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Dream garage

Building your dream home can be a daunting task -- but well worth the effort.

In my column over the past few months, I've highlighted some of the key areas to focus on and the steps to follow when planning your new home, from defining your dream and picking a neighborhood to creating a master bedroom and adding a deck.

By following this outline, your new house will easily become the house of your dreams.

Here's a recap in case you missed any of the steps.

List the essentials

Before you pick a lot or choose a builder, it's important to picture your new home. Dream big. Reality (the budget) will come later.

Write down all the features you want included — fabulous kitchen, luxurious master bath, man cave, outdoor entertainment area, sun room.

Then prioritize your list. Pick two or three features you won't compromise on — these are the essentials and the reason you're building a new home.

Next, select a type of home that fits your family's needs. A two-story house may be perfect for a growing family, while a ranch-style home might be perfect for retirees. Many singles or empty-nesters can find the space they want in a patio home.

Find the right neighborhood

A Realtor is your best source of information about Lincoln subdivisions, as no single website keeps all of this information in one place.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, drive around each area to see what the neighborhoods have to offer. If you find one you like, ask yourself: “Why do I want to live here?”

For most busy families, the top consideration should be driving distance to work and your kids’ activities. Remember, there’s more to a commute than time. You also have to factor in the cost of gas and car maintenance.

Pick a lot

When choosing a lot, it’s important to consider three factors: the lot’s features, cost and if it is tied to a builder.

Lots are grouped into categories: walk-out, daylight and flat/level. Walk-out lots are the most popular, as their basements are more livable, perfect for families. However, single people or empty-nesters who don’t need the extra living space might find the stairs from the deck to the yard an unnecessary burden on a walk-out lot.

The type of lot also plays into the cost. In a typical subdivision, flat/level lots are the least expensive, daylight lots are $5,000 to $10,000 more, and walk-out lots are about $10,000 to $15,000 more than level lots. If a lot has added perks, such as being located on a cul-de-sac or backing to a park or a common area, expect to pay $5,000 to $7,000 more than a comparable lot that does not have that feature.

Choose a builder

When thinking about builders to partner with, I like to start by looking at homes. By going to open houses, visiting model homes and even checking on homes that aren’t completely finished, you can get a sense of what different builders create. Once you get a sense that a certain builder might be right for your dream home, that’s when it’s time to schedule a meeting.

Keep in mind, Lincoln doesn’t have “track” builders that work on hundreds of homes. Most builders work on only a few homes a year. Out of 151 companies/builders that applied for residential building permits in Lincoln over the past 12 months, 99 of them built only one or two homes. Only 17 builders filed for 10 or more permits, and only 5 had 20 permits. Most local builders are one-man shops (general contractors) that hire subcontractors for part of the construction: framing, drywall, paint, etc.

Focus on the function

Five of the top 10 requested features for new homes deal with functionality and storage: walk-in closets, linen closets, walk-in pantries, mudrooms and laundry rooms.

It’s important to remember that rooms that are functional don’t have to be huge. If you have a giant laundry room but nowhere to store your detergent or fold your clothes, the room won’t be as useful.

When planning these functional areas, focus on storage and shelving.

Create the kitchen

An open concept kitchen design is the most popular style right now. It lets you entertain while cooking during parties or family gatherings without feeling isolated from the rest of the group. If you have children, adding a bar or peninsula will give your kids a place to do homework, have a snack or play while you prepare dinner. It also ads valuable counter space.

Design the pantry

A pantry can be so much more than a place to store your canned goods and cereal. A walk-in pantry adds crucial storage space and helps remove clutter from your kitchen counters and cabinets.

A new trend in custom homes is the addition of a butler’s pantry. These functional rooms have extra storage space, counters and power outlets. In addition to food, you can store your serving dishes and small appliances like mixers, toasters and coffeemakers. Adding lights to the shelves or in the ceiling makes the pantry even more usable.

Bigger is better with garages

A garage is one of the best spaces to add storage and function to your home.

Two-car garages used to be standard, but that trend is changing. Over the past year, 78% of new homes built in Lincoln had three or more garage stalls.

I always recommend building the biggest garage you can afford and that fits on your lot. Compared to other rooms in your home, garage space is relatively inexpensive to build, and you will always get your money back if you decide to sell the house.

Build the mudroom

Typically located next to the garage, a mudroom serves as a buffer to keep rain, snow and mud from being tracked through your home. It’s also an excellent place for cubbies or lockers for shoes and backpacks to decrease the amount of clutter around your home. Adding a closet will give you extra storage when it’s time to pack away the winter gear.

Some builders like to combine the mudroom and laundry room, but I prefer separate spaces, keeping your clean clothes away from the mud and clutter.

Remember to give serious consideration to the flooring. Vinyl, tile or hardwood are easier to clean after snow boots pile up. Carpet is a definite no in this area. And it’s easy to overlook the placement of light switches in functional areas, so remember to put one at both ends of the room.

Look at the laundry room

First, you need to decide where you want to put your washer and dryer, as this will help you plan for the rest of the room. This space needs to be at least 5-feet deep, though a 6-foot depth makes the room much more comfortable.

Next think about your lighting and outlets. If you plan to set up an ironing board, make sure there’s an outlet and enough light in that area of the space.

For flooring, I suggest using vinyl or luxury vinyl because it’s easy to clean. Tile is an option, but it can be cold and hard to stand on. Avoid having carpet in your laundry room because it can get dirty and wet easily.

A floor drain isn’t required in a laundry room, but the extra $500 cost for parts and installation is better than water damage after a washer overflow.

Remember to give serious consideration to shelving or cabinets. This provides an excellent way to keep the room organized between laundry loads as well as adding extra storage space.

Adding a sink is a popular option in laundry rooms. It costs about $400 to add a utility sink and makes the room more useful.

Time to get to bed

First, you need to decide how many bedrooms you want in your dream home. Traditionally, newly built homes have three bedrooms upstairs and two in the basement. However, a recent trend has shifted the layout to include fewer bedrooms on the upper level and more in the basement.

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If you choose to have only two bedrooms upstairs, I recommend finishing your basement. This adds extra design time and material costs, but it will give you extra living space and more room for bedrooms downstairs.

With only two bedrooms on the main level, you can use that extra space to create a bigger kitchen or a large master suite.

Bathroom basics

A ranch home typically has two bathrooms on the main floor, one in the mater bedroom and once near the kids bedrooms. However, I recommend you add another half-bath on the main level for guests. This is an investment you won’t regret when it comes time to sell your house.

When designing the layout of each bathroom, consider creating a space separate from other parts of the room for the shower and toilet.

Mastering the bathroom

Five of the most requested features for a master bath are storage, counter space, heated flooring, multiple sinks and a separate toilet room. If you have saved any space throughout the rest of your house, the master bathroom is a good place to use it.

A smaller space with dual sinks and a large shower will make the room feel congested and may not function like you want it too. For this reason, I recommend you focus on the functionality and accessibility of the room. While dual sinks may feel like a necessity, having extra cabinet and counter space instead means better storage options for all your daily essentials.

Evaluate the electrical

Once your house is framed, I recommend setting up a time to meet with your electrician for a walk-through. This lets you see how the house is progressing and re-evaluate where any electrical components are going to be placed. During this phase of construction, homeowners can still make changes at a minimal cost.

Next, think about outside outlets. If you plan on celebrating the holidays by decorating the outside of your home, make sure you have enough outlets to support your holiday spirit. Or, if you spend your summers in the backyard, make sure there are outlets near your outdoor furniture.

Remember to give serious consideration to two and three way switches throughout your home. This adds convenience and a sense of security while you are in your home.

Deck or patio?

To decide which space fits your needs, first consider how high your home sits above the ground. If you are able to get from your door to the ground in four steps, then I recommend a patio.

Typically connected to the house, a patio is perfect for fire pits, barbecues and a separate seating area, making this a great space for relaxation. However, they require a level area and can be six times more expensive to install than a deck. On the other hand, patios offer three times the space, a better resale value and often last longer than a deck.

Decks can be built on any level of your home and don’t require any excavation. They can be built off of the lower floor of a home for easy access from the kitchen or dining room, or they can be added to an upper level, giving the homeowner an excellent view of the surrounding landscape. One of the few drawbacks to building a deck is maintenance costs. Homeowners need to budget for upkeep every two to three years.

Protect your outdoor space

Adding a cover is one of the most popular ways to protect your deck or patio from Mother Nature. Pergolas, extended roofs, canopies and awnings all offer different levels of protection.

Covering the space not only prolongs the life of outdoor furnishings, it also makes the space more usable when the weather is hot. Depending on which type of cover you select, it can also create definition and add style to the space.

A growing number of homeowners are using wall jogs as a way to protect their outdoor living area. A wall can add privacy, mark the edge of the space and create dry areas that can still be used if weather isn’t cooperating, making the area more usable throughout the year.

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About the author

Vladimir Oulianov has been a specialist in new efficient homes in Lincoln since 2002. He is ranked in the top 100 real estate agents in the U.S. and is the top Salesperson in Lincoln for the last 6 years. Other awards include a Lincoln’s Choice Award from the Lincoln Journal Star for Best real estate agent, a 40 under 40 Award from the Lincoln Business Journal and Realtor of the Year from Woods Bros Realty.

Vladimir's Real Estate Services believes in Fair Housing and an Equal Opportunity for all. Contact him at 402-890-0535 or

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