You’ve made the decision to buy an existing home, buy a tract home under construction, or build a custom home from the ground up. Now there are about a gazillion more decisions to make, checklists, spreadsheets, paperwork, etc. It can get pretty overwhelming, even if you have the help of a good Realtor or builder, and there are all of these little extra costs involved. Invariably there is at least one thing or two that gets missed and after closing you will wish it had been covered. Of all the things to miss I would stress to make sure that a home inspection is not one of them.
1.) You are not a licensed building science professional and neither is your Realtor, brother-in-law or aunt. Would you trust your neighbor to do an EKG since he also has a heart and thinks he knows how it operates? I think not. 2.) “Built to code” simply means that a structure has been built to the very minimum building standards acceptable. Codes inspections are primarily for health and safety items; they do not cover level of quality or craftsmanship at all. If you are building a custom home then I suggest having an independent inspector perform quality inspections at key points through the building process.
3.) When buying an existing home, whether you plan to remodel or add on at some point, there is a good chance someone has done one or both of those things already. Many homeowners do these things themselves or with Uncle Billy Bob and they are not exactly constructed properly. A good home inspection will uncover this and at least you will know what you are getting into.
4.) Those of you buying a new home off the shelf don’t think you can slack off on the inspection either just because the home is new. There are plenty of good new homes out there that are built with care, but there are also just as many or more built by the lowest bidders whose only intent is to get done as quickly as possible. The expense of a home does not change the potential for problems. A home inspection will turn up if you found the lemon or the peach.
Do your homework and choose a Tennessee state-licensed inspector. You can check to make sure whoever you select is licensed and for how long at http://verify.tn.gov/ before hiring them. Most inspectors will also be a part of a professional organization such as ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors). Experience is very key. Many inspectors come from engineering or contracting backgrounds, and I’ve found that these inspectors are typically very thorough in uncovering potential problems based on years of experience. Bottom line…a proper inspection by a licensed third party helps ensure you aren’t buying Tom Hanks’ “Money Pit”!
Cook Bros. Construction
With thousands of stores and services offered to Knoxville, CITYVIEW Magazine wants its readers to find the most remarkable businesses. Thus, they produce their “Best of the Best” issue to showcase the cream of the crop in several different categories including dining, people, schools, and stores & services.
You might think that there is a secret committee that roams around Knoxville finding the most remarkable businesses, but no. It’s you and me – Knoxvillians themselves cast their votes to CITYVIEW and have their voices heard.
Since the citizens of Knoxville choose the best of the best, Cook Bros. would like to offer up a huge “Thank You” to Knoxville for voting us the best in our East Tennessee city. It’s an honor to partner with our clients in Tennessee to create the living spaces they call home. We invite you to take a look at the article for yourself and check out the other quality services around town.
Our perspectives shape our world in many ways. Many of us, when making decisions with heavy emotional weight or piles of cash involved, like to involve thoughts from others we trust to help give us a well-rounded view of the situation before moving forward. This is a wise move. Nowhere is this probably more the case than when making a decision about who to choose to partner with in building a custom home or doing a major home remodel. These projects require a great deal of trust and oftentimes a quite large expenditure.
So we ask our friends, our neighbors, members of our church, coworkers, and really almost anyone with a pulse, “Who do you recommend?” The answers vary and there is a lot of sifting to do to get to a couple contractors to call. These contractors will probably be ready and willing to supply client references if you ask. Let me ask you, have you ever had someone give you a name and a number to a client reference that gave a bad reference? Not a chance! These folks have been hand-picked by most contractors because they know a good reference will be given. That’s just smart business.
Want to know how to circumvent this system and really find out how good the contractor is that you are hoping to have custom build your home or remodel your kitchen? Ask for a minimum of three supplier references, get the information on the spot, and call them immediately! Why? Because nobody asks for them and you will catch your contractor off-guard by asking for them. Then when you get the suppliers on the phone and ask them the questions we recommend asking in this video, you will know if this company is someone you can trust with YOUR home and investment. Now that’s a different perspective!
Cook Bros. Construction
Maybe you love beautiful homes, maybe you like watching remodeling project videos, or maybe you just enjoy getting new ideas for your home… Regardless, the Petre home remodeling project is a MUST WATCH video! Frankly, this was one of our favorite projects – we’re so proud to show it off!
You can visit www.YouTube.com and search for Cook Bros. Construction’s channel or use this YouTube link to go directly to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9f8vlcW-SM
As always, if you have a remodeling project, addition, or looking to build a new home, we would consider it a pleasure to be a part of your construction project. Give us a call at (865) 851-7373 or use the following link to get a quote today: http://cookbrosconstruction.com/quote/
Cook Bros. Construction – Quality Craftsmanship Without Compromise
Maybe it’s just me or my strong OCD tendencies, but there are few things that upset me more than purchasing something and then finding out that everything I thought was included was not necessarily included. Why would you sell a device that requires batteries to operate, but not include the batteries? Clearly I’m going to need them. That’s a classic example. Or from the construction world, why on earth would I want to build a custom home with a beautiful master bathroom, but leave out the towel bars to hang my towels on or toilet paper holder to hold that bathroom necessity in place? It just doesn’t make sense.
If you want to make sure everything gets included on the FRONT END of your next remodeling or building project, check out this week’s video. You have a RIGHT to have all of your wants, wishes and desires incorporated into your next project before you ever get started!
My wife and I are in the market for a new couch. Our old one has just had it; between the kids, the dogs, and it just being a cheap couch to begin with, we are now faced with the need to replace it. So my wife has been couch shopping and filling me in on her findings. Neither of us has a lot of qualifications for the couch other than that we prefer a leather sectional and it has to fit in our living room of course. We don’t care too much about the style of the couch, special features or having some kind of imported leather. In other words, when it comes to furniture selection, we are relatively easy, as long as the couch meets our quality standards. When we find the right couch, we will buy it, load it up in the truck, and take it home to our living room. That’s right: we’ll essentially buy it off the shelf already designed and completed. Now if we were more into furniture, we might commission a designer to design the piece, select the finish material, and add features not found in stock couches. Then we would hire a craftsman to custom build the couch just to our specifications, inputting his guidance and superior quality into the finished product. Six months later (quite possibly more) we would be able to sit on and enjoy our new heirloom piece of furniture.
By now you may have picked up where I’m going with this. For many folks, depending on their circumstances, buying a home “off the shelf” may be the right decision vs. spending the time to build a custom home. There are infinite instances where this may be the case. Maybe your home sold quickly, and you need to move quickly. Possibly you aren’t really, really picky about your home; similar to my wife and I selecting a couch. Or maybe you just cannot fathom and do not want to deal with selecting all of the finishes and making all of the decisions that come with building a custom home. These are just a few instances where a custom home may not be the avenue you want to take and you may just want to buy one that’s move-in ready and enjoy it, NOW!
If you do need a new home that you can enjoy right away, there are a number of things to consider in each home you look at.
1. Will you have a use for each room? Many folks buy homes that have rooms they never use or that don’t suit their purposes. This becomes wasted square footage that you pay for every month.
2. Storage, storage, storage! The #1 complaint I hear about new homes from many folks is a lack of storage options. If the home doesn’t have a three-car garage or a basement, then there is a good chance that storage is tight unless the home has been very well designed.
3. Look for what is NOT there in a home, not what is there. A new home with a custom taste should have lots of little features that set it apart from the average new home. If all of the homes look the same, then keep looking.
4. Accessibility is a big issue these days. Take care to be concerned with how someone with accessibility problems, a guest or even yourself at some point, might be able to get around and use the home comfortably.
There are many more things to consider in a new home search, but I’d like to flip this one on its ear. If you are or were looking for a new home, what would you be most interested in or focused on? What feature (s) do you feel most new homes lack? I’m very interested to hear your responses and see just what you’d like to have in a new home.
While you’re considering options you may like to see, please feel free to watch our video here of a new home for sale in east TN we just completed and have for sale in Alcoa. Some of the best features of this home are behind the walls and tucked into places where you cannot see the details, but I think you’ll agree that what you can see looks pretty amazing and enjoyable with no wasted space! We call these “custom spec” because they are for sale, but they encompass all of the same features and craftsmanship as our custom homes. It’s a brand new custom home that you can buy right off the shelf!
If you’re interested in this home or know of someone who is, give us a call at 865.851.7373 and make sure to check out our website at www.CookBrosConstruction.com.
Cook Bros. Construction
Do you know of a home, maybe even your own home, that just seems to lack something when you pull up the driveway? Maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it or maybe it’s obvious; under-accented entryway, poor landscaping, unimpressive lighting, fading paint, etc. The old saying goes as I was told, “You only have one chance to make a good first impression”. Nowhere could that be more true than with your home. From guests that you invite to get-togethers to potential buyers if you are selling your home, the curb appeal of your home either invites them in or it doesn’t. It’s that simple.
This past week I came across a really great list put together by Better Homes & Gardens that lists 20 ways to increase your home’s curb appeal ranging from simple DIY weekend projects to ones that require professional guidance. You can see the list here: http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/exteriors/curb-appeal/ways-to-add-curb-appeal/ . If you plan to build a custom home or do some exterior improvements to your existing home these are some great thoughts to make sure you incorporate into your planning process. You might think that it’s much easier to add curb appeal to a home you are building than to one already built, but I would disagree. The existing home has a framework to work within and typically some more mature landscaping to work with. The new custom home has neither of these elements, and, many times, makes it harder to create that inviting curb appeal. Very often, I see custom homes built in which the owner and contractor gave great thought to the interior and very little thought to the exterior curb appeal, and it shows!
We recently completed a project that incorporated many of the elements on this list. The owners had recently purchased the home, an older brick ranch-style home, and were unhappy with how the front entry looked and felt. It lacked the WOW factor that they were accustomed to in homes they had built. We worked together with them to design a front porch that makes them proud to have guests pull up the driveway, while incorporating functional improvements as well; better lighting, steps to the driveway, and a railing for guests with mobility complications. Take a look at the video and be sure to see the before pictures that are inset in the video so you can get a real feel for the difference. We think you’ll agree this is a huge improvement in curb appeal! If you’re interested in something like this or know of someone who is, give us a call at 865.851.7373 and make sure to check out our website at www.CookBrosConstruction.com
So just what do allowances and running have in common!?! You might not immediately think these two words have anything in common, but my goal in this week’s post is to share the insider secrets so you know when to run!!
When you think of the word “allowance”, what comes to mind? For most of us, we’re taken back in time to when we received an allowance from our parents for performing certain helpful tasks around the house. Truth is, your allowance may or may not bring back fond memories to you, depending on whether you remember the receiving-the-money-part or the chores-part more! However, that’s not the kind of allowance we’re talking about today.
I’m thinking this something you’d like to know about because I literally get asked about allowances probably upwards of 10 times a week! What is really meant by this question is how allowances should work between a client and a contractor when building a custom home or completing a remodeling project. I’d like to clear up what an allowance is, how it should be derived, and how they should be handled by a professional contractor.
By now if you’ve been following me very long you know that I highly recommend some form of a fixed-price contract between you and your contractor BEFORE you start any project. Allowances in the contract should only fluctuate up or down for certain “finish materials” that need to be specifically chosen by you (the client). All other costs should remain fixed.
An allowance by definition is “the amount of something that is permitted, esp. within a set of regulations or for a specified purpose.” During the project development and estimating process your contractor should be asking material and finish clarifying questions that can be incorporated into allowances. These questions should accurately reflect what finish materials you will need to select & buy for your new home or project. For example, your contractor should incorporate allowances for flooring depending on if you want pre-finished hardwood floors or site-finished hardwood floors. This seemingly insignificant difference will cause a fairly large price change.
I want to emphasize the importance or working with a detail-oriented contractor. If during the planning phase your contractor is not asking these types of questions, YOU SHOULD RUN!
So how should going over or under an allowance be handled? This might be different for other contractors, so you may want this specified in the contract, but here is the equitable and fair way I believe they should be handled. If you are under an allowance, you should be allowed to apply your allowance to any part of the project you’re over-budget on OR it should be money in your pocket! If you are over an allowance then you could change your selection to stay on budget, or use an area that you are under allowance to make up the difference, or simply come out of pocket for the difference. In either case, your contractor is responsible for keeping track of all of this and letting you know where you stand. This is where transparency, trust, and that pesky attention to detail come into the equation.
Bottom line: Once all of the due-diligence has been done, the estimate is complete, and the contract signed, you are now free to go spend your allowances however you see fit.
1. Specify finish levels for all items you intend to choose early in the process. Generally this is anything that can be seen, not the wall studs and block mortar.
2. Sign a fixed-price contract with allowances that are congruent with the finishes you wish to incorporate into your project.
- Work with your contractor to keep track of your allowances to make sure you don’t have any surprises at the end.
Enjoy your beautiful new custom home, remodeled kitchen, or outdoor living addition that has the look and feel that you intended when you started!!!
John and Ralph Cook
Cook Bros. Construction
Quality Craftsmanship Without Compromise
What if going home were a vacation for you, every day? In today’s crazy busy and stressful world we would all like a place to go home to and just relax. Here in Knoxville and the surrounding areas many of us like to do that recuperating outside because of our wonderful climate and beautiful surroundings. The love of the outdoors runs deep here in East Tennessee, almost as deep as our Vol Orange, and even the transplants among us have been drawn here at least partially due to an affinity to spending time outside.
Unfortunately, most homes are built with an emphasis on square footage and amenities on the interior of the home and the outside space is an afterthought. Unless you have built a custom home for yourself there is a good chance your home has a small open back deck or patio, and that’s about it. The space can be enjoyed during certain times of day during certain times of the year, but that is about it. Not much of a relaxing oasis unless you count a sunburn and heatstroke relaxing! All of this is the reason why outdoor living projects have become so popular. Folks want to enjoy their outdoor space as an extension of their indoor space, and they want to be able to enjoy it year-round. In fact, the National Association of Realtors does a cost vs. value report every year, and for the last number of years the outdoor projects have garnered the largest share of the top ten by far. Let’s put it this way; many outdoor living projects have a lower cost than a complete kitchen remodel and they bring a higher percentage of value when the home is sold. Plus, how many people can really relax in their kitchen?!?
Take a look at a project we just completed for a client who started with a large back patio as a blank slate that we were able to turn into a beautiful backyard getaway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ebnb90eckE). After that, review below some of the many things to think about when creating your own vacation spot at home…then create and enjoy!
Things to think about: http://easttncontractor.com/qfyy
John and Ralph Cook
Cook Bros. Construction
Quality Craftsmanship Without Compromise
Everyone likes to save money, especially when it appears as if there is no downside to doing so. When the conversation turns to where we purchase products, especially finish products such as plumbing fixtures, lighting, flooring, etc the debate is eventually raised about whether it would be cheaper to purchase those products on the internet. The smart phone has made it very easy for all of us to look up products, compare the same products on multiple sites to make sure we are getting the best price possible, and order with the click of a button. Convenient and it saves money, so it’s a no-brainer, right? Well maybe, but there are some things to consider before you click “Buy”.
- Internet sites have no showroom. It can be very difficult to get an idea of size and shape of some products without the ability to actually touch and see them first.
- The internet sites have no salesperson to help you select appropriate fixtures and all of the parts/pieces that you need. The person on the phone if you do call has never seen a tub overflow installed, so it’s easy for them to forget to tell you that you need one.
- If an internet site ships something incorrectly or something is damaged upon arrival they will not send a replacement via truck that same day free of charge. The trip charge for the electrician to come back will be far greater than any savings realized on the product purchase.
- Is the piece coming from the internet site the same quality as what comes from a local supply house? Many times not. Like the big box stores, there is a good chance the same brand name is on the box with inferior internal parts. If you don’t believe me check the part number at the big box stores and you’ll see they don’t cross-reference with anything at a supply house.
- If the internet model fails in the 1st year will they come pull it out, send it back to themselves and replace it? No. A local supply house that a contractor has a good relationship with will either replace it themselves or make sure that the job can be done in one trip by the contractor.
We have seen far higher failure rate in products purchased via the internet than those purchased through good local vendors. So much so that we no longer will warranty any product purchased from the internet once it has been correctly installed the first time. And we aren’t the only ones; many contractors and subcontractors alike that I speak with here locally are of the same mindset. As I write this the debate over whether internet purchases should be taxed at the same level by the states as brick and mortar stores is being carried on. If internet sales are to be taxed then it will certainly make it less attractive to purchase online. Either way, I firmly support “Buying Local”, but at the end of the day you have to decide for any particular product that you are purchasing from the internet if the potential savings is worth the inherent risks involved.
John and Ralph Cook
Cook Bros. Construction
Quality Craftsmanship Without Compromise www.cookbrosconstruction.com