Happy New Year!

The New Year always brings to mind a clean slate. We say good bye to the past and embrace new beginnings. For some of you – that may mean a move, a new location and new home, and we welcome the opportunity to talk to you about what your dream home means to you.

For me – it means retiring after 25+ years working with Randy and my fellow employees at Thelen Total Construction. It has been a very fulfilling part of my life, being part of the process where families can realize their dreams of the home they always wanted. It really is a life changing process for them!

I’ve been proud to be associated with a respected company of people who are smart, creative, dedicated and experienced. We share the work, respect each other’s talents, and do what it takes to ensure a great experience for our clients, and also have a little fun each day too.

Carol & Melody at the annual Thelen Christmas Party

Knowing how important the role of Office Manager – “Command Central”, as we call it at Thelen Total Construction is – the next person to fill the position would need to be a great fit for the organization. A person who is smart, organized, energetic and self-confident. A person who gets the culture here of doing your best and doing what it takes to create a great experience for our homeowners.

We are excited to welcome Carol McCoy to Thelen Total Construction! Carol has been working here since early November and has proven herself to be a very capable member of the team.

Me – I’ll truly miss the people here, the best tradespeople around, and other respected professionals I’ve had the good fortune to work with. It’s been great!

Thank you all for the memories, and I plan to stay in touch.

Melody Fehling

Allowances items are an important part of your Building Contract and Home Specifications. But how can you make sure your allowance items for appliances, cabinets, lighting, plumbing fixtures, and flooring are reasonable since the cost of these items are estimated?

Some homeowners have trouble making decisions before work begins. In those cases, the builder can allocate a dollar amount to each category and let the homeowners choose specific products later.

That doesn’t mean homeowners can postpone thinking about these products altogether. For an allowance to serve the homeowners’ interest, it must be based on accurate numbers. The homeowners should at least decide what grade of products they want. That decision can require legwork as well as self-awareness.

If you go online to compare products and prices, the results can be misleading. Although internet pricing may show the relative costs of different grade levels, the quality and warranty coverage may not match that of products sold by a professional supply house.

The best way to create an allowance budget is to visit the builder’s recommended suppliers or showrooms. The builder can then work with the showroom after the initial visit to generate a realistic number for the grade of products the homeowners want. The time invested in this work will yield allowances based on real-world numbers, not on guesswork or wishful thinking.

The builder can also provide average dollar numbers based on past experience with similar projects, but this is only the first step. The homeowners need to ask follow-up questions of the builder. For instance – Light fixtures. How many of what kind of fixtures in the home are included in that Allowance. Does the Allowance include bulbs? Recessed cans, sconces and chandeliers come in a range of prices, so it’s also important to do preliminary shopping, pricing and estimate the number of light fixtures needed to determine a reasonable allowance for light fixtures.

Another example is tile. Your $5,000 shower tile allowance would cover the cost of a large-format ceramic or porcelain, but now you fell in love with travertine at the show room. It’s best to decide up front and budget for it, including finding out whether the price includes additional labor.

If you are talking to a few builders about your new home building project – make sure that quality levels for the allowance items are the same. If one builder bases its cabinet allowance on lower quality boxes while another assumes plywood, it’s not a meaningful comparison. (Comparing bids is notoriously difficult, which is why it’s better to find a trustworthy builder and then work with them to create a reasonable budget.)

The homeowners should also consider if allowances the builder gives are realistic.  That is a good question to ask of the builder’s homeowner references. Professional builders make sure customers understand what their budget will and won’t cover because they know the clients will be happier in the end.

There is a deadline for every allowance choice. Meeting this deadline is crucial to getting products delivered in time for installation. If the homeowners miss the deadline, the allowance money will still be there, but the delay will throw off the job schedule and could potentially raise the final cost.

In summary, it’s best to make as many product choices as possible before work begins, keeping the job running smoothly by doing your homework thoroughly

Usually this time of the year, I’m getting ready for the annual Lakeland Builders Association Parade of Homes.  People start calling me for information. We typically will have a home or two in the event. However, this year – we will not have a home in the LBA Parade of Homes, which I know will come as a surprise to many.

In the 29 year history of Lakeland Builders Association Parade of Homes, there has been 50 Thelen Total Construction Parade homes. No other LBA member builder has come close to that number of homes.

2005’s Parade Home was an eclectic rustic log cabin

Of course, we could not have done it without the cooperation of those 50 homeowners. For giving us the opportunity to showcase our work, we are immensely grateful.

Some of those years have been particularly memorable. In 1998, we featured five homes. Which was a daunting task to have ready in time for the Parade.  I think the paint was barely dry on Marilyn Thelen’s Parade home when the doors opened at 11 am!

2002, we featured a spectacular home on Black Point Drive in  Lake Geneva.  An 11,000 square foot mansion that took close to two years to build, and the dedicated craftsmanship of many tradespeople. Almost 2,400 people came to see it during the four day event – amazing, since people waited patiently to be shuttled from the Reek School location about a mile away. And took an hour long guided tour to see the entire home. (Good news! You can see it again if you want to arrange a private showing, as it is on the market for $10,790,000 through Shorewest Realtors.)

2002 Black Point Lane Parade Home

We’ve been very proud to show the many unique styles of custom homes we design and built: From the very elaborately designed grand homes, to the remarkably detailed, smaller scale lake cottages.  Over the years we have shown English Tudor, Prairie Style, Craftsman, Modern and Contemporary, French Country, Rustic log, Traditional Farmhouse, Modern Farmhouse, a combination of more than one architectural style, and often one of our very popular Lake Cottage style home, on a number of beautiful lakes in Walworth County.

Some visitors love to come and see what we have done this year; others are there to find a builder, and possibly become our next client. A number of visitors are people we built homes for in the past. Our Parade Homes do feel like an actual “open house” event when you see familiar faces and friends each year. That part will be missed by all of us.

Our objective in having a home (or homes) in the LBA Parade of Homes was to be known as one of the area’s best builders of fine custom homes. A “whatever your heart desires” kind of home. After 50 Parade homes in 29 years, in a myriad of architectural styles, I think the mission is accomplished!

Classic Modern best describes this 2016 Parade Home

So while we won’t have a home in this year’s 2018 Parade, we are very happy to support Lakeland Builders Association and the Parade of Homes by being their Gold Sponsor of the 2018 Event. It is a great opportunity for the public to see beautiful homes built by LBA Builder members. I know I’ll be among the many people attending the Parade. It’ll be nice to be a visitor for a change!

For more information about the 2018 Parade of Homes, please visit the LBA website  or the LBA Facebook page.

 

 

There is no question that the vision of a new home fires up the imagination. Who hasn’t dreamt of a home with beautiful architectural design,  enough space for favorite activities, desired features, colors and style. It is a big reason enough for people to consider building a new home over an buying an existing one.

The advantages actually go way beyond the obvious: A new home offers many hidden performance benefits.  Some of these benefits come as a result of saving energy costs. Thick walls, closed cell foam insulation, air sealing, triple pane windows, and new heating and cooling equipment make homes very energy efficient, and save you money on your monthly utility bills. But they go way beyond that:

Comfort. Closed cell foam insulation, along with careful sealing of the building shell, and the HVAC ductwork minimizes drafts, and helps keep temperatures even throughout the home. The home can be further optimized with low-e, energy efficient windows. These windows can be ordered with a coating that protects furnishings from UV light. Window options include shades and blinds between the glass, and screens that roll up and down.

Health. Those comfort-enhancing, air-sealing details also keep pollen and dust out of the home. High performance windows resist condensation that can lead to mold growth. Today’s HVAC equipment is optimal at removing unwanted humidity, and other pollutants, while bringing in fresh, filtered air from outdoors. Sealed combustion heating equipment keep your family safe by keeping carbon monoxide out of indoor air.

Quiet. Double or triple pane windows, doors with good weather-stripping, and the sealing and insulation already mentioned, make a new home much better at blocking noise than an older one. (Great if you don’t want to hear the neighbor’s late night patio party or jet skis on the lake disturbing your peaceful morning!) Inside – if you have a home theater room, or a loud bunch of teenagers in your lower level space, sound-dampening soundboard between floors and by the bathroom and bedroom walls will create spaces that are a quiet oasis in your home.

Latest Technology.  You can opt for alarm systems, speaker systems, internet wiring, and lighting control functions to be built right in, saving you future holes in the walls.

Less Maintenance. Professional builders use proven products with long (even lifetime!) warranties, and use highly skilled and experienced tradespeople.Exterior materials, such as siding and decking materials made from composites will not rot, are highly resistant to insect damage and will need no future painting / staining. (Or not for a very long time.)

Universal Design Features. An open floor plan not only makes entertaining easier, it makes getting around easier for the mobility impaired. Wide hallways and doorways look great, and are  functional for all. A great feature to plan for is stacking closets on the1st floor, 2nd floor and lower level. The electrical and HVAC systems can be designed around this space during construction so that if an elevator is needed at some point, it is easily installable.

Your new home with all of today’s innovations facilitates your enjoyment and appreciation of life. It is life changing to have everything in your home just the way you want it. For many people – it’s what they always dreamed of coming home to, and we are happy to make their dreams come true!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A question we get a lot from potential clients is “What is the cost-per-square-foot of your homes? We understand the question is really, “How much will my house cost?”

And the answer is: “It depends.”

Professional custom home builders rely on proven management systems to finish a home on time and on budget. Creating an accurate budget is as much craft as a science. No responsible builder will quote a per-square-foot price without more information, because doing so would risk misleading the client. That is because a custom home is not a product. Instead it is the physical realization of a particular client’s dream home on a specific site. Each person’s dream home is unique; so the only way to estimate the cost is to ask some follow-up questions.

First we need to clarify what the client means by square foot cost of the home. Does it include the garage, unfinished lower level, or other unfinished space – such as a over the garage bonus room? Does it include costs for lot clearing, driveway, utilities, well and septic, and permits?

Once the assumptions and variable costs have been clarified – what kind of home are they dreaming of? Is the floor plan simple or complex? Is it a traditional style with intricate interior mouldings and built-ins, or a modern structure with lots of glass and minimal trim?

Then we need to define the level of desired finishes. A professional custom home builder can help refine the expectations, starting with questions about exterior materials, windows, plumbing, flooring, cabinetry preferences and special features of the home.

After sorting through all of the above, we may be able to reference plans and photos for similar homes built in the past. We can often provide a ballpark estimate of what it would cost to built that home with their specifications on their site.

However, it is not something you can do over the phone. The client needs to spend some time with us before we can offer a realistic idea of what they can get for their budget. Regardless of whether they ultimately decide to build with us, this is time wisely spent.