Frequently Asked Questions About Custom Home Building



How do I build a custom home?

Unless you are going to “Do it Yourself” you will need to employ an established builder with a great reputation to guide you through the entire process, from design to moving in.    

Did you know a good builder can save you thousands of dollars if they are involved in the design phase of your home?

We call it “Value Engineering”.  We have been building homes and commercial structures for over 30 years, so we’ve learned what works and what does not.  Everything we build is built to last.  On every project, in which we are involved early on, we see ways to either reduce the cost of construction or we see ways to build better, avoiding future problems.  This is true for finishes and selection also, we know the great vendors who offer real value – best products and the most competitive pricing with outstanding service after the sale. 

How to choose the right builder

What does some of the custom home builder terminology mean?

Builder Terminology 101:

Budget is how much a family can afford to spend or how much a family wants to spend on a house. If you set your budget at $500,000.00 – then the total cost to construct the house should not exceed $500,000.00. At Stockell Homes we can accomplish this for you.

Bid is an exact price, based on a detailed set of drawings, specifications, selections, and allowances.

A bid is a fixed price for some specified item or items to be done. 

For instance, we ask a plumber, how much exactly, would it cost to install an Insinkerator, model 33, under my kitchen sink? The total price includes removing and disposing of the old one. He gives us a fixed price, not to exceed, based on a specified item and task – This is a Bid.  At Stockell Homes we get very accurate whole house bids when selections and clear specifications are made upfront.

Estimate is a guess, based on similar finishes, style, and square feet. An experienced builder can look at a picture and a floor plan, and knowing the square feet, guess fairly well – within about 20% or so. This is based on previous houses they have built. 

For example, the last house we built with a similar style and similar finishes cost about $190.00 per square foot. The plan you have is 2,800 square feet. So, we estimate the house will cost $532,000.00.

Selections are all the individual components that are used to build and finish your home. These are owner choices and these choices determine the cost of the home. 

The first choice is how big and what style? 4,000 square feet or 2,000 square feet? Farmhouse, American Arts & Crafts or other? Do you want a basement? 9’ or 8’ walls? 2×6 framed walls or 2×4? 8’ ceilings or 10’ ceilings? Asphalt shingles or slate? Brick, stone, or vinyl siding? Vinyl or wood windows? Custom cabinets & granite or stock & Formica? Etc. All these selections determine the cost per square foot. 

Allowance is a guess about how much an item might cost or how much a group of items might cost.  It is also based on similar houses, with similar finishes. 

For instance, if I am talking to a client and we discuss an allowance for cabinets, I might say, the last house we built like yours, the total cost of cabinets was $30,000. This could be used as an allowance. It is only a guess because the new client has not selected the cabinets yet. The new client might want much nicer cabinets and they may end up costing $45,000.

Allowances are used for cabinets, countertops, flooring, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, siding, etc…

Change Orders are a change in the scope of work.  Stated another way, it is for added work or less work.  There are basically two ways changes come about.  Owner directed changes or mother nature. 

Owner directed changes:

Additional work – You might like to add a closet in the basement, or make the closet bigger, or add a detached garage, or some other additional item that was not on the plans or scope of work.

Less work –  Maybe you’d like to delete the closet in the basement or make the closet smaller or make the garage smaller or some other item that is deleted or made smaller than the plans or scope of work.

Changes to previously selected finishes or allowances –  You might decide you’d like to have a Quartz kitchen countertop instead of Formica, or that you want different cabinets than the ones you previously selected.

Mother Nature:

These are things that are not expected or not known at the time of bidding or contract.

Example – after the excavation begins solid rock is encountered and there are extra costs involved breaking rock. 

Example – It rains really hard and water needs to be pumped out or mud removed from the excavated area. 

Costs caused by mother nature are considered extra work as it is not the norm nor anticipated.

Change Orders basically explain the change and the cost for the change. The change either adds work or deletes work.  It either adds costs to the contract budget or deletes costs from it.    


Folks are in a hurry these days and they want to get construction started as soon as possible. Many builders do not let their clients know that using allowances creates an “estimated” cost of construction. It is often a frustrating ordeal trying to build when decisions have not been made. It slows things down, creates tension & anxiety and creates budget concerns because some of the things they are now selecting are more than the allowance the builder or architect gave them. 

At Stockell Homes, we ensure this does not happen to you. We fully inform our clients of the pitfalls of allowances. Stockell Homes prefers to use the following best practice.

Best Practice. The best-case scenario is for the client to take a little time upfront and with the guidance of Stockell Homes to actually make some real selections. 

We advise our clients on who the best and most competitive vendors are, who to see, addresses & phone numbers. We suggest that our clients go to the siding company and select the siding, to the cabinet company showroom and select the cabinets they want, to the plumbing supply house and select the tubs, toilets, and faucets, to the flooring center and select the flooring, etc. For our clients who just do not have the time to visit 4 showrooms, our interior designers can do the legwork for you.

All this information is then forwarded to your personal coordinator at Stockell Homes who enters it into selection sheets and then sends the selection sheets along with the plans to the various trades and solicits real bids. 

In this way, we provide our clients with an accurate cost of construction.  Our clients can upgrade or downgrade different items to stay within the budget. Once they are content with their final selections and they know the total cost of construction, we move forward toward an enjoyable building experience.

It’s comforting to know that everything is selected and ordered, and things just hum along. No surprises! That’s the Stockell Homes difference. We have proven systems in place. We’ve been doing it for years. 

Cost per Square Foot

Cost per square foot is based on the finished, heated and cooled areas of the home and usually include a garage. The size of the garage depends on the size of the home.  Generally, a 2,000sf home will include a 2-car garage.   A 3,000sf home will include a 3-car garage.  Larger garages will add to the cost.  Square foot costs do not include the square feet in the basement, patios, screened porches, decks, retaining walls, pools, etc.. 

How much does it cost to build a custom house?

Custom homes range in price from $300.00 per square foot to well over $450.00 per square foot.  There are many factors that determine the cost of a home.  Some are determined by the piece of property on which the house is built. Some are driven by selections made by the Owner.

First, let’s look at costs associated with the property or the land on which the home is being built.  Are utilities available, water, electric, sewers, internet?  Is the lot gently sloping and good deep soil or is it a rocky hillside?  Water well, septic systems, excavating rock…all add cost.

Next, let’s look at selections or choices available to the owner.

How big is it?  A 3,000sf home will typically cost more than a 2,000sf home.

How complex is it?  A simple design is less expensive than a complex design.

Interior and exterior finishes can have a huge impact on cost.  Truly custom homes don’t have limited choices when it comes to finishes.  Clients are free to purchase products from anywhere in the world.  These choices are often more a consideration of one’s budget.

Interior Finishes – Costs of inexpensive products vs more expensive; flooring, cabinets, countertops, plumbing fixtures, lighting, appliances, doors, trim, entertainment amenities, smart home technology, heating & cooling equipment, etc.. 

Exterior finishes – stone vs brick or vinyl siding.  Regular shingles or slate.  Vinyl windows or wood.  Porches with wood ceilings vs vinyl.  Other additional exterior items – screened porches, decks, patios, pavers, driveways, retaining walls, boulder walls, landscaping, lighting, etc..

Do you provide remodeling work, or are you just a custom home builder?

Yes! We do provide remodeling services, and quite often too.  We’ll work with you to develop plans for renovating your kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, patio, or any other area of your home and then provide the systems and craftsman to seamlessly get the work done. 

View our home remodeling services

What is the process for building a custom home?

We have a simple six-step process.

  1. Outline the budget.
  2. Begin the design process with our team.
  3. Determine wants and wishes.  Must-haves & would like to haves.
  4. Begin the interior and exterior selection process & site plan development.
  5. Construction phase.
  6. Move-in.

As you embark on your journey, what should you expect? To help you, we’ve provided a step-by-step overview of the new home process.

With our proven experience, responsive communication and commitment to quality and innovation, you can trust Stockell Custom Homes to turn your dream into reality.

View more about our process.

What areas do you build in?

We build all over the St. Louis area and parts of St. Charles. To see some of our favorite locations to build in and the wonderful amenities that each has to offer, click the link below.

View the areas we build in

How long will it take to build a new home?

It depends on the size and complexity of the home, how much time the client is able to devote to the preconstruction steps (1-4) and how quickly decisions/selections are made.

The design phase may take as little as 3 months for a simple home to over a year for larger more complex homes.

The build phase may take as little as 3 months for smaller homes, 8 months to a year for larger more complex homes, and really big ones take more than a year.

Where can I find an architect?

We work with many of the most talented architects and draftsmen in the Midwest.  Simply call for a free consultation and we can help you find the talent you are looking for and get the process started.  The consultation is free.

What is a High-Performance Home and are they expensive?

A high-performance home is built to last generations, minimize operating costs over time, and ensure healthier indoor air quality over standard built homes. Stockell Homes utilizes long-lasting, time tested low maintenance building products. We use modern building science methods to increase insulation R values, reduce air and water infiltration, and use the best most efficient HVAC systems.  Additionally, we also use whole-house energy recovery, fresh air exchangers and low VOC building materials for a healthier home.   

What is a Green Home and are they expensive?

A green home is a high-performance home with a few added attributes. Namely, locally sourced products to save on fuel/carbon transporting product, water-saving measures for plumbing and outdoor landscaping and building near urban areas, repurposed areas or mass transit. Green homes are often not as expensive as one would think.  The cost has come down considerably as more and more manufacturers have “mainstreamed” green products.  If you decide that a green home is the best choice for your custom home, we will help you choose quality materials for a sustainable, energy-efficient home.    

View more about green homes

Do I need to have plans before we get started building my custom home?

Yes, and we can help you choose an existing plan to customize or start from scratch and work with you to make it uniquely yours.

View our commitment

Do you have stock floor plans to choose from?

No. Each home we build is from a unique set of plans developed from an existing plan and customized or from the imagination of our clients and our designers to develop an entirely new plan. 

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