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You love your home, with all of its quirks and perks and even its annoying flaws. But what if you could have controlled all of those quirks, perks, and flaws before moving in, removing that wall to create a more open floor plan, cutting your cucumbers on a lighter granite instead of a black slab, and having a larger master bathroom with two sinks, plus a walk-in closet? And then, what if you could have placed that perfect home on a hillside with a postcard-like view of lush green hills or a pond.
Building a custom home isn’t for everyone, but it continues to be a popular alternative for many. From the first quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017, 168,000 custom single family homes were built, a 2 percent increase over the four quarters prior to that. For those who find offerings in the existing homes market limited, building their dream home from scratch has obvious appeal.
Location, Location, Location
South of Boston in Plymouth, The Pinehills is a place where the business of custom home building is thriving, in part because of the variety of options, the location — close to the Cape, easily accessible to Boston — and because the neighborhoods and views all feel distinct.
“There’s a whole variety of custom settings that can appeal to someone whose dream is to have an ocean view, or for someone who wants a wooded setting or golf views,” says Tony Green, managing partner of Pinehills LLC. Green says that planners were able to design neighborhoods around the views that the land provided. “We always are thinking about the views while creating the neighborhoods,” he says.
The process begins with picking a home site based on the way you like to live – and what you like to see outside your windows. In The Pinehills, buyers can tour a wide range of custom neighborhoods, each with a unique vibe and flavor.
Prospective custom home buyers will sit down with a member of the custom home sales team at The Pinehills, who will help them articulate and define what they are looking for in a home—from the type of neighborhood and the view, to whether they want morning sunlight in their kitchen while they drink coffee or an evening sunset to enjoy from their back deck.
“We discuss what the customer wants and how we can help them achieve that,” says Green.
Once a customer chooses a home site, the next phase starts: They begin designing and building their new home with one of the custom builders, such as MacKenzie Brothers, a family-run business based on Cape Cod.
You have a voice. Use it.
“After the customer selects the home site, I meet with them to gather their ideas and thoughts about the home they envision,” says Glenn MacKenzie, president and co-owner. The land comes first, he says, because that’s what shapes his clients’ decisions from the moment the first shovel goes into the ground.
“From our first meeting I can determine if the site they are considering fits the home design they wish to build,” MacKenzie says. “I tell all customers they have a voice, I have a voice, and the land has a voice in what design or home style will work best on the lot they are considering.”
He says that sometimes he will wander a neighborhood with a client to see other properties and learn what appeals to them — and, just as important, what doesn’t. MacKenzie says understanding the land well helps put his clients at ease, and after that first meeting the client continues to work with him throughout the process.
“This builds customer confidence in the overall process of construction,” says MacKenzie.
The next step, he says, is to introduce the team architect, Walter Yarosh of Yarosh Associates, and this is where the design and budget process starts.
Architects and builders under one roof
It’s important to know the key decisions that can affect costs when starting a custom home.
The size and number of floors is obvious. But there are other factors. The type of roof, the fixtures and finishes, the appliances, the outdoor space amenities, the number of bathrooms, all of these can help guide a budget.
Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders (PSD) is the exclusive architect and builder in The Pinehills neighborhood called Dawn’s Light. Perched atop one of the highest coastal points between Maine and North Carolina, Dawn’s Light offers stunning views across Cape Cod Bay straight to Provincetown.
PSD recently designed a unique custom home in Dawn’s Light – in a woodland setting but with a panoramic view of Cape Cod Bay from the back deck and the house itself.
“The idea was to have a tree house feeling with a connection to the water,” says Aaron Polhemus, president and CEO at PSD. “The front of the house, with its lower roof, grounds it in the environment, while the back side of the house opens up to the water. A home that stylistically blends the woodland and water contexts was the goal.”
Polhemus says those interested in a home at Dawn’s Light can choose from one of three home designs the company has created especially for the neighborhood, or they can start from scratch with his firm to design and build a fully custom home. Either way, the process is “efficient and fluid,” he says, which he chalks up to having a fully integrated company with architects, builders, landscape architects, and even interior designers, all working under one roof.
“Because we’re architects and builders, we understand how things work not only from the design perspective, but also from the construction perspective,” says Polhemus. “We can set parameters and budgets from the beginning, and develop expectations from square footage, to the level of finish, to schedule. “When we’re designing, we are checking in as we go to make sure the process runs as planned.”
Throughout the 3,000-plus acres that make up The Pinehills, buyers can choose from four custom home builders (in addition to MacKenzie Brothers and PSD, Kistler and Knapp and Whitman Homes are on the custom roster) and other neighborhoods with their own distinctive feel — for those interested in being surrounded by trees, or close to golf, or with beautiful pond views.
“We are able to take advantage of what the land has to offer,” says Tony Green, “and can tailor the solution to the customer and the way they live their life.”