First Time Kit Home Builders

First Time Kit Home Builders

Show Notes:

First time kit home building and Owner Builders.  Quality plans for your Owner Builder project.  Building Codes and building permit application and approval.


Interviewer: Hello. Hello. It’s Episode 34 of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. With me in our studio is Founder and President of Landmark Home and Land Company, a company which has been helping people build their new homes where they want exactly as they want across the nation and worldwide since 1993, Mr. Steve Tuma. Steve, how is it going today?

Steve Landmark: It’s a very nice day. We’ve been busy helping people all around the country design their homes, getting details together for their floor plans and house design so that it looks the way they wanted and get them ready for a permit application.

Interviewer: Busy business as usual over at Landmark Home and Land Company. So Landmark receives a lot of inquiries from folks who are thinking about building a new home but have never really taken on a building project before. So I thought it’s time we perhaps address those folks and sort of lay out what a first-time builder might be dealing with. How about we give that a go?

Steve Landmark: Well, it’s kind of an interesting process there because the concept of building your own home to some people is kind of like, “Wow! I never thought of that.”

Interviewer: Yeah. I mean let’s say I’m a first-time home builder like talk to me like there must be a – do I need a certain level of knowledge before beginning? I mean I may not have built anything as hard as a home before. Is it a management job or an actual hammer and nails type of project? What should I know?

Steve Landmark: Well, that’s the interesting part is, is it a management job or is it a hammer and nail kind of getting in there? It can be either and it can be both. We’ve had customers that have never picked a hammer up but understand that they need to understand the design of the home, the budgeting, the scheduling and working with the right people to get it built. And then we’ve had the other extreme where they’ve literally done everything, the family is involved in the trades, someone does foundation works, someone does electric, someone does framing and they get it put together. And then most customers are somewhere in the middle where they are managing it and then they are doing the work that they choose to do or know how to do. We never suggest that someone go out there and do a job that they don’t know anything about. We always suggest that they work with people that do know what’s going on in the project and then they take care of the work that they are capable of doing. So to answer the question, it can literally be a management job or it could be get in there and swing the hammer and run some wires and paint type of a project. So the people that have done this with us have been all different types of people. They have been people that have been managers at upper level. They have been some people that are very top level management. They have been some people that are in the building trades or some people that just got divorced and said, “Hey, this is the only way I can afford a home.” There are some people that have gone through different situations and realized that they can get a better quality home by building it. So there isn’t at least that I can see is – there isn’t like one thing that you have to have to build a home. You just have to have the desire to learn the process, understand it, develop a schedule and be able to manage it and move forward. And that’s the key element. And what’s nice is we are also able to help people. So depending upon how deep you want to get into the actual building processes, that’s something you can control and that’s a nice thing because even just by managing the building of your home, you are going to save a considerable amount of money compared to hiring a general contractor.

Interviewer: Let’s say I go on to the Landmark website and I find one of the many, many plans that are available there to look at and I decide that I’m going to use one of those plans. How do the Landmark Home plans help me as a new builder?

Steve Landmark: Well, what we do is we develop a set of plans for your specific project. So these aren’t just canned plans that are like, “Hey, here is your house, go build it.” These are plans that are designed the way you want the house to be designed. We then go through make sure that everything is fine for the building department, all the building department details or that it fits on your land, the foundation design is right. So the plans actually become kind of a communication method. So you could take them and send them to the building department for permits. You can also send them to your contractors and subcontractors for doing the different portions of building the home. So it’s a nice tool to be able to pass your concept because sometimes what people do is they will say, “Well, I met with my contractor and I asked them how much it is to build a 2000-square-foot home.” And so the customer thinks they have an idea in their head and then the contractor is sitting there saying, “What did you just tell me? Much less, how am I supposed to remember that?” So by having an accurate set of plans, it allows them to work with contractors and have the contractor understand these people are serious. They have a real set of plans. They know what they are doing. It’s planned out properly. So it just helps in the overall scheduling, controlling of the budget, and ease of the process of going through it.

But you asked I think how Landmark Home and Land Company helps, is we help the people go through and develop an accurate set of plans. Instead of a set of plans that says, “Hey, here’s a 2000-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, 2-car garage home,” someone could see the exact home and how it sets on the land and all the details and dimensions, ceiling, heights, windows, stuff like that so that it’s very easy for the contractor to understand what the customer is wanting to do.

Interviewer: Right. Well, let’s get down to what Landmark actually provides aside from a great plans that are available on the website. What about the Landmark’s especially the panelized home kits? How can that help me, a panelized home kit, the first-time home builder?

Steve Landmark: Well, where it helps is we are able to control the cost. We are able to give you a guaranteed cost for your house package designed and delivered. And that’s the key. I’m going to tie it back and kind of hit the rewind button. Our panel kits also include all the plans for your specific building department.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: So if they need simple plans or complex plans or a lot of additional details, we will supply those. So the idea is that you can take those plans, turn them into the building department, get the plans approved and then our panelized home kit matches that approved set of plans. So you as the owner/builder have control of the cost and the quality of the product to know exactly to be what’s built. You don’t end up in a situation where draftsman, architect points their finger at a structural engineer who then points a finger at the building department and then the framer sitting here saying, “OK, what do you guys saying?” You’re avoiding the finger point. It’s extremely clear as to what is there and what’s going to be built so it helps with the permitting, the assembly of the home package, the inspection, and then also you the owner/builder understanding what is being built.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: And the panelized home kit is tying that all to the plans. It’s the one-stop shop. We can go through and make sure everything is fine for your design ideas but also make sure that it’s good for your building department and also make sure that the panel kit matches. It just avoids you having to manage between 7 and 10 people to get your plans done, approved, engineered properly, energy codes, and the framing system going. It’s ease.

Interviewer: Now, what about – we talked about the plans. We talked about the panelized home kits, et cetera. Are there any let’s call them behind the scenes type of support systems, things that aren’t outwardly in your face if you will, they are easy to see? Any kind of those support systems to help a Landmark customer?

Steve Landmark: Yes. And that’s an extremely important part because we will get calls from people and say, “Well, I got this guy and he drew these plans up,” or whatever, “Hey, I bought them off the internet,” or whatever and there they are and we are like, “Well, that’s great but what’s happening here? What’s happening there?” They are like, “I don’t know.” And then the designer doesn’t get back to them. So we are able to help them go through and work the little nuances of their project. So if they have an issue with the building site, if they have an issue with the plan change, the structural change, an energy code situation, a building department situation, working with contractors, how to budget different things, we are there to support our customers from beginning all the way through until they finish the house and then hopefully they come back and build another one or tell a friend. So that’s the key to it is it’s not just the one-stop shop of, “Hey, get your plans, your engineering, your energy codes, your site plan, your panelized home kit.” It’s what does this all mean? How does it go? How does it work together? What if I have a question? What if I need my HVAC system designed? How do I know that the ductwork from an HVAC system is going to go through the chase sets designed in the house?” These are all kind of deeper things that once people get into it, they see the value that we are able to provide. So it’s the customer support and customer service that is the most important thing. Not all plans are the same. Not all structural engineers are the same. But when you come to Landmark, we will wrap it all together so as a unit the customer understands what’s going on and we do it at a set and guaranteed cost.

Interviewer: Got it. Well, let’s talk about cost a little bit. Now, what if let’s say, I choose a certain plan, a design that I find on the Landmark website, is that design going to be adaptable or changeable at all if I need to readjust my budget during the process?

Steve Landmark: Oh yes! That’s something that we work with. We always suggest that people review the plan and make sure it works in their budget. But we can do different things. If someone says, “Hey, Steve, we got this house. It’s a beautiful house but it’s $350,000 and we would rather spend $300,000. What can we do?”

Interviewer: Sure.

Steve Landmark: As long as we are in the preliminary plan stage, it’s very easy to go through and do changes and say, “Hey, let’s get rid of a couple of corners. Let’s do this. Let’s do that.” We kind of have a decent idea as to what it would take to simplify a project to control the cost. Sometimes it’s just a matter you got to make it smaller. Sometimes there are design elements that can be taken out. Sometimes there’s a little give and take situation. So you might keep the house the same size but maybe you change the flooring. You put a less expensive carpet in instead of custom hardwood floors because you are able to control the cost. At least you have the main home and then a little bit down the road you can change it if you choose to. So yes, we are fully capable of doing changes and we like to do them all in the preliminary stages going through to make sure it’s all done on the CAD system so we know that everywhere works with the codes, the building department, and it’s very clear. So we are all up for it. We work with people to do revisions and a couple of sets revisions to make sure everything comes together. But yes, if for some reason our customer would get stuck and they had a significant change that they didn’t seem to overcome, yeah, we will just work with them on a different design or a big redesign to make sure it comes together. That’s part of the support system because sometimes people think, “Oh, an architect is like a lawyer. They are going to charge me $200 an hour to do changes. I don’t want to deal with that.” It’s part of our system to help and support the proper design of your home to make sure it’s successful. They will work with you so you can verify it’s the right budget. But ultimately, make sure it’s something that’s going to go smoothly. And that’s the support that we can help.

Interviewer: I would imagine getting those changes decided on and changed early in the process would be the ideal thing.

Steve Landmark: Right. Every once in a while, things will happen and people will have a house framed and say, “Steve, look at what just happened. We got pregnant. We need another bedroom.” So it’s like uh-uh. But we’ve done it. We know how to do it. Of course, we understand it. So what might be a big problem to someone else is probably something that we dealt with multiple times. So we are able to work through. Now, that being said, yes, it is better to do all the changes on paper instead of after the house is built. If something really, really comes up, we are always there to take care of our customers even if it’s something that seems to be unreasonable. If that’s what they want, it becomes very reasonable to us to support them and help them through the process.

Interviewer: Now that we are talking, something has come into my head. We’ve gone over this on earlier podcast but I think as we go through this, it’s relevant enough to this topic to bring it up again. How can Landmark help me if my building department in my area is known as being really tough to deal with or just very picky?

Steve Landmark: Well, we’ve got a lot of experience dealing with building departments and understanding what they need and generally what they look for. But yes, it is amazing that’s some building departments don’t know what they are looking for. And in some cases, some building departments don’t always know how to process a set of plans to know that the information is on the plans. There are a lot of changes in codes. There are a lot of changes in the way building is done. There are a lot of changes in the way the inspection process is happening especially in areas where there might be hurricanes, earthquakes, or high snow loads. There is a lot happening. But even in the areas where there aren’t as many natural disasters, those building departments are changing. They are slowly seeing that there are things they should be paying attention to because people aren’t building their homes right so they want to make it picky. So the thing about tough is sometimes people don’t understand what the building department is asking for so it’s a challenge to them or to us. We’ve done a lot so we likely have an understanding. But let’s just say someone does have that one – the one out of a hundred inspector that decides he is going to show you who is king and we’re going to do this, we’ve got all the pros, structural people, architectural people, energy code people, green code design, HVAC design, electrical engineering, plumbing engineering. We are going to have the right answer. So I don’t think that there’s going to be a situation where there are going to be held back. What I found is the tough and very picky, it’s just that they themselves are learning how to go through a process and there might be a new code change. So we are able to work with them and get it taken care of. Every set of plans has been permitted in all the states whether it’s a big metropolitan area or it’s a rural area. We’ve been able to take care of. And that’s the advantage because we work in some areas that are extreme sticklers for every single detail that when someone comes up from another area, we’ve likely experienced the situation before and understand it.

Now, every once in a while, there is a building inspector that will throw a curve ball. So far, we’ve taken care of every single one. So that’s customer support part we’ve been talking about. You just give us a call and say, “Hey, I talked to my building inspector and he said, ‘Hey, what about this and what about that?’ What does this mean?”

I can have a nice discussion with the people and explain to them. And suddenly, it’s easier when they start realizing that hey, this is – when they understand what the building inspector is asking for. That’s the key point in customer service and support is everyone’s project is different. It’s a different design. It’s on a different piece of land. That different piece of land is different. It could be on the side of a hill. It could be flat. It’s a different building department. So that’s the kind of behind-the-scene support that can we supply so that people understand that they have help in case something odd comes up. So far, no one has stomped us. Everyone – we’ve taken care of every customer.

Interviewer: And again, I want everyone, all our listeners to know when we bring up building departments, we are not demonizing building departments at all. Mostly as you’ve said in the past, most building departments are great people and they are just making sure you get the house done right so things don’t come up later. And I think you are right. Most building departments are pretty amazing.

Steve Landmark: What it is, is sometimes people look at the building department as an enemy. Sometimes it could get a little interesting. But the reality is, most codes are for safety.

Interviewer: Sure.

Steve Landmark: So people – like staircases have to have a certain rise and run to the stairs, that just so it’s not steep that you fall down.

Interviewer: Sure.

Steve Landmark: Staircases have to have hand railings so you can hold on to it. Doors have to be a certain size so you can get furniture in and out. There’s stuff like that that’s interesting. A lot of places are imposing that you must have fire sprinklers in your house. Sometimes people are like, “Oh, that’s a lot of money.”

Interviewer: I heard that.

Steve Landmark: And I kind of understand it. It’s like, “Hey, you’d rather show me a cool kitchen than your cool sprinkler head.” But the reality is, is if you look at the information on the safety, the amount of – how quickly a sprinkler will respond to put say, like a little fire out so if something happened in a garbage can or whatever, it’s very quick. Yeah, your carpet might get wet but at least your house isn’t burned down.

Interviewer: Sure. Yeah.

Steve Landmark: So sometimes there’s a little resistance on that and I understand it. But if people were to say, “Hey, wait a second. If there was an issue, would I rather have smoldering fire go out in my garbage can or whatever or would I rather have half of my house gone?”

Interviewer: Sure.

Steve Landmark: So sometimes because it’s different, it’s a change and it’s money that they weren’t exactly planning, there could be a little resistance. But when you look at it, the safety is there, the resell value is there, the comfort is there. A lot of situations come up. Now, I can’t stand up for every single code because some of them do seem to be very funny or contradictory but we worked it through so the design works, the building department works and things are smooth. And like I said, if someone runs into an issue, they just contact us and we will jump on it right away and do everything we can to work it through so it’s a positive event.

Interviewer: Yeah. It’s also you see in other countries, there natural disasters where you see thousands of people are killed and that doesn’t happen in the States and a lot of that has to do with we have great codes and building departments and they get – there’s a reason for that.

Steve Landmark: Right. And as the reason is tightening up because as you see in like hurricanes, there seems to be more and more of them. before, it seemed to be big one every five, ten years. Now it seems like every hurricane season, there’s a new one there, sometimes multiple. The fires, there just seemed to be more and more fires. So having the proper design, the WUI, Wildlife Urban Interface design in your home can save your house. So it’s nice to have those details there. So ultimately, it’s safety. But the key to – just look, we’ve talked about fires, we’ve talked about getting your sofa in the door, going down staircase, the key is that it ultimately will work to make a house usable and safe. So I was talking to one person. He said, “Hey, can’t I make my living room bigger by making the staircase a foot wide?” And I jokingly said, “Who is the last person you’ve seen that’s a foot wide?”

So the person said, “I didn’t really think of that.” They were thinking about their living room. They weren’t thinking about the reality of flooring around the house. So there are a lot of situations like that where it makes sense and the electrical design as well, a gas piping, different things so that there’s enough juice flowing. We’ve all been in old homes where you turn a toaster on and a hairdryer on and it flips the circuit. So it’s better to have it designed right to avoid issues like that.

Interviewer: I like when you go into it. A historic home, something built in the early to mid-1800s and you see the doorways and stairways are so tiny. We are just bigger people now.

Steve Landmark: Yeah, they didn’t have supersize. You’re out there growing your food and being healthy.

Interviewer: Right. And I’m one of the worst about that.

Steve Landmark: But see, a lot of those situations, it is kind of interesting but those things have evolved. Let me bring something else up. An older home generally has taller windows. They didn’t have air conditioning. They have taller double hangs to allow cool air to come in and hot air to flow.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: So over time as the evolution of technology or lifestyles moves on, the house changes with it.

Interviewer: Are you saying we are getting shorter and lighter?

Steve Landmark: There might be something like that. Hey, let’s bring – here’s something else that’s kind of funny about that is you bring it up, you go on an old home, the closet might be like 3 feet wide and 18 inches deep and they hang like the two shirts they had on a hanger. They don’t really have coat racks and big walk-in closets. So imagine if someone didn’t catch on to that to say, “Hey, your bedroom should be a certain size or hey your hallway should be a certain size.” So a lot of these things are things we take for granted. We never really think about, “Hey, why is my window so big? So that I could crawl out of it in case of a fire. Hey, why does the door have to be a certain size?”  This and that. So yeah, we are kind of joking about it but the reality is it’s a serious situation. That’s what we can help with. We can go through and take care of those odds and ends that people don’t understand or don’t even realize exist to work it through. And that’s a fun part because a lot of people just build because the want to do it. It’s cool. They are learning. They watch the show. Their grandpa did it. It’s a lifetime achievement.

Interviewer: Let’s a little personal now on the customer end of things. What have you found, you personally, Steve Tuma, the President of the company, what have you found or being told by your customers as the most rewarding part of a panelized home project build to your customers?

Steve Landmark: I think it’s the concept of “I did it!” They took it from a concept. Everything kind of starts with a dream and then they work with us to get plans, and that’s exciting. Then they get permits and excitement builds. And then there’s a whole dug and it’s like, “Wow! This is real.” Then it gets framed and it comes to life. I would say the most amazing thing is the picture that they send us at the end or during the process really and say, “Steve, I can’t believe this. My family is getting a new home. We are going to have what we need. It’s in the setting we want it to be. It’s in the community, the right school. Maybe they are kayakers and they are by a river, whatever it maybe. And it’s that self-achievement, the reward of, “I did it!” It has been very interesting to see how many people build. They’ve been thinking about it their whole life. They’ve been thinking about their whole life, they realized by owning or building they could do it at a better budget. They can also control the quality and know exactly how their house is built. There have also been a lot of families doing it and they are 9, 10, 11, 12-year-old kids who are deep into the project. They understand responsibility and management to get it done and follow through.

So I could go on and on but I think basically the biggest thing is I did it and I got something that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. That’s it. Whether it’s a retirement home, a first home, the main family home as the family is expanding, the getaway house, whatever it is, it’s really that fulfillment of, “Hey, I did that and isn’t that cool?”

Interviewer: Sure.

Steve Landmark: And I got to say, we’ve been helping people for decades. I don’t know how many people we’ve helped. It’s still exciting to us to go, “Wow! Look at that family. Look at what just happened.”

Interviewer: Yeah, of course.

Steve Landmark: It could be the first home in the family. It could be the 10th home. It could be the 50th home. It could be the 5th one that they built with us. It’s still cool when they call up and go, “Steve, that was just fun.”

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: It’s the satisfaction. They’ve helped their family. They’ve helped themselves. It’s a good financial move.

Interviewer: Well, time just flew by. This was such an interesting topic and I love some of the stuff you were saying just about what it means to be not just a homeowner but somebody that creates and builds their own house. It’s great. So anyway, we’re going to wrap it up for this episode of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. But before we go, Steve, as usual can you let the listeners know how to get more info about Landmark Home and Land Company?

Steve Landmark: It’s very easy. We have a website, That’s kind of the initials of Landmark Home Land Company, We are also are on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

And you can also call us, 800-830-9788. Mike will answer the phone. If he isn’t able to answer, you will get his voicemail. He will get back with you right away. We are very responsive and proactive and we appreciate your call. And you can also email Mike at or you can email me, Steve at And I love talking to people about their projects and kind of seeing their vision and understanding what it is that they want to do. Then we kind of come in and help them put it together.

Interviewer: Fantastic. So for Steve Tuma and myself, thanks for listening once again to the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. Be safe out there and we will see you next time.

Steve Landmark: Thank you.

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