Home: From ground up

What started as a list, became reality for one Oakwood family when they decided to build their forever home.

For anyone who has ever searched for the perfect home, finding one that has everything your heart desires can be really difficult. Just watch a few episodes of “House Hunters” on HGTV.
The must-have list may include a fireplace, pool, five bedrooms with a three-car garage on a sunny lot with mature trees.  And that’s just “his” must-haves. Hers may be a walk-in closet, garden tub and granite counter tops.
Getting all of the above at the right price could leave some buyers searching for months on end.
But if a buyer is willing to start from the ground up, they can get a totally customized home on the lot they want.

That’s what the Goodwins of Oakwood recently did.
“My wife Jennifer and I decided we needed more space with a 6-year-old and 11-year-old. We grew out of our ranch style house,” said Russ Goodwin.
One of the things they really wanted was to live on the lake, south of Browns Bridge Road.
“We put together a laundry list of the ultimate house for us: flooring, kitchen arrangements, room requirements, screened porch, basement and those types of things.”
Their customized home built by Cook Residential has all the essentials plus plenty of must-haves.
“We have four parents that are approaching 70 and all are in good health, but we expect at some point to be able to take care of somebody.”
The bottom floor of the house is completely handicap accessible and all of the doorways were built three feet wide.
There is also a complete guest suite above the garage for a caretaker or the Goodwin offspring who decides to someday move back in with mom and dad.
“We do a lot of entertaining so we wanted to be able to see clear through to the other side of the house. We wanted to be able to have a conversation whether we were in the kitchen, the living room, dining room or wherever.”
The plan called for a home office, a far cry from the sitting area in the bedroom that served as his old office.

To start the process, he and his wife looked through magazines, floor plans and even drove through other subdivisions looking for ideas.
Russ, a structural engineer, said looking at building plans and envisioning the outcome was easy. But his wife is “three-dimensionally challenged,” he said with a chuckle. It was a little harder for her.
“She couldn’t find what she was looking for so I said we were going to go to every subdivision in our price range and point out ‘we like this, not that’ and so forth.”
Once they decided on the perfect home, he said Geoff Cook and the team were great to work with.
“I would drop my son off at school in the morning and then head over to the house and find out what the plan was for the day. Later that afternoon, I would bring my son and check in to see how it turned out. It allowed me to work close with Geoff and make sure it was how we wanted it. I might say ‘This isn’t quite what we were thinking’ or ‘hey, that’s a great idea, I love what you did there.’”
“They worked with us and made designs work within our budget.”

An example is the flooring for the main floor of the house. Russ wanted to replicate the ceramic tiles in his father-in-law’s office, a very textured wood grain look.
Goeff pointed them to a natural textured, laser printed tile that replicates wood but would withstand kids, a dog and lake water as well as hold up a long time.
Geoff has been in the residential construction business for more than 10 years. He partnered with his brother Keith Cook to combine his construction expertise with Keith’s real estate knowledge to found Cook Residential. (www.cook-residential.com)
There can be some surprises along the way Geoff remarked. He said most clients have no idea or haven’t even thought about the process of selections for their home.
“It is quite overwhelming for most people to go through all the choices for flooring, wall colors, appliances, fixtures, etc.  With the popularity of online sites like Pinterest and Houzz.com, it is easy to find things you like but not be exactly sure how to achieve those looks,” said Geoff.
The second thing people aren’t aware of is how easy it is to build a new construction or custom home.
“People assume it is just easier to buy an existing home, but as long as you have the ability to wait through the construction process you can build just as easily.  Not only is it easier than you think to buy a new construction home, it is not as complicated as you think to build a custom home on your own land.  Buyers just need to consult with someone who understands the differences in the home loan process for each one of these building avenues.”
But there can be some challenges working with clients. Patience is a virtue.
“Our biggest challenge is usually getting our clients to finalize their selections for different features of the house.  Someone might pick interior paint colors and then two weeks later go a completely different route. We base our time frames on final selections, so when the selections aren’t final, it is more difficult for us to give our clients a closing date for when they can move into the finished house.”

And it isn’t just the clients.
“The governmental regulations that come with building a home vary so much from municipalities that we have to constantly educate both ourselves and some of the municipalities in the process.”
What should people look for when finding a home builder?  Well, a number of things said Geoff.
“People should always consider if the builder has existing projects. It is a good idea to also walk those building projects if possible to inspect the quality of the builder’s homes. Consumers should also ask themselves if the company has a team of people who can handle the process from design consultation to construction to contract closings.  In addition, it is also good if the builder has a design center to allow you pick your finishes so you can see the different aspects from flooring to paint colors before finishing your selections.  Finally, ask if the builder has a designer who can guide you through the process to prevent it from becoming too overwhelming.”
Russ said when it comes to home building, he knows how bad things can get.
“This was a great process. This is our retirement home. We don’t plan to move anywhere else, this is it.”

Story and photography for Home Magazine

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