5 Steps to Building Your Dream Home

Five Steps to Building Your Dream Home


You can picture the home of your dreams. You think you know exactly what you want.

But how do you actually build it?

For expert advice on how to begin this process, we sat down with Melanie Kramer, a Realtor with Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners, who has over 12 years of experience in residential construction, home design and building. She has helped over a 100 clients build the home of their dreams, and she has built two homes of her own.

Step One: Get prequalified and determine your budget.

According to Kramer, your first step should be to get prequalified. This is an essential part of the process because it will help determine your budget and steer you in the right direction. Once you’ve determined what you can afford, you will have a better understanding of whether or not you should build with a production home builder or with a smaller, custom home builder.

The difference between the two types of builders is that a production home builder builds multiple homes from a library of plans on pre-planned lots and offers pre-planned interior selections for cabinets, flooring, countertops, etc. “There is very little, if any, redesign of plans,” explains Kramer. “Using production home builders can be quicker since a lot of the planning has already been done in advance.”

On the other hand, a smaller, custom home builder creates more of a personalized home where you can customize the floor plan, choose your interior finishes and select your lot. This type of home typically takes six months or longer to build, depending on the size and how quickly decisions are made.

“Regardless of [which builder] you pick, you want to stick to a realistic budget,” advises Kramer.

“Don’t get too distracted by all that you see online.”

Step two: Choose your builder.

Once you have a budget determined, you’ll need to choose your builder. If you’re building a custom home, you will want to interview several builders before you make a decision. Your Realtor can provide you with a list referrals from friends, family or of builders, and you can also seek home builder associations.

When interviewing potential builders, Kramer not only sug- gests asking questions, but also walking through a home that the builder has completed. Ask such as the types of homes they potential builders about things build, warranties, change orders, how they design their floor plans and who will supervise construc- tion. Equally important as the builder’s answers to your list of questions is how you relate to the “Don’t focus just on the an- builder.

swers,” warns Kramer, “because it has to be a personality fit.

You’re going to be talking to them as much as to your spouse over the next six months.”

Step Three: Choose your lot.

The next step in your building process is to choose your lot, not your floor plan, as many people think. “The biggest mistake people will make is to design plans or order plans on the internet [before choosing their lot], and the plans “Not every lot is the same. You have never get built,” cautions Kramer. wasted design money if you design a house that is too big for your budget or that is the wrong size and will not fit on your lot.”

When choosing a lot, be sure to include professionals such as process. They will help you deter- your builder and Realtor in the mine the best lot for your needs, and avoid costly mistakes. “Not every lot is buildable, and if it [has to be made buildable], it’s expensive,” warns Kramer.

Flood zones, soil quality and  absorbs into the soil) can all fac- percolation tests (how well water tor into the quality of the lot. Your builder and Realtor will know what specialists are needed to determine the quality of the lot and help you select the appropriate lot for your dream home.

Step Four: Design your dream home.

After choosing a lot, work with your builder to design your dream home for that particular lot. Your builder may already have existing plans you love, or you can work hand-in-hand with your builder and a CAD designer or draftsman to come up with the floor plan that best fits your needs and fits your lot.

When you’re designing your floor plan and making your interior selections, Kramer suggests asking yourself, “What are the top five features I really cannot live without?” Doing so will help you stay focused on what you really want in your new home, rather than being distracted by high-priced items and ideas. “You have to relate your budget to your dreams,” advises Kramer.

Consider, for example, the fact that your cost will go up for every foot of square footage that you add. “I hear a lot of people talk about needing a guest bedroom for when guests come, but is it really worth spending $5,000 or $10,000 more for a room [when] guests visit once or twice a year?” asks Kramer. “You would be better off economically getting them a hotel [room] for a few nights.

“Don’t let your dreams cloud your judgment financially. Be prompt with all of your selections [and] don’t get carried away looking online,” advises Kramer.

To help you stay on budget, she suggests making sure you have the essentials in the home and then have a five year plan for future upgrades. For example, have the laundry sink installed in the laundry room so the plumbing is there, but add additional laundry cabinets later. Or, if you have budget constraints, install carpet now and upgrade to hardwood later. Likewise, have your porch built, but screen it in when your budget allows.

“If needed, have a plan with different phases and a priority list for after you move in,” suggests Kramer.

Before the building begins, try to determine exactly what you want and resolve to stick to your plan. While every builder does change orders, you will have to pay in advance for each change order, and every change will cause delays. “The best projects are when the client really knows what they want early on,” says Kramer.

Step Five: Build your dream home… but be realistic!

When your dream home finally begins construction, it can be very exciting.

You watch as the foun- dation is laid and walls are constructed. But then you drive by the project one day and no one is there and nothing is being built.

“This is one of the biggest over,” says Kramer, “but it is a things I see people get upset normal part of the building process.”

Gaps in construction will occur when one subcontractor completes their task early and another isn’t scheduled to begin for several days, or when waiting on the building inspector before any “Go into the process with further construction can be done.

realistic expectations,” advises Kramer. “You have to remember that new construction doesn’t equate to perfect. It’s built with human hands. New construction doesn’t mean perfect, it means new. Be patient, don’t be emotional and keep moving forward.” Be realistic with your expectations, have a workable budget, choose a builder with whom you have a good rapport and stick to your plan, and you can have the home of your dreams.

Westbrook New Construction by R J Reynolds Construction

218 Spanton Crescent, Pooler, GA 31322

Special Features

  • MLS #: 117005
  • Bedrooms: 5
  • Bathrooms: 3 full and 1 half
  • Total Sq. Feet: 3,769
  • Golf Course View
  • Outdoor Living Area
  • Wood burning Fireplace
  • Screened Porch
  • Built In Bookshelves
  • Outdoor living area
  • Open Floor Plan
  • Butcher Block Kitchen Island
  • Prep Island
  • Pantry
  • Gas Stove
  • Wine Refrigerator
  • Pot Filler Plumbing
  • French Door Frig
  • Built In Desk Area
  • Built in Microwave
  • Built in Stove
  • Mudroom w/Cubbies
  • Laundry Chute
  • Master Suite
  • Price: $550,000


Quality new cons by R J Reynolds @ Gated Westbrook with Golf course view. Upgraded 16 SEER two stage heatpump. Spray foam rafters, kitchen islands, hardwood flooring, Indoor and outdoor fireplaces. Walk in panty and laundry chute. Hardiboard exterior. Fabulous master suite. Finished Bonus or bedroom. Golfcart garage.

Agent Information

Melanie Kramer
Keller Williams Realty Richmond Hill


Richmond Hill, GA

We bought our first lot in Richmond Hill in 1997 and moved into our home newly constructed home in 2002 with a new born baby and a 4 year old. Our boys who are now 16 and 12 both have been in school in Richmond Hill (Bryan County) since they started Pre-K. They have played rec sports here with hundreds of other children and now play school sports. There is something extra-curricular for each child whether they are interested in soccer, football, baseball, chess club, piano lessons, dance, etc.

For adults, there are two assisted living facilities and one nursing home. A great new Yoga classroom. A YMCA. Another private gym, 24 Seven and a great public trail for walking, jogging and Kayaking at J F Gregory Park. Beginning in the Spring through October, there is a local Farmers Market at the Pavilion at J F Gregory Park every Tuesday afternoon starting around 4pm to 7pm.

All local businesses can be connected through my facebook page, Melanie Kramer, Realtor.

I describe Richmond Hill as a small town “feel” with lots of “mom and pop” restaurants and businesses, but all the conveniences of a larger town including Target, Wal-Mart, Longhorns, etc in Pooler, Savannah and Hinesville just 15-30 minutes away. It is easy to get to know your neighbors in Richmond Hill, and you will bump into them at the local grocery stores (Publix, Krogers and Food Lion) .

Its easy to sell homes here when its in my blood! I am a southerner since birth having grown up in the middle of a peanut field in the other side of the State of Georgia, but I visited almost every two or three weeks in Savannah since my mother was from the area and would get very, very homesick and load up her three girls and come “home” to Savannah to visit her mother, four sisters and their many, many children. By Middle School, she had relocated us back to Savannah.

I love the access to the Rivers here (Ogeechee, Medway and Jerico Rivers) that all connect to the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway and boating and kayaking are weekend past times for my two boys, Husband and myself.

There are two Marinas here at Fort McAllister Marina, a full service marina and the smaller Kilkenny Marina. There is a great local “watering hole” at Fort McAllister Marina which is called Fish Tales. You can also check out the Fort at Fort McAllister and a great State Park and camp ground if anyone enjoys camping. There is also a KOA campground with a Lake as well.

If you have questions about the area, please feel free to contact me and if you consider moving to the area, upgrading to a larger home in the area, purchasing land or investing in a business here, I would greatly value the opportunity to meet with you. Warmest regards, Melanie Kramer, Realtor

Melanie Kramer

Keller Williams Realty Richmond Hill

Featured Articles


Let It Snow! But first… Some Winter Safety Tips

Preparing your home and property for cold weather conditions and responding to them effectively can reduce some of the effects caused by winter’s weather challenges. Experts agree that the following measures can be effective in dealing with the effects of severe winter weather:

  • Have your snow removal equipment serviced and ready for action.
  • Have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways.
  • Make sure your walls and attic are properly insulated.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
  • Have an ample supply of wood if you have a fireplace.
  • Have safe portable space heaters available.
  • Wrap water pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers to keep from freezing.
  • Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing.
  • Know how to shut off water valves.
  • In case the power goes out, have disaster supplies on hand such as a flashlight & battery-operated radio (and extra batteries), a first aid kit and extra blankets & sleeping bags.
  • Develop an emergency communication plan in case family members are separated from one another during a winter storm.
  • Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or fire department, and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.

Back to the Top


Winterizing Your Vehicle

Preparing your vehicle for the winter season is one of the most important keys to safe winter driving. Have a mechanic check the following items on your car before the temperatures drop.

  • Battery
  • Ignition System
  • Lights
  • Exhaust system
  • Brakes
  • Oil Level
  • Antifreeze
  • Thermostat
  • Flashing hazard lights
  • Heater
  • Defroster
  • Tires/tread
  • Wipers and windshield washer fluid

Also, be sure to keep a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal, and maintain at least a half tank of gas at all times during the winter season.

Back to the Top

Before Severe Weather Strikes

Know how the public is warned (via siren, radio, TV, etc.) and the warning terms for each kind of disaster in your community:

Be alert, a storm is likely.

Take action, the storm is in or entering the area.

Snow and strong winds combined will produce blinding snow, near zero visibility, and deep drifts.

Seek refuge immediately.

Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous, especially to motorists.

Below-freezing temperatures are expected and may cause damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees.

Back to the Top

Winter Car Kit

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • First aid kit with pocket knife
  • Several blankets
  • Plastic bags (for sanitation)
  • Matches
  • Extra set of mittens, socks, and a wool cap
  • Small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels
  • Small shovel
  • Tool kit
  • Booster cables
  • Brightly colored cloth to use as flag

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Trivia Block

The Trivia Block

True or False? It must be 32F, or colder for it to snow.

False. It has been known to snow with the temperatures in the mid 40s. That’s because the temperatures are below 32F up in the clouds where the snow is forming.

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Home Staging Basics

ImageWhat to do before you sell

“Home Staging” is more than just

preparing to sell your home by making it

look the best it can. It’s really the art of first

impressions. For many home sellers and

real estate agents, the concept of “home

staging” is being more frequently

recognized and used to effectively promote

and market a home in the marketplace. If

you are in the process of, or thinking about,

selling your home, you may want to

consider hiring a professional home stager

to assist you. They work with the “flow”

of a home, eliminate clutter, arrange

furniture, and even assist in enhancing curb

appeal. Or, if you’re more the doityourself

type, below are some tips on what you can

do to improve your home’s “first


Start at the curb

Curb appeal is the first step to selling your

home. No one wants to buy a previous

owner’s dirty house. Powerwash

the siding

and wash windows until they shine. Trees,

shrubs, and flowers should be neat and tidy,

the garden weeded and the lawn mowed

and edged . Once you’ve removed

everything that isn’t necessary, add touches

such as large, lush flower pots or hanging

planters to welcome visitors.


If paint is showing signs of age, repaint.

Neutrals often work best. Clear out closets,

cupboards, and drawers. Strip the kitchen

down to the necessities. Counters, however,

should be clear, except for a decoratively

placed bowl of fruit or bouquet of fresh

flowers. Open the curtains to allow natural

light to fill the room.

Some home stagers also use scents to put the

best face on a listed home. You can appeal

to a buyer’s sense of smell. Hot apple cider,

cinnamon rolls, or fresh baked cookies add

a homey sense and are very inviting. The opposite of course is true, strong odors such as

garbage or pet odors can quickly turn people away!

In home staging

simplicity and comfort

is your ultimate goal!

Melanie Kramer,

10221 Ford Ave, Suite 1

Richmond Hill, GA 31324





Copyright 2014 Keller Williams

I would like to tell you a little bit about Keller Williams Realty Richmond Hill and my office within the Keller Williams system that supports our Richmond Hill, Ga office.

Keller Williams Realty was founded in Austin, Texas in 1982 with the specific premise that buyers and sellers deserve the very best for their real estate needs.  That founding premise has been a major factor in the continued growth of Keller Williams across North America.  We are now the largest real estate company in North America.  Two visionaries lead Keller Williams Realty national – Gary Keller, founder and Chairman of the Board, and Mo Anderson, Chief Executive Officer.

Each Keller Williams Market Center has grown within its respective community, and Keller Williams agents live within the communities we service, know the neighborhoods they serve, and are equipped with weekly education classes, eager to help one another and our clients, and quite capable of tackling unique challenges clients and their families may encounter when selecting a home.

We are a profit sharing company where associates are in partnership relationships with owners.  The company is ran by the ALC (Agent Leadership Council – Board of Directors and our Team Leader/Broker.  I am proud to say that for the past  years, I have been a member of that ALC Council on at least four occasions and have served in the past as head of the Education/Productivity Committee within the ALC.

I am also one of the owners/investors in the Keller Williams Realty Richmond Hill branch.

The Keller Williams culture is based upon a belief system that is summarized as WI4C2TS:

Win – Win or No Deal

Integrity – Do the Right Thing

Commitment – In All Things

Communication – Seek First to Understand

Creativity – Ideas before results

Customers – Always come first

Teamwork – Together everyone achieves more

Trust – Begins with honesty

Success – Results through people

If you are looking for a Richmond Hill, GA real estate agent, I hope that you would consider utilizing my services.  You can take a look at my website at:  www.melaniekramer.com or if you would prefer to look at properties online from the convenience of your home, you can search in real time IDX MLS searches just like other real estate agents by going to:  http://www.buyfortstewarthomes.com.