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Reynard Custom Homes
  • Writer's pictureJack Baldwin

How To Build Your Own Custom Home

Keith Kelsch, a custom home building expert, speaking during a webinar about building your own custom home with Jack Baldwin and James Knight of Reynard Custom Homes

Building your own home can be daunting, but it can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience with the proper guidance and knowledge. In the Reynard webinar "How to Build Your Own Home," Keith Kelsch, a custom home builder and consultant, shares his knowledge and expertise in helping homeowners build their dream homes.

Keith has over 25 years of construction experience, specializing in high-end luxury custom homes, multifamily, and hospitality projects. He also focuses on modern contemporary houses and mountain living, making him an expert in designing and building homes that match his clients' unique styles and preferences.

His journey as a consultant started when a woman called him from a local area, asking for help building her own home as she couldn't afford a general contractor. He provided her a curriculum checklist, including draw sheets, budgets, and subcontractor agreements. As more clients came on board, he put it on a platform and created a YouTube channel, "How to Build Your Own Home," with over 100 videos and 21,000 subscribers.

During the webinar, Keith shares his knowledge of managing the builder, creating a budget, hiring subcontractors, etc. He emphasizes the importance of being informed and educated about the building process, making wise decisions, and creating a beautiful and functional home.

Land preparation, Due Diligence and Reporting

When custom home owners think about the process, several questions come up about the importance of geotechnical reports. Keith stresses the need for builders to obtain such reports before buying land to construct homes. He explains that these reports contain valuable information about the soil structure, which is critical in determining the footing and rebar structure of the house. In addition, a geotechnical report can be used to conduct a perk test that will determine the ability of the soil to percolate water, which is necessary for designing septic systems.

Keith cautions that many sellers believe their land is excellent and fail to recognize the need for geotechnical reports, which leaves buyers purchasing land blindly. He recommends that sellers obtain these reports in advance and add the cost to the price of the land. Keith also mentions that some builders purchase land in subdivisions with geotechnical reports that may need to be more relevant to their specific lot, which can lead to unforeseen costs. He shares an experience where he had to pay $4,000 to remove grass clippings from a lot he built many years ago, highlighting the importance of knowing what is underground.

The conversation then shifts to the issue of pricing dirt when digging and removing it from the site. Keith suggests that excavators are the ones to approach when dealing with such problems, but some may not factor in need for clean fill, which may require more work than anticipated. He gives an example of a project he worked on where he was overly cautious in his budget, but it saved his clients money.

James suggests that prices for excavation and earthworks have skyrocketed due to inflation during the Covid-19 pandemic. Keith confirms that diesel fuel, the most expensive energy, has become costly, and operators charge between $45 and $85 per hour. Additionally, the price of excavation can vary greatly depending on the soil structure, and builders need to be cautious to avoid any unexpected costs. The conversation ends with Jack emphasizing the need to measure twice and cut once and Keith reiterating the importance of geology in the construction process.

Construction Cost Estimates

Keith emphasizes the importance of trying to line-item only some bids or estimate to zero. Instead, he suggests rounding up by at least $50 or $100 and creating padding in the budget. This padding will allow for unexpected costs expected in custom homebuilding projects. Having extra padding will allow for savings during the build and ultimately allow for being under budget. Keith advises setting aside a 10% contingency fee for the entire project and additional contingencies for lumber, framing costs, excavation, and concrete. He shares examples of how he deliberately created padding and contingencies in his recent projects, which allowed him to come in under budget and have extra money for additional features.

Custom home builders should think like luxury builders and not like production builders. They should plan for unexpected costs and have contingency fees and padding in the budget to ensure they can deliver a high-quality custom home while staying within budget. By approaching the project with a practical mindset and understanding the importance of contingencies and padding, clients can save money and have a successful custom homebuilding experience.

Building As Your Own Contractor

Communication and working with professionals during the home design and build process is the most important aspect of a successful project. While a homeowner acting as a general contractor can save money, it can also be risky without the appropriate knowledge and experience. Ensuring the home is built to code requires careful attention to detail, and professionals should be consulted if any questions arise.

Overall, building a new home can be an exciting but challenging process. Partnering with caring design professionals and ensuring clear communication can help ensure the house is built to code and your satisfaction.



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