When it came time for Mike and Joan Smith to realize their plans for leaving the 'Big Smoke' and relocating to Ontario's near North, they knew what they wanted, "We lived and worked in Toronto for over 40 years," explains Mike, a former executive in the insurance business. "We had a cottage for over 25 years. We thought we'd like to move to Muskoka for a quiet, private life." Sounds simple enough, but finding their dream home proved more difficult than the couple had anticipated: "We must have looked at 25 homes, but we just couldn't find anything," he continues, "They all needed too much work." Deciding to build their own dream retirement home, the couple, both avid golfers, were thrilled to find the perfect location: a large private lot in a small subdivision just outside of Gravenhurst, backing onto the Muskoka Sands golf course.
The spot was ideal - now all the Smiths needed to do was find a home to build on it. Enter David Langtree, a Home Design Consultant at the Gravenhurst Home Building Centre. "They came in the store and talked to me," he recalls. When people who are thinking of building visit for the first time, "We usually try to find out where and why and how soon are they building, and talk about their budget. I usually have them look at the book, and then just let them go think about it after I tell them a bit about the product." Langtree also conveys another very important piece of information to his customers: "This is not just like buying a house at some lumber store, I am attached to the deal and will be part of the whole process."
After the Smiths visited David Langtree, wanting to make sure they explored all of their options, they did some additional research; "We looked at other home designs and home design catalogues, and we found that the best catalogue was Home Building Centre's," says Mike. "We spent hours going through it, looking for the ideal house."
After deciding that a bungalow would best suit their lifestyle, the Smiths found a plan that had everything they were looking for. "It was just a nice layout, we wanted a view for starters, and there are just tons of large windows, even the basement windows are large," enthuses Mike. "We liked the looks and the design of the house, and we just love the master bedroom."
Once the Smiths had chosen a design they liked, they returned to the Home Building Centre for another meeting with David Langtree in order to get a ballpark price, start finalizing the home plan and sign the necessary paperwork. "At this point we sign the contract, ask for a small deposit and postdated cheques for the balance in three equal payments spread over 90 days," explains Langtree, something that Mike Smith really appreciated, "I liked that a lot. We needed the money from our unsold home in Toronto to pay the balance," the Smiths intended to sell their old house, but needed to live in the home while construction was completed. "That was a real bonus for us, that things were flexible."
Their new home's layout and design were flexible as well, "In between getting the deposit and the first payment, we go through the house piece by piece, room by room, making sure they like everything and that everything's acceptable," says Langtree. "If we need to adjust a window size, this is when we do it. At this time we may also add other product to the house beyond the base package; different flooring, upgraded windows, upgraded siding," he continues, adding, "Almost every time a kitchen is also sold with the house. We work with that design, what they would like for style or finish, and get that done as well." The Smiths were no exception in that department, "David helped us design the kitchen and had some very helpful hints on that, and Home Building Centre ended up installing it," Mike says. Determining all the finishing touches requires a lot of decision-making and time, so Langtree is careful not to overwhelm his clients with too much information, "It might take two or three meetings to get this all done, you can't do it all in one sitting," he explains.
With the process truly underway, the Smiths found themselves busy hiring a general contractor (Langtree provides clients with three or more names to choose from), getting the necessary permits, having the lot dug out and basement put in. Langtree recommends that clients go with the contractor they hit it off with, offers the best price, is available - or, preferably - a combination of the three. In the meantime, David Langtree was ordering all the required materials so that when the prep work was done, the Smiths and their contractor had everything they needed to start building their dream home.
Langtree finds that clients also really appreciate the conveniently scheduled nature of building with Home Building Centre, "A lot of our competitors deliver [all the building materials] in one lot, and the customer has to pay for the whole thing at once." Given the epidemic proportions of jobsite theft in Canada - it's estimated that over $1 billion worth of materials "vanish" annually - the Home Building Centre system protects the customer, "We don't want them to have an insurance claim right away with their new house and mess up their rates," Langtree says. And, as Mike Smith points out, it also ensures that the materials are in good condition when they're required, "We built a cottage years ago. When you buy through a prefab place, they just drop the whole package on your lot. If the weather is not good, the lumber starts to warp and you have to use it right away or worry about covering it."
Six months later, in time for Christmas, the couple moved in. "We've had all sorts of compliments on the house, from neighbours, from people just stopping by," says a thrilled Mike Smith. "We've even had a few real estate agents saying that if we ever wanted to sell, to call them [laughs]!"
Towards the end of construction, David Langtree stopped by on one of his many scheduled and unscheduled visits to the construction site, and reminded the Smiths of something he'd said to them at the very beginning, "I told them, like I tell all my customers, 'the sale is never completed... if there are any issues down the road, I'm here for you. The sale never ends.' I like to leave all my customers with that thought."