Have you ever dreamt of living in a home perfectly suited to your every taste and need? Did you quickly push the dream aside feeling overwhelmed by the daunting process and decisions you would have to make? You are not alone. But many people have jumped on the opportunity and now relish the sanctuary of their ultimate dream home!
Building custom homes is the current focus of many area builders. Read on to see how one Fairfield County Connecticut builder has evolved as an expert in catering to this special homebuyer.
I met with Milton Development, a luxury builder in Fairfield County Connecticut, to discuss why they cater to this niche and what’s special about how they do it. I sat down for a Q and A with the company owner, Ashley Shapiro, to find out why Milton is now a custom home builder, what makes this approach a win-win for everyone, and how they tackle barriers that often make people hesitate to pursue a custom-built home. Here’s what I learned-
Linda: What made you decide to become a custom-home builder?
Ashley: After building only spec homes for about 12 years and working with buyers to customize the finishes, we discovered that we were really good at working with people to give them what they want. We realized that we truly want to create the home that is perfectly suited our customers. We learned how to gain a clear understanding of how our clients live and what they love for their home design. Our motto now is, “We build a lifestyle”. Almost anyone can build a house, but we are now experts at creating a home that fits one’s lifestyle like a glove. Not only do we love building the perfect home for our customers, but when we custom-build for people, we are better able to manage our business by avoiding the uncertainties of putting a speculation house on market, and we can pass the savings on to our clients.
Linda: Have you seen an increased demand for people wanting custom homes?
Ashley: It’s more a function of creating a niche. After years of building homes that people loved, we began to get asked if we could build a home for them. Word spread, and more people asked.
We currently have 10 custom home projects in the works and have been doing custom-built homes for about a year and a half now. We build in Westport, Fairfield, Norwalk and Greenwich.
Linda: Is there a typical buyer profile you see?
Ashley: It varies, but many come from big cities, often working in the financial sector, and they are coming out here for the schools. What they all have in common is that they are looking for something different.
Linda: What are the common barriers, questions, and concerns you see from your customers?
Ashley: Number one is timing- how long will the whole thing take? How long to get the land, to do the design process, to complete the construction? We walk through the timeframe for each phase with them. The land is found by their agent or by us, and we are always involved in that phase to help give our clients a vision. We also explain that some of the phases can overlap. For example, while waiting to close on the land purchase, we can get well into the design phase. We are very skilled at managing the timing and utilize an online program with the timeline and deadlines for everyone involved, including decisions to be made by the buyer. Everyone has the same real-time view of the schedule, responsibilities, and progress. So our clients know the timeline and understand that they have as much a role in the timing as we do.
Many are concerned with all the decisions they have to make in a limited period of time. We have an in-house designer who is very skilled at helping our clients make decisions based on our understanding of their tastes, desires, and budget. We also have four renowned designers from outside our firm that we work with.
The next big question is about cost and cost per square foot. Of course, there are many variables that can impact cost per square foot, which could range from $270 up to $500. But the beauty of our model is that it is completely transparent. Our customer buys the land, they pay our direct discounted cost to build, which is all determined in advance, and they pay a fixed fee for our work. So they know up front what their cost is, and we know how much we will make on every project as well. Most people think we are more expensive than we are because of our high-end image. We do exceptionally high-quality work and market our services and products accordingly. Our print ads look like Vogue photo shoots, but the reality is that we have a lower cost to build than most builders, so we are less expensive!
Linda. So how would you summarize your differentiators?
Ashley: Our image is very high-end and expensive, but our costs are less than our competitors. Our formula is to alway be completely transparent with the cost to build. We take the time to completely understand how our clients live and what they want, which enables us to create the ultimate home just for them. We are extremely organized and skilled at guiding our clients so they know what to expect and are helped with decision-making. We make the whole process as easy as it can be for them. Our background comes from branding and the fashion industry. We use a select talented group of European designers, and we create homes that are truly unique. Our difference is in the details. We build a lifestyle, and this is a win-win for us and our clientele.
To learn more about the process and the builders that do custom-home building, start looking for land for your new home, or to get a personal introduction to Ashley at Milton Development, please send a note below, or give me a call at 203-912-4440. -Linda