Custom Built Chicago Home

Why is Custom Home Building Hard To Do?

Custom Home Building is Hard! The goal of custom home building is to create a product that fits your family needs, wants and desires all into the same package as your family’s budget. It sounds simple enough, right?

Today I want to discuss with you the top frustrations of would be custom home building clients.

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Are Cost Effective Subcontractors Really Cost Effective?

By Ryan Siebert

As a general contractor I find myself often and the dilemma of choosing the best subcontractor and making my clients budget work. Often times when building a custom home we have to make a decision that fits the clients budget, or we do not get the business at all. Today I’d like to discuss the importance Of understanding the types of subcontractors that your general contractor can utilize for your custom Naperville kitchen, bathroom, basement or new home build project.

“Wow, They Are Expensive.”

The top-of-the-line subcontractors know their business hands down. Their systems are flawless, the quality is second to none, the communication is always spot on. Typically these subcontractors come with a full-time administrative assistant who keeps everyone organized. Their field operations reps are top-quality. They tell you how they’re going to install, and do not wait for you to suggest how to get the job accomplished. Sounds great, right?  However, these crews have overhead to pay for.  In other words, these subcontractors are expensive. I’ve been in this business for over 12 years now and I have yet to run across a client who didn’t pay attention to their bottom line for custom home building, regardless of their net worth. I’d love to use high-quality subcontractors for every single one of my traits but unfortunately the numbers don’t always make financial sense.

“How Do They Do It For That Price?” 

Second level of subcontractors is the group that has not quite figured out how to run a business. They have the knowledge, they have the manpower, but they haven’t figured out the organizational structure. This makes their prices competitive, but there is a lack of follow through. Whether it’s systemization or they’re just not quite ready to scale the business up, these subcontractors will be the ones that start off great and cannot complete the job.  This doesn’t affect your bottom line for pricing, however, sticking to a timeline is not going to happen.

Do you want to know the process of building a custom home from start to finish? Click here!

“I Got a Guy.”

The unicorns of the custom homebuilder industry are the ones that are excellent at what they do and have a great price. The quality is top notch. These are rare and as I always tell my project management team when we find them we have to hold onto them and keep them busy. The challenge with these subcontractors, is they are often running a one man band operation. Using them on every project is not possible. Expecting them to know all the details of a complicated project is not going to happen. I often get a high-quality product with a great price, but a lack of order giving. Typically these contractors our order takers. That means myself and often my clients are going to be involved in helping make the decision of exactly what steps need to be taken to get the work done. When it comes to crunching numbers in creating a budget that makes sense these guys are great. However, if you need someone to guide you from start to finish your project I try to avoid bringing these guys on the job site.

Part of my job as your general contractor is to help you understand what is most important to you. Budget, quality, timelines? We do our best to give you all of those things, but often times decisions are made knowing what’s most important to you so we can help make your experience one that you’ll be proud of, and of course refer us for business.

Hey if you’re looking to do a custom product of your own I would love to help you out. Whether it’s a bathroom basement kitchen home addition or a full new construction house we are able to flex and help you with whatever project may be on your to do list. Give me a call or text my cell phone 847-602-7641.

Why I Prefer to Avoid Cost Plus Projects

When I first dipped my toes in the waters of custom building and remodeling in Naperville my thought process was that cost-plus projects would be my niche. I thought the clients would love to see the details of the money going in and out of their transaction. I thought it was on the details. I thought wrong. Today I want to explain to you why my firm decided to move away from cost-plus pricing and offer more fixed pricing.


When comes to a custom renovation project clients want to be sure that the price that they have is the price that they will finish with. Cost plus projects rarely end up exactly where you start. Yes, there is an opportunity for clients to save money with cost plus. However, clients often are more frustrated with all of the little costs. Clients get frustrated with the lack of consistency from the estimate to the final numbers. With all my projects I understand that my bid overall needs to be very accurate. It’s important when I’m doing an investment project I’m doing a custom built home in downtown Naperville. I understand that line items change. I may save money on the excavation for custom-built home, but I may spend more money on my kitchen cabinets. It’s very rare that the estimate that I develop ends up being accurate from start to finish with every single line item. This frustrates clients because they save money early and mentally will spend that money on things like higher and appliances tiles or cabinets.  This is one of the reasons that I don’t like to have cost plus pricing and my projects.

Clients feel taken advantage of

When I initially propose a cost plus project clients love the idea. I love the partnership banter between us as well. However, when budget starts to get tight clients all the sudden start hiding their purchases from me. All the sudden my clients will show up with their plumbing supplies on site knowing that my management fee is a percentage of the project.  Clients will start to feel like they I am increasing the budget to make more management fee. Ultimately these awkward conversations between clients led me to taking on more hard costs projects and less cost plus.

Want to Renovate a Kitchen With Us? Click Here!

Hard Numbers

My clients like knowing what they’re paying for is what they’re going to get and the price will not change. It makes sense when my clients and myself go to the grocery store and we see a price tag for milk, cheese, eggs etc. that price doesn’t change by the time we get up to the checkout lane. In construction often times I am obligated to give a price quickly.  Clients love the quick turn time, but hate when the details are not accurate 2-3 months later.  For that reason I no longer prefer cost-plus pricing.

Accounting nightmare

Far and away the biggest reason that I do not like to use cost-plus pricing is the accounting nightmare and I create with each client. Some of my clients are analytically trained to understand the details that I provide them. Which is good. However, they also asked me way too many questions and want a line item assessment of each charge. They and myself included do not respect the hours it takes to provide these details. I end up spending way too much time behind my computer rather than working on that project. All for what? To provide a few details on what specifically was purchased on one of the 20 receipts that were received the previous two weeks. There’s no amount that I can justify to my clients that makes up for the amount of time it takes me to provide these details. Other clients don’t want to see the details. It’s not how their brain works. We all have different personalities and different skill sets.  This far away is the biggest reason why it went away from cost-plus pricing.

If you’re looking for more information on how you can custom build a custom renovate a project of your own I’d love to sit down and chat with you. Call me on my cell 847-602-7641.

How Important Is Your Lender When Building a Custom Home?

By Ryan Siebert


As a custom home builder and remodeler I know how important your lender can be for you to have a successful transaction. My business has made multiple shifts over the 12 years of existence and without a banker who understands me, I would have had a much more difficult time.  The same can be said for your construction loan on your custom home. Today I want to discuss the importance of having a great lender for your project.


As a young builder I recognized that to be successful I had to work with people who had light years more experience that I do.  The same can be said about your lender for your construction loan.  You want to work with someone who has experience in lending, specifically with construction loans.  Not all lenders have construction lending experience.  Most loans are underwritten, approved, and funded.  Construction lending has an entirely different set of rules.  The money is paid out as your project progresses.  If you do not have a lender that understands the progress of a project you may end up paying out too much money for unfinished work. Work with someone that understands how to get you the money, and who knows about construction too.

A special shout out to Signature Bank for continuing to help out with my business needs, and for having me be a part of their radio commercial which can be heard here:

Rate Watcher

Your lender needs to understand rates.  Today’s market is less volatile for interest rates, but there will be a day when that changes.  Your lender on your custom build home needs to understand what rate programs and changes are available to assure you have the correct financing options in place.


Want to know more about the process of custom home building? Click Here!


Program Versatility

For your custom built home I believe it is important to have the correct loan in hand.  Let’s face it, you do not do this every day.  Your lender needs to understand your financial needs and put you in the program that makes sense for you.  I am not only talking about fixed versus ARM programs.  Construction lending offers different options for down payment, construction payment terms, size, and overall numbers of loans to take out.

I always find value in doing research and understanding options for all areas of custom home building and remodeling, including lending.  When it comes to lending the best value is finding someone that understands the process and understands your financial situation so you can put you and your family into the best lending program for you. If you want to discuss further please call me on my cell 847-602-7641.

How to Select Interior Trim Packages for Your Custom Home

When he comes to selecting interior trim for your home this simple little task can become very complicated. My custom building and renovation clients in Naperville know all too well what I am talking about. Today I want to give you a few tips on how you can take the bull by the horn and get your trim package selections taken care of and avoid a lot of stress.

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General Contractor

Should You Be Your Own General Contractor?

Should You Be Your Own General Contractor?

I’ve recently heard advertisements for companies offering to assist you in being your own General Contractor. I’ve also worked with a lot of clients who I know would be great General Contractors on their own.  Yet, I still come away from the advertisement shaking my head at the frustration that clients are going to walk into in trying to manager their own custom building or renovation project. My reasons for advising against individual project management are more than just for my personal financial gain.

Proven Subcontractors

General contractor

I’ll be the first to admit that as a project manager I am only as good as my worst subcontractor.  This is why it is important to have subs on your team that are proven to get the job done right. Often my custom home building clients will ask me to price out bids with other subcontractors.  I have to remind them the value of working with someone that will get it done, and someone that knows my system as a project manager. Every time I hire a new subcontractor I am holding my breath that they will get the job done right.  I also hold the cards to my subcontractors financial growth by sending them repeat business. By trying to run your own project management you are in essence asking each subcontractor give you the best pricing, the best quality, the best timeline, and you will never give them anything more than this one job.  Good luck with those expectations.


Whether you are doing a cost plus project or using fixed pricing at some point you will wonder why you are paying a project manager to do nothing more than make a call or two.  If only it were that easy. I like to use the example of moving an outlet six inches in the kitchen backsplash right at the end of the project. Coronation has to bee completed between the electrician, the drywall crew, possibly the painter, then you can bring back your tile guy to wrap it up.  Your electrician won’t want to send back a guy for 1 hour worth of work right away. Your drywall contractor has to send one specialist to install the drywall, one to install the tape, and likely one to sand it. Odds are your tile guy wasn’t standing there waiting for the last 3-4 days while the other work was being completed.  So when you do call your tile contractor back they are likely working on another project. So for something that may appear to be an hour worth of work, you are looking at 1-2 weeks worth of calls and coordination. You may be thinking, why not just call a handyman at that point. For full permitted jobs another electrician cannot make the repair.  You could have another drywall crew come in for the repairs, but then you are adding costs to your project rather than using the warranty that your original drywall crew provided. As for your tile contractor, they are not as easy to find today. Labor, as we all know it, is scarce and only going to get worse. Issues happen like this from the day you start your plan set development to the day you are completed with your warranty repairs.  It makes a General Contractor job well worth it to save you time. 

Communication part 2

Naperville Home Renovation

The real problem with owners being the general contractor for their own project is, subcontractors do not want to talk to the owner.  My subcontractors love working with me because I take all of the communication out of their hands. I love working with my subcontractors because they take the tools out of my hands, thank goodness for my clients.  Most subcontractors want to work, send in an invoice and get paid. They do not want to spend hours talking to you about the way they are supposed to do their job. This is why a lot of contractors do not work on remodeling projects, so they can avoid client interaction.  Most of the subcontractors that I work with that excel in communication and have no problem talking with homeowners are the ones that are the most expensive. The reality is, you cannot always afford to hire the most expensive subcontractors for every trade. Your general contractor will know what buttons to push and what communication to have with the subcontractor to get the job done in an efficient manner.


Subcontractors, custom home builders

When potential clients come to me touting that they have all of the selection items picked out and on site for a project I cringe a bit.  Yes, it is less work for me, but the odds are something they purchased isn’t going to work. Either the amount was wrong, or the the wrong plumbing supplier were purchased or the product they used is something I don’t recommend.  When it comes to custom renovation and building projects in my Naperville market I have a team of suppliers that are just as important as my subcontractors. They help facilitate the selections, make sure the product works for the project, get the material on site and provide fair pricing.  This helps you avoid hours of wasted time and effort trying to search for the lowest pricing. Value your time by using your general contractor’s proven team, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

Do you have questions about a project of your own?


Yes, you can be your own general contractor.  Yes, there are some weeks that you can watch your project and only put in 10-15 hours a week.  However, I ask you how much is your time worth? If you are personally a $75/Hour person, why would you hesitate to pay a general contractor $50-$100K to run your custom build home that will take more than 12 months worth of time and effort?  $75 * 15 * 52 weeks = $58,500.00. If you have a kitchen renovation and you want it done right and within 8 weeks, $75.00 * 15 * 8 = $9,000.00. Let’s say you have a lower budget for your kitchen and end up paying only $5,000.00 for the general contractor, you are then getting expert work for $41.67 an hour.  Often what gets lost in translation between clients and general contractors is the reality of what they are paying for. You are paying for an expert to manage your project and oversee all of the details to make sure you have the perfect home and then warranty the product. That doesn’t account for the operational expenses that your general contractor has to account for on the backend, which you in essence get for free.   I hate to pull the math card out, but often I think clients forget to value general contractors time and expertise simply because they see a big commission on their estimate.

I’ll get off of my high horse now.  As always, I appreciate you reading and educating yourself on the custom building and remodeling industry.  If you are looking for questions about how you can custom build or remodel a home of your own, please call me 847-602-7641 or email

The Final Payment

The Final Payment

Bathroom renovation

Something weird happens to custom remodeling and custom home building clients when it comes time to make their last payment.  After getting through a renovation project most of our clients can’t wait to see us go so they can enjoy their new renovation.  Yet, the last payment is something they hold onto, waiting for what I don’t know, but I’ll give it a try.

Just incase something happens

Bathroom renovation

For most of my clients they have a fear that we as project managers will disappear the moment we receive our last payment. I suppose most clients think it is easy for us to change our phone, website, social media platforms, etc.  So they hold onto that last payment just to be sure that all of the potential punch list items have been found and repaired. Look, I get it, I would want to make sure my Naperville kitchen renovation was completed. However, there comes a time when the project manager that you hired needs paid out so their subcontractors can start on the next project.  Check your contract, check your warranty. Does your paperwork detail what rights you have if something happens after your last payment has been made? For our SG Home Builders projects we provide warranty work well beyond the time your last payment has been made. We look at warranty work as an opportunity to see our clients and come through with great customer service.  

The work isn’t complete

Kitchen Renovation

I’ll be the first to admit that contractors have a tough time completing their punch lists.  It may very well be the most frustrating part of what we do. Here is a great example, a client wants an outlet changed from one location to another.  Now we have to coordinate with electrician, drywall crew, and painter. All to make a 5 minute repair. The odds of getting all of them to show up one after another is not good.  So little details get missed when our project management team is not paying full attention. From grout repairs in your bathroom renovations, to paint touch ups in the staircase of your finished basement, the repairs at the end of the project, though small, can be missed due to poor project management.  My project management team will get frustrated with me for allowing clients to hold back their last payment, but unfortunately I believe it is the fair way to do business. We believe in finishing our job, then we get paid.


It always comes down to money.  Along the way some clients spend too much money on their finishes.  A kitchen renovation of $50,000.00 can easily turn into $55,000.00 if attention isn’t paid to the selection items such as countertops, appliances, and even backsplash.  If your project manager is not transparent with your cost analysis you are likely going to get a shockingly larger bill at the end. Make sure you are diligent and understand your costs for your renovation project so that you can manage the money details from start to finish and avoid making excuses to your project manager as to why you can’t make the last payment.

The last payment often doesn’t mean goodbye, it just means until another time.  As a homeowner have no fear in making your last payment and avoid issues by working with a project manager you know, like and trust.


How Important Are Your Light Fixtures?

How Important Are Your Light Fixtures?

beautiful kitchen remodel

One of the most overlooked parts of a custom renovation or custom built home is picking the light fixtures. It can seem like such a check list item at the end of a long project, especially when you are designing an entire home.  However, making the correct light fixture selections can make or break your entire project. Today I want to discuss with you the key features of selecting lighting fixtures for your custom construction project.


kitchen remodeling

Often when we are working with one of our custom home building clients they find themselves deep in an all night trance looking at every picture available trying to find the perfect home to replicate.  We as project managers often have to play the bad cop role and tell our clients why they cannot have the one of a kind twirly light fixture that has seven shades of colors. Ok, most clients do not go that far.  However, there is a certain amount of functionality that needs to be reviewed when selecting light fixtures over design. I preach to my clients to make selections based on the use of the light vs how pretty they think it is.  Is the dining room light with all of the fancy glass hanging from it going to light up your table or are you simply looking for appearances?

Another area of functionality to remember is the cost for installation. As is the trend for majority of our custom built homes for our Chicago and Naperville clients, our clients tend to try and outdo one another.  This means that hanging giant light fixtures about the open spaces and vaulted ceilings becomes more and more difficult. Keep in mind that the bigger and bolder that you go, the more time and care is going to be needed to install the fixture, just the right way.  More time = more labor = more money out of your pocket.

Last but not least is the maintenance for light fixtures.  You know the bulbs will go out at some point. Do you have a ladder that will allow you to change the bulbs?  No one wants to be that family that leaves their bulbs unchanged for years because they do not have a ladder to reach the ceiling.  



I always make sure to tell my clients that I am NOT a designer.  If you want professional help for light fixtures call Light Source Lighting in Plainfield.  They work with our remodeling clients in Naperville and in Chicago.  My feelings on light fixtures is that they should not be overlooked and should be incorporated in the design of the house.  I love the way that a house starts to come together at the end when the tiles are installed and the paint is finalized on the walls.  However, there is something special about walking into a home when the light fixtures are installed and lights are on for the first time.  

Light fixtures are meant to light up the room with their finishes and the artificial light.  A great selection of light fixtures can pull all of the details on your custom project together and leave people with a lasting memory.  One of our designer partners LC Interiors knows just how important light fixtures are and she is rarely afraid to bring in different metals and finishes together.  

Custom renovation and custom home building is an amazing opportunity to take on. From light fixture selections to the color of your trim paint, custom renovation and custom home building is always one decision after another.  Enjoy the process and reward yourself for all of the hard work you put in to make your home beautiful. If you are thinking about taking on a project of your own, please reach out to us and we would love to partner with you


What Type of Kitchen Countertop Should You Choose?

What Type of Kitchen Countertop Should You Choose?

How are you supposed to remodel your kitchen without knowing the kitchen countertops?  With nearly all of my Naperville kitchen renovations the clients hit a bottleneck in the process when it comes time to select the kitchen countertops. So to help today I put together a list of kitchen countertop choices.


Granite Countertops

Granite countertops, once a mainstay of homes for only the rich and famous, are common in many homes today.  Granite kitchen countertops are a natural stone that is forms under the ground from volcanic pressurization. You can view a great article on the process of how granite is formed today and how the production technology dramatically dropped the price by following this link via


When dealing with clients the ones that love granite are looking for a very customized piece, something that no one else will have.  With the natural stone selection the odds of having the exact slab are slim to none. Where clients will get frustrated when choosing granite for their kitchen countertops is blending the natural veins together for their kitchen.  Most countertop fabricators will be able to match up the lines the way you want them, but the odds are you will need to be willing to make some sacrificing, especially if you want fancy edging done to your countertops.

Custom Renovation

Quartzite and Quartz Countertops

They are one in the same right? WRONG Quartzite kitchen countertops are also a natural stone.  This is a sandstone that also forms over time from the heat pressure in the ground. Quartz on the other hand is a man made stone.  The funny thing about quartz is that manufacturers are getting better about making their man made product look more natural. Recently the quartz and quartzite countertops have taken over in popularity.  The natural thought is that they are more expensive, but it is not always the case. Quartzite, like granite will have inconsistencies in the veining and overall appearance from stone to stone. Quartz is known for being more uniform with veining and designs, which allows you to make easier choices when selecting a stone that you like. MSI, one of the leading stone suppliers has a great article on the difference between the two here.


What you will find with stone selections, granite, quartzite and quartz is the selection process can be frustrating.  There are only a few places to pick out the physical slabs of stone, yet there are hundreds of fabricators out there. I recommend finding a knowledgeable representative that can walk you through the process and help make your selection enjoyable.  

Epoxy Countertops

One other style of countertops that I am seeing a lot of attention for lately is epoxy kitchen countertops. Much like finished basements and garage flooring epoxy countertops are becoming a very popular and economical choice. There are not as many professionals available who offer this service, but it is something that looks fantastic when completed.  Also, this is something for you DIYers out there that you can try on your own. I recommend looking at Countertop Epoxy and their methods so you can learn the steps and tips they offer.  They provide incredible knowledge for FREE on how to use epoxy for your project.  

As always, if you are looking for more information and ways that you can custom renovate or custom build you own home please feel free to reach out to us and we would love to partner with you.


Custom Home Building and Remodeling Update

Custom Home Building and Remodeling Update

Never ending leads, unlimited blueprints to review, projects to manage, punch lists to complete, and warranty lists to cross off the list.  For a custom home builder and remodeler the market seems like it is in a great place. But what really is going on with the residential construction market? Today I want to share with you my feelings on the residential custom home building and remodeling industry in 2018.

Custom Building Update

Ryan Siebert CEO SG Home Builders

Remodeling Bonanza

Custom Renovation

I personally feel that the market is set up for a 3-5 year run of strong activity of remodeling projects.  Also, a few of the Pella reps took me to lunch and told me they see the same wave of remodeling projects on the horizon.  Pella has the evidence based on economic research, not just a hunch like I have.  Custom renovation projects such as kitchens, bathrooms, basements, and even additions are serious considerations over owners selling their home and moving.  Why? Most current homeowners are sitting on a nice 3-3.5 percent 30 year interest rate. Selling their home and buying something new puts then at a 4.75-5 percent rate on their new home.  By the time the added interest costs and higher valuation of homes on the market comes into play most would be sellers realize that they would be making a lateral move by selling and buying new.  For that reason a lot of families are looking to remodel, and I know just the guy that can help them out, Contact Us!

Custom Building Could Mean Overpaying

Naperville Custom Built Home

From 2011-2015 buying a lot with the intention of tearing down and building new often resulting in instant equity.  It was the high rollers version of flipping their own home. With less inventory available tear down lots are being sold at a premium.  Tack on rising material costs and a shortage of quality labor and you have the perfect storm for making it impossible to build a home in a high demand area and not end up overpaying.  What does this mean? It means to get what you want, where you want it, you as the custom home owner will need to be willing to come out of pocket with a little more cash that you first anticipated.  Lenders will not allow you to spend more than what your home appraises for, and just because you put the coffered ceilings in each bedroom doesn’t mean the value of your home will increase. That said, remember you as a custom homeowner are one of the lucky ones, appreciate your opportunity and the experience that you are about to have by building your very own home.

Labor Shortage

Custom renovation

This is me telling you, be prepared for delays.  As a custom home builder and remodeler the harder I plan for things the more useless my time becomes.  We are trying to coordinate 20-40 different subcontractors on your project who each have 20-40 different projects of their own they are trying to manage to make an honest buck.  It is the closest thing to organized chaos as you can imagine. For us as SG Home Builders we often have to choose between the quality of a proven worker, or the timeline expectations of our client.  One way or another we are often going to upset our clients so we choose to miss our timeline rather than miss the quality on the finished product.  What will your project management team do in a similar situation?

I have little concrete evidence to back this data up, but I believe we have a big problem on the horizon for quality labor in the next 5-10 years. I’ve been the youngest person on the job site for the past 12 years and I do not pick up a hammer majority of the time.  A lack of European immigration over the last 10 years, and slowdown of Mexican immigration will continue to put pressure on pricing for high end quality laborers. My hope is that the tide will turn and working as a laborer will not be looked down on as it is in today’s society. The reality is I have multiple subcontractors netting six figure 1099’s from just me and they are working with multiple builders.  

Running this business for the past 12 years I have realized that it isn’t always the result of my efforts that leads me to success.  It is often better to be situating myself in the right place so that when the wave of good fortune comes through I can ride it high for as long as possible.

For a list of services that we offer at SGHomeBuilders, visit this link.