What is a Custom Home?

Everything You Need To Know About Custom Home Building

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There’s a lot that goes into custom home building. So much so that many people are unsure of what a custom home is, what it takes to build one, and what the entire process entails. If you are interested in building a custom home or in the early stages of the process, you might wonder, what am I getting myself into? Where do I even start?
If this is where you find yourself, don’t worry! The team at Eakman Construction is here to help break it down. We have years of experience guiding our clients through this process and helping them build their forever home. Look to this blog to serve as your guide to getting started.
Now let’s take a deeper look at what makes up a custom home and what it takes to build one of your own.
What is a Custom Home?
When starting this journey, you may have come across terms such as “spec home” or “semi-custom home” and wonder how they differ from a custom home. The three are very different, and you’ll want to have a clear understanding of each before you make any decisions regarding what is right for you.
Spec Home
A spec home is a home designed with an ideal client in mind. The builder has a vision of a specific type of home buyer and executes the home’s design to meet their potential needs. The homeowner is not involved in the design or building, making it an undesirable option for buyers seeking a high level of control and customization.
Semi-Custom Home
A semi-custom home is one selected from pre-designed templates. After choosing from the pre-existing layouts, the homeowner then works with the builder to select certain customized options for the home. While this may simplify and expedite the design process, the end result is a reflection of the options provided by the builder rather than a reflection of the homeowner’s vision.
Custom Home
A custom home is created by a homeowner working directly with an architect and builder to bring their vision to life. First, you select your piece of land and then develop the home’s site plans, layout, and design alongside your assembled team. Custom homes are the most expensive option of the three and take the longest to build; however, if you want to customize every aspect, this is the route you should take. Rather than purchasing an existing home that only checks a few of your boxes, you can design something perfectly tailored to your family’s lifestyle.

What Should You Choose?

So now that you know what exactly a custom home is, is it the best option for you? That all comes down to your desired level of customization and involvement in the process. If you wish to select every detail, include special features, and make your home truly unique, custom home building is the path you should take. Neither spec homes or semi-custom homes give you the freedom, control, or quality that you have building a fully custom home.

At Eakman Construction, we specialize in luxury custom homes. Meaning our clients determine every detail of their new homes, from architectural style and size, down to the finish on the kitchen cabinets.

Building a Custom Home – Where To Start

So you’ve now decided you want to build a custom home. What comes next? Let’s take a brief look at a few of the first steps you should take before the process can officially begin.


The first step for anything worthwhile is… research! Take your time looking at different custom homes, architectural styles, design inspirations, and locations. You’ll also want to start researching architects and custom home builders.

Outline Your Vision

If you’re thinking of building a custom home, chances are you already have an idea of what you want to build and where. If not, before starting the process, you’ll want to look around at various homes in person and online. Make lists of features you like and don’t like and why – use this list to describe your ideas, tastes, and preferences regarding aspects of your home. Your list might include things like your desired size and architectural style, how many rooms you want, and interior design preferences.

Find an Architect & Custom Home Builder

Selecting the right team for your project is critical to its success. Considering the size of your financial investment, you will want to spend ample time researching and doing your due diligence before selecting an architect and custom home builder.

The custom home building process works best when you hire an architect and builder to work collaboratively on your project. This way, they can combine their expertise, give each other input, and no details are mismanaged. You don’t want to get to a point where your site plans are finalized with your architect, but you haven’t yet sought a builder’s opinion.

Now that you’ve done your preliminary research, you’ll want to take a deep dive into the three most significant factors of your custom home building project: budget, timeline, and land. These three aspects will be the foundation of your project, dictating everything from house size and permits to building materials.


A custom home will probably be one of the biggest investments of your life, so you’ll want to take time working out a budget. In addition to the investment size, you’ll also want to keep in mind that the financing process for building is completely different from buying a home on the existing market.

Things that factor into your custom home building budget include the following:

  • Cost of land
  • Construction costs
  • Material costs
  • Architectural and design costs
  • Interior design costs
  • Decorating and furnishing costs
  • Local taxes and fees
  • Permits
  • Changes or additions to the scope of work
  • Additional costs that may incur

Before you begin the custom home-building process,  you’ll want to speak to a lender and financial planner to discuss your individual situation. This will help you gain an understanding of what you can afford before you sit down with either your architect or builder. From there, you can discuss financing options and estimates with your custom home builder.

We help guide the client and their architect towards a design that will be produced within their budget. With Eakman, you have full transparency within the budgeting process, with each detail being reviewed and managed by our Pre-Construction Service team.


In addition to establishing your budget, you will want to develop an idea of your timeline. When do you want to start? How long are you willing to dedicate to this project?

The average custom home building timeline differs based on various factors, such as land acquisition, permitting, and the size of the home. But generally speaking, the process from start to finish can take upwards of 1- 2 years. However, even with a pre-planned timeline, the process could take much longer than anticipated, especially if unforeseen changes occur.

Before you begin this process, there are some key factors to keep in mind:

  • Season & Weather: Many home builders require that you begin the process during the fall or winter so that construction can start in the spring & summer.
  • Economic Factors: You should consider economic factors such as construction costs, labor costs, supply chain issues, and shortages. These factors can significantly impact your project’s timeline and budget.
  • Family: Everything else aside, you want to make sure your family is on board with the project and that you don’t have any major life events that will affect the home-building process and vice versa.

We know that custom home building can be daunting, and homeowners often feel in the dark about how long everything will take. This is why at Eakman Construction, we have developed a refined process that our clients love. When you work with us to create your custom home, we follow a simple five-phase process, giving you peace of mind in knowing what is to come.

  • Consultation Phase:  First we perform an initial assessment of the project and its potential scope, timeline, and feasibility.
  • Project Development Phase: Once a Pre-Construction agreement is in place, we help guide the architect, engineer and interior designers to ensure that your home is designed to meet the measurables that we discussed in the consultation phase. It is here that we discuss sustainability options, value engineering opportunities and any custom features you may want.
  • Final Pricing Phase: We work with our team and trade partners to price every piece of your project so that you know what the project will cost.
  • Construction Phase: During the construction phase, we keep you updated via daily reports and weekly meetings, ensuring you remain informed on its progress.
  • Warranty Phase: Once Eakman Construction has handed you the keys to your dream home, you are now a part of the Eakman family! We want to know how you and your home are doing and we pride ourselves on standing by our warranty to ensure our customers and their homes are taken care of long after you’ve moved in.

Land Acquisition

The first official step to building a custom home is acquiring the right piece of land. If you already have a piece of property – great! One of the most important parts of your project is already complete.

If you don’t already have property to build on, we recommend partnering with a builder early in the process. This way, they can assist with land acquisition, helping you find the perfect property for your future home. This may save you frustration down the road if it turns out that what you envision for your home is incompatible with your piece of land.

When looking for land to build on, consider the following:

  • Proximity to work
  • School districts
  • Safety
  • Neighborhood
  • Privacy
  • Slope of land
  • Size of lot
  • Architectural styles of nearby homes

Other things to consider are ground composition, trees, rocks, zoning regulations, septic, and resource access.

When you choose to work with Eakman Construction for your building project, we are happy to offer our opinion on your project’s feasibility and are happy to guide you to an architect who can provide you with an official feasibility study before you make your final purchase.

Seattle Custom Home Design

By now you have selected your architect and custom home builder and secured your piece of land. This is when the real fun can begin! As the homeowner, every design detail is up to you when building a custom home. This can be exciting but also overwhelming, as most homeowners are not professional builders or interior designers. However, there is no need to worry when you work with the right team of professionals. You can rest assured that everything you envision for your home will come to life.

Here is an overview of various elements you are in control of when building a custom home with Eakman:

Site Plans

You should be prepared to present your big picture ideas to your architect so that they can incorporate those into your site plan. If you want a big backyard, now is the time to speak up!


Your home’s size is one of your first decisions. How big can you build on your property? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How many levels do you want? How much space for the backyard do you want?

Architectural Style

Another significant factor to decide upon is architectural style. Do you want lodge style, mid-century modern, or traditional? Make sure to choose a custom home builder with experience working with the style of home you want.


Once you have decided on your home’s size and what to include, you will need to create a layout. Where do you want each room to be? Do you want indoor/outdoor living and an open floor plan? Do you prefer all the bedrooms to be upstairs? This is one of the biggest benefits of custom home building; it’s entirely up to you.

Building Materials

Now that you have finalized your site plans and layout, it’s time to consider your building materials. You might have an idea of your desired materials; however, your custom home builder will assist with your selection and answer any questions you may have.

Design Preferences

Everything from your kitchen island, appliances, fireplace, and primary bedroom design is decided between you and your interior designer. You can choose from infinite styles, materials, and features, making it fun for homeowners to customize their homes.

In addition to including all your desired design preferences, one of the most significant benefits of building a custom home is adding unique features, such as the following:

Sustainable Housing Design

If you are interested in sustainable housing, custom home building is the best way to ensure each aspect of your home meets those needs. Make certain that your architect and home builder are Phius certified and have experience in passive home building.

Indoor/Outdoor Living Space

You have the ability to create an indoor-outdoor living space, great for entertaining and enjoying the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Backyard & Pool

Backyards are very important for homeowners; many want one specifically designed for their lifestyles, such as adding a pool, patio, outdoor fireplace, or basketball court.

Special Features

When building a custom home, you may choose to add luxurious features such as heated floors, custom closets, courtyards, a media room,  floating stairs, and more.

Reflect Your Lifestyle

Building a custom home is a perfect way to enhance your lifestyle with the design of your home. Do you have small children? Maybe you want to have a playroom or media room. Are you an avid swimmer? Add a pool to your backyard! You can create the perfect chef’s kitchen if you love to cook. The options are endless, and you’ll be amazed at what you can include in your designs when you work with us for your custom home.

At Eakman Construction, we work closely with our clients to ensure that we include all the elements that are important to them in their home’s design. Homeowners are increasingly impressed with our team’s level of creativity and craftsmanship when incorporating customized features in their homes.


Now that you have your piece of land, finalized your site plans, and every design element is in place, you must secure all the necessary building permits.

Depending on your jurisdiction, there are several permits that will need to be obtained before/ or during the construction process. We will work with you and your architect to ensure that none of these permits are missed. As a fully licensed and insured construction company with years of experience securing permits for our Greater Seattle area clients, we know how to make this process easy and efficient.

Monitor The Custom Home Building Process

Now that you have your required permits, you are officially ready for construction! The building phase will often be a year-long process and one that requires frequent check-ins with your team. Make sure you are prepared to dedicate time and effort to monitor the process and handle any potential issues that may arise.

Custom home building is not always easy and requires a lot of decision-making and teamwork. However, with Eakman construction by your side, we can expect the highest level of customer service, support, and guidance throughout your project.

During the construction phase, we remain in constant contact with our clients, providing weekly status reports and holding team meetings to discuss your home’s progress. Our project managers will walk you through your house at every stage of construction, ensuring that everything is to your satisfaction.

Finding The Right Custom Home Builder

One of the most important decisions you’ll make throughout your custom home-building process is what builder to partner with. After all, this will be a lengthy process and a major investment, so you want someone with whom you can put your complete confidence. We recommend working with a builder who is familiar with the traditional owner architect contractor process.

Fortunately, Eakman Construction is experienced in Pre- Construction Services and construction.

We help you with everything from the moment you choose to build a custom home until the day we are handing you the keys.  When you work with us to build your custom home, you’ll be blown away by your experience and our commitment to constant communication.

When deciding which custom home builder to partner with, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind before signing on the dotted line:

  • Look at past project photos: Take a look at your potential builder’s portfolio and past work. You want to find someone experienced in building home’s of your desired architectural style.
  • Talk to them about your budget: As your budget will shape the entire scope of your project, you will want to discuss financing options at great length.
  • Discuss project length: Different custom home builders differ on what size and scope of work they can handle and how quickly they can get the job done. You will want to be on the same page with your builder about the estimated project length & timeline.
  • What services they offer: Not all custom home builders offer the same services. Some can assist you with land acquisition or set you up with a realtor, while others won’t. Some are design-build companies, and others are strictly building only.
  • Sustainability: If sustainability is important to you, you’ll want to find a custom home builder that is phius certified and has experience building passive homes.
  • Hold interviews: Let’s be honest – the best way to know if you want to work with someone is by getting to know them! Set up a preliminary interview with a few custom home builders to see who will be the best fit for you.

Are You Ready To Build Your Seattle Custom Home?

All in all, a custom home is a one-of-kind home curated to the individual client’s architectural specifications, design preferences, and location. If you are frustrated with the current Washington housing market and can’t find the perfect home for your family, custom home building may be the best option! It is a long but rewarding process that enables you to see your vision come to fruition and your dreams realized. If you should choose to go this route, know that Eakman Construction offers an unparalleled experience that you can trust will be fair and enjoyable. As a premier Seattle area custom home builder, with over ten years of experience, we are ready to assist you on this rewarding journey!

For more information about Seattle custom home building and how you can get started, contact Eakman Construction today!

751 Kirkland Ave.
Kirkland, WA 98033
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