bite off more than you can chew.

Last, but not least, do not forget about proper insurance. In addition to making sure your builder has proper insurance (minimum of general liability and workers comp), get the right insurance coverage to cover you during the construction period and this needs to be part of your budgeting plan.


Step #1 – Step #2 – Step #3 – Step #4



Come visit with us at the 2017 HBA Home Show


The 2017 HBA Home Show begins January 27 and ends on the 29th. Please stop by booth G114 to visit with Sam, Michelle and others on the Millstone Custom Homes & Renovations Team. If you plan on stopping by on a specific day or time, please send us a message on Facebook (click here to go to our Facebook page). Enjoy the show, learn from live presentations and don’t forget to stop by and see us.

2017 HBA HOME SHOW – JANUARY 27 – 29

HBA Home Show Hours of Operation:
Friday, January 27 – 11 am – 7 pm
Saturday, January 28 – 10 am – 7 pm
Sunday, January 29 – 11 am – 4 pm

Checklist for Selecting Your Home Builder or Remodeler – PLUS Warning Signs


There are many many stories of couples and individuals searching for a builder or remodeler and the focus get away from the important information that needs to be asked of your contractor and the next thing you know… trouble in paradise. Finding someone to turn your vision into a dream should be handled more like dating to find your significant other and less like grabbing a snack at checkout because the wrapper looked professionally prepared or it was on sale.

First, here are signs that you could be hiring a “Fly-by-Night” contractor:

  • You’re told that on this job, a contract “won’t be necessary.”
  • You’re asked to pay for the entire job “up front” – or pay cash to a salesperson instead of a check or money order to a company.
  • You are confronted with scare tactics, intimidation or threats.
  • You’re told you’ve been “chosen” as a demonstration project at a special, low price.
  • You’re told a “special” low price is good only if you sign a contract today.
  • The contractor won’t give you references – or the references can’t be located.
  • You can’t verify the contractor’s business address.

On the flip-side, here is a checklist to help in selecting a home builder or home remodeler to enhance or build your home:

Make sure the builder or home remodeler has a permanent business location.

Find out how long they have been in the building business. It usually takes three to five years to establish a financially sound business. You want to make sure they will be around after the construction is complete to service any warranties.

Check out the company’s rating and if there have been any complaints filed with your local Better Business Bureau:

Make sure the builder/remodeler has sufficient workers compensation and general liability insurance (required for HBA of Greater Springfield membership). If not, you may be liable for any construction-related accidents on your premises.

Ask the builder/remodeler to provide you with names of previous customers. If they won’t, beware. If they do, ask the customers if they would hire the builder/remodeler again.

Ask if you can see the builder/remodelers work, both completed and in progress. Check for quality of workmanship and materials.

Do you feel you can easily communicate with the builder/remodeler? Remember you will be in close contact with them throughout the construction process and afterward as you live in your new home.

Make sure the builder/remodeler provides you with a complete and clearly written contract. The contract will benefit both of you. If you are having a new home built, get and review a copy of the home warranty and homeowner manual as well.

Be cautious of unusually low-priced bids. If the builder/remodeler is unable to pay for the materials and labor as the project proceeds, this may indicate a potential problem. Keep in mind that less expensive does not necessarily mean better!

Ask family, friends or coworkers for recommendations and visit the HBA Home Show and HBA Home Remodeling Show to personally meet with builders and remodelers.

Come see us at the HBA Home Show, January 27-29, 2017 at the Springfield EXPO Center.

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Cold Air Coming Soon! Do I Open or Close my Crawl-Space Vents?

Summer vents open & winter vents closed, right? Or is it… closed all the time?

Based on a little research, the answer could be yes to either of the above. You ask, “how is that possible? There has to be a simple answer to this simple question.”

There are three main areas to investigate when it comes to leaving your vents open or closed and they might all be interconnected:

  1.  Moisture levels
  2.  Heating and cooling cost
  3.  Entrance for termites and other critters

If you are having a moisture problem it is likely because your crawl-space is cool and the warm moist air in the summer is attracted to your cool crawl space (warm air flows to cold air). In this case you might want to consider closing your vents or even blocking them off completely with foam blocks that are specifically made for this purpose. This tends to be the most common solution in the warm-moist areas of southwest Missouri. In the winter, closing your vents is almost always the solution as you do not want the cold air to slip into the crawl-space of your home.

But, this is not an open and closed case. It honestly comes down to you doing a little investigation on how your home is setup and how it reacts to your vents being open or closed. Do you have a dirt floor, concrete floor, moisture barrier, gravel floor, A/C vent leaks or some variation? The way your crawl-space is constructed can greatly impact the moisture levels.

The best way for you to see how your crawl-space is reacting to the ventilation is to place a weather gauge sensor in your crawl-space with a wireless display inside your home. Try it with the vents closed and with the vents open and maybe even try it with styrofoam blocking them completely. If you do this experiment be sure that you are comparing levels while the conditions are the same outside. This could take some time to get it figured out or it could be obvious quickly.

If you have a moisture issue, pest issue or heating and cooling problem, CONTACT AN EXPERT. It might not be as simple as when to open and close your crawl-space vents.

Homeowners American Flag Etiquette


You have accomplished the American Dream of homeownership or plan to someday soon. Because we live in a country where homeownership is a possibility, consider display your pride in America by displaying Old Glory in your home and outside your home. Before you do, take a moment and learn some simple flag etiquette. If our country’s military, police, fireman and others have treated our flag with respect for more than 200 years, we should too.

Before learning flag etiquette here are a few interesting facts:

  • Did you know Missouri was added to the flag as the 24th star on August 10, 1821?
  • Did you know our current flag (Hawaii added as the 50th states) was put into effect on August 21, 1959, which was less than eight months after Alaska was added as the 49th state?
  • Did you know there is strict U.S. Code on on standards and handling of our flag? There is no federal penalty for breaking the U.S. Code, but some states do have laws.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when displaying your Stars and Strips at your home:

  1. The American flag should be hung from a staff on your wall, windowsill or balcony angled out. There are many brackets available for holding a flagstaff to trim.
  2. Do not allow the flag to touch the ground, become soiled or damaged.
  3. It is appropriate to hang Old Glory from a horizontal staff.
  4. Be sure the union or canton (rectangle of stars) is at the peak.
  5. Union hanging downward indicates extreme distress and can be used in place of “half-staff.”
  6. When hanging the flag on the wall or anywhere that only one side of the flag is seen, the union must be in the upper left. This includes when hanging the flag with stripes going vertically.
  7. The U.S. Flag can be displayed 24 hours as long as it is illuminated.
  8. The U.S. Flag must be displayed higher than other flags except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, or for personnel of the Navy, when the church pennant may be flown above.

Other interesting facts:

The U.S. Code prohibits that the flag be “printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.” Many in our society have become enthusiast of the American Flag and this rule have overlooked this code.

Whatever you do, treat your U.S. Flag with respect. We would not have this great country if it were not for those that have fought and died for our freedoms.

Football Season is Upon Us – Where do you watch and what’s your favorite team?

NFL Football is watched on TV by 60% of the people surveyed, 68% male and 52% female, according to TV by Numbers.

On average there are approximately 1,852,000 viewers watching College Football on TV, according to the College Football Foundation.

Last year SEC fans set a record with 7,784,376 fans.

Let us know your favorite team and where Collegiate or NFL football is watched in your home. Comment on Facebook using the list below as a guide. In the case of multiple selections, place them in order of most often to least often.

a) I watch in my “man cave” or  “she shed”

b) I watch in my living room

c) I watch in my bedroom

d) I watch at a sports bar

e) I watch live at the stadium

f) I watch watch on my phone or tablet

g) Other

If you are in need of a man cave, she shed or sports room to watch your favorite football team, Millstone Custom Homes and Renovations can get you set up so you feel like you are on the 50 yard line.

Back to School – Aging Workforce – Consider Construction


If you are under 24 years old and heading back to school, construction might be something to consider as a lucrative career. With the industry facing labor shortages and aging workforce, many companies across the United States are experimenting with different techniques to recruit youth into the construction industry. It is no longer the vo-tech  environment of yesteryear with many companies are struggling to find quality workers or youth willing to receive on-the-job training.

In the three period, from 2007 to 2010, the construction industry lost around 30 percent of their workforce. National Association of Home Builders economist, Robert Dietz, stated in 2015 that “Scarcity of labor has been a top challenge this year, and it’s not going away next year.” Rober Dietz also said, in May of 2016, that  “the overall trend for open construction jobs has been an increasing since the end of the Great Recession.” Anytime there is a shortage, that means there’s an opportunity available on the flip-side. If you have children going back to school, you might have them do a little research on careers in construction.

See other Millstone Tips and information in our blog.

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