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Tips for Building a Custom Home You'll Love: An Interview with Poul Norholm of Norholm Builders, Inc.

By Poul Norholm

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

We are a custom home specialist. We work directly with our clients to build their dream home. Every home is unique and requires good listening skills on our part to hear and build exactly what our clients want.

What's one of the biggest mistakes you've seen people make during the design process for a custom-built home?

Not choosing a contractor and a professional decorator/designer while you are in the early stages of the design process is a mistake. Just after you have your floor plan and elevations roughed in is a great time to choose your contractor and decorator. The contractor and decorator can offer value engineering and layout details that will enhance the final product immensely and provide a much more accurate budget prior to construction. Without the input of the contractor and decorator your initial bids will be very misleading. The contractor has to bid only what he sees. This will inevitably produce a low budget. When you finally figure out what you want on all your finishes and designs you are usually 50% completed with your home and then you realize your budget is 30% over.

What do you do to help homeowners avoid this mistake?

I can't do much if I am not hired, so I have to educate architects to encourage choosing a contractor earlier rather than later. Most clients want a bid from three contractors, but with basic plans it will only produce an optimistic budget not a realistic one. You have to at least have structural engineering completed and at that point you could have had a decorator detail out your appliances and finishes. You also could have received very insightful value engineering advise from an experienced contractor that would enable you to build your house in a more cost-effective way.

What are the basic steps involved in building a custom house?

Everything starts with a good set of plans and a completed specification guide from a designer. Next a thorough budget is developed with the client's approvals Construction begins with utilities notified and applications completed. With permits pulled, we begin with rough grading and utilities followed by foundations and framing. We then dry-in the house roof followed by, in order windows and exterior doors, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, insulation, drywall, stucco or siding, roofing, cabinets, paint, counters, tile, flooring, finish plumbing, electric, HVAC and appliances. Landscape walls first then hardscapes, including driveways and patios, followed by plants and irrigation.

What are the most helpful things that people can do before the construction starts?

Choose everything possible. The more you can decide on the faster and cheaper it will go. When delivery requirements and costs are known early on, budgets and schedules can be kept much easier.

What advice would you give a homeowner who wants to make the most of their budget for their custom home?

Tell a trustworthy, experienced custom home builder your budget. Then share what things are important to you. Hiring the builder and decorator early to work out a realistic plan that is doable with your budget, will save you lots of headaches and money.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

The best way to contact my company is by email at Second best way is by phone: 805-714-0446.

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