New Home Curb Appeal: 6 Design Elements to Consider

There’s just something about that new home smell. Unfortunately, that new home look isn’t always as pleasant. Production and custom homes alike can suffer from a lack of curb appeal thanks to bare bones landscaping and a lack of personality. Luckily, you can skip the impersonal look specifically by designing your home with curb appeal in mind. By thinking about how your new home will look from the street, you can design a few elements to make sure your place always looks warm and inviting. A few well-placed upgrades can give your home plenty of curbside character.

Statement Door

A bright door draws visitors in. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

You only get one chance to make a first impression, so give guests the right idea with your front door. Doors are a relatively inexpensive upgrade, so it’s a good place to spend some of your design money. If you have more money in the budget, consider upgrading to a door with a window to let light stream in. If your design budget is shrinking rapidly, simply painting your door a statement color might be all you need to differentiate your home from your neighbor’s. Choose a bright color or coordinate with your home’s trim to make a statement.

Symmetrical Features

Traditional craftsman home exterior

A symmetrical exterior gives the eye some rest. Image: romakoma/Shutterstock

The human eye craves symmetry as an aesthetically pleasing way to represent order. By designing your home with symmetry in mind, you can create a home that has more curb appeal. It doesn’t mean your home has to have the exact same number of windows on each side or that you need mirrored design elements. Rather, a symmetrical look means keeping your home design even. A design element on one side should be matched by something just as eye-catching on the other. Talk to your architect about using symmetry to give your home a timeless look.

Porch Appeal

Front porch with chairs

A welcoming porch gives visitors a place to sit. Image: Christopher Edwin Nuzzaco/Shutterstock

One of the biggest design mistakes is forgetting the appeal of a porch. In fact, some homeowners spend so much time (and money) outfitting the interior of their home that they forget the importance of the porch. Think of your porch as your outdoor living room. It’s what welcomes visitors to your home and sets the tone for the interior. A too-small porch can make a home seem cold and lacking in charm. The good news? As far as square footage goes, porch space is pretty cheap. You can easily extend a porch and add a railing to the design of your home without busting your budget – and it’ll make your home look like a million bucks.

Bricks and Stones

Exterior of traditional home

A welcoming porch gives visitors a place to sit. Image: Christopher Edwin Nuzzaco/Shutterstock

We get it: many homeowners opt for siding and stucco because they’re simply cheaper than other materials. But, if you can swing it, natural materials like brick, stone and wood make a bigger visual impact. And improved visual impact means more curb appeal. You don’t have to outfit your entire home in stone. Instead, talk to your designer about using stone or brick accents on the front of your home to make it more eye-catching. A stone foundation or brick pillars can help you give your home more character without spending too much.

Garage Camouflage

Mountain modern home with timber accents

Use good design to help the garage blend with the house. Image: breadmaker/Shutterstock

Depending on the size of your garage, it can easily dwarf the elevation (or front exterior) of your home. Some garages simply look bigger or take up more space when looking at a home head-on. It can also mean your home looks smaller than it really is in relation to your garage. You can help soften the contrast between living space and garage by making sure your garage is painted the same color (or uses the same materials) as your home. By removing the delineation between garage and living space, the size discrepancy between the two will be less noticeable.

Chic Shutters

Colonial home with shutters

Shutters give the home’s exterior more character. Image: Svineyard/Shutterstock

Finally, one of the simplest ways to create more curb appeal is by utilizing shutters as a design element. Most outdoor shutters are non-functional, so it’s unlikely you’ll have to worry about opening and shutting them. Still, ignoring window size and using shutters that are smaller than your actual windows is a rookie mistake. Small shutters can look cheap and off-balance, so make sure your shutters match your window sizes – even if you never plan on using them. You can also use shutter material or color to direct focus when looking at the home, showing off unique trim or drawing the eye upward to showcase your home’s size.

Curb appeal doesn’t always have to mean landscaping and gardening elements. In fact, some of your home’s most important appeal will start on the pages of your house plans. By talking with your architect about ways to add character and charm to the exterior of your home, you can create a warm and inviting space. Think beyond the shrub when creating curb appeal and you’ll design a home that is truly unique.

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Prefab Homes: Pros and Cons

The tiny house movement has had a positive effect on another type of residence: prefabricated homes. As millennials and empty nesters alike look for smaller scale, more affordable housing, prefab homes are getting their time in the sun. Once perceived as low quality and hard to sell, today’s prefab homes are nothing like their shoddy predecessors. In fact, you might be surprised at the stylish and well-built newest generation of prefabricated homes.

If you’re considering a no muss, no fuss prefab home as your next abode, it’s important to suss out the pros and cons. Skipping the complicated construction process and buying a pre-built or modular home on your lot can save time. Still, there are a few drawbacks to consider before you purchase prefab.

Prefabricated modern home

Prefab could give you more house for the money. Image: Usawicka/Shutterstock

Prefab Pros

A lengthy, personalized building process definitely isn’t for everyone. Prefab homes offer one of the quickest, most affordable paths to homeownership. Check out some of the best benefits of going prefab.

Lower Costs 

Unlike traditional homebuilders, prefab homebuilders are able to buy materials in bulk and better predict building costs. These cost savings are then passed to you, the homeowner. Prefab homes are usually priced per square foot, so you can get a great idea of how much your home will cost based on its size. While a traditional home typically costs around $125 to $150 a square foot, it’s not uncommon to find a prefab builder offering prices closer to $75 per square foot. If you want a home without the huge mortgage, prefab might be the way to go.

Quick Build

On a tight build schedule? Prefab homes can definitely help with that. Prefab builders know how to quickly place all the parts and pieces for a tight schedule, which means you’ll get to move in much faster. The home is brought to your lot and the shell will be complete in as little as one day. Some prefab homes can be delivered with many of the main components installed (think cabinets and flooring). When compared to the 3- to 12-month timelines of traditional builds, you could be enjoying your home way faster if you choose prefab.

Better Sustainability

Let’s face it: a traditionally built home isn’t exactly kind to the environment. Materials are brought to your site each day, resulting in emissions. At the same time, materials go to waste and end up in landfills. If sustainability and being environmentally friendly are important to you, consider a prefab home instead. A prefab builder knows exactly how much material to use and, what’s more, extra materials can simply be used on another project. The home is shipped once, saving on gas and reducing emissions. Some prefab manufacturers also create homes that are more energy efficient, using solar panels and more efficient windows. This helps you save on utilities in the long run, which could seriously increase your enjoyment of the home.

Prefabricated cement homes

Not every neighborhood is open to prefab homes. Image: Thanate Rooprasert/Shutterstock

Prefab Cons

It’s not all sunshine and sustainability when it comes to premanufactured homes. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you can live with these drawbacks.

More Logistics 

Prefab homes can mean more work for you, the homeowner. Unlike traditional construction where the builder or contractor takes care of logistics, you might be in charge of more than you anticipated. Finding a lot, checking zoning, organizing utility hookups and other details are the homeowner’s responsibility. The prefab builder simply manufactures the home and has it delivered and installed. If you’re not comfortable overseeing the details, this could be difficult.

Land and Zoning 

Not all cities are kind to prefabricated homes. Land covenants and zoning issues could limit where you place your home. Some cities have codes for the size of homes, while others might have codes that limit your building materials and finishes. If your city only allows homes over 2,000 square feet and built with 80 percent natural materials, you might be out of luck. Thoroughly research all city codes before you purchase a lot for a prefab home.

Less Customization

If you’ve been dreaming of a custom-built home for your family, you should know that going prefab limits your choices. Sure, you might be able to pick out your favorite tile and flooring, but some materials and the general layout and size of the home are limited. Prefab builders keep costs low by building the same few homes over and over again. Cosmetic customization is usually okay, but structural and size choices are pretty much made for you. You’ll choose your home from the builder’s catalog and add your cosmetic stamp – but that’s it. If you’d rather start from scratch or require a lot of customization, it’s best to choose a traditional builder.

Thinking outside of the usual is helping more and more people attain homeownership. But before you opt for a less-common method like prefab homes, make sure you consider every angle. Once you decide you can live with the few drawbacks, you could be on your way to an affordable home you love.

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How to Document the Home Building Process

Building your home is a unique experience filled with stories you will never forget. There is also important information you need to remember if you build, even after you settle in. Whether it’s for your family or for future renovations, documenting your build is an important part of the process. Keeping track of your documents and making sure your family stay in the loop can help you stay organized and make sure you remember everything about your build. Not sure how to stay on top of all of the details? Document the process with these simple tips so you can always look back on it fondly.

Airy white kitchen

Use social media and involve your friends. Image: Kroiss Development

Keep friends and family in the loop

The home building process is exciting and your friends and family will want to be included. In fact, you’ll probably find that your new home becomes a popular conversation topic. You don’t need to personally keep everyone in the loop. Instead, you can find ways to keep everyone connected online. Whether you start a blog for pictures, advice and stories, or document all of your progress on Instagram, your friends will appreciate the simple way to stay involved in the process. You can even use social media to crowdsource some of your tough decisions.

White home office

Use your smartphone to track spending and repairs. Image: Jennifer Pacca Design

Organize important documents

The home building process comes with a lot of paperwork. You can keep all of your documents and permits into a file folder, but those aren’t always easy to store or search through. Luckily, there are plenty of digital ways to document and track things like expenses and materials. Try using these apps and approaches to keep up with all your important documents.

  • Use an app like ScannerPro to scan documents – like receipts and contracts – with your phone. You can then create a filing system on your phone or computer to put every paper in its place.
  • Snap a picture to document your materials and finish choices. That way, when it comes time to touch up your paint, you can easily find an exact match. This also helps you find replacement parts like light bulbs and hardware. Take pictures of fixture SKUs in case you require repairs or replacements in the future.
  • Download an app like HomeZada to help you track material inventory, keep a building budget and plan out your next moves. This lets you know which materials you need and how they figure into your big-picture budget. A home management app is an invaluable tool to help you stay organized and save your sanity.
  • Keep paper copies of any signed contracts, especially those between you and lender and you and your contractor. Scan them for easy access or if you have a quick question, but always retain the hard copies in a file for future reference.
  • Keep a set of house plans on your phone. They won’t be to scale and they aren’t for use in building, but you can reference them when you’re walking through your unfinished home.
  • Take pictures of your home before drywall is installed. You can reduce pricey demolition in the future if you already know the location of major electrical and plumbing hookups.
Bright family room

Your building story can become part of your family legacy. Photo: Caroline Sharpnack

Preserve memories

Documenting the home building process isn’t just about business. While tracking receipts and recording SKUs can help you stay organized, documenting the process will help you connect to your new home. The home building process can be stressful, sure, but also meaningful. Take progress pictures and journal about the experience so you can share your story with family and friends for years to come. Create an album of pictures and stories you can refer back to any time.  You’ll meet new people and learn new things when you build a home and it pays to preserve your memories as your own home building story.

Whether you’re just starting your build or are currently in the thick of it, know that your build will become part of your family’s story. Make sure that your story is documented and organized to build a great future in your new home.

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How to Visit Your New Home Construction Site

After months of prep, your new construction home is finally starting to take shape. You’re excited, and you understandably want to track your home’s progress from top to bottom. Visiting your construction site is a great way to stay connected to your home throughout the process, but popping in unannounced could do more harm than good. If you plan to visit your new home during construction, remember that it’s about respect. Workers, superintendents and contractors are working hard on your home, and your visit shouldn’t derail their progress. Here are some things to keep in mind as you visit your new home construction site.

visit your new home safety

Talk to your builder about the potential to visit your new home. Image: Erotas Custom Builders

Talk to your builder

If you plan to visit your new home construction site, ask your builder about safety rules. Your builder likely has policies in place to protect homeowners from injury while visiting construction sites; ignoring those rules could put you at risk. Your builder may also invite you to the construction site for informal inspections throughout the build process, so scheduling your own visits could be unnecessary.

Make sure you follow all of your builder’s rules, especially those for safety. You might be counseled to wear certain clothes or be asked to leave your kids at home to reduce the builder’s liability in the event of an injury.

Schedule a time

Driving or walking by your build site every so often is no big deal, but if you want a closer look, it’s best to schedule a visit. A new build is a complicated dance of scheduling and contractors, and having you there could mean stopping work. While there may be contractors on site, your superintendent or general contractor might only come by once a day to check progress. Without a superintendent, you won’t have a reliable guide to walk you through the home. It’s unlikely that various contractors will know anything about your schedule or progress, so it’s best to wait until your super is there. That way, the build site can be decluttered for safety and you won’t be disrupting contractors as they try to get the job done.

Schedule an appointment with your super for a tour. Image: Domiteaux Architects

Dress appropriately

New build sites are messy, dusty and potentially dangerous. Visiting the site without the proper clothing and footwear could cause injury. Here are some general tips for dressing the part.

  • Wear closed-toe shoes. Exposed nails and wood splinters are common complaints for unfinished homes, and sandals and flip flops leave you at risk.
  • Expect to get dirty. Wear older clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and expect dust, paint and plaster.
  • Bring a flashlight and measuring tape. You might not have electricity, and a tape measure comes in handy for thinking about furniture or window treatments.
  • Follow all instructions for safety gear from your builder. Hardhats, gloves and goggles may be required for site visits.

If you don’t dress the part, your construction site visit could be cut short or be downright dangerous.

Document the visit

Don’t forget to spend some of your site visit documenting the build process. Pictures are great mementos, but documenting dates, measurements and processes can also help you in the future. Say you’d like to replace a light fixture, for example: Pictures you took during the process could help your electrician locate wiring and panels. Recording your paint colors means a better match when you accidentally scuff a wall. A shot of your newly framed wall allows you to find a strong stud before hanging a heavy mirror.

As you walk through your new build, take plenty of pictures and keep a folder of things like paint options, countertop choices and plumbing and electrical details. It might be hard to imagine now, but you’ll look back on the build process fondly. Having good documentation contributes to your home’s legacy.

When a new build feels like it’s dragging on and on, it’s important to visit your new home to stay sane. Tracking your home’s progress makes you feel more optimistic and enables you to see how far you’ve truly come. Just make sure a home visit doesn’t inadvertently throw your build off track. By scheduling a time with your builder and obeying safety rules, you can check out your progress and stay on schedule.

Do you have any additional tips for visiting a new build construction site? We’d love to hear them below.

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