FAQs: Buying a Lot/Designing A Home

FAQs: Buying a Lot/Designing A Home


Are lots available to purchase?

Can we use our own architect, designer or builder?

If we want to buy a lot and have you build a custom home for us, what should we expect to pay?

What is the process of working with Nova Designs Builds to construct a custom home?

How long does the design and permitting process take?

How and when will we know how much our house is going to cost us?

What are finishes and what type of finishes are available?

As the builder, can you give us a preliminary estimate prior to committing to purchase a lot?

Are lots available to purchase?
Yes, you can purchase a lot at Red Apple Ranch.

Can we use our own architect, designer, or builder?
Yes, we have design guidelines in the CCRs which are very general in nature. If someone designs their own home we would like to have an interesting and pleasant home to look at with an eye towards certain green building technologies.

If you would like more information please feel free to talk to us or have your architect talk to us.

If we want to buy a lot and have you build a custom home for us, what should we expect to pay?
Design fees typically run between 6 and 10 percent of construction costs. There are basic county fees and water department fees that are currently running in the neighborhood of $25,000 to $30,000 per home and installing septic systems cost between $10,000 and $15,000 per home. There is a basic cost of approximately $45,000 for fees and septic and $30,000 for design fees.

Contractors in the area, including Nova Designs Builds, will average $150 to $200 per square foot for construction. We are continually looking for ways to get pricing lower while maintaining quality finishes and quality construction.

What is the process of working with Nova Designs Builds to construct a custom home?
We start out with a separate design only contract. The first step is an interview to develop a program. A program consists of defining what your priorities are and what things are important to you. For some people, having a master suite is more important than having two smaller bedrooms. Others insist on having the bedroom on the same floor as the living space, while others may want outdoor dining areas under a room structure or a patio. Some people can accept two story homes, others want one story.

Each lot will have its own limitation due to the slope and orientation to views and/or other homes. Within those parameters we start to incorporate your priorities. Before we even start this process, if you have fallen in love with a particular lot and you decide you need to have a 3,000 square feet flat one-story home, we will analyze the lot to let you know if what you want is feasible before we get into this process.

We have yet to find a project where there has not been a compromise based on budget, time and location. Building a custom home and working with your own architect can be extremely interesting, rewarding and exciting, but it almost always involves choosing tradeoffs.

How long does the design and permitting process take?
Design usually takes anywhere from 2 to 6 months depending on your availability and speed of decision making.

Permitting is currently running about 2 months.

How and when will we know how much our house is going to cost us?
Once we develop a floor plan that seems to be close to what you want and a general description of finishes that will be used, we prepare a preliminary estimate. These estimates will have allowances for materials that are realistic, typical of what you see at other homes you see at Red Apple and will be highly detailed.

Over the years we have found this preliminary estimate to be an invaluable tool, keeping everyone on track in terms of budget. It tells us if we need to reduce the scope of work to bring the budget down or if we have room to expand or increase the level of finishes. After having done over 1,000 projects in San Francisco and building homes here at Red Apple and other communities, we can say these preliminary estimates have plus or minus margin of error of less than 10 percent. In other words, we will have a very good idea of how much the entire project will cost at this point.

In most cases, depending on whether we need more detailed site survey information or not, we usually hit this point fairly in the design phase. Our goal is to reach this point as quickly as possible before you have invested a significant portion of money, probably in the $3-5,000 range.

What are finishes and what type of finishes are available?
Finishes include choosing what you want in your home and how you want your home to look and feel:

  • Flooring (tile, carpet, wood, finished concrete, etc.)
  • Windows and doors
  • Bathroom Fixtures
  • Lighting

As the builder, can you give us a preliminary estimate prior to committing to purchase a lot?

Yes, we are happy to take a $1,000 refundable deposit on purchasing a given lot and execute a separate design retainer agreement to start the process. That retainer would be $3,000. We would expect to be able to complete this process in 30 to 60 days so you can determine if you would like to move forward. The deposit on the lot is refundable, however the money spent towards the design retainer is not.

If, after your initial review, you decide to not go forward then any of the monies not used in your retainer account will be refunded to you. To reiterate, this is for the initial floor plans. Once approved by you, we can prepare a preliminary estimate / budget. The entire permit ready set of plans with specifications usually runs 6-8% of construction and we estimate a realistic range to be $30,000 for design, specifications, and engineering fees.

To recap this process:

  • Choose your lot
  • Pay $1,000 refundable deposit on lot
  • Sign ‘Design Retainer Agreement’ with Nova Designs Builds, our design and construction company. This initial retainer amount is $3,000.
  • Nova Designs Builds prepares an initial design and floor plan of the home. After your approval we prepare a preliminary estimate for that floor plan.
  • At that point, based on your approval, we proceed to develop permit ready plans, finalize finishes and specifications, and obtain final estimates for construction
  • During this phase Nova Designs Builds invoices for design time approximately every two to four weeks