How It Works

5 Mistakes that People Make When Building a Home

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Building a home can be exciting and fun, but if you’re not careful it can turn into a very stressful process. Follow these tips and the memories you make from building a home will be ones that will never fail to make you smile.


When you begin the process of building a home, you need to make sure you start with a good plot of land. There are many aspects of a home that can be fixed, but location is not one of them. Remember, you will be spending the next years of your life on this plot of land, don’t sacrifice a good location for a low cost.

On that note, be wary of the neighborhood in which you build your home. Try to build around homes that are of a similar caliber – if you aim too high or too low, it will be very difficult to sell your home in the future. A home is an investment, and the neighborhood in which you build your home will play a significant role in whether or not you will profit.

Be sure to keep an open mind when deciding to build a new home. A good home builder will work with you to make sure that you all of your needs are met, but if you come in with your own pre-made floor plan you may be unwittingly limiting their capabilities to build you the home you really want.

Home design is a career within itself, a career that demands extensive study and experience. You may picture the perfect layout in your head, but there may be flaws you don’t anticipate. In the end, it’s better to go into the process of home building with ideas about what you want, but not with a fully drawn layout.

Once the process has begun, it’s important that you don’t attempt to cut corners in your home. Frugality is important, but when it comes to building a good home sometimes you need to spend the extra dollar for high quality materials that will last you a lifetime. If you cut corners now, you will end up paying more out-of-pocket down the road.

Lastly, remember that building a home should be a fun, exciting project! When you’re in the middle of the process – when you get into the doldrums of homebuilding – it’s easy to lose sight of the end goal. Just keep reminding yourself of why you decided to build a home in the first place, and about the prize waiting for you when you finish, and stay interested in the process. You want to work closely with your builders through the whole process for a home that you will always love and cherish. For more on how to avoid common home building mistakes, visit us at:

Terry S Pemberton-Expert Construction Loan Officer

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True Built Home’s brief interview with one of the Pacific Northwest lending construction loan officer, Terry S. Pemberton of Umpqua Bank


Terry first of all, how long have you been in the lender business, and how many years total in the construction lending side of things?

Well Lewis, I’ve been in the mortgage banking industry since 1989 and I have specialized in construction lending for 20 years.

Terry, it’s good to hear that you moved from one nationally recognized bank to a more regional lender with Umpqua Bank. Why the move?

After a lot of analysis, I determined that Umpqua Bank’s construction loan products offered a better overall structure which is more beneficial to the needs of the local borrowers and builders in our area.

If a client were to ask, “which lender does TBH recommend for their construction loan?” why might we tell clients to use you?

Lewis, our construction loan products have low fees and great rates as compared to some of the other products on the market.  But even more important to some borrowers, is the low down payment feature if the borrower does not already own the land. If a borrower is in title on the land at the time of application, they can utilize the equity from the future finished value of the new home and land together, as if the home is already built on their lot. The benefit to the borrower is that the equity can be applied to the down payment. These unique features can be a huge help to some borrowers.

How many construction loans have you done over the course of your professional career and how does this experience help the customer?

I’ve probably closed over 1000 construction loans in the last 20 years. My experience in construction lending helps me guide the borrower through a complex loan with ease because I’ve had the opportunity of working with borrowers through so many different scenarios over the years.

What has been the average loan amount?

My construction loans have ranged from $50,000 to $2,000,000, but, on average they are typically in the $200,000 to $400,000 range.

Are construction loans more expensive than say a refi or purchase?

Yes, construction loans in general are more expensive than most other types of residential mortgages, mainly because the loan needs to include fees for the monthly inspections and drawsOne advantage at Umpqua Bank is that we process and fund all draws internally through our own Custom Construction Draw Department. This means that builders will always work with an Umpqua Associate and never a 3rd party.

What documents are normally needed from the client to close on a construction loan?

Each borrower’s personal financial situation is different, but generally, financial items needed are the same as any other mortgage. As for the construction portion of the loan, I will need to document the project with a contract from the general contractor, plot plan, description of the materials, and a line item budget of all the costs.  The borrower may have portions of the project that will be completed by someone other than their general contractor.  This could be for things like the septic system, a new well or landscaping.  If that’s the case, we’ll need documentation for those items as well.  I will give the customer and the builder a complete list of the items we require early on in the process so that everyone knows what all will be needed.

How long will a construction loan take to close?

The time to complete a construction loan can vary quite a bit depending on each scenario.  From the time I receive a complete credit package and a complete builder and project package we can usually close the loan within 60 days.  Things that can extend that time frame are finding land on which to build, getting septic approval, getting bids for items that won’t be completed by the general contractor or changes to the project after the appraisal has been completed.  When I meet with a customer I explain the details and set expectations based on their situation.

What are some typical “hiccups” to construction loans?

Obtaining the various permits required in association with the building project can create delays. Also, unexpected cost overruns can occur during construction.  If a borrower started with temporary construction financing instead of a one-time close loan, they may have trouble getting approved for their permanent financing if they have had changes to their financial condition during the course of construction. Certainly other “hiccups” can occur also.

What do you think stresses out most clients during the process?

I advise all of my borrowers to try and have patience throughout the process. Many things can stress out the borrower since this may be the first time they have built a home and the long list of decisions they need to make in a short period of time will tend to add to their normal stress load. The main idea to keep in mind is the finished product will be something they can enjoy for many years to come.  They need to talk about setting proper expectations up front, having solid plans and specs, keeping changes to a minimum and keeping in mind that they may run into unanticipated snags.

We know you do business with TBH competitors, but if you were to offer a compliment about True Built Home to our prospective clients, what might that be?

The fact that TBH survived and grew out of the 2008 real estate market is impressive by itself. In addition, I think TBH can include itself in a general group of on-your-lot builders who recognize the need of a middle market, custom home product, and understand how to display and deliver the concept to the marketplace.

Thank you, Terry for your time.


Loans subject to credit approval.

Terry S. Pemberton

Home Lending Officer NMLS ID 185396
Direct: 360-280-4208
Fax: 888-977-9408

Terry can serve all of True Built Home’s locations and branches.

The Beauty and the Beast of hot water tanks

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There is an ever growing trend that appears to be gaining each and every month which is the press towards more energy-efficient items in one’s home. I think every paying customer out there who gets their utility bill, every month or two for some, is ‘WOW… is there anything I can do to minimize the “bite” the government (PUD) takes from your wallet?’ There may be very little to do for folks who elect to live within a city’s limits because the city often charges a fee for trash, storm drainage, sewer, water. However, when it comes to electricity, yeah, there are things that you can do to minimize the “bite”.

With this article, you’ll be getting into some pretty hot water with us. Hot water tanks, and equally the manufactures of them, are getting to where the cost to heat cold to hot is getting more and more palatable. I lived in a South American county for three years, and basically we used what was called a Lucha. (See photo below).


Now, if you think we were a little frightened to step into a shower, stand in water with a device likely not connected to a GFI, turn the water on and get hot water out, (think of a toaster as the way it works) and enjoy the experience, then think again. These are probably the most efficient means to heat cold to hot, but if we think most North Americans will adopt this means, well, I think that would take a real effort. Instead, manufactures of hot water tanks, and or devices to accomplish the same thing, have made strides in recent years.

The newer wave tanks are called “on-demand” or instantaneous tanks, and we also have Hybrid which work like heat pumps. All promise to save on your monthly bill, but the question is: what’s the difference you pay and how long will it take to recoup the additional cost of the new generation tank. Another thing to give consideration is the ability to get parts, qualified technicians and the cost of maintenance.

Cost: The obvious theory is, you heat the water when you need it (heat pump hybrids are different in their means to save money) thus saving most families about 30% annually, or on average about $300-360 yearly. Old water tanks cost significantly less from the start; a 50 gallon can cost around $350-500, where your on-demand costs vary as to your needs.  A family of say two could use a smaller on-demand and pay around $300 for a unit where a family of 4 would obviously need more water per minute, so you’d likely have to pay around $1200-1400 for the unit.  The thing to keep in mind is capacity per minute, like the Rinnai RU98EP LPG Tankless Water Heater. True Built Home does not endorse or recommend one or another when it comes to manufactures. Each person should do their own due diligence and make a sound choice based upon you and your family’s needs. With our math in place, it would stand to reason that after say the third year of living with the new water heater, it will have paid for itself. If the unit lasts longer, which is another positive reason to choose to install them, you should start to enjoy some savings every month. You might feel good too because after all, you are not wasting either your money or resources.

Water flow: as we mentioned above, your needs as a family or individual will affect which on-demand tankless hot water unit you install.  The really terrific thing is these units will spit out hot water until the cows come home because they never run out of hot water. Whereas the older technology is, it holds 50 gallons and when it’s gone, it takes another 20-30 minutes to heat up the new water. Probably the big knock against the newer units is the water temperature tends to fluctuate between a little cold to a little hotter. However each year the manufactures are getting closer to perfecting the results, and should not in itself prevent you from considering this option as to the means to heat water for your family.

Size: The old style tanks take up way more room than the on-demand units; another plus for those who have a tight space or just want to free up more room for other things.

Last note: If you are considering an on-demand water heater, good for you, but keep a few things in mind: Think about the size you need. This is the most important thing, in my opinion, when it comes to choosing a unit. Next is to read a good amount of reviews; do your homework. Lastly, and I am only telling you what others in the industry have told me, stay away from electric on-demand units and if at all possible stay with either natural or propane units. I am told by several plumbers (in fact, they won’t install them) is that the electrical units are more temperamental, break down more frequently, and do not provide the consistency of a gas unit. Happy buying.










Raised Heel Truss

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In one of the more common areas to save on your heating cost, the raised heel truss with additional insulation is one that is in reach for most of our clients. Essentially, at the ends of the hip part of the roof, the angle of roof to exterior wall becomes very small. As a result, almost the entire perimeter of the home, where your roof hips, you are losing heat, or better known as money. In the picture below, you will see what a standard home comes like, and what a “raised heel truss” looks like;



By raising the truss up off the top plate and increasing the area between truss and sheet rock to roof under sheathing, you effectively gain enough area to provide a higher insulation value for those areas. If say we were building both types of homes and they are each roughly 1000 sq-ft homes, the house on the left, or a standard truss package, would get only 900 sq-ft of R49 whereas the rest of the areas would be roughly R20. That is a significant amount of insulation loss. When raising the heel, effectively you have increased all the areas to get the maximum amount of insulation as possible. Add R60 in the roof and you really have a home that will save you money.


Why not ask one of our helpful home consultants how much these upgrade cost. Contact True Built Home now!

Drywall Level Finish

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Every once in a while we run into a difference of opinion with a client over the finish standard of our garages when they want to have the garage fully sheet-rocked. Some have come under the impression that the finish should be the same as the house, which can be done, but is rarely done if ever. After all, it’s a garage. So to help folks out, we put together some photos and descriptions for you to let you know what we offer for the upgrade to have your garage fully sheet-rocked. If you desire a higher finish, let us know and we can do it for a moderate upgrade cost.
Level 0 is used in temporary construction or if final decoration is undetermined. No taping or finishing is required.


A Level 1 finish is recommended in areas that would generally be concealed from view or in areas that are not open to public traffic. Joint tape need not be covered with joint compound to fulfill the requirements of Level 1. In Level 1, the surface is left free of excess joint compound. Ridges and tool marks are acceptable for a Level 1 finish. This level is often specified in the plenum area above ceilings, in attics, or in service corridors. In some geographic areas this level is referred to as “fire-taping”.



Level 2-this is the finish that True Built Home offers and what is completed at the upgrade price.

In garages, warehouse storage areas and other similar areas where the final surface appearance is not of concern, a Level 2 finish is the recommendation. Level 2 may be specified where moisture resistant gypsum board is used as a tile substrate. Level 2 reads, “All joints and interior angles shall have tape embedded in joint compound and wiped with a joint knife leaving a thin coating of joint compound over all joints and interior angles”. This differentiates Level 2 from Level 1. Joint compound is applied over all fastener heads and beads. The surface is left free of excess joint compound. Ridges and tool marks are acceptable for a Level 2 finish.

Additionally, Level 2 includes the following sentence: “Joint compound applied over the body of the tape at the time of tape embedment shall be considered a separate coat of joint compound and shall satisfy the conditions of this level.” In the past there has been some confusion as to whether tape pressed into joint compound and covered with joint compound in a single operation fulfilled the requirements of Level 1 or Level 2



Level 3
In areas to be decorated with a medium or heavy hand and spray applied textures or where heavy-grade wall coverings will become the final decoration, a Level 3 finish is recommended. Level 3 states, “All joints and interior angles shall have tape embedded in joint compound and shall be immediately wiped with a joint knife leaving a thin coating of joint compound over all joints and interior angles. One additional coat of joint compound shall be applied over all joints and interior angles. Fastener heads and accessories shall be covered with two separate coats of joint compound. All joint compound shall be smooth and free of tool marks and ridges. Before final decoration it is recommended that the prepared surface be coated with a drywall primer prior to the application of final finishes. Level 3 is not recommended where smooth painted surfaces, light textures, or light- to medium-weight wall coverings become the final decoration.


Level 4

If the final decoration is to be a flat paint, light texture or lightweight wall covering, a Level 4 finish is recommended. As stated in Level 4, “All joints and interior angles shall have tape embedded in joint compound and shall be immediately wiped with a joint knife leaving a thin coating of joint compound over all joints and interior angles. Two separate coats of joint compound shall be applied over all flat joints and one separate coat of joint compound shall be applied over interior angles. Fastener heads and accessories shall be covered with three separate coats of joint compound. All joint compound shall be smooth and free of tool marks and ridges.” It is recommended that the prepared surface be coated with a drywall primer prior to the application of final finishes.

In severe lighting areas, flat paints applied over light textures tend to reduce joint photographing. Paints with sheen levels other than flat as well as enamel paints are not recommended over this level of finish. Special attention should be paid to long corridors, large areas of wall, and large/multiple windows when specifying Level 4, because these areas are potential areas of concern in achieving acceptable wall finishes, and may need to be specified appropriately.


Level 5
Level 5 finish is recommended for areas where severe lighting conditions exist and areas that are to receive gloss, semi-gloss, enamel or non-textured flat paints. Level 5 requires all the operations in Level 4. Additionally, a thin skim coat of joint compound, or material manufactured especially for this purpose, is applied to the entire surface. A thorough explanation of “skim coat” is given in the comments section of GA-214.

A skim coat of joint compound is intended to conceal small imperfections in joints and on the surface of the gypsum board to help conceal joints and create the appearance of flatness. A skim coat will also smooth the texture of the paper, minimize differences in surface porosity, and create a more uniform surface to which the final decoration can be applied.


How to buy a home

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Before we get into the nuts and bolts of “how to buy a home”, we should first consider “should I settle for a used home?” It’s cliché but often repeated, buying a home will be the largest investment you will make in your life, unless of course you have 4 girls and they all need braces! So, if it’s true that it will be the largest investment, why do so many people make some rather common mistakes about their first home? Often, many feel they can’t afford something that doesn’t come with “problems” or repairs. Does that have to be the case? Not really. Here’s why: when considering the purchase of a home, many think that building a new home is a pipe dream because, either it cost too much, or the stories they have heard about building a home are shocking. Granted, there are some very skilled general custom home building contractors that charge what they are worth. Often the quality of products they use, or the skill level of the subs they use, all might be high-end items and personnel. As a result, you could easily spend $125 per square foot on a new home. Stories of building are also true. Building a new home can be stressful for many reasons. Here are a few in my experience that shed light on why some individuals struggle with building a new home.

  1. Stretched to the max.
    • I have observed couples who qualify for a loan, and take the loan to the max of the limit, and then during construction other costs creep in and the pressure of having to “find” additional funds puts immense pressure on both the client and the builder. Avoid this by putting a contingent amount of money into the loan for surprises during construction. A 5-7% contingent fund (of the entire purchase) in your loan will go a long way to alleviate some of the potential moments of stress related to building.
  2. Unprepared.
    • Focus on what you want. Quality, functionality, economics of the purchase, or location. Each of these, and perhaps a few others, if meditated upon and agreed upon, if you are a couple, will help you to make wise choices regarding your home. Focusing on one, or no more than two, because budget often predicates your choice, will help keep your project from derailing.
  3. Unrealistic expectations.
    • If you are paying $125+ per square foot for a new home, I would say that you have every right to have high expectations. If though choosing one of the many on-your-lot builders here in the Pacific Northwest and getting what many describe as a “ridiculous” priced home, you may need to temper your expectations. Not to say we don’t strive for excellence, the reality of the build is, you’re paying half the price in some cases, which may mean that having every imperfection addressed is simply not a realistic expectation. If you feel you are the type to demand more than what you pay for, you may want to opt for a smaller home at a $125 per square foot. If though, you see the forest, not just the trees, than you are a perfect candidate for a home at a “ridiculous” price.

So, let’s address “how to buy a home”. I think it well to understand that as many people you ask that question, you will get a plethora of answers and advice. So, please indulge me with what I advise. It’s all about the money. Banks like to use what’s called the “debt to earnings ratios” to determine how much you can afford a month on a new home. Easy to figure, and then the real fun starts with all the paper work. Here is a calculator that you can use to see how much money a lender might allow you to borrow when purchasing a home. Now, just a bit of clarity. You don’t have to put in the amount of gas you use or the amount of your food or entertainment budgets. They want to know credit card payments, car payments, and other long-term debt that you might have. Alimony or child support would be considered such. Subtract what I call “hard” debt from your monthly income, and you can get a picture of what most do when they do that. Where’s all my money going?! Basically, lattes and wine! But seriously, the amount left over is your income minus your debt, and of the left over you can use up to 36% of your total income for a house payment. Granted, I just made that look so simple, but the truth of the matter is, there are several things that go into getting qualified for a loan. To learn more, click here for some different “views” of how to go about getting qualified. NOTE: doing advance research is great, but you want to know what’s even better? A great loan officer or mortgage lender. If you are in the Tacoma area and need one, than I have one that I highly recommend; knows the business like nobody else and is focused on giving you the only advice you need to know either to qualify, or getting you qualified. His name is Justin Glass. You can reach him at 253-208-7879 or email at . I have to let you know that he does not do construction lending. This article is not intended to “push” building a new home, but rather to answer the question, “how to buy a home”. If though you are convinced about building, as opposed to buying a used home, then I would recommend our list of approved lenders.

Once the lender has “pre-qualified” you and your significant other (if you have one), then you can start the real process of finding the perfect floor plan, location, amenities, etc. Will you buy used or go through with the very rewarding process of building a new home? Here is an article that may assist you to determine which path you will take. There are two ways to go about buying a home. Whether or not you buy or build the process is similar. You have to find what you want, negotiate a price, agree on the price and go through what many call “the purchase and sale” arrangement. Having a pre-approved letter from your lender goes a long way to assure the person selling what you want that you qualify to purchase the property. If you elect to have a real estate agent involved, (always a good option) then they can help with negotiations, working with appraisers, lenders other agents, the seller and a whole host of paperwork. If you are buying, then the real estate agent in essence is working for free for you. That’s because most who are selling their home or property have made arrangement to pay both real estate agents. Yes, you could argue that you might be paying for the agent because the seller raised their price to accommodate the cost of having to pay the agent, but that is not always the case. Once mutual acceptance of the land or the home has been made then inspections, typically required by your lender, which you have to pay, will need to be made. When the inspection is finished, depending on what is on the report, you and the seller through your agents, negotiate which if, not all have to be addressed, fixed or repaired, and which ones are not required by the lender to be addressed. Cosmetic items like paint, wood work etc., will likely not be an issue with the bank or lender. However, mechanical or structural issues will be. Sometimes with the sale of a used home, the cost to repair is significant and the seller just does not have the money to have the work done. However, they may agree to allow some of the profit from the sale of the home, if any, to cover the repairs. Items like a busted furnace, or poor roof or bad siding, will more than likely stall the process unless either the borrow or seller agree to have them fixed to the bank’s approval to move the process forward. In addition, like that of a newly constructed home, an appraisal of the property and the future home to be built, or the used home that you might be looking at, needs to be performed, again paid by the person buying the home. A typical appraisal is about $400-500. Some lenders my offer this for free, but you need to confirm.

I think if I were to make a plug at any time on whether to build or to buy new, this is the time. The reason being is that often the appraisal of the new home, say if you are purchasing a True Built Home, will often, if not always, be a pleasant surprise due to the amount of value you will have upon completion of your home. This is no joke. We see in many cases the value determined by an appraisal upon completion of one of our homes is often north of $100k above the cost of construction. Click here for just one example. To be fair, a used home may have some equity, but think about this: if you were selling your home and paid to have a professional appraisal and the value was, say $350k, and you owed $250k, why would you sell the house at $250k? You wouldn’t. You would try to get the most profit you could. So, if you were to buy the house at $325k and it’s value is $350k you would have some equity. However, when building a new home, you should realize an improved equity position than you would with a used home. This is a very basic approach to “how to buy a home”. Here are some review points:

  • It’s all about the money! Find a lender; get pre-approved; find out what you can afford.
  • Start shopping. Either for a used home, or a parcel of land to put a new True Built Home on!
  • If you find what you like you could obtain the service of a real estate agent.
  • Make an offer.
  • Go through negotiations.
  • Mutual acceptance.
  • Get inspections.
  • Negotiate fixes, repairs and cosmetics.
  • Get an appraisal.
  • If the numbers work and you have enough cash to put down on the home, close the deal.
  • Have a double gin martini, or whatever it takes to celebrate or de-stress.

Three Critical Mistakes for Young Couples to Avoid

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Three Critical Mistakes for Young Couples to Avoid

Did you know that according to CBS Money Watch  nearly half of all younger couples are underwater on their mortgage? Here are the 3 mistakes some make that you want to avoid so you are not part of that group:

  1. They buy a fixer-upper, take out additional loan, and then wait for the value to catch up to the  investment
  2. They buy a home in a sub-division, likely at the value the lender is willing to give, leaving the couple with…ZERO equity. If the market drops, you suddenly become upside down. Don’t be fooled, the market has a cycle (read more on it here), and those better positioned will suffer less or little
  3. They buy a home that someone else has remodeled, with little or no equity, and again, when the market goes south, they are stuck.

So, how do the truly smart people, the prudent people, look at real estate investment? When you can get the absolute best home, brand new, at a ridiculously low price, often with $20-100k worth of move-in equity, you will not be a part of the group under water.


Do you know how old a home can be before the government banned all asbestos use in the USA? If this is something that concerns you, contact us by clicking here, and we will send you a link with more information on this subject


What is the Processing Fee for?

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What is the Processing Fee for?

When you order a True Built Home and you sign the contract, you are asked for a processing fee. This processing fee is for administrative costs that True Built Home incurs well before we ever pour foundation. When you sign your order, we immediately begin working.

The work that our office staff does includes, but is not limited to:

  • Processing your contract
  • Preparing your blueprints *(See Below)
  • Standard Engineering of the home
  • Getting bids from subcontractors
  • The salary of the salesperson who helped you
  • Helping you with any information you need for your permit application and loan application. Taking your permit to the county and paying fees is the responsibility of client.

So as you can see, we begin performing services for you immediately on signing of your contract. For this reason our processing fee is non-refundable. You might be asking how much might the fee be? Our fee can be as low as $1,700 for garage plans and can get as high as $5,500 if you are doing a non True Built Home plan. Normally you might realistically be looking at between $3,000-5,000.

*The standard processing fee covers the blueprints if the plan is stock with no redrawing of the house plan. If your house plan is being redrawn for you and deviates from the stock plan that you see on our website, then there will be an additional redraw fee. As mentioned earlier that fee normally never exceeds $5,500.

Building On An Existing Foundation

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We are often asked if we can build a home on an existing foundation. It really is on a case-by-case basis. Here is why:

Foundations are designed for the home that they were initially designed for. So, if you have a set of plans, and let’s say, for illustration purposes, your home burned down and you want to replace it, we can do that. We often require putting your home plans into our Blue Prints.

If you want to use your foundation for an entirely different home, say even placing a two-story on a one story foundation, we might be able to do that based on the soils in and around your foundation. It’s true that the width of your foundation walls, and the size of the footing may limit us and what we can build on top of the foundation, although it is not entirely impossible to put a two-story home on a rambler or single-story foundation. We charge nothing to come to your lot and inspect, but if it is decided that you can and want to build a home, cost will vary due to the aspect of your project. Significantly more site visits are needed for measurements, inspections etc. Your city or county engineers may require that you hire a geo-tech to give a report on your soils and if they can maintain a larger structure than the original or a required a type of concrete “X-Ray” to see if adequate rebar (steel) is in your foundation. If there was a fire there may be additional hoops to jump through with local counties and cities, as well as insurance companies. Our custom homes packages cost vary, so please feel free to contact us about your particular needs.

Please feel free to contact us about your project!