S1, E5: A Tale of Two Custom Homes
In this episode of The Art of Custom podcast, we talked with former clients about their experiences designing and building their custom dream homes.
Two couples share their visions for their very different dream homes - and how they partnered with their builder and architect to bring it to life.
One couple built a large, luxurious home in the country with the goal of having a home that felt like a getaway every day. The other couple builds a high-performance home in the suburbs with the goal of having their perfect home for retirement.
Listen to hear how they collaborated with their home builder, architects, and designers to bring their vision of a dream home to life - and find out what life is like now that the construction process is complete.
Season One, Episode Five: A Tale of Two Houses Transcript
Vandeven: I think initially that we were both a little bit, apprehensive about the building process. We've never done it before. We didn't know what to expect
Friz: So we actually had her over for lunch to say what, you know about Kim Hibbs is decent is he reliable, and she couldn't say enough good about him. So after that, we would like, okay we'll talk to him.
Voiceover: Welcome to The Art of Custom from Hibbs Homes. In today's episode Kim and Danni are letting former clients share their experiences of working to design and build their dream homes. They'll share their motivations behind building, the visions they had in mind, their perspective on the build process and what life is like, now that they're settled into their new homes.
Kim: Danni today we're going to do something a little bit different. We're going to be talking about Home Building from our clients perspective, which I think is a very important perspective to talk about. In fact we're going to let our clients tell their stories, their experiences, of building, their custom homes,
Danni: who better to tell the story than those that had the idea and then moved forward with actually building their custom home and get to live in it everyday. I think this is going to be a lot of fun.
Kim: It will be and one of the things that we talk to our clients about early on is That we truly make friends with our clients as the process goes on. And that could be said about, you know, custom Builders anywhere, they really do, you make a true friend with the clients you're working with. So you had a chance after the construction to sit down with a couple of our past clients and talk with them.
Danni: Yeah, I was able to go have a cup of coffee with both Mark and Gail, and Larry and Kathi. And they each built totally different homes - both stylistically and in terms of their build priorities. And I got to learn a little bit about what made them build, what the process was like for them, and what life is like, now that they've moved into those homes.
Kim: Yeah and I know in talking with with both of our clients over the past few months, they're both extremely happy. Both had real good experiences Larry and Kathy built a luxury home in the Eureka area here in the greater St. Louis area. A fun project, they completed it about a year ago and I, you know, we're fortunate. We get to see them quite often and and they're very kind to us. They actually let a lot of our prospective clients come into their home and walk through it, which is something that's very important. And if you're considering building a home, I think that's something the Builder should make available to you is open the open the doors to some of the past homes they built.
And then the other client you mentioned was Mark and Gail, they built in the St. Louis County area. Smaller home, very efficient home. We did a lot of really cool features in that home which we'll talk more about as this episode goes on, but another really good experience.
Danni: Yeah. And I think that, even though these were totally different builds and that they had totally different goals. There's some commonality in how they approach the project. They each had some goals for their life and how they wanted to live. Larry and Kathi were thinking about getting a vacation home or a second home and they decided to instead make the home they live in everyday everything they wanted. Mark and Gail were preparing for retirement, and they wanted a home that would allow them to grow old in it and so they built their home that way. But as you listen to how they approached finding a builder and kind of their initial anxiety, idea about the process and how that was alleviated, you'll see that a lot of that was very common even though these builds were very different and we're going to hear from Larry and Kathi first.
Vandeven: So I think it always kind of been a dream of ours to build a home that was, you know, to our specifications and one that fit our lifestyle but we really had an interesting process in selecting our Builder.
We found the area where we wanted to be in and started to look at lots, and it just so happened that we found a house that happens to be across the street from our home that we really liked. And we had no idea that it was built by Hibbs homes and so when we first met with Kim and and Jan to talk about building a custom home, and they asked us what we were looking for in a home. And of course, Kathi started describing this home and then Kim, let us know that he had, in fact, had built that home.
So, from that point forward things moved, pretty quickly. We got an opportunity to tour that home and to see some of the features and benefits of that that house and some of the quality of the construction. And we just really fell in love with it and became comfortable with Kim and Jan, and the process, and started down the road.
Danni: Mark and Gail were wanting to build a high performance home and that was their priority. They did a lot of research to help them find the right custom home builder. They talked to their friends and they had a lot of the same anxieties that Larry and Kathi had when approaching their home. But ultimately they decided to build. And I'll let them tell their story.
Friz: It was a difficult decision. We looked at every possibility. We looked at existing homes. We looked at rehabbing a home. We actually had a rehabber, go with us several times and look at maybe four or five homes. We talked about buying a home fixing it up, and we were really close to doing that because we had a hard time finding a lot and also the price at first of the custom home, seemed a little out of reach. At the end, we decided to just go for it.
Friz: But the way we found Hibbs was we googled energy efficient homes home builders, and green homes.
Friz: I went online and Googled Green Home came up with Hibbs so then I did a little research. We know Gene Ponzi at the Botanical Gardens. So we actually had her over for lunch to say, what do you know about Kim Hibbs is he, you know, decent is he reliable? And she couldn't say enough good about him. So after that we're just like, okay. We'll trust him.
Vandeven: I think initially that we were both a little bit apprehensive about the building process. We have never done it before. We didn't know what to expect. We weren't convinced that that's the road we were going to go down, but we I think very quickly started to get more comfortable with the process. Of course, Kathi's got an eye for decorating and did most of the decorating - all the decorating - but it turned out that it wasn't nearly as overwhelming as I think we thought. And some of the technology that Hibbs Homes uses, like CoConstruct, for example, makes the selection process a little bit easier. It makes it easier to communicate the selections that you have. It ended up being less stressful than we thought and more fun.
The selection process for a custom home is somewhat different than more of a track home. So for example, you're faced with a decision on every knob and hinge and color and you're kind of hopeful that it all comes together at the end and it looks nice together. And Kathi did a really good job with that. And we also had the help of a designer that Hibbs assigned to us that we were able to take to a couple of the different vendors. She was able to with us and more or less just reassure us that what we were picking was would look good together. And in fact, I think it turned out quite nice.
Kim: So Danni, what's interesting is when prospective clients come to us for the first time, the first questions we ask them are "what are your priorities? What are you trying to accomplish with this build?" Because, quite frankly, that's what makes the difference between a custom builder and a production Builder. With a production Builder, you're generally able to build a house at a little bit of a lower cost, but with a custom builder priorities are very important and that allows the client to really figure out what is most important - where do we want to put our money and what do we want to focus on with this build?
Danni: Absolutely. And I think that's a big reason that people end up deciding to build custom. They don't want to shove their lifestyle into somebody else's floor plan. They really want to have a home that will facilitate the life that they want to live. And with each of these clients that we've got telling their stories here, they had different priorities and different things that were driving their decision to build And that really informed their design
Kim: Exactly. And let's listen to Mark and Gail a little bit more about what some of their priorities were.
Friz: When we were looking at existing homes and even looking at newly built homes, we needed a big dining area because our family from Massachusetts has six kids. So, when they come, you have at least 10 people around the table, and then also we have a grand piano. It is very hard to find a home with space for both of those.
Friz: But with an open floor plan, and without having to have a lot of walls. For example, on Thanksgiving this table expands to see the whole bunch of people, and we can move it over a little that way if we want to and we don't have walls to hinder us.
Everything that's essential is on one level, and the doors are wider than in most homes. We also had the higher toilets and the higher cabinets and things that are going to make it easy to transition if we get to that time of life, if the Lord allows us to live long enough to that time of life, where we aren't able to get around too well.
Friz: One of the things that I wanted was building material that wouldn't have off-gassing of things that were toxic from the paint and the wood. We both have pretty bad allergies. So that was one of the reasons for building green. Plus recycling. I wanted someone that if we tore down something that they would recycle. So that was really a big part of it also.
Friz: One of the upgrades that we did to make the home, more energy, efficient was to put 6-inch walls on the first floor so that we were able to get more insulation, and it provides the unexpected benefit that it makes the house incredibly quiet. A road that passes by us has quite a lot of traffic and we don't even notice any of the traffic.
Kim: Danni as, you know, energy efficiency is one of the priorities that many clients have when they come to us because they realize that we're a high-performance Builder, and that's one of the things that we really focus on in the design process. We want to know exactly what's inside their mind, what they're trying to accomplish, what are their wants, their needs their wishes. Because that's the benefit of building a custom home over a production home. And there's a lot of great resources out there to help the clients.
Danni: Absolutely. And you'll hear that each of them came to the table with a really specific Vision. They'd done their homework, they research on Houzz, they pulled together Pinterest boards. They knew there were a lot of decisions to be made and had a really clear sense of what they wanted. So, in the end, we were able to build them that exact house that they dreamed of.
Vandeven: Along the way Kathi found some things like the beams that we have in the home that are custom-made, and frankly we're looking at a picture, we didn't know if it could be replicated. And they, in fact, are the same as the picture that we showed them. So we were very pleased with that.
Kathi: In the beginning, I was very nervous because I'm not a very good decision maker so I thought there's just no way I can do this, but I talked to some other people that have built custom homes and it was really a much more simple process than I thought it was going to be. We had help with the CoConstruct so we could kind of put everything together.
We had a lot of samples we could take from vendor to vendor and decide what we were looking for and what would go together. And the vendors were also very helpful with helping us pick things that they thought would look good together. So, it was hard, but it was fun. And it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. We just found pictures on either Pinterest or Houzz of things that I liked and tried to put it all together. I really didn't have a vision, you know, starting out. We had some floor plans that we liked and we definitely wanted the open floor plan for entertaining, but it all just kind of came together fairly easily, really, for what I was thinking, it was going to be.
Friz: Looking at the pictures and those two website that Hibbs Homes told us about, Houzz and Pinterest, that was extremely helpful to me. I studied and just tried to figure out what I wanted. But then there were times where I had something in my mind, like I wanted a white kitchen that was so much more expensive, so then you have to change your focus - okay I'm gonna look at wood now, see if I can calm down.
Friz: and I think we're happy. We're very happy with that.
Friz: and I'm just really, really happy and I like it
Kim: So we've made a name for ourselves in the St. Louis area as a high-performance builder or as some people call them, green. And studies have shown that over the past few years more and more buyers who are looking to build a new home, really want to focus on the high-performance construction methods. But it's something that we made a commitment to several years ago, and we continue to build high-performance homes. But at the same time, if a client comes to us and says we just want a well-built home, we can go down that path too
Danni: I think thats so funny that you mention that because when I sat down and I had coffee with each of these clients, they came at it from a totally different place and we were able to build to what their priorities were. And they both ended up really, really happy to have those features in their home.
Vandeven: The efficiency of this home is amazing. I mean, it's one of the highlights, really. I mean, it's something that people don't see, but we feel it every month. I think that's one of Hibbs Homes strengths, Energy Efficiency.
Before we started, we walked through the home that I mentioned earlier that the Hibbs had built and saw some of the energy savings features and we're very impressed by that. So we wanted to incorporate that into our home and the results have been frankly, unbelievable.
Our heating bills during the winter have been roughly half of what we spent at our previous home, which was the equivalent size. So it's been truly amazing. Now, you know, Kim indicated to me that we would be efficient, but I had no idea how efficient. So that's been a pleasant surprise. The house is really comfortable from room to room, and it maintains a fairly even temperature and that's not always been the case with some of our previous homes during extreme temperature times outside. The temperature in the home would be either too hot or too cold, and I think working with the vendors that we did, we were able to get the right size equipment for the home and it performs very efficiently and just maintains a very comfortable temperature and good indoor air quality
Friz: We had a HERS rating done on the house and they estimated that we would spend $550 a year on heating and cooling and that's turned out to be true. So, that's really unbelievable. When you think about St. Louis summers and winters.
There are some people that I know that have an air-conditioning bill of three or four hundred dollars in the summer. We have every single lightbulb in this house is LED so, some months, our electric bill is $65. I think the most expensive It ever was was during a very cold winter. Maybe a hundred and forty, it's been a very good high performance home for us
Kim: Even though we're taping the show in the midwest the St. Louis area, we truly want it to be utilized by people across the country. So we're trying to pass along tips and information that anyone can use if they're considering building a custom home. I know you had a chance to talk with both of our past clients about what advice they had for those considering building. And I think that's information that's going to be interesting to hear.
Danni: They each gave me some takeaways from their experience in building a custom home. Some things that they would want to have known upfront or that they think people would benefit from knowing going into the process. I wanted to make sure that all this great information we're passing on isn't just coming from us, but that people could hear from somebody who's been through the process
Vandeven: Well, I think it's important, you know, for anybody that's considering the building process to do their homework and to make sure that they're comfortable with the builder they choose. I mean, we obviously were very comfortable with Hibbs homes. And just try to alleviate as much stress and make it as fun as possible. Just enjoy the process
Friz: There was one thing that Kim insisted on, which I'm very glad he did. We have three dormers and the main dormer is where my office is. And one of the things we were going to try to do was to take out the main dormer in order to save some money and Kim said no, the house won't look good without those three dormers so he he told us that was one place where we needed to splurge a little, and I think that when you build a house you need to think about the fact that this is a one-time thing. And you need to put in it what you want to from the beginning because if you add something later on it's only going to be two or three times as expensive. So you might as well just try to get reasonably within your budget what you're hoping to get, and that's why we built the geothermal system into our house too because that was something I really wanted and it was a stretch financially, but Kim helped make that possible.
Vandeven: I think when you build a custom home, communication is the key. I think communication between yourself and the Builder and some of the vendors and so forth and making sure that everybody is on the same page. Hibbs Homes is exceptional at that part of the process. We were in contact with Kim, or one of our superintendents, nearly every day and they kept us informed as to what was happening. Communication is the key to eliminating the stress. And that's what I think that we appreciated the most.
Kim: As a builder, one of the best days is when your clients get to move into the new home. It's been a long process, going through the process of finding a lot, then you have to design it, then you have to get it permitted. You finally get to break ground and begin the construction. But, as we all know, construction is going to take six months or longer depending upon the size of the home. So, the day your clients, finally get to move into that new home is just a day that everybody is just so pleased.
When that day arrives, and with both Mark and Gail and Larry and Kathi, I remember both of those days so vividly and how happy they were and the smiles on their faces. And and quite frankly we have a vision for our business, if you will. It's building dreams, one home at a time and that's exactly what happens when your clients get to move in on that very first day. You realize that their dream has come true.
Danni: So I talked to Larry and Kathi about what life is like in their home, if they were able to achieve their initial vision, and if we were able to accomplish some of the design elements that were high priority for them. And I'll let them tell you about what life is like everyday and their new home.
Vandeven: Well, I think the best part of this home has been just the entertaining space. We both have a very large families, so we've been able to have several get-togethers for Thanksgiving and parties in the summer with the pool, it's been great having the space that we didn't have before having the yard and the outdoor living area. It has been great and we've had a lot of a lot of fun.
Friz: I like the kitchen and the granite countertops. I like the backsplash that Gail chose, the way it contrasts with the black countertops, and I like to cook too. So I just like the ease of access and getting to everything. We had an old refrigerator, and now we've got this brand new refrigerator and there was updating to a lot of things. So I like the kitchen, I like my office upstairs. I love the wood. I love the floors. The fireplace is very nice. So, those are some of my favorites.
Friz: I love this open living room/kitchen. I also love my laundry room on the main level because I've always had an unfinished dark dank basement. So it's so cheery to have this beautiful laundry room, right off the kitchen. I love having this space since when we have people eating at this table, it's just so easy. We put the food out on the island. It's so easy to have people come and eat and entertain, and we have always had people coming by,
Friz: You know, people thought we were crazy when we're moving toward retirement and we built two bedrooms upstairs with an office and then a finished basement downstairs. They thought would, why are you doing this? You're supposed to be quote, unquote, downsizing.
Friz: And as I drive through St, Louis, I think, oh, I looked at a house on that street, have that street, that street, that street. And I think I have the best house and I would say that I am still just so happy with all the choices that we made.
Friz: And I love the fact that there's so much light in this house, and that, during the day, if you open up the blinds it's a bright place. Then at night time, these can lights are just wonderful, and they're are so inexpensive to operate every day. We're just so thankful. And so happy
Vandeven: The day we took possession was an exciting day for us. We had visited the site so often during the process it wasn't a big reveal, but we did really enjoy that day and it just felt great to be here finally and be able to live in this thing that we have been seeing come together over the course of a year. Once we once we moved here we fell even more in love with the area and the home itself. It feels like we're on vacation every night when we get home from work, which is a which is a great feeling. It's really almost a lifestyle change, I guess you'd say. It's been great.
Kim: And that is exactly what we shoot for. We hope the experience has been great for our clients, the entire experience from start to finish. And when you have clients who understand it and articulate it like that, it just really makes me feel like we have succeeded in our mission.
Danni: And this is one of my favorite parts of my job is telling these stories and getting to know the people, as well. So if you guys want to hear more of these stories, you can go to HibbsHomesUSA.com. We've got more stories and full-length interviews with clients so that you can really hear everything about their home building experience and what they accomplish and maybe get inspired for your home.
If you guys have any comments questions or things you want us to cover in a future episode, we do have a voicemail line at 314-266-9709 you can give us a call. Leave us your questions or comments and we'll try to include you on a future episode
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