Home Builder Choice, Part 3: Custom Design Builder

Rinek Architecture

Having reviewed the basics of tract and semi-custom home builders, let’s take a look at the custom design builder. This type of contractor – including Rinek, Inc. — delivers homes that breach higher, sometimes much higher, levels. A custom design builder may be able to compete with the production and semi-custom builder if asked to, but it offers the flexibility to build whatever a buyer may dream of owning. The program for home and project design may be far more advanced. The unique services offered are unlimited.

The communities that attract custom homes tend to be architecturally restrictive and exclusive. The property, perhaps already owned by the buyer, may be much larger, so the building “envelope” for home design is commensurately large. The custom design builder often builds multi-story homes, or a sprawling single-story residence. Designs are as unique as the buyers. Quality of the features and products are first rate. The home’s infrastructure is more advanced. HVAC systems, for instance, may be systemically integrated into the electrical and control systems to create a more intuitive, cooperative operation.

Available project design services are comprehensive and often provided for the buyer in house. The builder acts as a director and may coordinate a “white paper” design approach that utilizes a full design team. Team members may or may not be on staff, but you can be certain that they are proven, trusted resources. Each project draws upon the right professionals who work as a coordinated “dream team”. There may be an architect on staff, or the builder himself may be a creative design professional who maintains a respected track record. Alternatively, the builder may work closely with an architect engaged by the buyer.

The custom design builder works closely with the buyer, acting as a “concierge” — an integral part of the project team. The project will start with an in-depth discovery and planning session where the buyer shares personal vision and preferences. The custom home builder will incorporate that ground-floor foundation of design throughout the construction process.

The home’s construction may incorporate the latest technologies, paying homage to a client’s goals, not just for aesthetics, but for lifestyle, desired layout, and unique preferences. The interior styling is often coordinated with a design professional. Thus, the project is looked at comprehensively, blending exterior and structural elements in harmony with the interiors to reflect the buyer’s preferences.

This approach makes it difficult to pre-determine the cost per square foot. At the outset, an average or target may be discussed as a guide. This allows planning to match the buyer’s expectation. The buyer is informed in advance when a choice may affect budget.

An experienced custom design builder should be able to offer strict budget control throughout the design stages. As a project is fleshed out, however, the buyer’s wishes may evolve. Appealing elements and options may cause the owner to re-evaluate and possibly adjust the original budget.

For example, if a buyer originally expresses a desire for ceiling-to-wall crown molding, a builder can account for it. If, however, the budgeted 6-inch molding is specified during the design phase as a three-piece 12-inch width crown assembly, the budget for this element may need to be increased by 30%. The options are presented and explained so that the buyer can make an informed decision. As the builder-client relationship grows, this kind of decision making is done with patience and an understanding that education is part of the process. The buyer has the chance to discover, consider, and choose.

A smart custom design builder knows that each client is unique and buyer goals are singular. The builder must be flexible and strive to accommodate any goal. This may include building a simple, economical home, a modest mid-quality home, or a fully realized custom dream home. The buyer’s vision and budget are of primary importance.

What a buyer will find in working with a custom home builder is more experience in the field and in the office than many competitors. The builder may use this experience to set minimum standards for product materials that exceeded building codes. The custom design builder may also insist on using highly skilled tradespersons to ensure the highest quality for the finished home.

In the end, it is admittedly a challenge for a buyer to compare builders and their products by using an average cost-per-square-foot analysis. To simplify the process, it’s best to determine the type of home builder to work with and then entertain competitive bids on an “apples- to-apples” basis.

Cost Per Square Foot, Part 2: Semi-Custom Home Builder

The Crassatella Front Door

Let’s take a look at  the semi-custom home builder and how it differs from the tract builder. When looking at these smaller, often independent builders, the possibilities for design and feature choices start to open up. You can expect the pricing to be higher. Semi-custom builders may offer model homes, but they are more likely to change plans to suit your needs.

You may already own the property on which you want to build, or the builder may help you find it. Their model homes may or may not be found within a gated community. Within a master-planned community, the semi-custom builder will likely be authorized to build in more than one neighborhood or it may be easy for them to qualify to do so.

Many communities have restrictive architectural and project requirements that make home building more expensive. These communities may have a higher cost of entry. Home owner association (HOA) fees may be required just to review a project plan. They may also have rules of builder compliance that cost the builder more to operate as it builds the home.

The builder will offer a larger array of exterior and interior features, and can work within HOA dictates. For example, some subdivisions have a set “theme” for a home’s “look” (elevation).

A semi-custom plan may include a larger kitchen, incorporate generous bath spaces, and utilize a variety of interior design framing features. These may include archways, higher and/or trey ceilings, plant shelves, art niches, etc. The windows and doors may be larger and more plentiful. Materials tend to be of better quality, and the labor force used may be more talented and/or experienced.

Design creativity becomes more tangible, and interaction between client and builder will be more localized and personal. Often, these homes are placed on larger lot parcels, and are less likely to be builder ready.

A semi-custom home builder usually does not have an “in house” plan designer, nor a comprehensive design center. The builder may have relationships with a drafting team and an architect with whom they prefer to collaborate. They will have satellite suppliers and may offer hundreds or thousands of choices for tile, flooring, cabinetry, appliances and finishes. This requires the client to browse through an almost endless supply of options as they shop online or in person, traveling to various vendors.

Choices made by the buyer can drive up cost per square foot. One roofing material may cost as much as 100% more than another. There may be twice as many windows, more doors, a more complex roof line option, and each side and the rear of the home may be enhanced to show more detail. The kitchen size may double the cost for cabinetry and tops, the flooring may be higher in cost, and the price may differ from room to room. Opting for floor tile throughout, for instance, can cost three or four times as much as pre-negotiated carpet. The systems in the home are usually more comprehensive and more expensive (HVAC, electrical, plumbing). Focus on energy and maintenance saving features is more likely.

Because of the variables offered in semi-custom home decisions, it is not unusual to find pricing that starts as much as 30% higher than that of a tract builder.



How Home Builder Choice Affects Cost Per Square: Tract Builder (Part 1 of 3)

Project Management

Buyers looking to build new homes are quick to ask: “How much does a home cost per square foot?” Most understand that there are variables, but there is a learning curve. It depends upon the specific type of home, the impact of design factors, and the features they may want in a home. Let’s look at tract, semi-custom, and custom home building.

Many find it difficult to compare what one builder says versus another. Some become disillusioned once they start down the path with one or more builders to determine which one might be a good match. As they attempt to perform due diligence in selecting a builder, they are sometimes frustrated in trying to compare “apples to apples”.

How can you make an informed decision at the outset? How can you avoid a situation where financial expectations don’t match the result once you’ve chosen a builder, developed a design, and accurately defined all of your goals for your new home?

Critical to success is understanding the three primary classifications of builders — tract, semi-custom and custom. Knowing the distinctions will steer you to the type of builder who will be most appropriate for you. This will guide the selection process so that a comparison of prospective builders will yield “apples-to-apples” result.

A cost-per-square-foot baseline is a useful initiation point as the distinct genres of builders are explored. Let’s look at the three major classifications, starting with the tract builder, exploring base price, design parameters and features that can affect pricing.

A tract or production-oriented builder will usually offer a number of “set” floor plans with a few optional elevations. Along with this will come a relatively finite set of feature offerings from which you may choose. Some builders offer these with a “builder- ready” property parcel included within the price. Others may offer these “on your lot”. This is one of the major factors that will affect the cost per foot between tract builders, as property costs will obviously skew the average. While this is intuitively easy to understand, it can be hard to separate the land value in order to compare bids accurately. Many production builders own the entire subdivision where the properties sit; thus they can influence the regulations for architectural control and ensure that these are commensurate with the goal of minimizing production costs.

These builders’ home plans may have a few different layout options, and it may be possible for you to minimally customize a few features. You may, for example, be able to change an interior door location, or opt to turn a carpeted floor into one with a laminate or tile floor. In general, however, the production builder does not want to customize plans to any great degree as doing so will drive up the price.

It is important to note that these production-style homes have been engineered for economy. The builder will offer a plan that features large room sizes for those that cost the least to build while creating smaller spaces for rooms that are more expensive to build. You can expect kitchens and baths reduced to minimum sizing. Bedrooms and gathering spaces will be more generous.

In addition, the window and door count will be low. Design features, such as ceiling heights and roof complexities, will be as simplified compared to a semi-custom or custom home design. Tract home plans tend to be “boxy” and the focal interest for the elevation is generally enhanced only across the front of the home’s width.

Interior framing is usually straightforward, and ceilings of interest are minimized. The finish materials used, such as wall and trim paint, are adequate, but are usually at the low end of quality (yet easily upgraded). The systems within the home — HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc. — will be code compliant at minimum – and possibly maximum.

If a property is priced within the package, it is most common to see smaller-sized parcel offerings. The home will be designed to “just fit” the setback requirements, leaving little space for yard development. Driveways and landscaping needs will likely be minimized.

Features and options for the exterior – roofing and siding — and for the interior finishes will be minimized as well. Tract builders often purchase products in bulk to create economies of scale, and they have pre-arranged pricing for labor for these products. For example, it is less expensive to hire a tile setter if he or she is installing 12-inch-square tiles versus 24-inch-square tiles which are more time consuming to set.

Cabinetry may be imported in quantities that will fill a shipping container full of a few standard designs. As a result, your plan may offer the choice between a white painted or singular stained wood door. Certain foreign-made goods are less regulated, and the materials used to make them are often the most economical for the manufacturer to utilize. Tract builders usually offer a fully stocked ‘design center’ that will display a finite offering.

There is one other important consideration in determining whether this least option is right for you. Typically, the relationship between the builder and the client is regulated to a staff member. The actual “builder” or license holder, may live in another city or state.

Next, we’ll explore cost per square foot and other considerations in selecting a semi-custom home builder.

Why I Love What I Do (Part 2)

Charles Rinek With Two Clients

It is rewarding to anticipate, at the beginning of the homebuilding process, how a customized, personalized and meticulously tailored home will become magically alive by the end of the process. I find a mystical quality to this experience, knowing that a well done home will offer convenience and low maintenance while fulfilling the changing needs of those who will dwell within.

I believe that a home’s intrinsic value is not measured by its trendy gadgets but, rather, by employing wisdom found within classical architectural theory. People and their lifestyles are unique, of course, so their sanctuary should conform to their own proprietary sense of aesthetic. But the lessons of the past should be honored as well. Much like a favorite pair of cozy jeans, a home should perfectly “fit” their own “body” of lifestyle. As a professional it is my role to know how to make that happen.

Building fine homes is, I suppose, a compulsion for me. More than that, it is what I am meant to do. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that life’s journey is all about doing what we were meant to actually be doing, not what we thought we should do. I was “supposed” to be an engineer according to my instructors and my family; they recognized my penchant for exacting detail in math and science. A long story later, as I made my way through higher learning, I found that I was actually meant to use my passion in a much more tactile and practical world — one which allowed a more physical expression for creativity.

I have a soulful appreciation for fine craftsmanship, thoughtful design, and, to paraphrase Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the firm belief that proof of God will be found within each particular detail. I feel an electric release in combining my understanding of architecture, structural dynamics, management, and personal service with a holistic heartfelt sense that “home” is a spiritual form of sanctuary.

The day a project comes to a close, I experience my own catharsis as I hand over the key and deliver to my client a brand new home. As I walk down the driveway, I am satisfied with the understanding that I have done the job I set out to do. Just as a parent tenderly watches a child grow up and move on and away, I face a wonderful, yet bittersweet, transition. To build such a complement to a family’s collective life is a worthy opportunity, an undeniable blessing, a wonderful way for me to express my passion. I celebrate my job every day. I am blessed to know that homebuilding is what I was meant to do!

Why I Love What I Do (Part 1)

Charles and Jeanne Rinek

I am simply in love with the homebuilding process. This business offers challenges in all of its many responsibilities. It allows a release for personal creativity and an opportunity for physical expression. What I do daily offers lasting rewards while extending genuine benefits to those who experience real life within their new or renovated homes and their communities.

Fine, personalized homebuilding is not just a 9-to-5 occupation, and that’s just fine with me. It is a lifestyle choice that permeates every hour of my existence. The complexities of the process simultaneously challenge me to stay sharp and multi-focused on details while watching a much bigger picture develop at home, in the office, and in the field.

Building is a wonderful study of contradictions which sometimes requires instantaneous changes in planning or direction. I willingly take this on because as the creator, I am empowered to make something magnificent — something that has never before existed.

An initial thought becomes a concept that eventually morphs into a real and substantial monument that can be touched, examined, appreciated and used! A fine, one-of-a-kind home arises from a swirling vortex of activity, maturing to fruition as a newly born physical structure that promises a perpetual reward for the family who will share life together within its walls.

I am so grateful to be a partner in this process.

Rinek Rebrands

Rinek Website On Devices Logo

Hello. As you contemplate building or renovating the home or business of your dreams, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to our new “home”. The launch of this website and blog celebrates the rebranding of Charles Rinek Construction, Inc. to Rinek, Inc.

This development has been more than four decades in the making, starting with my initial apprenticeship in Key West at the age of 13. From there, I worked throughout my school years, stoking my passion for building and restoring beautiful structures. Becoming a certified general contractor, I launched my business in Gainesville, Florida. Later, I moved to the West Coast which gave me invaluable experience working in a different geography and climate. I moved my business back to Florida in 1989 and welcomed a second Rinek into the business – my beautiful wife, Jeanne, our interior design specialist.

You’ll find highlights of our history throughout the pages of this website. I encourage you to take your time reviewing the master planned communities, the many floor plans and the sampling of real projects that we are proud to share with you here.

We are very grateful for the trust our clients have placed in us as partners in helping them realize their dreams. You’ll find their comments in the Love Letters tab and sprinkled throughout the site. It is our hope that they will answer some of the questions you may have at this point in your search for a builder.

If you would like to consider Rinek, Inc., please give us a call or send an email. We look forward to meeting you!

Love Letter: “We take a lot of pride in the craftsmanship.”

Our family would like to thank you for your hard work in building us a great home. While the home is certainly beautiful, we also take a lot of pride in the craftsmanship. We have a very well built home that is also very efficient. Jim was great to work with and with the sub-contractors that you used made a big difference in building a quality home. Building a custom home is not without stress and hundreds of decisions. However, we clearly see and feel the difference and are enjoying our new home.

Thanks again,

Adam, Melissa, Tia and Ethan

Love Letter: “He really listened to us.”

Charles Rinek designed and built our beach house in Palm Coast. We had spoken to several builders at the time, but found Charles to be the easiest to communicate with. My wife and I felt that he really listened to us and understood exactly what we were looking for in our home. We could not find that from anyone else we interviewed. Although many people may tell you building a home can be stressful and fraught with issues, we found none of that in working with Rinek Construction. Our experience was fantastic, and everything that we planned for the home was accomplished exactly in the time frame that was initially set up. Any of the issues that did arise during construction were handled personally by Charles or his foreman on the job, and resolved quickly and always to our complete satisfaction.

There is a reason that Charles Rinek maintains his status as a premier builder of absolute quality homes. My wife and I experienced that first hand for ourselves and have a wonderful home to prove it.



Love Letter: “We think the world of Charles and Jeanne.”

You know we think the world of Charles and Jeanne. We started the building process of our home just before a really difficult economic time kicked in at the end of 2008 through 2009. I do not see how I could have done this with anybody else except Charles. The caring nature in which he handled our needs during that difficult time that included a stop and then a restart was really special. Not to mention the fact that our finished product is “knock your socks off” the charts beautiful with all the bells, whistles and extras that he did for us. I would say “above and beyond the call of duty” and the biblical reference of “going the extra mile” for us is the best way to describe the Rinek team.

The sub-contractors, vendors, supervisors and all who participated were truly the best! Any small issue or question I have had since delivery in September 2009 has been handled cheerfully, expeditiously, professionally and in a manner as if one was taking care of a good friend. If I were to build another home in the area, and it could happen, I would use them again, no question. Please refer my name and number to anyone who needs your reference as I am happy to recommend your team for the building of their new dream home.

Blessings and best regards,