Home and Lifestyle

PROMOTION: How to move on up, Dane County style

Options abound for real estate buyers and builders

New home construction and sales

launching his own custom home construction company, Jerod Bennett was a licensed real estate broker for 13 years. He also had a wealth of professional experience in various construction trades. Understanding the industry from both the building and sales perspectives, he founded Alterra Design Homes with partner Ryan Werth in 2009. 

Bennett believes that being good listeners is vital to how his firm establishes great relationships with their clients. “If we truly listen to our clients and understand their vision for their dream home, then we can deliver exactly what they want,” he says.

To maintain open communication throughout the building process, Alterra Design Homes uses Co-Construct software, which keeps clients up to date on construction progress. “They have access to detailed cost breakdowns, online scheduling, and change orders, all on one system,” Bennett explains. “It’s a great way to keep everyone on the same page of the project.”

Looking ahead, Bennett anticipates that land in this area will continue to be at a premium, leading to more smart-growth neighborhoods, subdivisions with smaller footprints, more shared green space and amenities, and access to walking or bike paths. “Smart-growth neighborhoods are also the perfect option for first-time home buyers and builders,” he says. In terms of design trends, Bennett predicts buyers will see more compact custom homes with a mix of textures and finishes. “We’ll see more interior wood finishes like shiplap and barn board, custom hardwood built-ins, and unique combinations of hardwood, stone, and tile flooring,” he says.

When prospective clients consider building a custom home, Bennett advises them to interview several builders to find the best fit. “And don’t ever be afraid to ask questions during the building process,” he adds. “We love questions. That open communication is all part of making sure the customer’s dream house becomes a reality.”

“To live on a piece of land without spoiling it is…the greatest task in human history” So said Aldo Leopold in his 1938 essay, “Engineering and Conservation.” In 2012, this sentiment became the driving force for Aldo Partners. As a result, the construction firm founded by owners Andy Fieber and Tim Lemkuil is environmentally conscious with a focus on sustainable development and human health. “We provide an integrated construction management approach with a focus on high-performance, earth-conscious, and human-friendly construction strategies,” Fieber says.

One of Aldo Partners’ most recent clients is One Seed Farm, established by Steve and Kelly Lagman in 2012 as an innovative, family-owned farm in the town of Dunn that incorporates restorative agriculture and permaculture farming practices. The firm was charged with building a new farmhouse on the barren land the couple was restoring.

“The Lagman family’s passion to reduce their impact on the land, in both farming and building their home, was a strong underlying theme on this project,” says Lemkuil. The Lagmans were not interested in building a tiny house or going completely off the grid. They wanted to create a near zero-net energy structure that reflected a strong commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. “We hope this home will inspire others to design and build healthier homes utilizing renewable energy, repurposed materials, and other earth-friendly practices,” Lemkuil says.For their pioneering work on the farmhouse, Aldo Partners recently received an award from Wisconsin Focus on Energy for the Most Efficient Home Project of 2016 in South Central Wisconsin. Fieber says, “We are grateful to be recognized for this award, but it is a true reflection of One Seed Farm’s commitment to healthy soil, healthy food, and a healthy home. We are honored to be part of their overall vision.”


Buying new and building new

Jenny Bunbury-Johnson and Todd Johnson are the foundation that has built The Bunbury Johnson Team. With a combined 31 years of experience in residential property sales, they share a comprehensive knowledge of Dane, Sauk, Green, and Rock Counties.

Growing up in Madison, Jenny learned the real estate business from her father, Tom Bunbury. After she graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Applied Economics, she returned home to join the family firm. With his background in financial services, Todd teamed up with Jenny at the end of 2003 and quickly realized that real estate was a natural fit for him.

“The new home market is strong in Madison and Dane County, just like the resale market,” Jenny says. “If people have some lead-time, building is a great option for them in a market where existing home inventory is at a historic low. It also allows them to customize their home to get exactly what they want. In real estate, there’s always an issue of supply and demand, which drives prices. The resale supply is extremely low right now, so building a custom home becomes much more attractive.” In addition, building a new home could be easier than many people might think. “There is a misconception that building is too much work—from buying a lot, to getting financing, to finding a builder. But with the right real estate agent, architect, and construction firm, the process can be simplified for home buyers. We can help our new construction buyers from start to finish through the building process,” Todd says.

Jenny adds, “Developments such as Carriage Ridge in Waunakee allow buyers to choose their own builders,
but also have builders available with floorplans for specific lots to jumpstart the process. It’s a great area for growth, and a great opportunity for new construction buyers.”

Remodeling new and existing homes 

Crystal Welsh is a designer for Coyle Carpet One Floor & Home, a residential and commercial contract business. The company provides flooring, cabinetsand countertops for new construction, remodels and interior design for large-scale commercial properties—including apartment buildings. “We have a team of designers who can advise on all aspects of our clients’ projects,” she says.

Welsh has been in the flooring industry for seven years, ever since she earned a degree in interior design. “Fast forward to today, she says. “The building industry is growing exponentially, people are buying bigger homes if not building from the ground up, and apartment complexes are shooting up daily in the Madison area. The whole landscape of the industry has really changed over the past decade.”

Some of the current trends Welsh sees in interior design include the use of greige (a cross between gray and beige) tones with textures. “This could mean pairing a sisal area rug with a patterned couch with a warm gray tone on the walls or a pattern on top of pattern,” she says. “We are seeing wide plank hardwood and multiple width hardwood as the main flooring in new homes. Flooring is where many clients start the design process—they base the rest of their interior style around that. Deep jewel tones are also making a comeback through paint colors, fabrics and furniture, either in a pattern or as a standalone piece. Rich metal is something you will see come alive in the Parade of Homes this year, bringing golds back into the mix as well.”

Welsh finds her work with customers very rewarding. “It’s a huge project, designing the interior of someone’s home. I tend to get really excited for the client,” she says. “But I also caution them to remember that real design and decorating projects are much more complicated than the ones you see on reality TV shows. I stress to my clients that they need to trust their builder, trust the subcontractors the builder has engaged, and let the process run its course.”

Jenna Mattison, a designer from DreamHouse DreamKitchens, reports that new homes are a big portion of
her company’s scope of work. She frequently collaborates with homeowners and builders on interior design and cabinetry layouts. “We have been designing spaces in the Madison area for decades. It’s exciting because our designs are constantly evolving to keep up with the latest trends,” she says. In addition, though, Mattison says, “Building a new house can be an overwhelming experience with all of the selections and rooms that need to be thoroughly thought out before the project even starts. At DreamHouse DreamKitchens we try to alleviate some of that stress by pairing our design expertise with technology that really allows customers to visualize the final product.”

Mattison’s firm also puts new technology to work on behalf of its clients. “We create virtual images of
a new space with computer generated renderings,” she says. “This gives the clients the ability to ‘see’ a space that doesn’t yet exist.  House plans are difficult for some individuals to read and fully understand, so this technology is a great benefit to clients and designers.”

Not only does DreamHouse DreamKitchens work closely with their clients, they also work directly with builders to verify cabinet fit and layout in a new space. “We will typically meet builders on site after all cabinetry has been selected and the design is finished, to help with any installation issues that a plumber, electrician, or other trades people may have,” she says.

Another stressful aspect of designing a new home is managing the budget. “It can be expensive, as features add up quickly,” Mattison says. “To defray some of the costs, DreamHouse DreamKitchens now offers a buyers’ club program for individuals who are building. Being a part of this program gives clients a special discount on cabinetry, along with the opportunity to work with an experienced designer.” To take part in the program, customers can simply drop off or email their architectural plans to Mattison or another designer.  Cabinet City by Dreamopened its doors in Middleton in April, says Chris Schmidt, lead sales/design professional for the firm. A

sister company to DreamHouse DreamKitchens, Cabinet City by Dream is filled with beautiful room displays featuring a wide selection of cabinets for the kitchen and bath, and closet organizers that range from pantry shelving to complete garage storage systems.

“We specialize in high quality cabinetry at affordable prices,” says Schmidt, who has spent his entire professional life in various areas of home construction and remodeling. “All of the cabinets we sell meet our standards—they are built of solid wood with dovetail joints. They feature soft closing doors and drawers. And we guarantee they will fit, or we will replace them at no extra charge,” he says. “This is all we do here—just cabinets—so we’re going to do it right.”

For Schmidt, part of getting the job done right involves understanding the customer’s needs and budget considerations, and then working with them on a design that will enhance the look of the room, while complementing the style of the entire house. “Going out to the home to get a feel for the space is really important,” Schmidt says. “Not only are we taking precise measurements, we’re checking out the soffits, noting existing architectural details, and looking at usability issues in the existing layout of the kitchen or bath so we can recommend the best new design.”

Schmidt collaborates with the design engineers at DreamHouse DreamKitchens to create an electronic 3D rendering of the room with space-efficient, on-trend layouts. The rendering also illustrates possible color schemes, countertops, lighting options, and tile to give the room a finished look. “It’s so much easier to visualize result of the project with these computer models,” Schmidt says. “They give the customer a very good basis for making design and purchasing decisions.” 

Once the customer decides on a cabinet color and style, Schmidt places the order and the product is typically delivered three weeks later. Though Cabinet City by Dream does not do installation, the company does have a list of preferred partners that they can recommend. 

“We are eager to work with clients on projects of any size, focusing on quality and affordability,” says Schmidt. “We want to make remodeling projects as easy and enjoyable as we can by offering our extensive expertise along with products you can trust.”


Renting and leasing

Leasing Agent Joseph Pechauer says the apartment complex named The LUX is “definitely a step up from standard apartment living. It has the privacy and amenities that come with home ownership without the maintenance responsibilities. And the location, right in the heart of Madison, can’t be beat.”

The Lux, which opened last June, features a unique curved design, accented with metal balconies. The townhouses and one- or two-bedroom units are available in a wide variety of layouts. They feature high-end finishes such as durable woodgrain tile, blue pearl granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances. Each apartment also has extra soundproofing, so residents are unlikely to hear or be disturbed by their neighbors. “It’s definitely not your standard rectangular apartment building,” says Pechauer. “The details are luxurious, while the rental rates are affordable.” 

He describes the typical residents of The Lux as young professionals. “They want to experience all the restaurants and nightlife that the downtown area offers, and have an easy walk to the capitol for concerts on the square, farmer’s markets, and events like Taste of Madison. They also want to meet other residents and relax.” Building amenities that facilitate that sense of community include a fitness center, movie theater room, and a swanky rooftop terrace featuring a fire pit, Wi-Fi, and a swimming pool. 

Perhaps the most unique amenity that The Lux offers is state-of-the-art, automated mechanical valet parking. As an added perk, residents can also grab breakfast while they wait for their cars to be retrieved—the apartment provides complimentary coffee, juice, muffins and granola bars for those on the go. The LUX management is currently developing an app so that calling up a car will be easier than ever. •

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