What High End Builders Do (and Don't) Put in Their Homes

In a Wall Street Journal article, What Luxury Home Builders Consider Worth the Splurge, the subheadline reads, “In their own homes, construction-company bosses will spend money on the best materials and perks like seven ovens and a dog-grooming room. But some eschew complex home-automation systems.”

The Journal article goes on to say “What builders consider worthy of including—or excluding—from their personal homes can be revealing.”

Let’s take a closer look at what high end home builders put into their own homes and what they view as an unnecessary expense.

YES: High quality design, materials, finishes.

Luxury home builders profiled in the Wall Street Journal article invest in the best materials and craftsmanship for their homes. Sebastian Construction Group President John Sebastian agrees with those priorities, believing that quality trumps size or trendy amenities that don’t fit your lifestyle.

As he told DHome magazine in the January/February 2017 issue, “If budget is a concern, build smaller to maintain a high level of quality. You will never miss the space, but you will enjoy the craftsmanship for decades.”

NO: Additional square footage, especially bedrooms you’ll never use.

Rather than square footage, John Sebastian advises clients to invest in design. “Great construction quality and great architecture are smart investments. These qualities will increase the value of the house – not the square footage.”

There’s one more benefit to trading footage for higher quality – when it comes time to sell the house, it often commands a higher price.

A February 2017 article in the Wall Street Journal’s Mansion section noted that some luxury homeowners are following John’s edict to choose quality over footage by reducing the number of bedrooms in their luxury homes. (“Some Luxury Homeowners Scale Back on Extra Bedrooms.“)

Another area where builders of high end homes buck the conventional wisdom? “Green” features and the latest “smart” home systems.

YES: Features that reduce the overall maintenance and operating burden.

John Sebastian notes that while his clients value home features that reduce maintenance and save operating expenses over the years of ownership, most do not prioritize being “green” for the sake of achieving a certification or award.

NO: The latest all-in-one technology.

Sometimes a client’s negative experience serves as a deterrent for the builder who’s crafting his own high end home: “They are also able to use clients’ experiences to inform their choices. Mr. Karp knew to stay away from a complicated, multi-device, iPad-controlled “smart home” technology system because he has fielded so many complaints about them from customers.”

Jerry Nogalski, Sebastian Construction Group’s Client Care Manager echoes Karp’s experience. Nogalski’s department handles Sebastian’s clients’ post-move-in needs. His loyal following of clients rely on his department to schedule all of their warranty work, minor projects after move-in, maintenance work, or any other needs that may arise.

“People need to remember technology changes every day and their system can be out of date within a year of it being installed.”

Nogalski relates a few of the most common problems of all-in-one smart home systems:

“The biggest issue is when the home loses power.  A generator or battery backup may turn on, but some of these systems are so sensitive that it may cause other parts of the system to go down…which causes client frustrations.  The other is modules failing. These are the brains of the lighting system.”