From Cookie Cutter to Custom Home: A Client’s Home Building Journey

Wildwood Home Building Clients Justin & Kristen Share Their Experience Building A Truly Custom Home

"Two years ago, my wife Kristen and I found out we were going to have our second child. We were living in a nice startup home, a small 1400 ft ranch home in Fairview Heights, IL., and we knew we would need more room for our kids to play and grow together. We had built the home with a 'big box' style builder commonly known in the area with multiple neighborhood communities.

When building this home we had very few options to choose from. I remember basically only being able to pick out a few color options such as: floor, cabinets, roof, siding etc. We didn't get to choose types or style as those were preselected by the builder. It was a great home to us but we wanted our next home to be "our home", and to do that we would have to build custom and choose everything. We began research on how to embark on this big venture.

First, we had to find the land that we wanted to build on. We liked the Wildwood, MO area because it offers beautiful outdoor life/views, great school districts, and privacy all while still being close to shopping and amenities. We came across multiple lots that we liked but didn't know how well suited they were to build a house on while considering slopes, sewers, rockiness, well water, electric, etc. Next we began to research custom home builders, calling on a dozen to get ball park figures and how the process would work. Many of these builders were very hard to get ahold of and some didn't even respond at all. Then the realtor we were working with for the lots referred us to Hibbs Homes! I spoke with the Owner, Kim Hibbs and Matt Belcher the Building Consultant who helped walk me through the steps to begin building our dream home. Matt drove to several lots we were looking at and gave us advice on which would be the best to build on.

They were great to work with from the start. We chose the land we wanted to build on, got a lot loan and purchased the lot. Next, Kim referred us to an architect and construction loan banking specialist. We discussed our house plan layout wishes with the architect and began to budget and design our house with Martha and Melissa at Hibbs. They helped us choose EVERYTHING and were very kind, responsive and attentive. You literally design every detail of your house when you build a custom home. Following all of our designing and selections, we broke ground and worked with the building Superintendents Neil and Chris who are were highly accessible, helpful and knowledgeable.

They guided us through all the steps of the building process while always keeping us up to date on the progress. I can't speak highly enough about Hibbs Homes and the custom building process with them. Their communication and accessibility is by far the best I have come across in any business. Building a home is a large scale operation and Hibbs Homes being with you every step of the way makes everything as stress free and smooth as possible."

-Justin & Kristen Allsup, Wildwood Home Building Clients

Click here to learn more about their custom home & all of the custom features that went into it. 

Considering building a custom home of your own? Click here to learn more about our home building process.

Three Years Later: Life in Active House USA in Webster Groves

The Smith Family Shares Their Experience Building & Living in One of  North America's Most Energy Efficient Homes

In 2013, hundreds of people lined up to view a one of a kind home built in the heart of historic Webster Groves, MO. Active House USA was built by our team at Hibbs Homes and designed by Jeff Day & Associates Architects. As the very first Active House built in the United States, it served as a prototype for one of the few worldwide energy efficient home building organizations - The Active House Alliance.

This high-performance custom home was used as a teaching model for future green homes builders both construction and the first year of occupancy.  During construction, the Hibbs Homes team and our building partners hosted a site tour that showed students, neighbors, and other professional builders the approach to systems and assembly that make this home a model for energy efficiency. During the first year in their new home, the Smith Family also agreed to provide monitoring data that was used to support the benefits of the Active House Alliance's new approach to green home building approach.

What makes the Active House guidelines unique is that they are one of the the first of green building standards that designs, builds, measures, and evaluates success with a focus on life inside the home after the homeowners take residence. Things like healthy air quality, comfort, quietness, and longevity of the home's building materials all are taken into account. Simply put, the homeowner's comfort and well-being are at the center of the Active House design.

The Alliance connected with Hibbs Homes because St. Louis was the idea region to test an Active House. Eastern Missouri is unique because of the four-seasons weather, extreme fluctuation of temperature and humidity levels, as well as the variability of extreme weather events. Lessons learned and information proved out from Active House USA translate easily across several regions in North America.

"When Matt Belcher and I initially talked to the Smiths about building them a custom home, we shared our passion for energy efficient high performance building. As we talked with them about the possibility of building an Active House, Thuy and David, who is a CPA and engineer, were truly able to see how it made sense to build to the highest of green building standards now in order to save money in the long run and reduce their carbon footprint. They grew excited that their new home would set an example for the home building industry, encouraging others to build more environmentally responsible houses," said Kim Hibbs, president and founder of Hibbs Homes.

A Home That Is 60% More House, 80% More Efficient


David and Thuy Smith, shared their experience while living in the Active House thus far and how it impacted their lives.

Driving by the Webster Groves Active House, one would hardly be able to tell that it outperforms the homes on either side by 80%. "The design, style, and blending into the neighborhood were extremely important to us. We love the historic nature of Webster but wanted the comfort and amenities of a modern home," said homeowner Smith.

Borrowing from the charm of the surrounding neighborhood, the Modern Craftsman-style home looks right at home nestled between the century-old Webster Groves homes. But inside, the home offers the Smith Family the benefits of the healthier indoor air quality and energy efficiency performance parameters set by the Active House Alliance.

When designing a home that meets Active House guidelines, "full consideration for the way a home is lived in should always be considered. Everything from room to room, and hour to hour of use should drive the final design such that the comfort of the occupants is met or exceeded. This directly impacts the energy use of a home beyond the building envelope and active solar considerations," says Jeff Day, architect of Active House.

The Smith family says even though their new home is 60% bigger than their previous home, their energy bills still are considerably less each month. The energy efficiency of the home is attributed to the extremely tight thermal envelope and their use of five different forms of energy - natural gas, solar PV for electricity, solar thermal for heating, conventional electricity, and optimal solar positioning for daylighting.

Matt Belcher, owner of Verdatek Solutions and Hibbs Homes building partner, served as the lead green building consultant for the project. "Our focus on this home and all our homes and projects is from a true investment standpoint. This is typically the largest investment our clients will make. As with any other investment, we want it to perform over its life as efficiently and effectively as possible for our client. It is purposely built well above code to be durable and comfortable. The fact that it intrinsically has a softer environmental footprint just adds to that value, and is the right thing to do," said Belcher.

Living in the Active House

The Smith family at home in the Active House.

A typical day in this home greatly differs from most. Upon walking into the home, it is impossible not to notice the welcoming natural light. With a liberal use of skylights, the Smith family enjoys natural lighting throughout the day without the need or desire to use artificial lighting. On a beautiful St. Louis day, sensors on the windows detect the outside temperature and automatically open to allow for natural ventilation. Without even lifting a finger those in the home are able to enjoy the fresh air.

Speaking of air, the home was built incredibly tight in order to allow for superior indoor air quality. The University of Missouri studied the home for the first year of living in it with the use of meters and detectors throughout the home that measures things such as humidity, formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and various other air pollutants. The university found that the home's air quality was even better than they expected. Trying to find a draft or area of the home where the temperature drastically changes is nearly impossible. The home maintains a consistent temperature and easily adapts to different temperature demands.

When asked why a potential home owner should consider building green, the Smith family said, "Building green doesn't mean making sacrifices in comfort. On the contrary, the intangible benefits to building green far outweigh the nominal upfront costs."

The future of green home building

Hibbs said, "Active House was incredibly ahead of its time in regards to energy efficient home building techniques. Hibbs Homes uses many of the same building techniques introduced by the Active House project 3 years ago."

Hibbs shared that the demand for high performance homes is increasing, and that builders are working to meet the demand by taking a more holistic approach to home design and building techniques - one that is more cost effective, efficient, and environmentally responsible.

"Today, more and more builders are working to create a home that will last longer, use less energy, and provide better indoor air quality and comfort," said Hibbs.

When Active House was under construction, the national percentage of builders choosing to build green was at about 10%. Today, that has grown by nearly 400% - with a projected 40% of home builders opting to include higher standards of energy efficiency and durability within the next 2 years, according to Belcher.

Family Builds An Energy-Efficient Forever Home

The Derner family lived in a home that suited almost all of their needs, but the biggest problem they had with the home was the location. The couple no longer worked near the area they were living in anymore, so they knew it was time for a move. After searching through the exisiting home inventory they could not find a home that checked all of their boxes.

They knew building a custom home was going to be best for them because they had an idea of the home design they wanted, but needed to find a builder with experience who could build their dream home in the Webster Groves area. That is when they discovered one of the region's best custom home builders, Hibbs Homes.

Building a Functional, Beautiful Home

During the design phase, they worked with the Hibbs Home design team to make sure their home was a beautiful as it was functional.

Since Mrs. Derner works in the medical field, she wanted to make sure the doorways were extra wide, showers were easily accessible, and the primary bedroom suite was on the main floor. These universal design features will make their home more accessible even if faced with mobility changes and they wanted to make sure it would be as easy as possible for them to continue living in their dream home long into the future.

The Derner's custom home has many features that make the home more accessible, one would never be able to tell because it fits so well with the rest of the design in the home.

The Derners suggest spending lots of time during the design phase to build the perfect house plan for you and your needs. It will end up saving you money and you will love your house even more because it is perfectly tailored to you.

With our design team there to help guide their selections process, they were able to focus their custom home design around what mattered to them most - the kitchen. They liked they layout of the kitchen in their previous home and used it as a starting point for their floorplan design. They were able to make updates and changes to the parts of the kitchen they didn't like, such as the addition of a wall oven and transom windows to allow in more natural light while allowing privacy.

Although energy efficiency was not  a driving factor for the Derner family to build a new house, they began to learn more about how Hibbs Homes high-performance building practices would make their home more comfortable and healthier. In addition to being a lower-maintenance home, by building energy-efficient they were able to save on their utility bills even in a larger home.

Energy Efficient Home Building Options

While eco-friendly home constructionwas not the highest priority for the Derners, that changed once they realized the benefits of a geothermal heating and cooling and it was "no doubt the way to go." Since their new home would be considerably bigger than their old home, building an energy-efficient house made sense. They also opted 2×6 walls to allow for more insulation and sound dampening, which made for a more comfortable and quieter home. Mr. Derner said, "it is a one time cost and it gives you a higher insulation value. It is not something you can do down the road and it starts paying dividends immediately."

The Derners also made a big energy efficient decision by choosing a Gerard stone coated metal roof. They were amazed at to learn they come with a lifetime warranty, reflects heat away from the home, withstands severe weather, and is maintenance free.

Although these green home features cost more up front, they begin paying for themselves so quickly that the Derners suspect neighbors with smaller homes would like to trade utility bills with them.

The Home Building Process

The Derners built their custom home on their land in the historic Webster Groves community. No matter where you build a home there will be regulations that limit some ways the house is built. From trees to the color you choose for your home exterior, the community in which you live may have rules dictating this.

Because Hibbs Homes is a dedicated St. Louis custom home builder,we are very familiar with the rules and regulations of several St. Louis communities. Our experience working with municipal building codes throughout St Louis County is one of the reasons the Derner family decided to choose Hibbs Homes to build their custom home. When they saw Hibbs Homes building other homes in the area that blended seamlessly with the charm and character of the neighborhood, they knew we could turn their vision into a reality.

The Derners also said they appreciated the fact that our home building process is transparent all the way through and we use Co-Construct to communicate with them about their project. Mr Derner also found it refreshing to have Kim Hibbs there to help them understand the benefits and cons of any decisions they had to make. They said Hibbs Homes was "quick to respond and very accessible."

Perfect Home. Perfect Location.

Overall the family is incredibly happy in their new custom home and are thrilled to have a commute to work that is a fraction of the time they spent driving before.

Finding a house in the area you love is not always easy. That is why building rather than buying is in many cases more ideal and less costly than buying a home in your favorite area and having to rehab so much of it.

Interested in building your custom home or have questions about the process? Schedule an appointment with our custom home building experts!

Creve Coeur Couple Designs and Builds Their Perfect Energy Efficient Home with Hibbs Homes

With four children, eight grandchildren, and a growing congregation to serve, Mark and Gayle Friz dreamed of a day that they'd have enough space to host them all in their home. The Friz's serve as a pastoral couple at St. Paul's Evangelical Church in Creve Coeur, where they've been serving since 1994. The couple has lived in the church parsonage since their arrival, and as they are nearing retirement age, they began to look into moving into their own home so that a younger pastor could inhabit the church's quarters.

Mark and Gayle long considered buying an existing home and remodeling one, and searched for a new construction home to purchase, but as they began considering their needs, it became clear that they needed to build a truly custom home to meet all of their needs.

"We looked at existing homes, we looked at rehabbing homes, and we talked about buying a home and fixing it up, and we were really close to doing that multiple times. Then we realized we really wanted something to custom, and we just decided to go for it," said Gayle Friz about the process of deciding to build.

Designing The Perfect Home For Their Lifestyle

As they considered their needs, Mark and Gayle immediately knew that there were some features that would tremendously impact their lifestyle for the better. They worked with our team and their designer to create the perfect plan and to choose the features that would support the life they'd always wanted.

Space to Entertain & Host

As a pastoral couple, Mark and Gayle often host visitors from out of town. Even though they are nearing retirement, they want to continue to serve their congregation and community for a long time to come. They wanted to develop a design that would ensure their guests were comfortable and well-cared for during their time in St. Louis. The Friz's worked with Hibbs Homes and their designer Rob Ruh to design a spacious three-dormer Cape Cod-style home large enough to comfortably fit the couple and their guests, complete with an open floor plan between the kitchen, great room and dining room. The home will feature a finished basement to allow for additional overflow and additional room as they need it.

One important space was dedicated for piano practice and lessons - with room for their large piano and collection of hymnals.

Indoor Air Quality

"Gayle and I are both very allergic to mold," said Mark, "Most of the existing homes that we saw and considered for remodeling or renovation, were moldy in the basement, and were leaking water." As they did their research, they knew that new homes built to high-performance standards were known for their indoor air quality, and were shown to contribute to better health. The insulation and overall design of the home would stay drier and keep wetness from accumulating, stopping mold in its tracks.

"One of the things that I wanted was building material that wouldn't have off-gassing or things that were toxic - like in the paint or the wood. You read horror stories about things from China or toxins in your home. With our allergies, we really wanted a home with good indoor air quality," said Gayle.

Energy Efficiency

Mark and Gayle knew that if they built a new home, that energy efficiency had to be a priority. "As Christ's followers, we know that God has called the human race to be good stewards of the earth. We wanted to build a home that would meet our needs, but also be very energy efficient." Looking for the right builder to help them build an energy efficient home led them to Hibbs Homes. "We met with Kim first because he is known in the St. Louis area as an energy efficient builder. Every Realtor and person we met with in the trades gave Kim very high marks, including integrity."

Among the features they've chosen in keeping with their green lifestyle are:

  • Geothermal energy, which will make their HVAC system 4 to 5 times more efficient than traditional systems.
  • BIBS blown-in insulation, which fits around pipes and switches much better than typical insulation, conserving energy and making for a more comfortable temperature with fewer leaks.
  • Anderson 100 energy efficient windows - an upgrade from traditional vinyl windows, these windows are budget friendly and engineered for durability, sustainability, and energy-efficiency. It's twice as strong as vinyl and provides low-maintenance exteriors with clean corners for a refined look.

"Not only did we want to be good stewards of the Earth and its resources, but we also want to be practical. This is our home for aging in place. This is our retirement home. We will have limited income during the time that we live here, and we don't ever want to be priced out of our home because of energy costs or fuel increases in the future. We wanted to be fiscally responsible as we plan for retirement. We knew that building a custom home with Hibbs Homes would allow us to have lower maintenance on the home, and lower energy costs," said Gayle.

Location, location, location

Mark and Gayle chose to build their home in the Warson area in a neighborhood where many members of their church currently reside. Trained in urban ministry, the couple believe strongly in revitalizing and redeveloping the places they live. They loved choosing this more urban location for their home, and wanted to send a strong message to anyone who saw this big beautiful brand new home: The West Forest View Subdivision and the Warson area are a beautiful place to live. The icing on the cake to this perfect location was the spacious lot - at 0.7 acres, the Friz's will have plenty of room to garden - something they've always wanted.

They beautifully documented their home building process in picture & video from start to finish.

One Year Later: Life In An Energy Efficient Home

Below are photos of this Creve Coeur custom home, one year after the clients moved in. When asked about the performance of this home in their first year of ownership, Mark said, "Our monthly costs and maintenance are even less than we hoped they'd be. Our annual energy costs are less than $550."

"We're just so very happy every day in this house. We're so thankful for Hibbs Homes and for this home that we get to live in each day," said Gayle.

To learn how you can build your own dream home from the ground up, contact us at (314) 392-9631 or online.

Permanent Vacation: Couple Builds Luxury Dream Home on a Hill

Custom-Built Home Designed As An Everyday Getaway For Couple & Their Pups

Barbara and Chris waited more than 10 years to build their dream home, and by the time they began their project with our team, they had a very clear vision of the home they wanted to build. They purchased a large wooded lot more than 10 years ago, and waited patiently to design and build their dream home on a hill while they searched for the right builder to help them bring their vision to life.

Both Barbara and Chris have professional jobs that can be high-stress at times. Their vision was to design and build a home that would be a true retreat from the pressures of their work world.

“We wanted to design a home where we could spend time together, a place where we could unwind from the stress of our day-to-day lives,” said Barbara. “We don’t have any kids, and every home that we looked at seemed to have 4 or 5 bedrooms – which is really just a waste of space for us. Those homes were designed for family living – but not really for our life.” Their dream home, now nearing completion, is a 3,500 square foot 1 1/2 story home with just 2 bedrooms – perfect for the couple and their small dogs."

Waiting For Their Dream Home

Chris and Barbara relished every part of the home building process. During the home building process, Barbara and Chris would visit their lot to see progress. “We would pack up the dogs, and bring over two tables and lawn chairs and some wine. We’d sit at the door of what’s now the game room and we’d call it ‘our new favorite winery.’ We would sit here on Sundays and appreciate the progress that had been made and watch our dream become a reality.”

Permanent Vacation

Chris and Barbara enjoy Caribbean vacations and wanted to design their home retreat to be a reminder of those trips – to create a feeling of permanent vacation. The house was designed so that the couple can enjoy the view of their pool, fire pit and backyard landscaping from every room of their house. They’ve included a three seasons room with a retractable screen so that they can enjoy their outdoor space for as much of the year as possible.

They have also included Caribbean blue accents in bedroom walls and kitchen tile. The blue paired with the light, airy white cabinetry and white stone fireplace create a light, bright vibe throughout the home.

Main Floor Man Cave

Chris’s “man cave” was designed on the main floor instead of the basement, which is typically more common. “I wanted my husband to be able to have his space to relax or hang with friends right on the main floor,” said Barbara. The area includes a fireplace, a wet bar, a walk-out to the pool and outdoor firepit, and will be home to a pool table his father restored.

Designing To Age In Place

The luxury home was designed for the couple for the couple to age in place – with a low-entry shower, wide doorways, and a main floor laundry room can be accessed through the master bathroom. “We have designed our ideal home. We want to stay here as long as possible,” said Chris, when asked about their design choices.

Designing For Dogs

Barbara and Chris are proud parents to two Yorkies and wanted to consider them in the home design. They included a doggie door from the screened in porch to the outdoor area, a shower near the mudroom to clean the pups after outdoor adventures, and they included pedestal areas around the pool so that the dogs would be safe, should they fall into the pool.

Working With A Custom Luxury Home Builder

“I have a big personality,” said Barbara, “and we had a specific vision. It wasn’t easy to find a builder that would let us really guide the process and be a part of it in the way we wanted. We searched for a long time, and had some false starts with other builders and architects. We went through four architects before we found Jim Buljeski, our architect, and it took a while to find a builder like Hibbs Homes.” said Barbara.

“When you’re choosing your builder or your architect, treat it like dating. It’s really like dating. If it doesn’t feel right, walk away. We chose well – but it took us time to find the right partners,” said Chris.

“Finding Kim Hibbs and his team was a miracle. Kim and Neil were incredible and so helpful in guiding us through the home building process. The communication was great throughout the process. Neil and Kim would check in with us often – and the team in the office was always on top of things. We would highly recommend working with them to build your dream home. We’re so excited to finally move into this home and to begin our lives here.”

Virtual Tour of the Home

Scroll left and right to explore the finished home.




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