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Our Most Commonly Asked Questions About Building a Custom Home

June 18th, 2023

By Sofia Alonso

6 min read

As architects and builders, we get asked a lot of questions about the new home building process. In this article, we have gathered our 9 most commonly asked questions about building a custom home. 

Our firm has been delivering residential projects in the Northern Virginia area for over 20 years so we have garnered the necessary experience to answer these common questions about the home building process in ways that can help potential buyers make the best decision for their project goals. 

We believe that it is important to equip our prospective clients with the knowledge they need to have better and more effective conversations about building their new home.

1. What does the building process look like?

There are several important steps in the standard design-build new home process. 

These steps are:

Master planning:

Architectural master planning is the critical first step in any design process. It is the creation of a framework in which the whole project proceeds.  While it may seem like a given to put thought behind the planning process, some don’t realize how helpful the art of master planning can be to your home project.

During the process, our team considers all aspects of the project including, the design and style of the home, surrounding infrastructure and utilities, local government requirements, budget, and so on. By creating a master plan, the entire project is likely to go as planned and lead to an exciting final home design.


Creating 3 dimensional models and utilizing virtual reality tools that will allow you to visualize the design of your home.

Design Development:

We have a strong client focused approach, and our design phase is structured to incrementally take you through the design of your home from concept design to obtaining building permits. We begin with creating concept design options with 3 dimensional models while utilizing virtual reality software that will allow you to visualize and make important design decisions early in the process.  

We continue to develop and refine the design through the design development phase by selecting and specifying the exact materials that will be part of your home. 

Construction Cost:

With all this information we can provide you with a construction cost prior to the start of construction.  This also allows you to make any additions or subtractions to the scope of your project prior to the start of construction. 


We coordinate all aspects of the design and work with our team of engineers to obtain all necessary permits for construction.


As the Master Builder we do not hand off a set of drawings to another builder and hope for the best, we are the builder. We take complete ownership of the construction process and protect the integrity of the design that we worked so closely with you to build your dream home. 

Our team manages all aspects of pre-construction and construction. This integrated approach offers many benefits and efficiencies such as a streamlined design process, a more predictable budget, and accelerated scheduling.


2. Can you help us find a lot?

Subdivision: One way you can find a suitable lot for your new home is to approach a production builder. Production builders typically purchase large plots of land, divide the area into single lots, and build a neighborhood of homes. The builder will usually develop the land with streets and sidewalks, creating a neighborhood, also known as a subdivision. 

Infill Lots: Another option to find land for your new home is to talk to a semi-custom home builder. These builders often have a small inventory of lots that they own and offer them to their clients. Some builders even offer financing options for their homes, but it varies from builder to builder. The type of lots that these builders purchase are called infill lots. These are smaller plots or singular lots that are scattered throughout developed areas.  

Real Estate Agent: You may also consider contacting a real estate agent to help you find vacant land or teardown lots for sale in your desired area. They have access to MLS and can provide valuable insights into neighborhood and land availability. 

Personal Connections: Additionally, you can reach out to your personal connections and ask friends and family for referrals or even drive around your desired neighborhood to find potential leads. You might be surprised at the hidden gems that can be found by simply asking around. Keep an open mind and explore all the options available to you, and you just might find the perfect plot of land to build your dream home in Northern Virginia. 

Architect-Led Design-Build: Finally, at AV Architects + Builders we offer a unique service as an all-in-one design-build firm where we can help you find a lot to build on. We have a licensed real estate agent on staff with access to MLS and off-market listings. We also have strong connections with many realtors who often present us with listing opportunities. 

Lastly, homeowners often contact us directly and offer to sell their property to our firm. While our firm does not purchase lots just to hold them, we do maintain a database of available lots to provide our clients with access to a wider range of potential land options.


3. What areas do you build in?

Our office is located in Great Falls, VA and our primary focus for new construction is in Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland. That being said, we have the ability to partner with local builders across the country for design services nationwide.

Additionally, many of our clients have been from out-of-state and even international throughout the duration of their new home design and construction. We are able to work with our clients remotely to develop and review designs as well as keep them updated throughout the construction if they are not local to the area. Then all you have to do is move in! 


4. What styles do you work with?

As custom home builders, we are able to design and build any style of home. That being said we do specialize in modern home design, including mid-century modern, modern farmhouse, and contemporary modern. Our design philosophy has an emphasis on clean lines, open windows, and indoor-outdoor integration.


5. How do you help us visualize the design?

One of the most common concerns that our clients have when building a custom home is not being able to visualize the final product. They worry that, since there is no model exactly like their unique custom home, they won’t be able to have the traditional walk through experience that you get when viewing an existing home or a production home that has many like it. 

This fear holds people back from being comfortable with building highly custom homes. However, architects now have the ability to solve this problem through the use of 3D modeling tools. 

As architects, our role is to engage the client and reach an agreement between the client’s desires and the achievable design. For over a decade, our firm, AV Architects + Builders, has used the software ArchiCAD to create our designs because it allows for the drawings to be created in 3D from the beginning, enabling us to show the client an actual model from the start of design and before we ever get to construction.

Using 3D modeling allows us to provide our clients with a vast amount of information upfront. We can merge the client’s desires with the design and budget, allowing them to decide where to allocate their resources. Additionally, it reveals all the potential conflicts early on, giving us the ability to make changes before construction begins. 

Read more about some of the many 3D design  tools that we use to facilitate visualization


6. How much of this process can we do remotely?

We offer the ability to complete the entire design-build process remotely! This means you can begin the process of creating your dream home while still preparing to move in from your current home and create an easier transition from one home to the next. 

We use 3D modeling tools and construction management software that allows our clients to check on the status of their project from anywhere in the world.


7. How much do your houses cost?

Our firm’s starting price is $350 per square foot for a custom design-build home. 

That price includes:

  • Full Architectural Plans with Elevations, Sections, and Details
  • Structural Plans
  • Civil Plans
  • Permit Fees
  • Complete Construction and Project Management of the Home

This price excludes the cost of purchasing the land and the cost of preparing the land to build, also known as site costs.

Read more about the factors that can  impact the cost of your custom home here

If a custom home is not the right fit for you, consider choosing a semi-custom or production level home. Read more about the three types of home builders to help you make your decision

Read more about the three types of home builders  to help you make your decision.


8. How does financing work?

With over 20 years of experience in this industry, we have guided many clients through the process of financing their new home project. We collaborate with lenders who specialize in construction-to-permanent lending. Your loan will essentially begin as a loan to purchase the land, then convert to a construction loan for the duration of the construction of the home, and finally convert to your traditional permanent loan, also known as a mortgage. 

Read more about the financing process in this article that explains valuable insights on how to know when is the best time to build.

Read more about the financing process in this article that explains  valuable insights on how to know when is the best time to build.


9. How long does it take?

A new custom home takes about 18 to 24 months from finding the lot to moving in. This timeline can be shorter if you choose to go with a production or semi-custom builder as there is less of the design process required before beginning construction. 


What are my next steps?

Building a custom home can be an exciting and rewarding journey, but it's natural to have questions and uncertainties along the way. At AV Architects + Builders, we understand the importance of providing our clients with the knowledge and support they need to make informed decisions about their dream homes. 

In this article, we have addressed some of the most commonly asked questions about the custom home building process. We've covered topics such as the building process steps, finding the right lot, our areas of expertise, design styles, visualization tools, remote capabilities, cost considerations, financing options, and project timelines.

We encourage you to reach out to our firm if you want to learn more about building a custom home in Northern Virginia or if you have any additional questions. With over 20 years of experience in delivering residential projects, we have the expertise and resources to guide you through the entire design-build process, from concept to construction, while keeping you informed and involved every step of the way.

Don't let uncertainty hold you back from creating the home of your dreams. Contact AV Architects + Builders today to schedule a consultation and start the journey towards building your custom home. We are here to provide the answers and support you need to make your vision a reality.


9903 Georgetown Pike Suite 201
Great Falls, VA 22066
(703) 865-5065