True Built Home-For Sale in the heart of wine country!

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True Built Home specializes in pre-sell, on your lot, custom home building. Every now and then we build a spec home to use as a model home, or we see value in doing so. So it is with our Zillah Lakes home. We initially built it to show perspective clients in and around the Yakima/Tri-Cities area our product and displaying all of our standard features. However, now it’s time for us to move onto building a model home near our office in Richland. That brings us to the reason for this email. If you or somebody you know is interested in buying a brand new home in the heart of wine county, please contact Carol
A little about the home for sale; Its a rambler, 3 bedroom, gas fireplace, vaulted ceilings, 2 car garage, electric furnace and heat pump, with a 50 gallon hybrid hot-water tank. 5 piece master bath, large sliding glass door off the back of the home with nice patio new appliance and a utility sink in washer and dryer room. The garage comes level 2+ sheet-rocked and insulated with a garage door opener. Click Here for a few photos.
A little about the location; Zillah is about 15 minutes east of Yakima, really in the heart of the Yakima Valley vineyards. Here is a link to a map featuring some of the more well known wineries in the area. The home is located in Zillah Lakes Community. This is just what the doctor order to take life’s stress away. Small lakes that you can fish for white fish, trout and bass. A 9 hole golf course to keep your game alive. Great neighbors and almost walking distance to one of our favorite winery in the area, JBell Cellars. Construction just started on an Urgent Care facility, and coming soon, an event center. The home itself is literally across the street form the sheriff’s department. Talk about security!
Last year my wife and I decided to “rough it” (no furniture or beds are in the home) by taking three days off to visit the home, stay, and drink in (literally) the areas best wines. While it was sunny (in fact boasting of 360 days of sunshine a year) at Zillah and in the 70’s, it was raining, cold and miserable in Tacoma and Seattle. Just a little over a 2 hour drive, and you’d think you were in a different country!
The Zillah Lakes community has a very high ceiling as more lots become available to build on and the wine country continues to produce some of the country’s best wines. One other side point is the Principal of Toppenish, where if you had children they’d likely attend, was voted the best principal in the nation in 2012.
The home is being offered below current market value at $249,900. If you love wine, warm weather a little golf and some fishing, you literally could be enjoying yourself much more in the coming months. Call now!DSCF6413 DSCF6411 DSCF6410 DSCF6401 DSC_0039 DSC_0028 DSC_0020 DSCF6410 DSCF6408 DSCF6407 DSCF6406 DSCF6405 DSCF6399 DSC_0036 DSC_0027 DSC_0025 DSC_0024

A little reflection and history of True Built Home and other “on your lot builders”

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Are you looking to build a new home on your land? Maybe you’re considering working with a volume builder that deals with a set of stock plans that you can alter, or a home builder that doesn’t allow any changes to their stock plans. There are a few large, on your lot, volume builders in the area, such as Reality Homes Inc. (out of Fife, Washington with branches in Burlington, WA, Centralia, WA, Woodland, WA, and Woodburn OR), HiLine Homes (out of Puyallup with offices in Woodland, Centralia, Yakima, Grays Harbor County, and Jefferson County in Washington), Lexar Homes (with offices scattered about), and Adair Homes (out Oregon with offices in Aura, OR, Medford, OR, Bend, OR, Creswell, OR, Olympia, WA, Caldwell, ID, and Woodland, WA). In your search for a volume builder, you may have come across prices that sound too good to be true and asked yourself, “How can these contractors make a profit?”, “What ensures that I’ll get a quality home?”, “What type of products are they using?”, “Will I have resale value?”, “What are my final costs likely to be?” (that’s a big one), and of course, “What are the hidden costs?”

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Lewis D. Mann. I’m the owner of True Built Home (, and I previously worked with HiLine Homes ( for more than three years as an independent contractor, selling their homes and learning the business (1996-2000). I later went on to co-found Reality Homes ( out of Fife, which lasted three years as well for me. I used to say that I have assisted hundreds, but I have later revised that to say thousands of families, builders, and contractors to understand clearly what is involved with an on your lot volume home builder, and what pitfalls might occur in the building process. I have seen builders of this nature up close. I have observed the entire scope of the process, first-hand. I have absolutely seen the great, the good, the bad, and the downright ugly side of this business. Since I originally wrote this article around 2007/2008 and it’s now getting closer to 2020, you can see that I have seen it all.

First, the client finds an advertisement in the paper, real estate magazine, radio, TV, or perhaps on the internet. Maybe you have searched using words like, “custom home builder”, “on your home builder”, “on your lot builder”, “volume builder”, etc. and came across their website. Next, you might make a phone call, or pay the local office a visit. You’ll hear the pitch – they’ll describe the process, and if they have a model home, you might just get lost daydreaming of owning your own home in your visit. You might have a million and one questions that you are going to ask. However, will that salesperson have your best interests in mind? When you visit any showroom or model home, you have screaming above your head, “I saw your ad,” or, “I saw a home built in my area, and I wanted to come and see more for myself”. In this scenario, you are at a complete disadvantage. You’ve traveled to them, and you are on their turf (so to speak), and they will be answering questions that they have heard hundreds of times before and they will have the perfect responses for you. Sometimes with a bit of humor to break the ice. What you need is clear direction and foresight. It’s almost like looking at a shiny new car. Oh, how pretty it looks! Did you stop to ask, “what’s it got under the hood, and what kind of tires are those?” I really believe most folks get lost in the initial visit and when questioned about the warranty of something like the siding package, they are clueless.

I have included these volume builders in this informative blog because I think that you deserve the opportunity to investigate them all in hope that after doing so, you will have easily discovered that True Built Home (owned by only one man), has the absolutely most beautiful homes, with hands-down the best standard features when compared to the others.

First a bit of history. Adair Homes, as we mentioned before, was essentially the inventor of the on-your-lot building program in the Pacific NW. Sometime around 1990, the Sundby family were farmers that moved out to Puyallup, Washington. Eventually, they began framing homes for Adair. About 1994/95 they decided to do the exact same thing as Adair and solicited a draftsman to draw up some plans that were very similar. The funny thing is, while they were selling their new homes to clients, they were still framing homes for Adair to fund the company. One day an Adair project manager saw a home being built by “Creative Builders.” After they did some research, they found out that the framers, were the Sundbys. They were let go and Creative Builder’s story began. They later started doing business as HiLine Homes. The family sold homes out of their basement in Puyallup, WA, but when they were confident enough, they opened their first model home in September of 1998. A few years later, they accumulated two partners to add to the father and son team, and eventually, they broke the company up. The son sold his stake, but the father kept his, and Lexar Homes was created with two additional owners: James Moen and Bob Hollis. Most, if not all of their branches, are franchises or licensees and that is a critical piece of information that you will need to remember, but back to my story.

I remember when I started with HiLine Homes, they were concerned that it would be six months before I would have a paycheck. That first month I sold five homes, and for three years I enjoyed seeing the company prosper and the homes being successfully built. HiLine Homes was on the map and has continued to beat Adair Homes for sales volume for many years now. They were a real thorn-in-the-side of Adair, but in many ways, the roles have reversed. Things were changing, and it all came to a head in October of 2000. I don’t want to go through all the sordid details, but suffice it to say, I left. I joined a company with three other “partners” as a 10% stakeholder in the very early days of their beginnings. My partners thought that they could do the same thing as HiLine Homes. However, they needed someone that understood all aspects of the business from banking, advertisements, sub-contractors, etc. They had a large pool of investment dollars to spend and were making progress with their branch, but they did not have a grasp on the concept. They “claimed” to have contracting experience on their website, but they were sealant and caulk company, a barricade and fence company (so if that is being a contractor, well perhaps they do, but that hardly made them home builders). Now, they too wanted to become an on your lot volume builder. When I caught wind of it in December of 2000, I made a phone call to one of the owners. I revealed my desire to come aboard as a principle owner and shareholder. The talks were on. I had left HiLine Homes in January of 2001 and started my new life as a 10% owner of Reality Homes Inc.

At Reality Homes, the first-year projection was 28 homes; I set that goal. The project manager said 56, we sold 128 homes that first year. WE WERE BLOWN AWAY. But storm winds were blowing. Let me explain.

One of the biggest things I learned from on your lot builder HiLine Homes was not to oversell. Building the homes is by far the most rewarding part of the volume building business. Daily, I was getting concerned with the timelines of construction at Reality Homes and voiced it over and over again. My concerns seemed to come across to some as one who did not want the company to succeed. That was the furthest from the truth! I wanted the company to be the most dominate on your lot volume builder in our industry. I continued to clash with one of the partners. What made matters worse, six months later when the shares were awarded to me, the partners suddenly could not remember the part about me being a principle. Was I shocked? That’s an understatement. The writing was on the wall. I saw it coming a mile away, and this had a detrimental effect on my morale and sales. What was happening to me was insignificant compared to what was happening to many of the customers that purchased a Reality Home. Let me explain.

Early on, the partners of Reality Homes and the project manager wanted to allow the clients to make changes to the stock plan homes we sold. Not only did I disagree with it, but it also made me sick to my stomach thinking of the repercussions that would come up six months or longer down the line. It sounded like a great idea, giving the client what they want. As a sales rep for HiLine Homes, this was one of the big things early on with the company that was a point of contention. Over the course of time with HiLine Homes, I began to see the wisdom of their business model, and I can say after three years with HiLine Homes, I could clearly see that sticking to non-changeable floor plans was not only healthy for the company, but was the best thing for the client. Granted, we all seem to make changes now, but it has finally evolved, with software and intelligent designers, so we can make changes possible. Back to the story.

At Reality Homes, a client would want to move a wall. Sounds easy right? But moving walls around required that we needed someone to run the CAD software to make the change. Reality Homes allowed one of the sales staff members do this. It failed miserably after two months, and the project manager had little time to do it with all the other things they were making him do. On top of that, he had limited ideas on how to do computer drafting work. Now remember, these changes to homes would not reveal their errors until the construction actually began. To me, it appeared like an iceberg on the horizon, and we were the Titanic. Let me just give you one scenario.

A client wants 42” cabinets in the master bath (standard are 36”). Salesperson orders them, adds it to the home change order. Salesperson (not a trained CAD designer), adds 42” cabinets on blueprints. Cabinet company sends out the cabinets, but no one had informed the electrician. The 110 outlets were too low (the ones you plug your hair dryer or electric toothbrush into). Trim carpenter shows up and starts to set the cabinets, has to end his day when he discovers that the outlets are too low. A delay occurs, and it might be several days before the electrician can make it back out. Imagine if your house is being built 2 hours away from the builder’s nearest branch. Delays occur, and the client is paying interest on the loan. Electrician makes the change. Trim carpenters fit it back into his schedule (which may take several days because he has several homes he is working on). Because the electrician has made a change, the electrical inspector may require a re-inspection. All of these mistakes cost additional money. Not much, but it adds up. Sometimes, the cost is passed along to the electrician, the homeowner, or Reality Homes would pick up the “tab”. Next, the mirror and wire shelving people show up. Nobody informed them of the taller cabinets and guess what? The mirror that was custom cut in the shop is too big now and won’t work in the master bath. The wire shelving contractor can’t finish his job and has to stop work, order new mirror, wait a few days and then get back out to the home which may take a few more days. All the while the interest on the home is ticking. All from one change to a home that may have had several changes made. Reality Homes had hundreds of these homes. Some under construction, others waiting to start.

In a lot of respects, Reality Homes may have wanted to give the client more. I strongly disagreed with them and knew it was going to get messy. If you have just a few homes to build, that’s manageable, but if you have several hundred homes going at once, you can almost see how chaotic it would become, and it did!

Two years with Reality Homes, and over 200 homes had been sold. Customer complaints were mounting. I aired my concerns with one of the “upper management” persons at the end of 2.5 years with Reality Homes, and I told him that if Reality Homes did not fix their construction problems, “it would become a newsworthy item and may even end up in a class action lawsuit.” Then a year and a half later, King 5 Investigating called. They said that they were doing a story on the multiple complaints that customers were having with Reality Homes and the Attorney General’s office of Washington State. I told them that I had hired many the sales staff there and that many of them were good people, but at this time, “I have no comment,” because I had left the company six months earlier. I took a buyout because I really felt I had no control of anything within the company. Jesse Jones thanked me and I left it at that. It was what I had warned. I was unhappy for their failure; I was sick to my stomach. If they had only listened.

When my usefulness with the company was coming to an end, I had made it known that I would not have a problem exiting the company. I also wanted to put distance between myself, Reality Homes, and their reputation. I was never made a principle as was agreed upon, they did not take my advice on the core business ideas and fundamentals, and they threw caution to the wind. Ultimately, the clients and the contractors were/are the ones paying for this serious flaw.

Our approach to building homes

Realistically, we want to build the best home for the money, compared to what our competitors construct. On this note, I emphasize that if you look at all the builders I mention in this article, and consider their “standard” features, you will notice that they don’t always inform you of the brand names or model numbers of the products that they use for their homes.

Builder’s Standard Features:

My goal with this post is not to bash my competitors. In fact, we all know each other, and for the most part, I believe each company tries hard to do what they do best. However, as the customer, you need to know something. It is far more complicated to build a home with quality products than it is to have the best square foot cost. Just as an example, if you called your local automotive parts store, and said, “I need some new spark plugs for my car,” they may inform you that they have “several brands to choose from ranging in price.” If you said, “just give me the cheapest ones,” that would make the process so much easier than if you wanted the best value, and higher quality. There may in fact be several brands to choose from that are “middle of the road”. In a lot of ways, some of these builder companies employ this same method to building their homes. They may say to the plumber, “hey just give us the cheapest ones you install”, or door hardware, “just ship us the most inexpensive ones.” I know for a certainty, one company employed a purchasing agent whose entire job was to find the cheapest items and methods to increase their profits. Ideal for the owners of the company, bad for you. However, if you were to only look at the square foot price, you are going to think, WOW WHAT A DEAL! If you are serious about building a home, then ask, “what are the products you put in your homes?” If they hem and haw, well then, buyer beware.

The Nuts and Bolts

True Built Home was designed first with the purchaser in mind, then construction staff and contractors. After all, the greatest asset to any company is the clientele. We expect that putting the consumer first will ultimately translate into less frustration for all parties from bankers, realtors, sub-contractors’ counties, city officials, inspectors, and you. Don’t think for a moment that I am selling you a “pie in the sky” idea. Building a home, especially in certain counties, can be frustrating, discouraging, time-consuming and aggravating. I remember a client in Clark County. He has 217,600 square feet of land. He is building a 1,720 sq. ft. home, with about 9,000 sq. ft. of impervious soil. The county says he has to have an on-site storm drain! Don’t get me started. However, for what it’s worth, building a home is the only means I know of to jump-start a savings plan; or selling an item (a home in this case) and make yourself a splendid profit. Especially in a fast moving market.

We are hoping for two key things to differentiate us from other home builders. First, we want to empower you with more information on the home you might be looking at. That is why we have put lots of time and money into our website. It is, as they say, “chock-full” of content. One of the most frequently asked question from clients is, “can I see the home?” Most of our homes have 3D rendering that enables you to envision the layout of a home. Although not perfect, it allows most people to visualize the home and get a “feel” for the layout. Second, is our method of construction. Through my experience of thousands of former customers of both Reality Homes Inc. of Fife, Washington and HiLine Homes of Puyallup, Washington, there seems to be one inherent trend: A lack of clear communication and real education about the process of building. Now, don’t get me wrong. We are constantly working to improve this, after all, we are contractors! We attempt to solve this issue with our website’s real-time construction process so that clients can monitor their project daily and have up-to-date access and information. It is called the Co-Construct system. In this area, True Built Home has set the standard. In fact, till this day, 8/2/2016, I do not believe any of the other builders mentioned in this article allow the client to have access to a calendar of events like we do. We have created a step-by-step guide to ordering your home, what to expect after your purchase, and what you will see during construction process. Our website is stuffed full of informative articles and information to put your mind at ease for the construction of your new home.

Planning ahead

Are you considering building a new home? If so, there are certain facts that you need to consider. First and foremost is to understand is that construction is like having a baby. It can be joyous from day one. Feeling overjoyed with the progress that you see happening to your home, to wanting to just get it done, all of the emotions in-between, and then finally, jubilation as the home is completed and you are moving in. Just like starting a family, we encourage you to think seriously about building a home. Planning is essential to success. Here are a few of the things to consider:

• What can I ultimately afford? This is best discussed with one of our approved lenders as they will ascertain your earning and debt ratios. Note: did you know that if your appraised value is high enough (and you have owned the land for over a year), and your construction cost is low enough, you may be able to “wrap” some of your existing debt into the loan. Eliminating a large payment of a credit card or car payment may give you a more significant amount of monthly payment you can use towards the purchase of a home.

• Is location more important to you than the size of the home? Often clients are happier buying a parcel of land that is in a better location and purchasing a smaller home to stay within their budget. Which type are you?

• What are your time frames? Four months, six months, one year?

• How developed is the land in question? Will it take a time to develop it for construction? Does it have power, sewer or septic installed, or do you have a septic design already? Is there water on the site, or will you have to drill a well, or will you have local water brought to your property?

• Which options will you order? Some options increase the value of your home while others are “lifestyle choices”. Remember that banks do a pre-construction appraisal before construction begins to determine the value of the proposed project. If the buyer puts too many “lifestyle choice” options in the home, this may have a detrimental effect on the appraisal of the home and may require that you put more money into the project or change either the home plan or options. This can cause frustration on the part of all parties. Our knowledgeable sells staff can assist you to determine if the options you want will help or hinder your appraisal. We have broken them into “Helps with value” or “Lifestyle Choices”.

• Is your lot level or sloped? Sloped lots cost more in construction for concrete, pony walls, glue lams and/or beam and post construction. Sometimes up to $50,000. I encourage people to solicit a knowledgeable realtor for land purchasing. Not all realtors understand property. It is best to call the agency, talk with the broker and ask them who is best suited to handle your land purchase. This is an area where you must set aside family contacts, or a friend in the business if they are not really qualified to help you.

• Do you have unreal expectations? If you expect to have a home built in 2 or 3 months, I can say with some certainty that this is an unrealistic expectation. Framers, plumbers, roofers, electricians, and other subcontractors typically have several homes that they are working on at any one time. As a result, your home will be put on a schedule that we hope will be constructed from the day the footings are placed until you are handed the keys, to be about 150 days. Although, be aware that “owner items” or things that you are going to be responsible for, must also be accomplished within specified time frames. However, if you get you items done sooner than we anticipate (say we give you 15 days to do your exterior painting, but you finish in 2 days), that may not mean that we can always shorten our side of the schedule. Your home is scheduled from the day we pour the foundation (based upon certain criteria that we feel the average homeowner can accomplish in a given time). If we can get to it sooner, we will. Be aware that we have other clients that are having their home constructed also and everyone must wait their turn. Remember also, bigger homes with lots of upgrades can take longer than 150 days (it is really better to plan around 9 months in this case).

• Will you be out of town/state during construction? If so, we would encourage you actively putting off the ordering of your home until you will be in the general area of the project. Why? The purchaser must perform certain items or have someone hired or assigned to do them. Some companies don’t mind telling you not to worry about it and order the home. However, it is our experience that this attitude puts the company ahead of the client and will ultimately harm you in the future.

If you have any other questions, please contact your local True Built Home branch and consult with a knowledgeable home consultant. I hope that this helps you to appreciate what may be involved with the planning stages.

Are you Spontaneous?

Do you need your home right NOW!? If you have done your due diligence, studied the floor plans, know your options, then please feel free to call one of our branches that serve your area. The process will likely take less than an hour. One word of caution, though; please have a lender chosen before you order your home.

Why does True Built Home have selected lenders?

That question is perhaps one of the other most asked question from potential purchasers. Here is the reason:

Lenders have a lengthy process of approving of a builder. Here are but a few of the things they may have us do. Someone has to take the time to fill it out all the forms, produce profit and loss statements, create bios of owner(s), and submit quarterly statements. They often will pull credit of the owners or corporation. All of this is an inefficient means to operate a volume building company. What we have done is narrowed down pre-approved banks or mortgage companies that we feel are best suited for our clients and program. Some may feel that banks are giving “kickbacks” to the builder. That’s just wrong and illegal. Sometimes, the bank or mortgage company may just pay for some co-op advertisements with the expectation of referring clients, but that is all. We strive to maintain a standard of integrity that we hope protects you the borrower, and us the builder.

My experience, and I have assisted thousands of purchasers through the lending process, is that if our approved lenders cannot do the project, it is highly unlikely that anybody else can. They are just as motivated as any other lender, with one big difference. They have to answer to True Built Home if the client is not treated in a fair and timely manner. We can just take them off our list. Here is what I have seen happen time and time again. Some other builders will charge you a fee to use your own lender. This, in essence, is paying for the aforementioned items that will have to be accomplished by the builder. The borrower gets the OK to purchase or order the home. The client puts $2,500-5,000 down to lock in the price, another $1,500-2,000 for the lender fee, bringing the total to several thousands of dollars. I have seen time and time again that the lender ultimately could not do the project and now the client is out all of that money because it is non-refundable. Our aim is to put you first. When a builder will allow you to use another lender and then charges you a fee, are you really being put first? How much money are some on your lot builders making off of a “lender fee”?

Finally, a word about prices. Most HiLine Homes offices are a franchise. They have to pay money for each home sold to the mother corporation. Reality Homes is owned by three people. Lexar Home is also another franchise. At True Built Home, it is only owned by one man. What that means is, when you compare square foot prices and you say, “Wow, they are all pretty close, they must all be the same.” Wrong! Because I own the company alone, you will get a better home. Hands down, if you are buying a home from my competitors, you are throwing money in the pockets of their owners. I consider this to be the most disheartening part about this whole thing. From the front door, to our true hardwood stained trim, heat pumps, 8 lb. carpet pad, garage door opener, fixtures, and other high quality standard features – Compare, compare, compare what we offer and what they offer. You’ll be shocked at the difference.

I wish you the best, and if you want to contact me directly, feel free. I’ll answer any of your questions to the best of my ability.

Warm regards,

Lewis D. Mann
True Built Home
“A Great Way, To a Great Home”

A word about slab-on-grade floors

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Several times throughout the year, we are often asked about doing a home with a slab-on-grade as the main surface for the home.  Which is better? a crawl space, as we do, or a slab-on-grade?

Some will argue that a crawl space gives you more flexibility with the home, and its construction. For as many benefits there might be to a slab-on-grade home, the truth of the matter is, often the slab was not “placed” correctly to the approval of designer, builder and client. A lot can go wrong. Here is but a brief sample:
1. Cracking – structural
2. Cracking – shrinkage
3. Curling- Top of slab shrinks more than bottom and slab edge lifts.
4. Scaling – Hardened concrete breaking away from slab top in sheets 1/8” to ¼” thick.
5. Dusting – Appearance of powdery material at slab surface.
6. Crazing – Many fine hairline cracks in a new slab which resemble a road map.
7. Spalling – disintegration of concrete at joint edges.
To avoid one, if not all of the aforementioned items, the concrete must be placed appropriately. What this involves are a lot of variables. One of which is the appropriate mix of concrete.
Portland Cement Association recommends that a commercial or industrial concrete floor should have a three-day compression strength of 1800 psi. This is to avoid any damage before it thoroughly sets or hardens which takes 28 or so days. Some would say bad concrete will never result in a good finish. Therefore, a PSI of 4000, instead of what’s common 3000 psi, should be the starting point for a properly mixed concrete.
Not to go into a lot of detail here about concrete, but what are the benefits of have a slab-on-grade? Basically some would say the “ugly, dirty, moldy” crawl space won’t haunt you with a slab-on-grade floor. This may perhaps be true, but if you live in an area of high moisture, high water tables, lots of rain, then most, if not all, residential contractors in that particular area will not do a slab-on-grade home. The risk/reward are too great to take on such liability. That, and again, when pipes, conduit, and the 7 items mention above happen, things can quickly begin to spiral. It all starts at the foundation. Every framer will tell you “when the foundation is good, the framing goes good”. That and everything else that requires walls to line up, drywall to come together and siding to be installed without hiccups. Here at True Built Home, we are not opposed to perhaps doing one, under the right conditions, and in the right locations, particularly east of the mountains in our drier areas. If you are living in one of these areas, you might want to talk to one of our sales staff about doing one of our plans with a slab-on-grade. Please keep in mind, that if your thoughts are of saving money with a slab-on-grade floor, this is not the case. Typically, they cost a bit more that our standard crawl space homes.

Crawl space Better?
The flexibility you get with a crawl space are obvious. You don’t have to hack into the floor if something were to go wrong with the plumbing, or drainage. Being able to service the area of the home, via a crawl space, makes many people aware that having a crawl space is the easy choice. In addition, many think about the hardness of having a concrete floor, all day, every day, in the home. Thinking of standing, or laying down, or dropping things, just makes many cringe about the prospect of having a slab-on-grade home.
In the end, location, weather, land, and your particular taste will likely be the driving force of whether or not you have a standard crawl space home, or elect to have a higher end, and often more expensive alternative, slab-on-grade home.

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.

Small is the big thing

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At annual builders’ show, small is in

Among the trends highlighted at the International Builders’ Show, more Americans are saying goodbye to McMansions and are buying ‘right-sized’ homes instead. There’s also high interest in green elements, organization, fewer luxuries and practical appliances.

These days, a bigger home isn’t always a better one: Recent research suggests that homes being built today are getting smaller.

The average size of homes started in the third quarter of 2008 was 2,438 square feet, down from 2,629 square feet in the second quarter, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Similarly, the median size of homes started in the third quarter was 2,090 square feet, down from 2,291. The statistics confirm what the housing industry has suspected for a while.

“We’ve been hearing for a long time ‘Why is the home size not declining?'” said Gopal Ahluwalia, vice president of economic research for the National Association of Home Builders. He spoke about the trend at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas this week. Anecdotally, he had heard smaller homes were being built as housing prices tumbled and the economy began to weaken. Still, “we never had data to back it up,” he said.

Read:  Builders see housing market bottoming out

Gayle Butler, editor-in-chief of Better Homes and Gardens, said that for many homeowners, it is not so much a matter of downsizing as “right-sizing,” giving up big homes with unused space and buying a home that better fits their needs.

“Either by necessity or choice, they’re willing to take a step back from the McMansions,” she said at the Builders’ Show. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the magazine, 32% of participants said they expected their new home to be either somewhat smaller or much smaller than the one they already live in, she said. The magazine’s online study involved 733 potential new-home buyers.

Builders are responding to those consumer desires. According to the NAHB, 88% of builders surveyed in January said they are building or planning to build a larger share of smaller homes. And 89% said they’re planning on building more lower-priced models.

As homes get smaller, homeowners are looking to make the most of the space they do have. Butler says she is seeing more interest in “Wii-sized spaces” — family rooms that are flexible enough to accommodate a variety of activities, from video games to fitness systems. Outdoor spaces aren’t being wasted, either, and outdoor kitchens and entertaining areas continue to rise in popularity, she said.

According to the Better Homes and Gardens study, top priorities in a new home include an affordable price, natural light and comfortable family gathering places. The era of supersizing may be ending, Butler said, with buyers looking for a home that is “right-sized, organized and economized.”

County Permits

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List of County Permit Websites

This list is designed to help you obtain the permits you will need when we are building your True Built Home.


Black Diamond

Bonney Lake






Des Moines






Federal Way





Maple Valley










Pe Ell


Port Townsend









South Prairie







University Place


Links to County Web Sites offering Builder Permits


Cities in alphabetical order;

Do You Work with VA Loans?

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YES WE DO! We include the financing for the land and home in the same loan. To get highly educated about these types of loans, please contact our VA mortgage loan officer, Blake Hanson. MLS 124591

There are 7 active military bases in Washington State: Fairchild AFB in Spokane, McChord AFB/Fort Lewis near Tacoma, and Navy bases at Whidbey Island, Everett, Bremerton, and Silverdale Washington. In addition, a number of people retiring from the military choose the Pacific Northwest to land. It’s understandable then that a common question that on your lot Home Builders throughout Washington and Oregon hear is “Do you work with VA loans?” The short answer is maybe. To understand this answer it is important to understand that in construction there are actually two loans: the short-term construction loan, and then after construction is complete the loan is converted (in essence refinanced) to a 30-year mortgage.

Some first-time homebuyers are misinformed as to how a VA Loan works. The Veterans Administration does not normally actually provide the money for the loan. What the VA does is guarantee a loan for a veteran of military service.

The VA loan began in 1944 as a way of helping US servicemen coming back from war to get loans to buy home. It provided veterans with a federally guaranteed home with no down payment. This feature was designed to provide housing and assistance for veterans and their families, and the dream of home ownership became a reality for millions of veterans.

In most cases, the VA guarantees loans for vets who meet certain requirements, such as a good credit rating.  Also, it’s important to note that the VA only guarantees the loan if the veteran has the income to handle house payments. A VA loan guarantee is not an automatic benefit.

The loan itself is made by a private lender, such as banks, savings & loan institution, or mortgage companies, and the loan must be for owner occupancy. The guarantee means the lender is protected if you or a later owner fails to repay the loan. The guarantee replaces the protection the lender normally receives (i.e. no PMI) by requiring a down payment allowing you to get better financing terms than you might find otherwise.

But there are several clauses that may make a VA loan difficult in a construction loan. Your best bet would be to check with a lender who does construction loans near you. Please see our  Lender List.

List of True Built Lenders

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Looking for the right lender for your situation can be a confusing and daunting process. At True Built Home, we want to make this process as convenient and effortless as we can. Please find a list of our preferred lenders below who can help you with the loan process.

Tacoma and Western Washington

Below are lenders available to help our clients on the west side of the mountains.

Umpqua Bank

Terry S. Pemberton-Read more about Terry, his history and a little about construction loans. Click Here!
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.

Why choose Umpqua Bank and Terry Pemberton?

5% down on a construction loan is pretty incredible. Along with the earnest money you use to put down on new land, and our processing payment when you order and or design your home, can all be applied to the 5%. Next, Terry S. Pemberton has been doing these loans so long he can do them in his sleep. He can also do them state wide and via email.

Washington Federal

Joni Cross
VP & Branch Manager
13414 Meridian Ave E, Bldg B, Ste 105
Puyallup, WA 98373
Office: 253-840-3493

Why choose WaFed? Washington Federal has been in business since 1917, has a strong community presence and also does loans across the state and many state boarders.

Timberland Bank

William (Bill) P. Andrews
Vice President, Branch Manager NMLS ID 539564
Office: 253-875-4250
Toll Free: 1-800-562-8761
Fax: 253-875-8702
Bill and the owner of True Built Home go all the way back to the 1990’s He’ll take great care of you.

Why choose Timberland? The All-in-One Construction Loan provides up to 12 months of interest only payments through the construction phase, then converts to permanent financing up to 80% loan-to-value. The permanent rate is locked before construction begins. In addition, the two-step construction loan provides financing for loans that exceed 80% loan-to-value. You pay interest only during the construction phase as funds are used. The construction term is 12 months. Your loan officer will assist you with converting to permanent financing.

Evergreen Home Loans


Shawn Lynch

310 29th Street NE Suite 201 Puyallup, WA 98372
tel (253) 222-5626 fax (844) 513-0088 direct (253) 268-4050

Evergreen apply online


Tri-Cities, Spokane, and Eastern Washington

Below are lenders available to help our clients on the east side of the mountains.

Mountain West Bank

Robert Howard
12321 E. Mission
Spokane Valley, WA, 99216
Phone: 509-944-4025
Mobile: 509-998-3636
Fax: 509-944-4090
Robert originates loans for our Spokane office

Northwest Farm Credit Services

Daniel R Huff
Manager, Community Lending
Office: 509-836-3088
Web: Northwest Farm Credit Services

Evergreen Home Loans

Shawn Flinders
Branch Manager & Senior Loan Officer
1030 North Center Pkwy., Suite 304
Kennewick, WA 99336
Phone: 509-579-3601
Fax: (844) 417-4410
Shawn does loans for our Tri-Cities office


About The Construction Lending Process

We would like to take the time to educate our clients here about the lending process.

Before what many are calling the “greater recession” several local and national lenders were willing to lend construction loan money on the pre-construction appraised value. As an example; Mr. and Mrs. Jones find a parcel of land, pick out a True Built Home, get estimates for owner items and presents everything to the lender. The lender, after receiving the builder packet, (that’s the contract, blueprints and description of materials from True Built Home) does a pre-construction appraisal to determine the home’s value. In the vast majority of cases, the home always appraised far above the actual cost. Many lenders would then give anywhere between 80% and up to 100% of the appraised value. In another words, if the projects projected cost was $180k, and the appraised value was $245k, they would give the percentage mentioned earlier based upon the appraised value. Often, if the client was credit worthy, they could take the cash out if they so desired. We know what that led to!

What has changed? Many of the lenders listed above  will do this scenario only if the client has owned or made payments (called “seasoned”) on the land for over a year. The banks can then use the equity in the property as a down payment on the construction loan. A few of the banks below require that anywhere from 5-20% of the estimated cost of construction still be put towards the purchase of the new home.

The catastrophe in the banking industry adversely affects pretty much every single type of loan there is. However, why are people still building homes from True Built?

  • Building with True Built Home is still the best way to jump start equity in your home.
  • With the quality of products and our “Different by Design” philosophy approach do building our homes, our clients will enjoy maintenance free living for years and will have a modern plan that will remain functional for your lifetime.
  • You can enjoy the flexibility of your taste your way.
  • With built-in equity, you’ll likely never be “upside down” like some of our friends, family, and neighbors.
  • When you have an active part in your home you will not believe the excitement of seeing your home go up. It truly is an experience of a lifetime.

We hope here at True Built Home as a staff, sub-contractors and vendors that you will be added to a long list of success stories, proud owners and financially better off folks as a result of having discovered that owning new is simply a wiser choice to be had by the few.

List of steps in home construction

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Below is a list of the various steps involved in building a home. Some of the items listed don’t apply to every home, and some are not always done in the exact order listed. But this gives you a basic overall guide to the steps in the building process.

  • Grading and site preparation
  • Foundation construction
  • Backfill
  • Framing
  • Installation of windows and doors
  • Roofing
  • Siding
  • Rough electrical
  • Rough plumbing
  • Rough HVAC
  • Insulation
  • Drywall
  • Underlayment
  • Trim
  • Painting
  • Underlayment and lower cabinets set
  • Finish electrical
  • Bathroom and kitchen counters and cabinets
  • Hard Surfaces installed
  • Finish plumbing
  • Carpet and flooring
  • Finish HVAC
  • Hookup to water main, or well drilling
  • Hookup to sewer or installation of a septic system
  • Punch list
  • You move in!