The traditional layout of most homes consists of a living room, dining room, kitchen, one or two bathrooms and three or more bedrooms. That tradition is changing just as our lifestyles change, according to Jeff Costa, operating manager of Costa Homebuilders.
"The questions we're asking are: Do you want a formal dining room or would you rather a larger kitchen?" said Mr. Costa, a fourth-generation builder. "These [questions] trigger different conversations."
Today it's more about mud rooms and home offices than formal dining rooms, and living rooms have turned into "great rooms" where families spend time together often.
Costa Homebuilders created the "New Life" program as a way to change the conversation and assist their clients in designing a home suited to their personal lifestyle.
The owner of a new house on Marion Drive in Jefferson Hills took advantage of the new program. Step by step, the client made decisions, and each step was given a deadline. "We call it their homework," Mr. Costa said.
The house cost more than $600,000. Among the unique choices the homeowner made was to have a roofed deck, creating an outdoor room that can be used in almost any weather. Another was to place a soaking tub in a niche beneath a cathedral ceiling.
The first and most fundamental step is the budget. Buyers must decide whether to build on their own lots or on lots in a developments. Contractors are in the final stages of construction on a house in Chamberlin Ridge, one of several Costa developments in the West Jefferson Hills School District. Others include Castors' Farm, Jefferson Estates and Pleasant View.
The four-bedroom, 21/2-bath brick house at 2043 Laurel Ridge Drive, Jefferson Hills (MLS No. 983553), is on the market for $376,300. There is still time for the buyer to customize the home, making some of the final selection in finishes. For more information, contact Costa Homebuilders, at 412-384-8170 or www.costahomebuilders.com, or John Thatcher of All Pittsburgh Real Estate at 412-650-6810.
These days, more buyers are coming to builders with their own lots, Mr. Costa said.
"Right now, two out of 10 people are buying older houses and ripping them down to build new ones."
He noted a change in the banking industry since 2008 has affected the financing of new developments and reduced their number in the region. The price of the lot was traditionally built into the cost of the home.
"Normally, a total package starts around $350,000, but that includes the land," he said. "But our base model homes start at $280,000 and can go as high as $2 million plus."
Costa Homebuilders offers two budget categories: basic or premium, with upgrades available in both.
"If the budget is larger, then the conversation is more complicated," Mr. Costa said.
Once the budget is nailed down, the builder utilizes a New Life questionnaire to gather information on the clients' lifestyle and needs. Sometimes, it discovers needs that homeowners may not even be aware of. Questions include:
* Do you have any animals?
* Do you have any special needs equipment that may require more power to certain areas of the home?
* Do you need a safe room, panic room or security camera system?
* Do you need a home generator for back-up during power outages?
More and more people are answering "yes" to that last one. "We're seeing that a lot more, maybe 30 or 40 percent now," Mr. Costa said.
Certain items are standard to all Costa homes, including Pella windows, poured concrete foundations that are 9 feet tall, and foam insulation.
"We use a closed-cell spray foam insulation in the walls," he said. "It helps seal the walls, makes the house very energy-efficient."
Costa Homebuilders has a showroom that doubles as a workshop where decisions are made on everything from paint color for the ceiling to the twist of the wrought-iron banister on the staircase.
"We have a selection station. [Clients' go there and pick out the fireplace style they're going to choose, the iron pattern for the steps."
With the growing popularity of websites like www.houzz.com, client often come in with ideas of their own.
"People bring in pictures to me and say, 'Build my fireplace like that,' " Mr. Costa said.
One of the most crucial steps in the process is when the client meets with the kitchen/bathroom designer, who will create a small-scale drawing and a virtual design on the computer.
Mr. Costa sees the process as beginning and ending with the client.
"We have to create that sense of comfort [for our client] before we move forward and we think we're pretty good at that."
Lizabeth Gray: firstname.lastname@example.org.