The Short List: Brian Brunhofer on Schooling Your Clients on the ABC’s of Custom Home Construction

by Chicago Agent


Brian Brunhofer is the president of Meritus Custom Builders.

Every week, we ask a real estate professional for their Short List, a collection of tips and recommendations on an essential topic in real estate. This week, we talked with Brian Brunhofer, the president of Meritus Custom Builders, on how to school your clients on the ABCs of custom home construction.

In Chicago’s flourishing luxury real estate market, where existing inventory remains tight in top neighborhoods and suburbs, a new construction custom home can be one of the best options for buyers who want a home with a modern floor plan and the latest finishes.

But buyers – as well as their real estate agents – should know that the timeline for building a custom home can vary widely depending on the scenario. If you’re new to working with a client on a custom home purchase, there are a number of timing considerations you should make sure they are aware of.

Likewise, if you’re a listing agent working with a client to sell their current home as they build a custom home, you should anticipate construction timeline factors as you plan for when to place their home on the market. In either scenario, here are several key elements for you and your clients to keep in mind:

4. One of the biggest variables in the custom-build process is permitting and approvals, which can vary widely by municipality. A process that can take 30 days in one town could last up to four months in the next town over. Your client’s builder should be able to give them an idea of what timing to expect if they have completed other projects in the same town. If your client decides to purchase a custom spec home directly from a custom builder or developer that has already acquired the site and started construction, the benefit is that they will have already worked through the permitting and approval part of the process.

3. The design process is another major variable in construction homes. Finalizing plans can be a months-long process, particularly if your clients are working with an architect to design their dream home from scratch. Alternatively, many custom builders have a portfolio of plans that clients can use as a starting point but then tweak with their own ideas and personal touches – which can save significant time over starting from square one.

2. Change orders and finish selections are one of the most common culprits when it comes to wreaking havoc on the custom-home construction timeline. The more big decisions about finishes that are made upfront, the better the builder is able to plan for ordering materials and scheduling subcontractors and installations – meaning the entire process will go more smoothly and have fewer delays. But if your client just can’t decide on the perfect kitchen cabinets or, worse yet, changes their mind after materials have been ordered, they should be prepared to see their move-in date pushed back to accommodate those change orders.

1. Finally, the builder your client chooses has a lot to do with what they should expect for a construction timeline. If the selected company doesn’t have the manpower to handle the number of projects they’ve taken on, or if they don’t have a good network of subcontractors to call on, there may be construction delays until workers are available. That’s why it’s very important for your clients to fully vet the builder they hire by reading reviews, checking references and talking to those who’ve used the company in the past. With a good partner, building a custom home should be an exciting and fun process for everyone involved.

Brian Brunhofer is president of Meritus Custom Builders, which has built homes in many of Chicago’s most sought-after communities including Park Ridge, Wilmette, Winnetka, Northbrook, Inverness, St. Charles, Long Grove, and Naperville.

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  • Regina Castle says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself? Nice article, thanks Brian

  • Toni Henricks says:

    I am currently selling homes in Glen Ellyn. Even “Production Homes” face these same things mentioned in this article. The smaller the town the smaller the Building Department. This also adds to the build time as approvals and inspections also add time to the building cycle. Setting proper expectations is key to a happy
    Homeowner. Good article!

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