How Do I Ensure That Building My Dream Home Won’t Become A Complete Nightmare? – Part 3

Are you ready to make “a thousand” decisions?

Once you’ve gone into contract with your builder, you will have to make all the selections for your new home. For some people, this can be a lot of fun and very exciting. For others, this is a dreadful and stressful time. Think about the time commitment and your availability when selecting your builder. The services of some builders include design consulting.  An experienced and qualified designer can be extremely helpful with ideas and guidance on colors and finishes, and even fixtures that will fit your taste within budget.

Some builders may restrict you to a limited amount of options, thus requiring you to make very few decisions. This is great if you hate worrying over details.

Other builders may give you an infinite number of options, but this requires you to make hundreds of decisions. Many homeowners welcome the freedom to shop around and choose the finishes and fixtures that they love. Just remember that you should keep the budget allowances in mind! It is easy to choose expensive options, but they can add up into some serious cost overruns. Sometimes your builder’s team can help you choose less expensive options for some things, to help you offset the cost of a few special choices in other areas of the house.

How do you plan to tackle this task?

Does your builder provide you with a Design Center? Design Centers give you the opportunity to visually compare options for exterior features, plumbing and lighting fixtures, flooring options, and even colors that bring it all together.

Does you builder’s team include an interior designer to help you make these decisions? Is the interior designer service included in the build contract? According to a designer can actually help keep you on budget and save you time and effort by having the resources and knowledge of certain brands, products and their prices.

Some builders without Design Centers expect you to drive around town to visit the showrooms of their suppliers. If this is OK with you, be sure it is clear how these decisions are going to be documented and relayed to the trade partners.

How Do I Ensure That Building My Dream Home Won’t Become A Complete Nightmare? – Part 2

Connectivity and Communication with your builder

It could take anywhere between three months to over a year to build your new home, depending on the size and scope of work. How will you communicate with your builder during this time? How accessible are they going to be? Do you expect the builder to return your phone calls and emails the same day? Do you expect your builder to give you updates on the building process daily? Weekly? Monthly? As the construction period continues, be sure to keep records of your communication with each other throughout the process? Be sure that you have met all of the builder’s key staff that may be working with you on various aspects of the build.

How involved do you want to be in the construction of your new home?

Do you want to know who’s working on your home every day? Do you want to have open communication with the project manager as well as the builder? Or perhaps you don’t want to stress about it at all and let them take care of everything. Either way, it’s important to have a builder that allows you to have these options. And it’s good to discuss this up front before you sign the contract.

Does your builder work out of an office or a truck?

Does your builder work out of their truck and not have a physical address to call their office? Does your builder work out of a model home? Where would you find your builder after they sell that home? Or does your builder have an office that’s staffed daily? This may not be a major issue, but if something went wrong and you had to find your builder, where would you go?

Regardless of their office type, builders typically have similar overhead expenses per project. While office overhead may be significantly higher than the builder working out of a pickup truck, the builder with a permanent office is able to spread that cost over many projects so the overhead cost per project is actually equal or less. Choose your builder based on your preference with this information in mind.

What’s in your home warranty?

It is the standard practice for builders to give a one-year written homeowners warranty. In our area, the two most common warranties are the BIA (Building Industries Association of Lexington Home Owners Warranty) and the 2-10 Builder Warranty. Some builders will provide their own written warranty. Regardless of the document, read it carefully before signing the contract.

It’s important to know that your builder – and no one else – is responsible to make repairs during the warranty period. This is another reason to make sure you trust your builder. It’s important as you review this warranty that you understand exactly how problems will be addressed, including the time frames. You will need to report problems with the home quickly, so they can be taken care of effectively. Does the warranty document spell out how problems are to be reported?  Be sure to keep records of how and when you contacted them, including whom you communicated with and their response.

Construction Standards

It’s important to know how your builder is going to build your home. Are they building it to minimum state building codes? Are they building it to the highest standard possible?

When you buy a car, a common question is how many miles per gallon will the car use. Did you know that a similar rating is available for new homes? This is called the HERS Score, or Home Energy Rating System. For a newly constructed home, the base standard is a HERS Score of 85. Every point below or above 85 is a 1% savings or increase in energy consumption of the operation of your home. Unlike a car’s MPG rating, you want the HERS rating to be lower as it requires less utility consumption.

It is optional to have your home tested and receive a HERS score, and some builders opt out of getting their homes tested. Not knowing the score could cost you a significant amount of money over the life of the home. Would you buy a car if the manufacturer opted out of the MPG test? Be sure that a HERS score testing is included in your builder’s contract, and that the contract specifies who will do the test.

How Do I Ensure That Building My Dream Home Won’t Become A Complete Nightmare? – Part 1

After years of work and saving, you are finally ready to build your dream home!  But you’ve heard many scary stories about the building process being a nightmare for homeowners. How do you help ensure a relatively smooth, stress-free experience?  And how do you help ensure that your new home is the home that you want?

The average person with a job, family, and other obligations does not have the time or expertise to directly manage a home build, so hires a ‘builder” or “general contractor.” This is the key person who manages the entire process on your behalf.  Using years of experience, the builder contracts directly with various “trades” (plumbers, framers, electricians, foundation, roofers. etc.) to purchase the materials and coordinate their work on a schedule. By handling the countless details, a builder takes on most of the worry and headaches. Equally important, their expertise means they are better prepared to oversee quality.

Start by choosing your builder as carefully as you would choose a new car. Be sure you are working with a reputable company that can give you the reliability and attention you deserve. Here are some questions that you should consider and discuss with a potential builder.

Are you and your builder on the same page?

You should explain to your builder your needs, expectations and budget you have in mind.

The builder should be able to tell you if your budget and expectations are in line. It’s possible for your builder to price based on your budget but fail to meet your expectations, potentially leaving you disappointed with the final product.

Can you trust your builder’s warranty?

It’s important that you trust your builder. You will be working closely during the build, and you should feel confident that this person would stand behind their work and the warranty.  Ask if you can talk with previous customers about their experiences with this builder.  Also, check with local organizations to learn more about their reliability and reputation, such as the local Builder Industry Association (BIA), or even the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

How did your builder come up with the bid price?  

Did your builder give you an estimate based on exact bids from their trade partners? Or was this an estimate with ballpark figures from historical data, or from past experience? When the builder has specific bids from their trade partners, this takes more time up front, but it reduces the chance of surprises down the road.

Was the quote on your house based on, a full set of construction documents? Or did they use a marketing plan printed from the Internet? The full construction documents have many more details on the construction of your home and these details will eliminate cost surprises if accounted for up front. We get so excited about our interior finishes, such as cabinets, granite’s, flooring, tiles, fixtures etc., but the budget allowance must be based on the selections you have made.

Who is responsible for cost overruns?  

It’s important to understand your builder’s proposal. Many builders will quote “fixed costs.” This means that, regardless of the actual costs, your price won’t change. An experienced builder who is confident in their numbers/costs usually does a “fixed cost” quote.  If the project comes in under budget, the builder will make more money, and if they go over, then the builder will make less profit. On the other side, the entire proposal could be based on “allowances”. This means the builder put in their best guess on what this will cost. For any costs that go over the allowance (called “overages”), the buyer would be responsible for paying this difference. On the other hand, any cost savings will be credited back to the buyer. 

How does a builder get paid?

Quality licensed builders bring years of expertise, established relationships, and a warranty.

Here are 3 ways that a builder might be paid:

  • Percentage fee – They may charge a percentage on top of the total cost. Say your builder estimates that your house can be built for $200,000. A builder who works on a 10% basis would add another $20,000 to the estimate – for a total build cost of $220,000. If the actual build cost ends up being more – say $215,000 – the builder’s fee will be $21,500 with an overall total cost of $236,500.
  • Set fee – Some builders charge a set fee. If the builder’s estimate is $200,000, this builder will say my fee will be $20,000. In the end, you will owe them $20,000, no matter if the house costs more or less than expected.
  • Fixed price – you’re not going to know how much the builder makes, but you know the house will cost exactly $200,000 in the end. If you exceed your allowances, the builder may give you a change order (an extra charge due to changed specifications). If the build comes in under budget, then the builder may not credit you with those funds.

It’s also important to know how you’re going to pay your builder. Some builders will expect a deposit up front, which may be refundable or nonrefundable. The balance due will be paid at closing when you take possession of the property. Other builders will take a deposit up front and ask for periodic payments throughout the construction period. Be sure that you understand up front the points at which you are expected to make payments, and that this is spelled out in the contract.

Client Appreciation Experience at Rupp Arena 2018

This year we wanted to celebrate our wonderful clients by hosting an event at Rupp Arena. We got to play basketball on the court, take a tour of the men’s locker room, and even meet a former UK basketball player! We are incredibly thankful for this opportunity, but it would not had happened without YOU! Thank you to our past, present and future clients for having confidence in building with our team.We would like to make this celebration of you annual, so stay tuned for what we have in store for next year!

Click HERE to view photos from this fun night!

Photo by Mark Mahan

Exciting Announcement from James Monroe Homes

James Monroe, Wednesday March 7, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Mahan


We are excited to announce that James Monroe with James Monroe Homes has been selected for the 2018 Professional Builder® 40 under 40 award. This award is given out annually across the nation to young, dedicated home builders. The selected 40 are builders who not only show their customers loyalty and commitment but have had a strong, successful journey embracing change, creating innovative ways to build, all while serving their community.

The past twelve years, Mr. Monroe has had quite a journey. He first started the company with little to no resources, and through hard work and perseverance, Mr. Monroe has created a thriving business. Having not taken a salary until 2010 shows Mr. Monroe’s true character of placing the business and his clients before him.

Monroe’s drive to build high performance homes led to the partnership with Owen’s Corning, a global roofing and insulation company. Together, they have utilized resources to create unique, energy-efficient homes at affordable prices. Mr. Monroe’s enterprise has cemented him as one of the top builders in Kentucky.

Not only is Mr. Monroe a successful builder, but also a strong leader towards his team members, and a loving husband and father to his wife and three children.

Our team is so proud of Mr. Monroe and all of his hard work. We wish him the best of luck with this award and are eager to see what more he accomplishes in the future. Click HERE to see all top 40 Under 40 winners!


James Monroe Homes Design Center – Grand Opening

What have you heard about the James Monroe Homes Difference?

We have created a process so seamless that we think it will change the way people look at building their next home.  No matter if this home is a starter home or your Dream Home, we would like the opportunity to show you Why our process is different than other builders.

  1. James Monroe Homes Design Center
  2. Our App – 24/7 Connectivity
  3. Written Build with Confidence Guarantee – and we are not talking about the Builder’s warranty
  4. High Performance Built Homes

We have been working to develop and refine this process over the past 11 years.

We are excited to announce the Grand Opening to our new James Monroe Homes Design Center, located at 2250 Thunderstick Drive, Suite 1206, Lexington, KY 40505. Current and prospective clients as well as the curious shopper will be able to visit Monday – Friday from 8-4:30pm or by appointment any other time. The James Monroe Homes Design Center is available to our customers to assist turning their dreams into reality with our thousands of options and design features. We have researched the hottest trends and styles through the International Builders Show and Kitchen and Bath International Show. We have worked with all of our suppliers to bring those products into the James Monroe Homes Design Center. The James Monroe Homes Design Center is your opportunity to see, feel, touch, and create your personal style from these traditional to trending products all in one single location.

Every James Monroe Home client is given log in credentials to our software. They are also invited to download the James Monroe Homes app. This allows our clients to be connected to our process from any internet connected device.

Once logged in the client will have access to the construction schedule which is updated daily. Our clients will know where in the construction process their new home is before they drive by for a visit. All the specifications, selections, and options for their home are clearly laid out for our customers in this system. In addition to this we also link in the manufacture data on their products so our consumer can be as informed as desired. Each of the specifications and finishes can also be found in the James Monroe Homes Design Center, thus making decisions much easier. Our clients can make their selections from home, James Monroe Homes Design Center, or anywhere that is most convenient for them. If at any time the client has a message for the builder, they can post the message with pictures and most likely get a response back from James Monroe Homes the same business day. This is great because all of the communication throughout the process will come to your email but be stored and logged into our system for quick access and review. In addition, our clients will be able to access Files, Change Orders, To-do Lists, Questions, Job Log, and Warranty information while logged in. Our clients will always be, “In the Know where ever they Go”, with James Monroe Homes.

What is a Written Build with Confidence Guarantee and why is James Monroe Homes the only builder to offer it? James Monroe Homes will always go beyond to exceed the minimum standards. When you buy a James Monroe Home, you will have the confidence to know your home is a High-Performance Home built to save you money every month. It was built with quality materials and craftsmanship to give you confidence it was built right the first time. The home was designed to provide Personal Home Comfort with consistent comfort from room to room of your house. James Monroe Homes does not wait to hear from you but will reach out to check on you and your new home 4 weeks after closing and 11 months after closing to make sure your new home has exceeded your expectations. If between these follow ups your new homes does not exceed your expectations, we promise to respond to your inquiry within one business day. James Monroe Homes has partnered with Guild Quality to survey all of our clients 45 days and 13 months after closing. This shows our commitment to you throughout the entire process. This is how you can Build with Confidence with James Monroe Homes. We are so confident in the quality of our homes and service that we are the only builder who is willing to put this in writing.

James Monroe Homes High-Performance homes are designed and built to save you money every month. But beyond that they are also designed and built to give you and your family personal comfort though out your house year around. James Monroe Homes are built using the best building science techniques to create a tight building envelope. Our goal is to make your home’s internal environment independent of the harsh external environment. Our customers have the confidence to know once they step into their James Monroe Home they will be walking into their personal oasis regardless of the exterior weather conditions. James Monroe Homes High Performance Homes are tested beyond a HERS score and low utility bills, but tested by your personal comfort every day.