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Choosing a Custom Home Style

by Ryan Schruender Last updated Apr 26, 2017

Research: HousePlans.com Website Screenshot.Let’s face it.

One of the best parts of building is picking out and designing a house that is unique to you.

Yes, it’s fun. But it can be overwhelming. Below are some tips and tricks that worked for us.

This is Part 4 of our series on Building a Custom Home in North Andover: this post is all about planning what to build.

If haven’t read about the engineering process first you may want to start there and then come back to this post.

How to make a Custom Home features list

Pinterest New Home Ideas.Just like in buying real estate, you’ll need to start with a list of your must-have’s and your nice-to-have’s.

But if you’ve ever bought a house, you know: making that list is harder than it sounds.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Drive around.

Look around the neighborhood. Drive around your area (preferably with a co-pilot!) and take pictures of styles of houses you like.

You might look a little creepy to bystanders, but that’s ok. They’ll like you once they get to know you.

2. Open Houses.

Visit open houses in your area. You’ll be able to see what you like and what you definitely don’t want.

You’ll be surprised how you think you like a feature but when you see it in person you realize that there’s no way you’d do it.

3. Pinterest.

A quick search of “new home ideas” will bring up a large list of what people recommend. It can be a little overwhelming but fun at the same time. We started a whole pinterest board for new home ideas.

Pick a website and stick with it

When you google “house plans” you will get pages and pages of websites that offer plans. Find 2 or 3 that work for you and stick with them.

House Plans Google Results.

Be sure these sites are one that have designed houses for the New England area. You’ll find LOTS of plans for southwestern-style homes, but building in the south is VERY different than the north.

For example: if you were building in Florida, you may want a house with plenty of big windows. But a house like that would never survive a New England winter. You wouldn’t have enough insulation to keep your house warm from October to April.

Mary and I chose to stick with two sites: Eplans.com and HousePlans.com.

We liked these sites because they let us narrow down the style and size of home we wanted.

Ultimately, we chose a cape style because it fit well with our neighborhood.

Pick the right architect

Custom home research: Choose the right architect.Make sure you pick an architect you feel comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to interview more than one. It’s just like picking a real estate agent!

We hired Martha MacInnis. Both Mary and I already knew Martha from being in the real estate business so we knew she would fit us well.

Some architects will tend to put their opinion over yours. That’s ok in some cases to steer you in the right direction, but at the end of the day it’s you that has to live in the house. Make sure your voice is heard.

Interviewing experts can be intimidating. Get referrals. Ask friends and family if they know anyone, or whom they’d recommend.

For what it’s worth, we loved working with Martha. She was wonderful and we strongly recommend her! Let us know if you want us to connect you with her.

Now the fun part pen to paper

Once you have decided the style, size, and location of your house, it’s time to take that information to the architect so they can make the house your own.

Come prepared. Bring notes, questions, research, and examples—things like screenshots of your favorite styles from ePlans.com.

Research: Architectural Drawing.

You’ll have several meetings with the architect.

  • Meeting #1: a lot of discussion about what you want. The architect will take notes and look at all the material you brought.
  • After meeting #1: it will take the architect a couple weeks to come up with a general plan based on the first meeting.
  • Meeting #2: you’ll review the architect’s plans and make small adjustments to make the house fit your needs.
  • After meeting #2: the architect spends a few days (or weeks) revising the plans based on your feedback from meeting #2.

That pattern of design-critique-revise will continue for 3 or 4 meetings until you and your architect are happy with the finished product.

What Mary & I decided on

Mary and I decided on a Cape Cod style house with roughly 2,500 square feet, 4 bedrooms, and 2 1/2 bath. We like to entertain so the big item for us was open concept.

Here is our design:

The finished product will look like this:

Building Custom Home in North Andover: Rendering.

Stay tuned for more updates as we have broken ground!

One Comment

  • Ayah Shaheen says:

    My husband and I are thinking about using Martha as our architect, would you be able to share with us more about your experience working with her?

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