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The Advantages of Having a Custom Built Home: An Interview with Joe Rongisch of Vantage Design and Construction

By Joe Rongisch

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Vantage Design & Construction is one of the most versatile construction companies in the area. We have experience in many different areas of construction and like to stay ahead of the pack in these areas.

Vantage isn't just another home builder. From the start we have done New Home Construction, Remodels (Additions, Kitchens, Baths, Basements, Specialty Projects, etc.), Renovations (Historical Buildings, Old Homes, etc.), Luxurious Condo Finishes, and Small Commercial Construction. Having experience in all of these areas really benefits our company and our customers.

Because we do a lot of remodel work, we know what works and what doesn't. We tear out certain products every day and we know not to use that certain product. Same with practices and procedures, we see how things have been done and what causes failures in homes.

We use this knowledge in our homes every day. It also helps to keep us busy in this industry. The residential market is very up and down. If the housing market slows down again, like it did in 08, we still have several other areas of construction to pick up that slack.

We also work closely with real estate agents in our area. Agents call on us for remodels, new construction, home updates to help a property sell, and even to fix home inspection lists. We have won the Best of Omaha award 2 years in row along with several other awards for outstanding projects, community events and charity work. Our crew likes to stay in touch with and give back to the communities that have supported us for the past 8 years.

I think it is important to note that we have kept the same relationships with our trade contractors since the day Vantage started. We know them like family and trust that they will do their best each and every day to keep up with our Standards.

What are some important questions to ask a contractor before beginning this process?

There are some basic questions to ask any contractor before you sign any papers, whether it is a new home or remodel.

  • Are you licensed? Most major cities will require a contractor to be licensed in order to pull a permit. But some do not, and this is where it is very important to make sure this company has an active license. Really anyone can claim that they are a Contractor, Home Builder, Remodeler but some of them are under-qualified and do not know proper practices and procedures. A license will help weed out those people.
  • Are you insured? Probably just as important as a license...make sure your contractor is insured. And make sure he is carrying the correct insurance. Ask to see it. It is not an offensive question to a reputable contractor.
  • References. Hopefully if you are picking a builder he has a model home or a spec home that you can see or walk through. Talk to previous customers. Check online for any bad reviews. Know your builder before you buy or build. It is a very important piece to the puzzle.
  • Ask about the Warranty. Make sure you understand what is covered and what is not. It is common practice to not cover certain items, just make sure you are aware before you buy.
  • Details and Understanding. There are so many details that go into building a home that the customer does not know or does not think to ask about. There will be confusion and there will be misunderstandings. Home building is not a perfect science and no home will end up being perfect. You have to keep in mind that Home Building is a process that involves hundreds of people from many different companies and many different skill levels. There will be things that go wrong in this process, but fixing these items quickly and correctly is what separates the good Builders from the bad.

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

Here is a typical abbreviated step by step process when someone comes to our door.

First, we find out if the customer is approved for a purchase, what they are looking for, where they want to live and how soon they want to make a decision. Then we find out if they have a floor plan or if they want to build one of ours or if they want to start a custom.

If they do not have a plan and want a true custom home, the first thing we do is schedule an initial design meeting. In this meeting we will start with a blank piece of paper. From here we will just walk through what their dream house would look like. At this stage it is just general locations of rooms and flow of the house.

Then we talk about room sizes and special features they want included, don't forget about that perfect place for the Christmas Tree to sit. Once we have that information, I take this and plot out a simple house plan based on the info from the meeting. The next few steps would include review, changes, review, changes, etc. until we get the house that they have been dreaming of.

When plans are done, we select finish allowances and then price up the house. Once we finalize a lot and sign the Building Contract, we schedule our PRE CONSTRUCTION meeting. In this meeting, we will review the plans and specs one last time. We will also visit the lot and walk them through grading (how the drainage will flow, height of the house, steepness of the driveway, etc.). We will also snap a photo at this point of the Customers at the location of their new home.

Once construction starts, we have an open door policy. Our customers are welcome to come to the home as often as they like as long as one of our representatives are there as well. We will have strategic meetings throughout construction including these benchmarks in the schedule: Post Frame, Pre Drywall, Final Walk Thru, and Customer Orientation meetings. At these meetings we discuss important upcoming steps and verify selections as we go.

At the Final Walk Thru, the home will be 99% done. We will walk through the home with the customer and look for any cosmetic defects (drywall dings, paint touch ups, scratches, etc.) we will also show the customer how their new home works and all of the important items in the house (gas and water shut offs, how the furnace works, sprinklers, etc.). Any item that comes up will be put on a list and signed by both parties.

At the Customer Orientation, the goal is to have the home complete (including the list from the Walk Thru). Here we will go over warranty details, hand over the keys and schedule our next meeting which is the 90-day meeting. At the 90DAY meeting we will just make sure all items in the house are still working as they should. This also gives the homeowner time to ask questions about the home after living in it for 3 months. Our final step in the process is the 11MONTH meeting. Just before the warranty expires we will schedule another meeting and again just make sure everything is working properly in the home before the warranty period is over.

What are a few advantages of building a custom home?

Building a custom home vs a "cookie cutter" home is simply you get what you really want instead of settling for the best of the available options. A custom home will most likely be more expensive, but can truly get your dream home in your dream location.

You will be able to add the outlets where you want them, make rooms specific sizes, create your reading nook, include all the kitchen and bath upgrades that you see on TV, etc. A custom home is a fun experience for us to build for a customer.

Do custom built home typically take longer to build than standard homes?

Yes, a custom home does take longer to build. Schedule would depend on size and the amount of details that go into it, but on average a custom home will take us about 30~60 days longer than a spec home.

What advice do you have for the homeowner during this process?

I already mentioned this earlier, but I always remind people that this is not a perfect process and there are hundreds of people who will be in and out of the home during construction. The customer has to understand that there will be some speed bumps along the way in a custom home, but the finished product will be spectacular. A custom home has never been built before, so there will be some issues that come up as it gets built.

It's nothing like a stock floor plan that has been built 100 times and all the kinks have been worked out along the way. After I explain my reasoning for stating that, most people do understand and like the fact that we are being honest up front. We are not the typical construction company, we are not going to cover things up or lie to you. We will bring situations to your attention and include you in our methods to fix the issues that do come up. Most of our work for both remodels and new construction comes from referrals. I am proud of my company and my crew and what we do every day. We do our best on each and every job and customers love that.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you?

If anyone would like to contact us, you can visit our website and send us a message there or you can email us at vantagedc@yahoo.com.

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About The Author

Joe Rongisch owns and manages Vantage Design and Construction.

Phone: 402-670-4531

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