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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
Everyone who walks this trail, especially my dogs, agrees that this is one of the most wonderful places to go to decompress and gain inspiration in Fairfield Connecticut’s beach area. You may find yourself alone with the wildlife (and your dogs), or you may see other people dog-walking, jogging or bicycling.
There is convenient access from several beach area neighborhoods. One entrance is on Old Dam Road. You can jump on the trail from the Meadows condo complex off South Pine Creek Road, or you can enter at Mona Terrace by the soccer field and senior center. The latter is my favorite because there is a cut-through from an additional neighborhood near me at the Veres Park cul-de-sac. A parking lot is also available at the senior center, next to the soccer field.
When entering from Mona Terrace, I like the fact that you have options. You can choose to go for a short and sweet stroll along the marsh-side path that leads out to Oldfield Road. Or for a bigger commitment, you can jump onto the wide trail and go through the woods, across the bridge, and past the Meadows condos and Old Dam Road to the end of the trail and back.
The woods are always peaceful and pretty, but in my view, the vistas along the tidal marsh are where I find my “Zen”. When it’s high tide, the water winds through the tall grasses, and when the sun hits the water just right, it sparkles through the reeds and tree branches like diamonds! In the summer, the seaside greenery boasts flowers of vivid colors, and a vast variety of birds are busy doing what they do!
Last, but not least, if you take the full route to the end, you will get the prize. What makes this my favorite trail is that it narrows along a little strip of raised land, where you start to wonder where you will end up. But it leads you to the sweetest of surprises. The tail takes you to a final destination, where (spoiler alert) you are surrounded on three sides by the water of a tranquil lagoon. Beyond the edge of the lagoon, to the right, you can see two more waterways. Old Dam Road flanks the lagoon with Pine Creek behind it. And behind that, you see Fairfield Beach Road and the Long Island Sound. Three different waterway views all at once, what a rare treat! Your dogs can go for a swim, you can take some photos as I’ve done here, and then, you can head back to reality feeling renewed.
For more information about the rich local amenities or any real estate questions, send me a note below or give me a call.
If you are a home buyer and don’t see many options during your initial search online, make sure you get a Realtor on board to help you.
Even though inventory may be low and declining, there are at least three key actions your agent can take for you. Make sure your agent knows what you are looking for, the location you want and your ideal timing.
3. Last, but not least, your agent can write a letter or design a postcard describing your dream home and mail it directly to the homeowners on your favorite street or in the area you are focused on.
If you are a seller dealing with buyers that are circling and taking no action or facing a complete lack of buyers altogether, there are key action steps you can take too.
So don’t give into a slowing market, surge ahead, get the market to work for you, and make your move!
For questions or help in this market, send me a note using the form below.
Many people come to their Realtor with an attorney already on board. They figure the attorney is of no concern to their agent thinking that if they know the attorney or have dealt with them before, that lawyer is the best option. They may think a recommendation from a friend covers all the bases. Besides price, most people haven’t considered the critical factors below about the attorney they hire to successfully close their real estate transaction.
Here’s a Top 10 List of questions you should know the answer to before bringing your attorney on board-
Is there an attorney you are considering that you would like feedback about? Have you had a good or bad experience you would like to share? Is there something you would add to the list above? Your questions and comments are welcome below.
If you own an investment property and are thinking of selling it to buy a different one (or two), you can do a 1031 Exchange and enjoy great benefits! What’s so great about it, and how do you do it?
Here’s how it works-
And here are six amazing benefits of doing 1031 Exchanges-
Consider an “equity build strategy” suggested by the Midland company (referenced below) that looks like this:
It’s a good idea to use a QI that is local or that works in many states and is familiar with the varying regulations and taxes in different states. You want a QI that has experience and is bonded and insured. You also want to look for one that is a member of the National Federation of Exchange Accommodators and that is a Certified Exchange Specialist (CEC).
Here are some resources to get you started:
For help selling and locating properties, please reach out to yours truly!
Okay truth be told, I really really didn’t feel like going to last night’s Fairfield Ludlowe High School PTA meeting that had been on my calendar since the date was emailed out to all of us. I was tired, and it was freezing out, and dark, and we just finished dinner after a long day, and the meeting would be long… In fact, I succeeded in talking myself out of going and finally resolved to skip it- literally the minute before I threw my coat on and pushed my butt out the door!
Star parent, right? Unfortunately, the reality was that I did not stand alone in these sentiments. When I got there, only about 10 others were present, including the PTA President, Jim Accomando, Past President, Christine Vitale, Headmaster, Greg Hatzis, VP of Programs, Laura Lawlor, two teachers and a few others!
The meeting was in the comfortable lecture room at the back of the Library, and Greg Hatzis was going to give an overview of the school’s 2016 Improvement Plan. He had a PowerPoint presentation and handouts prepared for everyone.
As I listened, I was more and more impressed by the comprehensiveness of the plan and ambitious goals as well as the energy and passion expressed by the presenter. There were so many focus areas to cover, but the determined Headmaster nailed the key points and even gave us a short Parent Beliefs survey to complete, all inside the span of one hour!
I thought the meeting and information were so valuable that the least I could do was share what I could about it. So I’ve included the three handouts (via the linked text in bold below) and listed what I thought were the main takeaways. Here are five points that I thought were key from the meeting,
All of this funnels down from the overarching mission of the Fairfield Public Schools:
The mission of the Fairfield Public Schools, in partnership with families and the community, is to ensure that every student acquires the knowledge and skills to be a lifelong learner, responsible citizen, and successful participant in an ever-changing global society through a comprehensive educational program.
In the end, I was so glad I made it to this meeting. I gained valuable insights about my child’s education as well as the overall the quality of Fairfield’s education system and got to meet some very nice people. Having been so impressed, I’ve since hoped that more parents will come to future PTA meetings.
In the meantime, I’ve been convinced that our kids are in excellent hands! Go Falcons!
Feel free to comment below.