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R.J. Dill Building & Development

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Client Orientation

The Building Process

    Building a custom home produces a different experience for each of our clients. The process of getting from Point A to Point B may have many similarities from one job to another, but the actual plans, land, and specifications are uniquely yours. Our clients come to us at varying stages in the beginning phases of the construction process. While we prefer to be involved from the start, we are pleased to bring our services to the table at any point prior to the actual commencement of construction.

    We believe the building process involves teamwork between the client, the builder, and the architect. When selecting a custom home builder, you must understand that it is difficult to shop a builder for the best price. It is a tremendous effort to compare apples to apples unless you have a very complete set of working plans and specifications with all details called out. It is important to develop a comfortable relationship with the builder as you will be entering into a two-year process by the time you factor in the time spent in the design, actual construction and warranty periods.

    There are a multitude of decisions which go into building a custom home. Unlike a production home where you can duplicate a model, you are really entering into a sight unseen process. Therefore, the more organized your builder, the more organized you can be in making the selections, which in turn creates an enjoyable process. A well-detailed set of blueprints and specifications will also eliminate many areas of concern.

Concept & Land

    The first step in building a custom home comes with the decision or realization that you cannot find exactly what you want, where you want it in an existing structure. At this point, there are two primary options: build a new house or renovate an existing house. R.J. Dill Building & Development can help you to evaluate the aspects of size and features, time commitments, and financial parameters with either option. If everything is understood and the decision is made to build, the next step is to find the right location.

    Searching for the perfect lot can be extremely difficult and time-consuming. R.J. Dill Building & Development has access to many fine building sites, or, we will work directly with you and/or your real estate professional to find the perfect homesite. The primary service we provide comes after you have established the location for your home. We are then able to examine the land for ease of building, topography, and possible limitations. R.J. Dill Building & Development has constructed projects on various types of building lots; i.e., flat lots, sloping lots, wooded lots and rural lots requiring septic and well systems. With this experience behind us, we are able to pass on to you our opinions and hard-learned lessons, which may save you a few headaches later.

    Once you have settled on the place to build, it is time to move on to the Design Phase. If you have already purchased your building site, this is where our services begin.

Pricing and Costs

    The amount of money you spend to build your new home depends on your financial situation and the requirements you establish concerning size, features and finishes of your new home. Usually a catch-22 problem exists. Until you have a set of plans and specifications, you cannot accurately estimate the exact cost of building your house. On the other hand, you do not want to commit to a set of plans until you know if the house will fit within your price range. The solution is a little homework.

    You can get an idea of what various kinds of construction will cost by learning the market in the neighborhoods you are considering, and by talking with builders, Realtors and salespeople who work in the area. Builders should be able to explain cost differences between various building materials and construction techniques. Realtors and salespeople should be able to give you a range of sales prices in the neighborhood and help you to consider the value of various features from a resale perspective.

    It is important to understand that pricing a home on a cost-per-square-foot basis is a very limited approach to valuation. Be aware that every house has certain fixed costs and that cost-per-square-foot begins after these basic costs have been figured. Design, style, and level of finish all contribute to the final price of the house and often lead to discrepancies in the overall square footage price. The sizes of individual rooms, complexity of design, the floor plan and the finishing materials and quality are far more meaningful criteria to use in the valuation process. For initial design and budget purposes, a price-per-square-foot range of $130 to $180 should cover most quality built traditional homes. A single story or ranch home with a walkout or English basement may be $200 per square foot or higher, an efficient colonial two-story may be as low as $120 per square foot. We have built homes at $100 per square foot and homes that have cost over $200 per square foot. You may find that while there are differing opinions on how much a home should cost per square foot, each individual has their own idea of what should be included. Does the price per square foot include appliances, light fixtures, driveway, landscaping, well, septic, etc.?  As you can see there are many items that could be considered when setting a budget goal using a cost per square foot basis.   

Open Book Pricing 

To simplify the budgetary and cost process, we provide our clients with "open book pricing".  We believe this form of pricing enables you to see where your dollars are going and how they affect the overall contract price.  Generally, we begin filling in the Specifications and Material Selection Sheet at the early stages of the design process.  As more details are determined and selections made, we continue to update the Specifications and Material Selection Sheet more accurately.  If you are still in the process of finalizing some selections at the time the contract is being signed, we will use agreed upon allowances and adjust the pricing via a change order when final determinations are made.

The Design Phase

    When you hire R.J. Dill Building & Development for the design phase, We will enter into a Design Contract. We will then do the preliminary home design, then hire the necessary design professionals (i.e., designers, architects, landscape architects, engineers, etc.) based on the nature of the project. This is commonly known as "Design/Build". There is then one firm to look to for the provision of all services related to designing and building your home. With this option you gain the ease of having a single contact for the duration of the project. If this option is selected, R.J. Dill Building & Development and our clients will first enter into a design contract to design your home. After the home is designed, we will then enter into a construction contract to build your home.

    You may come to us with your home design completed and a complete set of construction drawings. At this stage we will develop a complete set of material selections and specifications that help guide us in completing a detailed and accurate cost analysis of your home. 

    Whichever path you choose, we want to be a part of the design process. If working with your architect, we can still provide consultation on cost issues and pragmatics, or "field technology." It is our opinion that the building team and the design team should join forces from the very beginning. This helps to ensure that lofty dreams do not burst the financial bubble. Design, budget, and pragmatics go hand-in-hand.

Getting Started

    Where does the actual design start? With YOU! Your lifestyle, your preferences, your needs, pictures, sketches, written and verbal ideas will all help in getting started. The number of bedrooms, bathrooms, living areas, work areas-all of this information is provided by you. Conceptual drawings are completed first, along with preliminary Specifications and Material Selection  Sheet. Once the concept is worked out with regard to size, number of rooms, and style, the working drawings are completed along with final specifications. Before you start designing your home, I suggest that you read a few books that I think you may appreciate. The books are titled: Not So Big Solutions, Inside the Not so Big House, The Not So Big House and Creating The Not So Big House.

    From the beginning of the design phase, budget is a major consideration in creating the plans and specifications. Construction costs are estimated in very broad terms in the beginning; a contract price is arrived at after the plans and specifications are finalized. At each stage, alterations can be made to achieve the desired budget.

    R.J. Dill Building & Development cannot give a set price of so many dollars per square foot cost until such questions associated with the clarifications of complexity of design, decks, patios, trim, fixtures, flooring, counter top materials, etc. are known. All of these things make a difference in cost and will vary from one project to the next depending upon our clients' preferences. Every project is priced according to the materials, labor, fees, and supervision, which will be required to complete that particular project. The plans and specifications determine these. Technically, there are no standard items; everything is custom. Therefore, we encourage you to complete our Design Checklist, also, create a "wish list" then prioritize this list into three categories:

1) must have features 2) would be nice to have features, and 3) would be willing to do without features. Here is a sampling of what you might want to consider and how you might proceed:

Gather your ideas into a binder or accordion file

Involve everyone who will live in the house

Think about your everyday activities

Think about how you use the rooms in your current home

Determine the traffic patterns

Anticipate future needs and family changes over time

Go into houses and identify the features that strike you

Visit showrooms and gather product information

Visit home shows tours, parades and open houses

Look at books and recent magazines for ideas

Study plan books and handouts for basic design ideas

Look at our Photo Page for ideas from our past projects

    Again, while it is preferable that R.J. Dill Building & Development be involved in the design process from the beginning, we are sometimes asked to join in after the conceptual plans or even the final plans are complete. While we prefer to negotiate our projects, we will bid against our competitors, but only if our complete Material Selection and Specification Sheet is used. We do not bid on projects that do not involve a licensed architect or accredited home designer.

Financial Considerations

    After the design is finalized, one of the first things to do is to address the financial matters. Two questions come quickly to the forefront. How do we finance the home and how does the builder get paid?

How Do We Finance The Home?

    Some clients pay from personal cash reserves, although most clients take draws on a "construction loan" obtained prior to contracting for the work. R.J. Dill Building & Development has relationships with local lending institutions which would welcome the opportunity to talk with you. We receive no form of compensation from these institutions other than quality service for our customers. Please let us know if you would like our assistance in these matters.

    You will need to be prepared for some additional costs when closing your construction loan other than the standard bank closing costs and down payment requirements. You should also be prepared to pay for a builder/homeowner's risk insurance policy, and a school impact fee.

How Does The Builder Get Paid?

    During the construction phase, R.J. Dill Building & Development will make scheduled requests for payments or draws. Each payment will be credited to the Contract Price, with a final statement submitted just prior to closing. The first payment will be made as a deposit at the time of the signing of the contract. This generally represents 5% of the contract amount. Subsequent payments will need to be made based upon stages of construction as stated in the construction contract. The requests for payment will be submitted to you, your lending institution, and/or Title Company. Payment is expected within ten (10) calendar days.

The Selection Process

    One of the early steps in the design process of your home will be to make the many selection decisions. This will involve choosing the style, color, brand, finish, etc. of many of the items that go into the house which include but are not limited to cabinetry and countertops, plumbing fixtures, appliances, ceramic tile, carpet, light fixtures, paint colors, bath and door hardware, and exterior materials. When making decisions about your exterior materials and colors, we suggest that you drive around and provide us with photographs and/or the addresses of local properties that catch your attention.

    To assist you in the selection process, we have prepared product information binders and a list of various showrooms to visit. You may enjoy a visit to the Kohler Design Center at Kohler Wisconsin or the Kitchen and Bath Design Center at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Our "default' selections for plumbing fixtures, closet shelving, shower doors, mirrors, door hardware, etc. are noted in your Material Selection and Specification Sheet. Should a decision not be made in the time frame allotted, these will be what we will include in your home. Final selections will be reviewed and initialed by you prior to placing the order.

    At R.J. Dill Building & Development, our objective is to make this step of the process as convenient and efficient as possible for you. We also acknowledge that with such an investment, we do not want to be making any costly assumptions. Therefore, to assist you in your decisions, we also have relationships with interior designers with whom you can work with. We are registered buyers at the Merchandise Mart, therefore we can also assist you in furnishing your home if needed on a completely separate basis and often at a nominal charge.

    In order to maintain the construction schedule on your home, it is critical that the selection process be completed in a timely manner. Delays in selecting finish items often lead to delays in the completion of the project. Again, we will work with you to remain on schedule.

Option Pricing

    For your convenience, we will include a listing of the most commonly requested options. Please keep in mind that the possibilities for your new home far exceed the popular ideas we may suggest during the design stage. In addition, you may have other custom features you want us to incorporate into your new home. Think, dream, imagine ?we will assist you in any way that we can to make these decisions as early as possible. We will be happy to provide you with pricing on duplicating items in your existing home or for features that you have seen in a neighbor’s home, magazine, etc. Remember, you will be building a truly one-of-a-kind custom home.


    We hope that this information is informative and useful to help get you started in the custom home building process. The home building experience is fun, exciting, and often challenging. Through our experience, organization, and attention to detail, we will make this a pleasant experience for everyone involved.

Robert J. Dill



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