Q&A with Steve Bennett, Owner of Steve Bennett Builders
Steve Bennett is a native Oregonian and third generation Bend resident. He has been building high-end custom homes in Central Oregon since 1995 and previously in Palm Springs, California since 1981. With nearly 40 years of experience, Bennett has a wealth of knowledge to share.
Question (Q): What does it cost to build a custom home in Central Oregon?
Answer (A): This is almost always the first question and it is also the most difficult to answer. Depending on finishes, complexity and lot preparation, it can cost anywhere from $260 to $550 per square foot for a high quality custom home in Central Oregon. This is independent of the cost of the property.
Q: What is your fee structure? When do I make payments?
A: The two most common fee structures are a Fixed-Fee basis and a Cost-Plus basis. I use Cost-Plus. I’m a firm believer, because the homeowner gets to see all of the actual costs, plus my percentage fee. Cost-Plus is the most transparent fee structure. It’s a win-win approach for the client and the builder.
With the Fixed-Fee basis, the builder is incentivized to overestimate or inflate costs to increase profits. A Fixed-Fee builder takes risks in estimating unknown costs and they know how to avoid coming out on the losing end. It is a win-lose approach and the builder almost always wins.
In terms of making payments, every month I generate line item documentation that shows the work done to date, and I bill the homeowner for that work. From that, I pay my subcontractors.
Q: What do you do to ensure the project doesn’t exceed my budget?
A: With monthly work-in-progress accounting we see regularly exactly where we stand in relationship to the budget. Unless there is a change to the Plans, the budget shouldn’t change.
If construction starts on a home and not every component of every category in the home (such as light, plumbing or kitchen fixtures) has been selected, I include an allowance for those components. The fact is every project has unknowns and certain decisions may change throughout the building process. After 25 years of building custom homes in Central Oregon, my budget estimates are more than educated guesses. With a transparent, Cost-Plus fee structure, my focus is to set realistic expectations rather than “cover my butt.”
Q: How long does it take to build a high quality custom home?
A: I don’t promise clients I can get their house down in X number of months. There are too many variables. My rule of thumb is a 14-month process. I can usually beat that unless we run into extraordinarily bad weather. Also, client indecision and change orders can also cause unforeseen delays. Staying on schedule is a team effort.
Q: Who will manage the day-to-day construction of my custom home?
A: Me. I am a low-volume, “boutique” builder. I commit to only one or two custom homes per year. You deal directly with me and you get a very personalized experience. I will be on your job site every single day. I also have a site superintendent, as I can’t be in two places at one time.
Q: How can I be sure that your crew embodies the same standards as you do?
A: I have worked with many of the same subcontractors and vendors for over 20 years. We are literally like family. While I take the physical aspect of building your home very seriously, building relationships has and always will be at the core of what I do. I remain loyal to my subs because they are the best and I trust them completely. Loyalty with and from subs is paramount in this industry.
I am a “hands-on” leader and I promote an atmosphere of mutual respect and teamwork on my job sites. We all take pride in doing things the right way. I would not work with anyone who does not share my standards of excellence.
Q: Do you guarantee the quality of your materials and construction?
A: If a product fails while under warranty, I will get a replacement product from the manufacturer and replace it at no cost. If a product fails while outside warranty, I will get a replacement from the manufacturer and replace it for a fee.
If it’s something that I have built that I have put in the home, I will warrant it for as long as the owner owns the home. As long as they own the house, I consider it my duty to take care of it for them.
Q: What separates Steve Bennett Builders from other custom home builders?
A: I don’t just build houses. I build trust. I build relationships. It’s an everlasting relationship with a homeowner. I love coming alongside of them, getting to know them and helping them make decisions. It’s that relationship that I really cherish.
Some of the bigger companies have more people involved on the builder’s side, and you can get shuffled around among employees. At Steve Bennett Builders, I’m with you from the beginning to the very end.
I promise all of my clients that as long as they own the home, I will treat it as my home and take care of it for them. That relationship, I think, is unique.