Design Homes, Inc.
Quality Factory-Direct Homes In 10 States Since 1966
How It All Works
How It All Works
The following information is
meant to give potential home buyers a general overview of the entire process of getting a
new home. Obviously, the information is slanted toward Design Homes in particular,
but the process is fundamentally the same regardless of what type of home is eventually
purchased--with the exception of existing homes, which will not be covered.
The following topics are briefly
Getting the Land:
Shopping for a New Home:
The ones built to the federal code have a new name--officially. What was once referred to as a mobile home, trailer, or double-wide is now legally called a "manufactured home." Although there are many factory-built homes out there, only the ones built according to the HUD code can be called "manufactured homes," and they may only meet the minimum requirements for a liveable dwelling. They are also usually considered to be personal property and may therefore depreciate in value with the passage of time--like a car. One indicator that a home is built to the HUD code is the metal frame that makes up the floor. Manufactured homes usually cost a bit less than other types of homes size-for-size, but generally you get what you pay for: less!
The homes that are built to state code fall into two general categories with unofficial names: "Site-built" (built by carpenters at the site), and "Factory-built" (Modular or Panelized). Site-built homes have generally been considered the highest quality home money can buy. Be careful though--times are changing--and with prices around $100 per sq. ft., site-builders have had to cut quality to be competitive. You often don't get a group of seasoned carpenters building your home anymore--it is often one seasoned professional and a few helpers or novices. Generally, though, in all honesty, they usually use well known brand names and make very good homes.
Factory-built homes (the ones built to state code) fall into two categories: Panelized and Modular. Panelized homes can be characterized as homes where the walls are built in a factory, stacked on a truck with the rafters and other materials, and then delivered to the site where the home is essentially built from the ground up. This type of home will have more floorplan flexibility because it doesn't have to conform to width and height requirements on the highway, however it is usually priced about the same as a "site-built" home due to its considerable on-site labor--which offsets the benefits of a factory-built home.
Factory-built homes that have less on-site labor (not panelized) offer the best value because they are assessed and appraised exactly like a comparable "site-built" home--even though they usually cost considerably less. The labor to build them is spread out over (perhaps) hundreds of homes, and the quantity purchasing of materials keeps the overall price-per-square-foot down. The homes are built in "halves" or "pieces" that are bolted to hefty undercarriages and delivered to the site where they are usually "set" on the foundation with a crane. Most "delivered" homes are sold through dealers who arrange for the delivery, setup, and finish of the home.
A Design Home is a custom-built home which is delivered with most of the work already done in the factory. The "Custom-built" part is very important here. Unlike most factory homes, Design Homes are sold factory direct--no dealer is involved. That means that there is no "middleman" making several thousand dollars. The money that a dealer would have made is put back into the home which enables us to include many things that are usually not included like the Lennox furnace--installed, and the premium brand name components throughout--like a site-builder. We also include the delivery, setup, and tax in the base price--and it doesn't stop there. We also use 7" walls with special compressed fiberglass insulation batts (R-24). The ceiling insulation is R-50, and the floors are 2x10 joists with 3/4" plywood decking--not particle board which even the site-builders are using. As a sideline benefit, we are also able to customize floorplans at no charge--this means customers can design their own homes for free. The size determines the price--not the floorplan. And one last thing: Since we do not have dealers, we deliver our homes with our own trucks and drivers who we expect to care about you and your home. We set our houses with our own cranes and crane operators that are Design Homes employees. Our "Finish Crews" are our people, and our service dept. sends out Design Homes servicemen to help with warranty issues. In short: The Buck Stops Here.
So...since most factory-built homes are fairly close in price--size for size--you need to pay attention to what you get for the price in order to see where your money is best spent. This is where Design Homes shines--no dealer means you get more for your money. Its as simple as that. You should also realize that your land is unique--and in order to get a home that matches the characteristics of the site, you want to be able to customize your plan. That means you may want your livingroom to face the front, and perhaps the family room should have south facing windows--or maybe you like the master bedroom on the back side of the home. If you have neighbors, you don't want a big window looking out at the end of their house--that kind of thing. Remember, at Design Homes you can design your floorplan at no charge--the size determines the price.
Visit one of our Design Homes locations so that you can see some examples of popular floorplans--but with the understanding that you can change them to suit you. Take home a brochure and read the first few pages--they explain what is included and what isn't. They also detail the construction quality and list our brand-name suppliers. You will also find garage information. All of this will be useful when you go shopping elsewhere (which we know you are going to do anyway). If you know what the best is like, you can easily compare specs and features. Remember, the total price is important--but see what you get for the price too. You won't regret it.
Designing Your Design Home Floorplan:
Some people are able to visualize their floorplan needs easier than others. If you know what you want, let us know and we will sit down with you and "fine tune" your plan--and then price it for you right to the penny. No estimates here--we write Proposals (actual quotes). If you are not sure how to go about designing a plan, make an appointment to come in to any of our locations to work on one. We will ask you questions like, "Which way is south?"; "Which side will the driveway be on?"; or "Is there a view that you want to take advantage of?". We will also discuss room sizes and kitchen layouts. Eventually, all of the information that comes out results in a floorplan that is unique to your needs--and within your budget. None of this will cost you anything.
A few important things about floorplans: We are not limited to 2-pieces--check out our page about additions. You don't have to buy a "square box"--although we certainly offer them. Remember that the center wall--or marriage wall--is a load bearing wall. It has to be there and you shouldn't plan a room to cross the centerline of the home--we'll help with that. Archways in the centerwall can be up to 15 1/2' wide--this means you can get the "openness" that you want. Remember too, that all cars are not created equal--neither are all factory homes. If uncle Rosco tells you that you can't do something in a factory home, check with us--maybe we can. If he says all factory homes are "junk," get a new uncle.
Be sure to take advantage of our free services. Any of our salespeople at any of our locations will be happy to help you design a floorplan--and price it. And we will do it as a friend--not a high powered, fast talking, telemarketer. Visit us.
The Process of Ordering and Getting a Design Home:
On the day of the order we will essentially perform three tasks: 1) We will discuss and "fine tune" your floorplan--since everything else hinges on it. 2) We will look at the paperwork, explaining all of it in detail, and then fill out the pertinent forms--while explaining the entire process. 3) We will work through the color selections and fill out a form listing your choices for colors & styles.
After ordering, your file goes to our drafting dept. where your prints are drawn up for you. In about a week (or so), you will receive at least three sets of prints which include a floorplan of the home, foundation print, elevations, and some informational sheets. Usually one set goes to the foundation contractor; one goes to the plumber; and one is for you. A letter accompanying the prints explains what they are, what to do with them, and what will happen next--our way of coaching you through the process. If you wish to make changes to the print, mark it up with red ink, send it in, and we will draw and send you a revised print (with a letter). You can make changes and get revisions as often, and as many times, as you like--keeping in mind that you are affecting the overall time frame all the while. At some point, you will be satisfied with the revised print--we ask (in all the letters) that you call your salesperson to let them know that you are finished making changes. We will then send you a "Production Print" for you to sign--this is considered a written approval to build the home and there can be no changes after this. Once we receive your signed production print, a form confirming that you have your money--or that your financing is approved, and a delivery directions sheet, we will add your home to our production schedule so it can be built.
It is important to know that there are many "variables" that can affect the delivery/set/finish date of a home. It is impossible to give you a firm date, or to guarantee one when we do have an idea of when it will be. Some of the things that affect delivery (and which we do not have control over) are: the amount of time you spend making print revisions, the number of other people on the production schedule when your house is added to it, backorders, the weather, breakdowns, holidays, deer hunting (yup), and site preparation.
Delivery, Set-up, and Finish:
Once the home is built, inspected by our inspectors (to make sure you get what you signed for), and the 3rd-party inspector required by your state (to make sure the house is built to code--no shortcuts), the home is parked in a staging area (big field) until we get a phone call from you--telling us that the site is ready. We will furnish you with a check-off sheet so that you can properly prepare the site. Although it varies considerably, this is how the delivery, set, finish, and service usually goes: 1) We deliver the home one day--and our delivery trucks simply "unhook" and leave. 2) The "set crew" usually arrives a day or two later (weather permitting) to lift the home onto the foundation and close it in enough that it is protected from the weather. 3) The "finish crew" usually arrives a few days later to connect the home together, install the furnace in the basement, put siding on the ends, install doors and trim at the marriage wall, and do the on-site wiring (if allowed by local codes). The home is now ready for you to do your "hookups" (power company, fuel lines, and basement plumbing) and move in. Keep in mind, though--there are always variables that can affect when the delivery, set-up, and finish happens. We cannot give, or guarantee, a firm date for these things due to unforseen variables such as breakdowns, weather, scheduling difficulties, illnesses, etc.
Permits, Foundations, and Plumbing
Dealers who sell houses usually will "general contract" the project for you. This seems like a real benefit--but you do pay for it--and we at Design Homes don't feel that you need to. General contracting is simply the process of acquiring the various contractors that are needed to get the foundation, plumbing, wiring, etc.--oversee their work to make sure it gets done--and then pay them. General contractors do not work for free (and they shouldn't)--the foundation contractor (for example) will charge the "general" and then the general will add a little to it and build it all into your overall price--this means you are paying double markups for the foundation. It is not necessarily a bad thing--the dealer is providing a service to you and you are paying for it. We at Design Homes feel that you can do your own general contracting and save money--sometimes thousands--doing it. We provide the prints. You look in the yellow pages under concrete & plumbing to find a list of the local contractors. Ask around to find out who does good work, and who is reasonable. Send out some prints for quotes (not estimates), and let them know if you want to hire them to do your work. Show them where you want the work done, and pay them when they are finished. It's not hard, but by eliminating the dealers, we don't have to cheapen up the house in order to allow them to make money. That's what lets us build our homes so well and include the high efficiency furnace and the delivery & setup without adding to the cost. We think it is a very good way of doing things.
There are basically two plumbing scenarios: in town, and out of town. In town, you will need a plumber to bring the city water and sewer into the basement (or crawl space--no slabs), and then do the hookups after the home is set. In the country, you will need someone to dig a well for you (get quotes), someone to put in a septic system (quotes), and someone to do the hookups. Some plumbers are able to do all of it--this is usually the least expensive situation, but you may have to hire separate contractors--ask around.
A note about Design Homes. These are real homes--built to the same code as site-builders. There is plumbing and ductwork under the floor. You cannot put a Design Home on a slab--thats for double-wides (manufactured homes). You will have to contract for a crawl space foundation or a full basement. (Note that for only a few thousand dollars more than the cost of a crawlspace you can double your living area by putting in a full basement--if you can afford it, or if you think you will use it, it is the best investment.)
Hookups, Move-in, and Service:
Most electric companies will bring the power to the house--usually underground. But they do have limits--especially in the country. Call them before you start building and arrange to have their field representative meet you at the site to discuss what they do, and what you must do--and pay for. Design Homes includes a 200-amp breaker panel--but the meter socket and connection to the power company is the customer's responsibility. In Minnesota, and in some cities and counties in other areas, we are not allowed to do the on-site electrical work that we normally do.
Fuel lines are considered plumbing--and we are not allowed to do on-site plumbing. Therefore, it is up to you to have the fuel lines run to the furnace, range, water heater, etc. Although this is relatively minor, it is important to know that we are unable to start the furnace to check it because of this. Make sure your contractor does this initial furnace check.
Your last visitor from Design Homes is the "service crew." Since it is almost impossible to check the thousands of things that could be a problem in a new home, we leave it to the customer to "find" all of the things that need attention by the service dept. We ask that you start a list--give it some time--and when you are comfortable that everything needing attention is on your list, call it in to our service dept.--we will then schedule someone to come out to your home to perform the service. Note: we do not show up automatically to check things over--people lock their homes and go to work during the week--we must rely on you to schedule the service and arrange for us to get in.