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Expert Advice on Building a New Home: An Interview with Pete Antonow of Leader Builders Corp

By Pete Antonow

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

Leader Builders Corp. is unique in that a large amount of our work comes from architectural drawings which people provide to us after they have hired an architect, we also provide the design-build services for people that may be on a tight schedule or budget driven.

We have been established in 1988 and started as bathroom and kitchen remodeling company, but by mid-90's ties we added addition building, complete renovations and new home construction services.

We train our people extensively and utilize technology not only in our construction, but also in project management. For example we have developed in-house estimating software which calculates whole building/remodeling modules based on the building components that we enter into each project. That have been provided in the architectural drawings. It saves us time and that translates into a savings for our clients.. We have scheduling software and a To Do list management system which synchronizes with mobile devices. That we can have several people manage their own duties of the larger projects. For example one person can be at the job site managing installation and another in the office can order materials, fixtures and update the staff directly. We also train our installers to keep them current with any changing procedures and products, in order to keep quality control at a high level.

What are some of the misconceptions that people in Illinois have about building a new home when you first meet with them?

One most common misconception in my opinion is that hiring an independent architect, having them complete construction drawings and giving drawings to several builders for pricing is the best way to guarantee a low price for your construction. From my experience the architects expertise in designing and code compliance, may not be set up for construction cost estimating. Typically design takes precedence over budget. When the design is completed and if turns out over budget, usually the next step for the client is to pay the architect for a revision to the project and have it re-bid. The problem is that there is no guarantee that after this second round of bidding the project is going to fit the budget either and it gets exceedingly difficult to find good bidders for more free bidding.

One of the strengths with the design-build concept (in the way we approach a project) is the client has more control of the budget. In the beginning we start with a Project Description and a detailed Estimate which includes all the labor along with purchase allowances. For the owner to use as a tool in selecting various finishing materials. All of this happens prior o client spending a single dollar.

This method gives the client enough information to make an informed decision about whether their ideas will fit into their budget prior to starting architectural drawings. The cost of these drawings is included in construction budget and the design is developed with the owners' step-by-step approval with budget checks as the design comes into shape.

On larger renovations and addition projects it is important to let clients know that the City or Village may require service upgrades to electrical, water and or sewer. All of which when required have a high price tag. Some owners may not realize how many and how difficult the choices they will be facing when building or remodeling. We try to ease the pain by including interior designer time, along with our project managers who are hands on with every phase of a project. These will enhance the overall visual and mechanical quality of the projects and are well worth the effort.

Can you briefly talk about the major choices that prospective homeowners will need to make?

Again, the very first decision is setting the budget for what you want to accomplish. If this is a new construction, you need to include the land cost added to construction. It's a good idea to include the lot cost even if you owned it before, in order to have a good idea of how much the whole investment is going to be for the future resale value.

Second major decision is hiring your builder and deciding whether you want your builder to provide the design or if you want to hire and independent architect.

Then comes plenty of design/pricing decisions, from deciding on a manufacturer for window and doors to selection of your plumbing fixtures, tiles, appliances, cabinetry and finally paint and stain colors as well as exterior finishes selections.

What are the biggest differences between custom- and production-built houses?

It's all about choices: everything we spoke about above and more, but production houses have one advantage over custom homes: if you'd rather see exactly how your future home is going to look before committing, production home is your thing

What do you think is one of the most challenging parts of the building process for homeowners?

There are so many challenges that a home owner faces, I think choosing builder/architect team that you can communicate with and are comfortable with will ease a lot of the challenges ahead.

One of the most challenging decisions may be design-build vs. independent architect/bidders in my opinion.

What tips do you have for homeowners to help them better prepare and avoid stress while their home is being built?

2 things: in the very early stage start with the detailed budget estimate and hire a firm willing to guarantee it,and make sure that the builder will also guarantee completion time with penalty clause included in the contract to protect you.

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

Our website or our office number 847-965-0200. There is also a form on our website to request a free consultation, and if you put Leader Builders in Google search we typically show up on the first page.

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