Custom Homes

We love to see our clients turn their dream home into reality. The thrill of living in the Western North Carolina mountains in a home that has been custom-designed to meet your exact specifications is an unparalleled delight for most clients. The process by which this occurs, however, takes many different forms.

Some clients approach us with land and house plans finalized, needing only a builder to execute the vision. Others need assistance finding the land and selecting plans. Others have the plans but are looking for land that will fit the plans well. Whatever your starting point is, we are prepared to help you fill in the missing pieces.

Building Process and Timeline (below) will illustrate the general how and when of custom building. The Plans and Modifications section (below) should answer some of your questions about the sequence in which you should acquire the lot and get building plans you are happy with. The Pricing and Services section (below) will illustrate several pricing models that will work in building your house.  The Frequently Asked Questions section (below) should answer some of the remaining questions.

Building Process and Timeline

Because clients approach us with or without land and with or without plans, the steps in the process may vary somewhat, or be eliminated entirely. However, the general process is as follows:

  • Purchase the lot you will build on, budgeting lot cost at 20-33% of total budget. If you plan on building immediately after buying the lot, put the lot under contract with a due diligence period to allow for buying/creating building plans for that lot. Currently there are over 9,000 lots available in the Mountain MLS, formerly the Western North Carolina Regional MLS, so there are plenty of choices.
  • Decide whether or not you will use an architect to create plans or will purchase plans from a plan house or have plans created by a designer. Purchase or create the plans. In any case, make sure that the plans work for the lot chosen. See Plans and Modifications below. There are many fine architects in Asheville, Buncombe County, Haywood County, and the surrounding areas.
  • Interview and choose a builder. If you did not use an architect to draw the plans, get the builder to make sure that the plans will work on your lot before purchasing the lot.
  • Get the builder to estimate the construction cost of building the chosen plans to confirm the plans will be buildable within your budget. See Pricing and Services below.
  • Apply for a construction/permanent loan and secure a loan commitment. The lender will want to see the lot contract and the builder’s construction estimate.
  • Initiation of selections by owner
  • Prepare preliminary budget, tying the selections to the proposed budget
  • Prepare construction schedule (timeline) in conjunction with the builder.
  • Sign construction agreement
  • Close construction loan
  • Construction Begins
  • Final Decisions on Selections
  • Periodic Construction Draws and payments to builder as work progresses
  • Weekly project communications with periodic summaries on selections and allowances
  • Sale closes and clients move in to their dream home close to Asheville

Plans and Modifications to the Plans

Before you choose an architect, builder, or designer, you first need to choose the lot on which the house will be built. There are many reasons for starting with the lot. The location of the lot affects the amenities, lifestyle, views, available utilities, and, importantly, the plans that will best fit on that lot. And the cost of the lot is a significant part (20-33%) of the total price of the home. So let’s assume that you have identified the lot and either have it under contract or already own it.

Your next big choice is obtaining plans to fit on that lot, and you have three choices; 1) architect, 2) plan house that sells stock plans, or 3) designer who will draw up your specifications into building plans acceptable to the permitting authorities and, potentially, your homeowners association that likely must pass approval before you can break ground.

Architects are the choices if you are building your dream home on your dream lot, want to customize the home to fit the lot, and have adequate budget to support using an architect. Architects can provide services that no other professional can, such as orienting rooms in the plan to maximize sunlight or views. Additionally, accommodating client lifestyle desires in a dream home environment means that plans from plan house sellers rarely pass muster. Architects can also specify materials, supervise construction, and provide other consultation services (passive solar, timber frame, etc). They cost more than the other alternatives because they are more highly trained, licensed, and can do more. We are fortunate to have many fine architects in Western North Carolina. Depending on the style of home you want, we have several architects we can recommend (architects tend to either specialize in a particular style of home or be best known for a particular style)

Plan houses produce reproducible plans that can be sold to many customers. Many of the plan houses will modify their plans (somewhat) to accommodate customer desires. They offer less cost than architects but the plan house plans have limitations such as inability to change room locations to accommodate views or solar orientation, and, most importantly, the plans have no knowledge of the lot onto which they are going to be placed. This means that if you pick the plans and then try to place them on a lot, the plans might or might not work well for that lot.  For this reason, you need to pick the plans with the topography of the lot in mind. This step is crucial so that your plans do not add unnecessary cost to your budget. If you are not going to use an architect, get a builder to review your proposed plans (before you buy them from the plan house) to insure that the plans are a fit for the lot. In Haywood County, for instance, there are 13 peaks over 6,000 feet elevation and it has the highest overall elevation of any county in the Eastern US. As a result, there are many lots with steep grade.Buncombe County, NC, the other country in which we build has many areas of steep terrain as well.Asheville, NC sits in a bowl at 2200 feet elevation with mountains surrounding it going up to 4500’ elevation. The choices of building plan houses are seemingly endless. Simply Google “house plans” and start sifting through the results, bearing in mind that the topography might dictate a particular style, walkout basement for example. If so, use “walkout basement” as an additional qualifier.

Using a designer to create your plans is a viable alternative for people that want plans drawn for a particular lot. Designers vary widely in skill sets. At the top end are graduates of architectural schools that haven’t passed the mandatory exam to be registered architects. At the bottom end are drafts people. The plans produced still have to meet building code in the jurisdiction that will be monitoring the production. We can recommend several good designers to you, some in the Asheville area and others more far flung.

Which path you choose is your choice depending on your desires and budget. We can work with the plans produced by any of the three groups.

If you choose plans from a plan house, the plans may have to be adapted. The plan house usually does not offer modifications but instead puts the plan purchaser and the architect who drew the plans together. If the plans were drawn by an architect or a designer, the plans will be produced or modified as necessary  by them.

Because we are green builders, we also get involved in making suggestions that affect the material waste or building cost of the plans. For example, green building plans are often built on 2 foot increments to minimize material waste. If passive solar  is in the design, window overhangs for the South-facing windows must be calibrated to our latitude of 35 degrees. Green building typically requires that all HVAC ducts run in conditioned spaces and that sometimes affects whether trusses or floor systems are used. We also suggest ways to eliminate excess lumber cost through advanced framing techniques, proper sizing of headers, and elimination of unnecessary studs. The more of these decisions that are made in the design phase, the better.

Ideally the plan producer, the homeowner and the builder are working hand-in-hand to produce plans that fit the homeowner’s needs and can be built within their budget. At the end of the process, the homeowner has plans that fit their lot well with the features they want and that fit their wallet also.

Pricing and Services

We have tailored our pricing methods and services to accommodate the vast majority of our customers’ needs. The options below should give you multiple methods to choose from in pricing your home and assuring that you are comfortable with the pricing.

Fixed Price
Many customers prefer a fixed price so that they know before building begins what the final sale price of the finished product will be. We are willing to offer a fixed price option among others. This option is designed for customers that already have their plans and lot and are able to make their selections in advance. This is a very popular choice in the Asheville area and also Waynesville, NC.

Cost plus a Percentage of Cost
This option is designed for customers who have not made a final selection of all materials or finishes. We construct a preliminary budget so that the buyer has a general sense of the overall cost but the final cost is dependant on selections that the buyer makes while the home is being constructed. Most builders in both Asheville and Waynesville, NC like this option best.

Cost plus a Fixed Fee
This option is the same as the previous option except that the builder’s fee is decided upon at the beginning of the relationship and the final cost floats based upon the selections that the buyer wishes. This is also very popular among builders in Asheville, NC and Waynesville, NC

Professional Services for Owner-Builder
In this option, we build the home to a particular point that has been agreed upon with the homebuyer. For example, we might build the home to “dried in,” a structure that is weather-tight, and the homebuyer finishes the construction. There may or may not be an ancillary consulting relationship during the owner-builder completion period to resolve issues better dealt with by the builder. This is not used with any real frequency though we are currently assisting a couple in Black Mountain, NCwith their home.

Preconstruction Services Only
This option is designed for homeowners that are not ready to sign an agreement to begin construction immediately. This option is designed for homeowners that:

  • Have plans but no lot, or
  • Lot but no plans and need assistance picking a plan that will fit well on their lot
  • Need assistance figuring out what their plans will cost to build
  • Want help analyzing the plan for energy savings
  • Want to discuss product sourcing
  • Need assistance dealing with the homeowner’s association in their development that has control over the look and feel of the home as well as selection of materials, colors, house siting, and landscaping. We have served on numerous homeowner boards over the years as well as representing homeowners before their associations
  • siting their plans on their lot to best optimize the plan’s buildability or to take advantage of solar or the best view possible.
  • Need assistance doing energy modeling, cost analysis of the home using alternative techniques, house-as-a system modelling to insure all system components interact properly, cost-benefit analysis of energy-saving upgrades. See the Green building page for lots more detail about this particular option

This is a consulting relationship only with fees paid for time expended. In the event the homeowner selects Mountain Realty Builders as the builder when they are ready to build, we credit the cost of the initial work against the total price of the house so that no homeowner money is wasted.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get Started?
Call us. Arrange a time at your convenience. We will be happy to meet with you and discuss your plans. We will then customize an action plan for you to fit your unique circumstances.

How long does the building process take?
We cannot answer this question with a “one size fits all” answer. Once we know the variables in your situation we can accurately assess the timeline and provide you with a close approximation. If you have the land and the plans it would certainly take less than if you have to select plans and find a lot. However, recognizing that every situation is somewhat unique, the general timeframe is as follows:

Planning Stage 30-45 days

Site Work 3-5 days

Foundation 14-17 days

Framing 14-21 days

Mechanicals 14-20 days

Drywall 10-17 days

Exterior Finishing 10-17 days

Trim and flooring 10-14 days

Pre-Finish 7-10 days

Final Finish 4-7 days

Pre-Delivery Orientation 1-2 days

Delivery 1 day

The overall process takes around 5 months from the time that ground is broken but weather delays can impact this. We generally obligate ourselves to deliver a home no later than 6 moths from the date that ground is broken, though this will be driven by your individual circumstances.

There are so many things to decide-the whole process is so overwhelming. How can you help?
You are absolutely right about the process being overwhelming. You will need a tested plan to follow and an experienced builder to get you through the process so that the end product is a home you are proud of and is what you want. Our experience and expertise are a major part of the services we offer to you. Our goal is to make the building process easy for you and to provide a finished product worth the expenditure of significant time and effort.

How do we find a lot?
Where do you want to live? You probably know the area but finding a lot can be difficult. We recommend you make the purchase of your lot contingent on a review by us, your builder. We will make sure that your proposed design will fit the lot. Our clients usually have two or three potential lots in mind before we are involved and come to us for our view to assist in making the final decision. There are close to 200 developments to choose from in WNC (Western North Carolina) so there are many fine choices. There is also a service that matches homeowner’s criteria against amenities, location, etc to find the ideal community. Pinnacle Magazine also has listings of many of the communities in the Southern Appalachians; There are many fine developments in both HaywoodCounty (particularly the Waynesville, NC area) and Buncombe County.

We want three bids. Are you comfortable with bidding against other builders?
Yes. Keep in mind, however, that the bids are only as good as the information that you provide to the builders. Are appliances selected? Make and model of fireplace? Number of HVAC units? Amount of hardwoods and ceramic? The more specific you are, the better your bids will be from us as well as the other builders.

Change orders scare me. How do they work?
Change orders represent an increase or decrease in cost because something has been added or deleted by you, the client. You may elect to add some additional functionality, for example. The change order will address the change in the scope of work, the amount of the change order, the cumulative amount of the changes to date, and the change in the delivery date of the house.

Financing-how does it work with a custom home project?
The process is easy. Many lenders have adopted borrower-friendly programs such as “one time close” where the construction and permanent loans are essentially combined for closing purposes, resulting in lower closing costs. Interest rates can often be “rate locked” months in advance. Costs and rates vary so be sure to discuss the loan with several different lenders. We have a good relationship with a national lender with offices in several Western North Carolina locations that can assist you.

How much a square foot will my home cost?
This question is asked by every single prospective client and cannot be answered with any degree of precision until we have a change to evaluate your design, size of home, and selection of interior finishes. For example, carpet may cost $30.00/yard which is $3.33 per square foot.  Hardwood floors may cost $10.00 per square foot. Substituting hardwood for carpeting changes the cost per square foot by $6.67 for that portion of the home. You will have many choices like “hardwood-vs-carpet” to make and without knowing what those choices are, we cannot give you an accurate number.

Why should I choose you over the other builders I am considering?
In choosing your builder you will have 5 significant questions to answer in your mind. First, is the builder qualified to do the work I want done. If so, you then have four more questions to answer. 1) What is their price by comparison with the other builders, 2) Is the quality what I expect (after viewing other homes they have built) 3) Can they do the work in my timeframe, and 4) What is the chemistry like with this builder.(Intangibles are important. Building the home will take several months so how well the builder wears is important). Answering those questions will help you select the builder that will be one you enjoy working with.

What changes can I make to my floor plans
If you chose an architect or a designer to do your plans, the plans will exactly reflect what you asked them to produce so no changes should be necessary. If you chose a plan house plan, the plans can be modified within reason by the architect who originally drew them. The plan house will refer you to them. We will then price out those changes so that you have a good feel for the overall cost of the home.

Do you offer any financing programs.
Through a large national lender, we are able to offer a variety of mortgage options to suit you. These are conventional loans with as little as 5% down, no PMI, as well as the government programs like FHA and VA.

Can I finance land in my construction loan?
You can finance your land into the construction loan along with your new home. This saves on two separate closings. This also applies if you own your land and have a mortgage currently on it. The remaining balance on that loan can be consolidated into the construction loan, with the equity in the land used as a portion of your down payment.

What selections do I have to choose from?
You can choose anything or everything. Because yours will be a custom home, you get to decide all material selections, interior and exterior finishes, green features, and anything else you desire.

What is included in the price of the home? We have standards lists of features based on the price point of the home we are building. Because we build in different price ranges, there is not a standard list that applies to all price levels. However, we have an extensive list of features and we make the standard feature list a part of the contract between us so you can be assured that there are no surprises during or after construction.

What warranties are included with the purchase of my new home?
We offer a standard Limited Warranty with every home. Additionally we offer an optional 2-10 Home warranty if the homeowner wants it so that the home is protected for as long as 10 years. We also pass along all the manufacturer’s product warranties for the appliances in the home. Individual items have warranties as long as 10 years covering land and/or material

How much is my home going to cost.
That is a function of the size of the home and the features you select. Topography plays an important part in final cost due to the steep grade of some of the lots in the Asheville and Haywood County area.Waynesville, NC is in a valley surrounded by mountains that reach over 6,000 feet. We make sure that there are no surprises by contractually committing to the features that you specify.

How am I kept informed during the construction process
Digital pictures of work performed, informative and confirming emails as well as phone calls. A great deal of the communication is written, which helps avoid miscommunication.

How/where can I find lots to build on. We will be happy to assist you in finding the land. We have strong relationships with Realtors.

How do I know if my lot is buildable? At what cost? My plans fit my lot?
If the lot has been platted by either City of Asheville, Buncombe County, or Haywood County it will certainly fit the minimum requirements for a building lot. However, depending on the topography, the lot may not be buildable as a practicality. We can certainly verify all the setbacks, the zoning, and the like to confirm that a house of a particular size can be put on your lot. Placing the house plans on the lot requires that we identify which location on the site is most advantageous for the house plans. The cost of building the house is a function of the cost of building the improvements on that particular lot, taking into consideration all the choices the homeowner makes.

I have a few things in my current home, sentimental pieces that I want to incorporate into my new home. Will you allow me to do that?
Absolutely. We need you to identify the pieces as early as possible and tell us what we need to do to facilitate them going into the house. For example, if the piece is heavy we might need to add blocking in the wall before the drywall goes on.

The Homeowners Association in the development where we have our lot wants to control the look of the house. Will you assist us in dealing with their requirements?
Yes. We do this all the time, bringing in the product selections that they need to see to confirm the home quality fits the neighborhood. Additionally, because we have been homeowner association members on several boards, we usually do the presentation for the homeowner.