Building a home is the biggest investment most people will ever make. Over the years, VCNB has helped scores of customers finance their new home projects and our lenders have noted that the same types of questions frequently pop up during home construction projects.
That’s why VCNB sat down for a long chat with Teri Robison, Sales and Design Representative with American Heritage Homes. Teri shared with us some of the things she wishes people knew when they are thinking about a home construction project. And Teri should know. American Heritage Homes is an established leader in the custom home business in central Ohio. Designer Gary Libertini and longtime carpenter Bill Crum opened the business in 1995. Today Gary is in charge of the Sales Team and Product Development while Bill runs the Production side of the business. Together they have built a business that can literally guide the client from A to Z, from locating land to turning the key.
It is Teri’s job to guide the customer through this process and to help make it go as smoothly as possible. She insists that trust is the number one factor in making this process less stressful. “Stress is what makes it intimidating to so many. That’s why you have to choose a builder who you trust. If I do my job right, you will be more confident,” she explained. “You will work with us a lot. It’s important that you trust us so if you don’t like something, I want you to tell me so that I can take care of it for you.”
When you meet with American Heritage, be prepared to talk. Teri suggested that when someone is ready to build, they typically have been thinking about it for some time. “You’ve been thinking about it, dreaming about it. They have researched, they have a Pinterest Board, they have a lot of ideas and dreams already” she said.
“You need to come in and sit with me. Talk to me. We’ll talk about kids and animals and how they live. Are their kids in soccer every night and there’s not a lot of time to cook big meals? Do the kids sit at the counter and do their homework while mom cooks? How do they live in their house? Is this a forever home or a stepping stone? That’s what I want to know,” Teri added.
If you do not have land or a location in mind, American Heritage can help you with this piece. First they will discuss how much land you want and where you wish to be. Then they can help you narrow down the options and ultimately find the land that is right for you and your budget. “Are you looking for ten acres with a pond and woods? Maybe you don’t care about the land but want a big house close to town. Knowing how you live and how you want to live is key,” she said.
With the land in check, Teri can begin guiding you through designing your home on paper. She says that a good builder will have a lot of questions about how you will live in your home. “I don’t want to just sell you any house. I want to build for you the home you want and need. My job is to disseminate the difference between what you think you want and what you really want,” she said.
“We will talk a lot because I want to understand you and I want to help you see what’s really important in your home. Where do you live in your house? Is the kitchen the heart of your home? Do you spend all your time in the living room or den or do you want your master bedroom to be a sanctuary? Do you soak in a tub? Would you prefer a big, luxurious shower? These are things we need to know to get started on your design,” Teri noted.
She recommends coming to your builder with a floor plan in mind first. “Don’t worry about what the house will look like. First we need to talk about how it will flow, how your home will work for you,” she said.
But before you ever begin designing your new home, Teri recommends shopping builders and considering a few key points:
Customer Service – when you visit a model home, how are you treated? Are they friendly? Do you feel pressured? Do they ignore you? Teri points out that you can tell a lot about a builder’s customer service by how they treat you on this first meeting. If you are uncomfortable or if you feel undervalued as a potential customer, these are red flags.
Stress Management – This is a huge investment and there’s always going to be stress where money is involved. However, Teri says that it is her job to make sure you do not feel that stress.
Better Business Bureau – Teri admits that most businesses will have a claim with the Better Business Bureau. The question is, how do they address the claim? Are there repetitive claims for the same issues?
Read The Specs – Pay attention to the specs of a builder’s plan. Teri advises looking at even the smallest details from the quality of the plumbing fixtures to the type of doors they use. For example, American Heritage fills garages and porches with gravel to provide greater support and stability for the concrete being poured on top. Other builders often just use dirt which settles more easily than gravel. Also, a base plan with American Heritage includes about forty percent more cabinets than other builders provide. Teri said they maximize available spaces for additional storage space in closets and cabinets. She emphasized the need to examine these specific items in the quotes rather than just the price per square foot which can sometimes be deceiving.
Trust Your Gut – Go with the company that makes you feel calm, the one you think you can trust. “Trust is the most important thing. I cannot stress enough that you have to trust your builder to have the best possible experience,” Teri said.