Small kit homes versus large kit homes. Different design features and how they affect your new home project. New home design for your specific building site.
Steve Tuma: We like to listen to what a customer says and needs and believe they need. That’s where we are able to help. We are able to work with them on designing the home right, making sure it fits on the land, and making sure that they are happy with it.
Interviewer: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us for Episode 46 of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. With me as always is the President and Founder 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, my friend, Steve Tuma. Steve, how are you man?
Steve Tuma: It’s another great day. It always seems to be a good day.
Interviewer: That’s a good attitude.
Steve Tuma: Well, it’s fun. We get calls from people, “Hey, I want to build this weekend home. Hey Steve, we want to build another home. You helped us two years ago.”
Steve Tuma: And it’s kind of invigorating actually.
Interviewer: Well, when you love your work, you never work a day in your life. Isn’t that what they say?
Steve Tuma: Right. We are the only company with 10 days a week and 30 hours a day. But we figure it out.
Interviewer: Like a Beatle song, Eight Days a Week.
Steve Tuma: Yeah, exactly.
Interviewer: I thought today we would get into a subject that has been asked about by a customer too. And that’s the subject of big homes versus small homes. We all have that thing. Should I get a big dog or a small dog? But when it comes to building houses, I think it’s a little more complex. So I guess you might equate it to expensive homes as opposed to lesser expensive designs but I’m sure it’s much more complex than that. So if you’re good, let’s dive in. What are the differences between the two?
Steve Tuma: Well, it’s kind of interesting because if you put that on a matrix, you’d be kind of like OK, so a smaller – does smaller mean that it’s less expensive? Does larger mean that it’s more expensive? Well, there are ways of making small homes simple. There are also ways of making small homes very intricate. There are also ways of making big homes simple and big homes very intricate as well. So there are ways to control budgets. If someone says, “Hey, I want a smaller, just really, really detailed palace.” That could be done. Other people say, “Hey, I need space. I just want a big simple home so I could get the most square footage for the dollars.” So there are ways to adjust it depending upon what a particular customer needs, what their budget is, just their personal lifestyle. Some people like the simple designs. Simple is more. Other people want stuff that’s more intricate, get in different architectural features, just different looks, different roof pitches, ceiling height, porches, different architectural features and finishes.
So the basic difference is kind of what does a customer want and to what degree do they want it? We’ve done extremely simple homes. We’ve done extremely complicated homes. So it’s more we believe the listening of the customer to find out what they need because some of this is relative. If you grow up in a very boxy home, putting a front porch on it might be intricate or if you grow up in a very intricate home, simple might be what someone else considers to be intricate. So we like to listen to what a customer says and needs and believe they need and talk to them and kind of help them put it together on something that’s workable for what it is. A lot of customers understand what they need but don’t have the exact solution yet. And that’s where we are able to help. We are able to work with them on designing the home right, making sure it fits on the land and making sure that they are happy with it.
Interviewer: As a person standing back, I’m under the impression that the planning process must be a lot different for a less expensive home than a more expensive one or am I wrong?
Steve Tuma: It kind of depends. It depends on where it’s at because sometimes people will build simpler designs to keep the structure simple in an area where there’s a lot of structural concerns like earthquake or hurricane or high snow loads area. So it depends. If you are taking a simple home, say putting it on a simple lot in the Midwest, there aren’t really hurricanes and earthquakes there to do it. So that will be simpler. But we’ve had people build simple homes on more expensive area, you would see ocean front, beach communities, things like that because just the cost of building in those areas is more typical to get a simpler design and dress it up. So there really isn’t something – some steadfast rule because if you take a simple home and put it in a complex building site where the complex building department, suddenly that simple home will need more work. And you could have a complex design in a place, say, a flat piece of land and Iowa. It’s a lot easier to build there. So a lot of this really depends on how, when, and where you’re getting it put together. With us, it’s the same bottom line situation of we go through the preliminary architectural details, understanding the site conditions to make sure that the house is designed the way our customer wants it. But also, matching it to the land that it’s going to be sit on and the building department. So let’s just say someone wanted to build a boxy ranch home, just a 1200-square-foot ranch home and put it in a Midwestern area, kind of flat land. They bought 2 acres from a farmer. They are putting a house up. It’s going to be a lot different process to go through that because it’s flat land. It’s in a simpler building department situation.
Let’s just say that same family said, “You know, I want to move to Key West and I’ve got a lot that faces south and I’m right on the ocean.” Suddenly, we are dealing with hurricanes, we are dealing with flood zones, storm surges, a stickier building department, hurricane engineering, and different situations like that. So we would – even though it’s the same kind of 1200-square-foot home, we would have to because of the nature of the building site and the municipality and the permitting department, we would have to get more details put into place and work the design and structural engineering a little bit differently. So I guess it depends on how simple of a home and where it’s at. The location can really affect how we approach the design of a home. Some areas, there is height restrictions. An area might be 25 feet, well, if you want to do a 2-story home with a steep pitch roof, that’s very hard to achieve. But if suddenly the building department allowed 35 feet, suddenly it’s easier. So we have to know those elements upfront so that we can go through and design a home. Now, as far as how does this affect the customer, we just need to know. We can check with the building department. They may already know. But those are things that behind the scenes, our team, our designers, or engineers, energy code people, different type of engineers and designers that we have, we are able to put that together. So the customer doesn’t always have to have the answer of, “Hey, I want my wall like this. I need to have my floor system this thick. I got to have this roof pitch to make it work.” We will put it together so our customer can come to us with the general concept of what they are looking for. They can go through and say, “Hey, I want a 2-story in this area. I got 30 feet to build in.” And then we will work them through the design elements to massage the design so that it goes through.
Interviewer: It’s funny that I didn’t think about it until afterward I asked the question. But I would imagine there are probably smaller designs that are more complex and there are big designs that are pretty simple.
Steve Tuma: That’s exactly the situation because one thing that people are kind of trained to believe is, it’s square feet. And a lot of people say, “Well, Steve, why is this 1000-square-foot home this price but this 1000-square-foot is 50% more?” What people don’t realize is every square foot is different. So let’s just say you had a square foot of a home that was in a boxy home with an 8-foot flat ceiling. That’s going to have one price. If you had a home with a 20-foot ceiling, that same square foot, you got a 20-foot wall there.
Steve Tuma: So even though the square footage hasn’t change, the features of that square feet are there. So even a different parts of a home, there will be parts that can cost less and cost more. It’s not a uniform thing. Kind of like the story, I think I mentioned this a few times. It’s not like a bag of groceries. You don’t call up the store up and say, “How much is a bag of groceries?” You have to find out and say, “Hey, I want so much chicken. I want some lettuce. I want some milk. I want some cheese.” Whatever it is that someone would want, and that determines the cost. So that’s what we are able to do is work with people to get them the pricing for the designs that they want so we can work with them to figure out what makes sense for what they end up choosing to do. And it’s this upfront legwork and conversations that we have with them. But yeah, you brought one fallacy up where people think every square footage of a house is the same. If that were true, everyone would be living 1200-square-foot palaces with 20-foot ceilings and steep pitch roofs and turrets and stuff like that.
And people also don’t realize that the way you count square footage is different. Some people count square footage by under a roof. That includes the overhangs. Well, you are not really living under your overhang. But some people do it that way. Some people include garages. Some people include basements. Some people include porches and breeze ways. So people have to watch when someone going by a square foot price, well, what’s in that. So you got to understand what the cost is. And we are able to go through that with someone. So if someone were to say, “Hey, here are two houses.” Let’s just arbitrarily say it’s a 1500-square-foot house package. Why one would cost more than the other so that they understand it, because amazingly, when people look at plans, Steve we could take a plan. Let’s just say a chalet house, something you’d put in a mountain in Colorado. You might look at it and see something. I might look at the exact same picture and see something different as far as what value is to me. I may see a chalet on the side of a hill with a walkout basement and go, “Wow! Cool! That’s like a separate living down there if friends came over.” Someone else might come out and say, “Wow! I could put my office down there.” Or, “Hey, I could have a drive under garage.” Or someone might say, “Ever since I’ve been a kid, I’ve wanted a chalet with big windows overlooking a mountain range.” So there are different values that people have for their home. So it’s not always safe to assume that there’s a 1500-sqaure-foot with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, that that’s what everyone wants. Some people look at it and say, “Hey, that 3 bedrooms, 2 baths is really 2-bedroom home office.”
Steve Tuma: Or whatever it may be. Or they may see a different future use if in-laws move in or whatever. So people are going to have different priorities. Some people worry about their garage more. They are just more centered about whatever hobbies they may have and they just figure, hey, the inside of the house is where they sleep. It’s not a big deal. Other people’s life is more home-centered so they want to have a certain inside for their particular lifestyle and they are not really as concerned about a garage. So, that’s what we do is work with people to figure it out what’s the priority, what makes sense, and then the house can be designed to what’s a priority for them.
Interviewer: Oh, we are talking about assumptions just now. So I’m assuming again, let’s say I’m a customer, I might assume that a panel package from Landmark, it is going to be completely different on a bigger house than a less expensive home. Am I wrong in that?
Steve Tuma: It all really depends on the structure and where you are building it. OK. So let’s just in theory, you had a 200-square-foot 2-story, just a regular boxy home. So there’s a 1000 square feet downstairs and a 1000 square feet configured the same upstairs. The structure of that home is going to be pretty simple. The load pass from the roof are going to go down the exterior walls down to the foundation be supported.
So let’s just say that you were looking at some very expensive architectural magazines or books and you look at and you go, “Wow! Look at these 2000-square-foot home!” And it has got 1500 square feet down, 500 square feet upstairs, and then there’s an open area roughly 500 square feet where it has got a 20-foot ceiling in the living room so you can look up to the second level. So someone could say, “Well, that’s 2000 square feet.” Well, the difference is in the intricacies of the design, the more intricate design is likely to have a more intricate roof, different point loads going down to the ground, different beams to support open balcony areas, different floor systems, different open span areas. So if someone were to take a say, a 1500-square-foot, 2-story that was boxy and make it a 2500-square-foot, 2-story that was boxy, the structure is pretty much the same. It’s just bigger. But if you were to reconfigure it and make completely complex roof system, a lot of ridges and valleys in the roof, a lot of corners in the home, suddenly the complete structure is differently. So it really comes into the design. Now, I don’t want to create a lot of confusion but if you were then to take the design and take it from where you might build in the Midwest where the engineering isn’t as strict as say if you were in Key West, in hurricane zones, suddenly, the house has different forces against it. So that example where the living room where you had a big glass wall and you can look up to balcony on the inside, maybe you’ve got a 20-foot tall wall there. Well, in the Midwest where generally the engineering is for 90-degree – 90-mile an hour winds, it’s not that big of a deal. Suddenly, you go stick it in Key West, that exact same house, you’ve got a wall 20 feet tall, say 20 feet wide, 20 feet tall and it’s in a 180-mile an hour wind, suddenly that wall needs to be reinforced.
Steve Tuma: So the point that I’m getting at is a small home, simple, medium, the general structure is the same but we adopt it for the particular use in the codes and design elements. So I think the point of what you’re asking is, is a smaller home necessarily cheaper built? No, it isn’t. It’s still a quality product that we supply but the conditions that it’s being built in might require to have a beefier structure, more engineering in different situations to do it. That example that I was talking about with the 20-foot tall wall is in a big wind, that wall in a sense becomes kind of like a kite or the underneath of a porch might become kind of a kite with the strong winds. It will push against that wall and flex that wall. Now, someone will be like, “Well, how do you know that?” Well, we know that by engineering and what we need to do is reinforce that wall, put different structural members in there, different design so that you drywall and interior finishes don’t crack.
Interviewer: Right. Yeah.
Steve Tuma: So a lot of people will question that. They will be like, “Well, Steve, I’ve lived in a house and I’ve never seen that.” And I’m like, “Well, you might not know what the current house is like but we are in the business of making sure it’s done right to avoid problems. But yeah, I think your question was, is there kind of something different if I were to do a simple home compared to a more complex? No. We are going to supply a very, very good structural system, good design, good structural engineering whether you are doing a simple design or where you are doing a very complex. Even though it is our customer’s home, we still look at it as a reflection of us. We want our customers to be happy. We want them to tell their friends and hopefully their friends or they buy again from us and we get to work with our customers again.
So, we always have an eye on quality to make sure that it’s done right. And that’s the key element. Just because someone is building a $100,000 home instead of a $2 million home doesn’t mean that the $100,000 person doesn’t want quality. And that’s what we supply.
Interviewer: Well, are there ways – let’s say, I want to downsize. I just want to make my life more simple but I don’t want to get into a smaller house that feels like a cheaper house. I mean are there ways to make smaller homes feel like more expensive larger homes?
Steve Tuma: Oh yeah, there are a lot of things that can be done. And that’s kind of a trend right now where people are looking for modest comfortable but still the cool factor.
Steve Tuma: They want something that has that little extra something to it. So let’s just say you are to take a typical ranch home. We can go through and dress it up with architectural features they like, different cables on it, little dormers, porches, different types of roof designs, hip roofs, angled more modernistic roofs, different types of situations. On the inside, you can do cathedral ceilings, tray ceilings. Make one part of the house, the wall is taller. You can put a different interest in there with some angled walls, the way the kitchens are designed. So there are actually a lot of work that can go in to really make a small home feature-packed. I’m not always a believer that a bigger home is necessarily better than a smaller home that’s well-designed.
Steve Tuma: So it kind of depends on what someone is looking for. Sometimes customers will come to us with some plans that they got somewhere and they would be like, “Steve, look at this great 2500-square-foot home.” And I look at it and go, “Yeah, effectively, you’ve got 1800. Look at all the hallways and weird spaces.”
Steve Tuma: So yeah, that square footage but a hallway isn’t always considered to be highly usable.
Interviewer: Right. Of course.
Steve Tuma: Let’s take you for example. Would you rather have a nice comfortable home theater or just that really cool long boring hallway?
Interviewer: Give me a minute.
Steve Tuma: Yeah.
Steve Tuma: It doesn’t take that long. Yeah. So that’s kind of the scenario is you look into the design to say, “Hey, how is this family using it?” I was just talking to a customer. He is building a home in Albuquerque. His name is Kevin. And he happens to have a nice lot in a nice neighborhood, built this house. But the key, what he called the money shot is looking out the front of the house where it’s this absolutely beautiful views of mountain ranges.
Interviewer: Oh, right. Yeah.
Steve Tuma: So to him, it was making sure that you could sit anywhere in the house and look out to the front windows whether you’re in the bathroom or in your bedroom, in the kitchen, in the living room, you could just look up and see this majestic view. So we were able to do that. It was in that 1300-square-foot.
Interviewer: Oh wow!
Steve Tuma: He said, “Steve, this is absolutely amazing. I got this little deck. Everywhere I go, I could look at this view.
Steve Tuma: And he said, “My neighbors are building million to $2 million homes.” The little subdivision right next to him, he was just across the road. He said, “I got the same thing. I did it myself in a 1300-square-foot home.”
Steve Tuma: So sometimes it’s not the design of the home or it’s not all the design. Sometimes it’s in the positioning on the lot to take advantage of the environment it. That makes a home more enjoyable.
Interviewer: Sure. Yeah. I see a lot of simpler, smaller homes. They look like modulars. And I would never want that. I mean is Landmark able to design something that can give me a simple smaller home that doesn’t look like some little modular box?
Steve Tuma: Yeah, this is kind of a follow-up situation of what we were just reviewing. We could take that concept of hey, keep it simple but let’s give it that little extra zinger type of a thing. So we’ve got a customer who is building in Pahrump, Nevada. And it’s a 1200-square-foot home. We put kind of a modernistic roof on it, some pitched angles, kind of some overhangs so it has got a little bit of mid-century modern vibe going to it. It’s a beautiful open concept. He happens to like to entertain. He is on the road a lot. So when he is home, he wants to make sure that he could have fun with friends and family. So we took that 1200-square-foot ranch, put these nice angled modernistic roofs on it, design the inside with a bit cathedral ceiling in there and he is going to make a little palace out of it. That probably cost, I don’t know, 1%, 2% more to do.
Interviewer: Just that. That’s interesting.
Steve Tuma: To dress it up. But if you look at it in comparison to like a regular gable end home, they both be beautiful homes but if you are into that kind mid-century modern look, you’re going to be like, “Man, check that thing out.”
Steve Tuma: So, we understand how to do it. We just have to get a feel for what people want. Sometimes a lot of these things to get away from the modular, just that box that everyone can identify.
Steve Tuma: It’s different things. Porches extended on eaves, adding windows, putting bay windows, putting a little jag in the house design, the way the garage is attached to it, the pitch of the roof, the type of roof design, the gable end, the hip roof. Some people do mansard roofs. They are not as common but it’s possible to do that. So yes, we are able to do it and it’s something that isn’t as hard as people believe it to be. We are in the business of making sure people get a house that makes sense, that they enjoy. We don’t necessarily charge more just because it’s something that other people would charge more for. We go through and say, “Hey, this makes sense.” The customer is going to be happy. It’s just a little bit of a change in the truss design and suddenly we’re off. So yeah, we’ve done that a lot. And I think that’s why people enjoy our design is they have control but we don’t tell them what house they are going to live in. They tell us. We draw it up. We make sure that it works for the lot, for different scenarios, and put it together. Make sure that hallways are right way, the doors are the right size, different stuff like that. And kind of take their concept and put it on paper.
Steve Tuma: So yeah, we’ve got great designers that can help people through those issues. And that’s also a situation where people that want to do big houses. Sometimes they look at it and say, “Yeah, I like this design but it just doesn’t – it’s not a hundred percent there for me.” We can go through and work with them on the design elements.
Our customer base loves designing their own home. They love knowing that they were involved with the design. They love knowing that they can control it, understand it, and make it happen. That’s the fun part.
Interviewer: You just brought up larger homes. And that was – I was going to get to that next. Let’s go to the other side of the coin. So let’s say I’m an owner/builder. I need space for my family. It’s growing. But my budget just isn’t that big. Can Landmark help me control the cost of building a larger home?
Steve Tuma: Yes, we can. And it’s a situation kind of the same that I just described but a little bit backward. So if someone comes through and they come out with this – they say, “Hey, I need a room. I’ve got four kids. I need to have a home office. We need to have a craft room. We want a home theater and we got a couple of big SUVs because we are active and we like to get away on weekends and do different things.” We might have to kind of work with them on simplifying the roof systems, because roof systems are a big component in expense and complexity and the design. So work with them on getting rid of a couple of corners, kind of simplifying things.
Now, I don’t want to say we are going to sterilize the design so it’s no fun.
Steve Tuma: We are just going to look at them and say, “Hey, if you get rid of this element, you’re likely to save this amount of money. How important is that element?” And what’s interesting is a lot of times, people might say, “I never even noticed that. It wasn’t something that was important to me. I didn’t notice it. I was looking at the big family room. That’s what I want.” It’s like, “OK. Well, let’s reconfigure a few things. Work with the roof structure, work on different structural elements, the types of floor systems, different spans, so that we could give the big open spaces that they would need for their family get together for that particular family’s use. So yes, we are able to go through to work with them to figure it out. If someone is really, really pushing a budget, sometimes there are situations where you have to – there are certain things you can change and certain things you can’t change. So if someone were to say, “Hey …” if they were cutting it close, we might say, “Hey, it’s good to get the house you want. Maybe put less expense, put carpet in now.”
Steve Tuma: Or some – because you can change that down the road or do different adjustments. So yes, we are able to work through with people to do it. And bottom line, we want to make sure that the customers end up with a house that they want and that they are proud of. So we will do whatever we can through the way we purchase lumber and work with our engineering and designing processes to really work it out so that then end result is what they want.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about retirement homes or weekend homes, even retirement or weekend. How do I make let’s say, a retirement home, how do I make it cool and yet keep it cost-affordable? I mean I have some great ideas or a house. How do I keep the cost down?
Steve Tuma: Well, that’s really interesting because you’re kind of combining a few of the ideas here. Retirement kind of implies people are scaling down but they still need space for the grandkids or friends to come over, that occasional guest.
Steve Tuma: Sometimes these retirement homes are more remote places and mountains or big open areas or on forest or whatever it would be. So it’s a matter of how do we keep it affordable and still hit that kind of relaxing type of design. We found that there are different ways of creating roof structures and designing roof structures and floor plans that give the people those nice relaxing designs. Let’s just say, Steve, you had a lake house. Let’s just say, you found a spot in Colorado, somewhere in the mountain area, there might be a stream or lake or something around you. And you came into us and said, “Ever since I’ve been 12, I want a chalet. I want the angled prow on the front. I want a 20-foot glass wall. I want to go look at this.” And for some reason, your budget didn’t work because of site condition cost, access cost, power cost, septic cost, whatever to do it. The essence of what you are looking for is a big, grand, great room where you could sit there, read the paper, watch TV, and look out at your really cool view. There are different designs that we’ve come up with, with different types of roof systems and floor plans that allow people to have that same effect. It’s done a little bit differently.
So there are a variety of different ways of achieving the end goal. And again, this goes back to what I originally spoke about, of finding out what it is that the customer values and then working that design so that it works within the budget.
Steve Tuma: So sometimes, like I say, someone might come in and say, “Hey, I want this big grand chalet. I want a lodge.” And then – but when you talk to them, they are alike – what they really want is a big glass wall to sit there, look outside, have the fireplace and the TV to the right, a glass wall to the left so they could sit there, have dinner, read a book and look at the magnificent view, still what a show, watch the fireplace and enjoy it. So through these conversations, we are able to work with people. Sometimes this gets a little deeper and controlling cost because that idea that I said, say a house in the mountain in Colorado, well, is it in a flatter lot or is it on the side of a hill? So sometimes, we have to look into the design elements of how you use the land like how the house is accessed. You can put a driveway here or you can put a driveway there. Different types of foundations might be affordable. Different types of designs might limit the size of the foundation that would control the cost. So it’s not always just in the floor plan. It’s kind of stepping back and saying, “Hey, what’s the overall design challenge? What are we looking at?” Because if you were to build that same house by a lake in Colorado on flat land, it’s going to be different than if you are on the side of a hill.
Steve Tuma: So that’s what we try to do is look at – kind of a holistic approach of saying, “Hey, this is what the customer wants. They want a view out their window, still be involved with the family and friends that are over and have a big grand ceiling so that they can see the sunrise, the sunset, the night stars, but also look out in the field and see deer and animal doing whatever they do. So that’s the element. So sometimes what someone will tell us saying, “Hey, I want this,” the reality is they want a different method of achieving that this. So it’s not always the big, expensive chalet that they are looking at. They are looking at, “Let me sit in a living room and enjoy my view.” So there are different ways of designing that with different designs and that’s what we are able to do. Again as I mentioned though, a lot of people know that we are a company that helps people build their own panelized homes. That’s important. What’s more important is listening on what the customer says, determining how to design it and work it right in the budget so that it’s easy for them to see it on paper, easy to get permits, and then follow through and build a cool home.
Interviewer: Right. Fantastic! Well, that’s going to wrap it up for us today. But before we hit the dusty trail, I want to give Steve a chance as usual to tell us how we might get a hold of Landmark Home and Land Company and find out all the amazing things that they are doing over there. Steve, give us some idea of how we can touch base.
Steve Landmark: The best way is to check out our website. Our company is Landmark Home and Land Company and you can see our website at LHLC.com, kind of the initials of Landmark Home and Land. We don’t have the and in the URL but LHLC.com. You can check out I think we’ve got thousands of plan ideas there. We’ve got this special select plan section which talks about kind of simpler designs if that’s what someone is interested in. We’ve got our podcast on there. We’ve got a variety of videos. We’ve got different pages discussing what we include, how we do different things. That’s a good place to start. You can send an email to us through an inquiry through the website. And there’s also a number there, 800-830-9788. Again, that’s 800-830-9788. And Mike will answer the phone. We always try to answer the phone. If you leave a voicemail, we will get back with you right away. But Mike will work through the initial phases with you and then as you move on, I would get involved. You can always reach me at Landmark@LHLC.com. I can help people through the process, understanding what needs to be done. And you can also see details on the internet on Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and get some ideas of what we do. We are very in this in talking and communicating with our customers to kind of help them at the beginning phases so that they kind of understand how we can help them through the process. The idea is our customers like to know what’s going on with their house. They like the design. They enjoy it. They want to budget it. They want to build a house to their priorities and get the house they want. It’s a lot of fun.
Interviewer: Makes sense. And there you go. So for Steve Tuma and myself, we want to thank you all once again for listening in to the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. Happy building everyone and we will see you next time.
Steve Tuma: Thank you.