Welcome to this edition of the Houston Custom Home Builder Podcast Series, brought to you by Houston’s leading luxury construction team, Morning Star Home Builders. I’m Greg, your host, and for today’s episode we are joined by two of Houston’s best known and most accomplished custom and luxury home builders, Ted and Yvonne Cummins. Nice to talk to you both today. How are you?
Ted: Good morning, Greg. Thanks for calling.
Yvonne: Things are great here in Houston, Greg.
Greg: That is always good to hear. Last time we talked, you were walking me through the process of picking out lots and making sure that people got that whole process started properly, and getting the lot picked out first. You were mentioning that the design build model was a really good way to go about the process of putting the right house on the right lot. I wasn’t really familiar with the design build process, or what that actually meant. I was hoping you could help me out, and help the other listeners out, and explain it to us.
Ted: Yes. The design build model is one which, kind of like it sounds, we would design the home specifically for the shape, the characteristics, the views that are created off that lot. We build a lot in golf course communities. We’re building in a new community called Bluejack National, which by the way, is Tiger Woods’ first golf course community in the entire United States. We designed that home with terrific views, looking out over the fairway. The entire back of the house, the master looks over, the family room looks over. It has this casita guest house off the back that has great views of the fairway. That’s a great way of making sure that we design something that meets their lifestyle, and also takes advantage of the views that they may have spent on a very nice lot.
Greg: You all make this sound like it isn’t normal. I’m not asking you to talk bad about anyone, but is this not the way it’s normally done? Are there just a lot of homes go up with very little concern for lifestyle and lot situation, and some of the things that you would expect from a finer home?
Ted: Well, there are options on people, the choices they can make. There’s options. One is they can find a plan on the internet, or they may have walked in the model home and they said, “We like that house. We just want to build this house.” They may not realize that they didn’t take quite the advantage of the views on the lot, or the characteristics of the lot that they may have by just going out and buying an existing plan.
Greg: Yvonne, is this what you were talking about last time when we were on the podcast, where you like to ask a lot of questions and get a lot of lifestyle questions to build into this process that Ted’s talking about? If someone comes in and says, “I like this model home that I saw over in …” Wherever, “… Willow Creek Ranch, but I had this other concern.” Is that where that comes in and truly makes the next home you build the design build model?
Yvonne: Yes. We do ask a lot of questions of our clients. We ask how, if they entertain, how they live, who they entertain. Is it family they entertain? Is it maybe work-related entertainment? Maybe it’s kids’ sports teams that they entertain. Those sorts of questions. Does one of the spouses get up earlier than the other to go to work? As we’re in that whole design process, we’re asking those kinds of questions so that we can begin to put on paper a house that meets their needs.
Greg: If we could get into a couple of details, if you interviewed someone … Say you were going to interview me about how I use a house. I cook dinner almost every night for my family of four, and I sometimes have too many pans on the range going, and the oven’s going. Is that the kind of question you would ask, and then you would start to build or design around those needs, around how someone actually uses the property?
Yvonne: Yes. That is so true. We ask a lot of questions. I even ask what things you specifically cook. Are you a chef at night, and you want to create all sorts of wonderful things for your family? Are you a pastry chef? Are you trying to eat very healthfully? Do you want to use a steam oven in your cooking?
Greg: Oh my goodness.
Yvonne: All those kinds of questions, because that then can ultimately impact what the design of a kitchen might be. We’re seeing the use of what we call a service kitchen, and that means that we might have a pantry area behind the kitchen with some secondary appliances. You might have the secondary refrigerator. You could have an additional sink. You could even have another range. Whatever pieces of equipment that you might use. For your example, you talked about having some kids. Maybe that’s where they prepare their school lunches, or those sorts of things, so it kind of keeps all of the prep, if you will, in that area, and the rest of your kitchen might look a little nicer. You mentioned having all kinds of pots and pans everywhere. That’s a place that you could go and prep, so that your kitchen stays maybe neater and cleaner.
We look at that, depending upon what neighborhood, too, that our client is talking about. If it’s in Leland Shores, we know that they might have golf course views, and so that’s another thing to take into consideration.
Greg: You’re saying you figure out how the person uses whichever room you’re talking about, and if you were going to build custom home A, in Bluejack, and custom home B in Willow Creek Ranch, and custom home C in, I don’t know, High Meadow Ranch, that they might each look different depending on the individual lot, I guess? Even if I used it the same, you’re saying it would actually be a different design depending on the community and the lot that were picked out?
Yvonne: Certainly there are different deed restrictions also, in each of those communities. Some of them require that you have a side entry garage so that you can’t see the garage from the street. Different subdivisions have different requirements, so there are definitely some different design features that you implement in various neighborhoods.
Greg: This is too much for me to think about. I’m glad there are people like you to put it all together and make sense of it all. Oh my goodness. After you …
Ted: I was just going to mention that, as I was listening to Yvonne talk, one of the things that we always … We ask a bunch of questions, but I want to go back to a question that you asked originally, is, “Explain design build and why,” and, “How many builders are doing it?”
I would say that there’s a fair amount of builders that use the term that, but basically their approach is to turn around or introduce you to an architect or a building designer they work with, and you go off, and independently you go off and work with that person. Then, the builder says, “Okay, when you get the plans done, come back to me. I’ll then put numbers on it, and then we’ll build your house.”
I think that’s really the fork in the road, the difference of Morning Star Builders is, we want to be involved from the lot selection, through the whole design, and I’m personally involved in the design with all my clients’ homes. Then, we build the home, but we’ve designed it also, importantly to budget. There’s no surprises at the end of, “Oh, it’s $200,000 more than I wanted to spend.”
I think that’s a huge … This would be a topic for many more podcasts to come, one of the many, many advantages of doing the design build approach instead of, one, just going off and hiring an architect on your own to design something that may or may not be within budget, or even be ultimately what you actually want to live in, because there wasn’t these kind of questions of lifestyle asked. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that our clients, we identify their needs and we meet their needs. We are very connected with our clients from that initial meeting, all through the design, all through the construction, and through warranty periods that last, for us, up to 10 years. It’s a 10 year long relationship.
Greg: Wow. I guess this is where it comes, and I think I’ve heard you say before that you’ve never built the same house twice. It sounds like it’s a very personal process. I guess this is what you’re talking about. Each house gets sort of fit to the right person, and the person fits the right house, and it turns into a very … I think personal is the right word. A very personal choice.
Ted: Correct. I think most people are actually kind of surprised we ask as many questions as we do. I think they start to become enjoying that we’re really about the relationship, not just about the transaction. I think that, at the end of the day, people say the kind of money that they’re spending for this, for most of us is the largest expenditure that they’ll ever make. For a lot of our clients, this may be the last home they live in. Even more appropriate questions, and if you want, we can talk about that briefly, or may get into this on another podcast, talking about the importance of a universal design, and allowing people to live in a home that they don’t … their physical needs change, but the house was not thought about to accompany and live with that change.
Greg: Yeah. That sounds like a very interesting future podcast. You’re talking about planning ahead 10, 20 years, right? Is that what you mean?
Ted: Yes. That’s correct.
Yvonne: I think that’s a challenge for anyone is … Like, for you, you mentioned your kids. They’re this age right now. In 10 years, are they going to be out of the house? If they’re out of the house, then how will you live in your house? There’s all those sorts of things that we take into consideration as well.
Greg: Wow. A lot more than I might have thought was involved in putting a house together. Once again, thank you for the education on what it means to be a design build builder. I’m looking forward to our next podcast. It sounds like we have quite a few things to think about and talk about. Thanks again for the podcast today.
Yvonne: Thank you again.
Ted: Greg, we appreciate the opportunity to get together and to share with our prospects out there that are considering building a custom home in the Houston market.
Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Houston Custom Home Builder Podcast Series. If you have any questions, or would like to contact us at Morning Star Builders, you can find us on Facebook. You can always visit our website at HomesByMorningStar.com. We appreciate your time with us today, and look forward to bringing you another episode soon.