How long have you been in business?
Ray Bongers has been in the home building industry since 1998 and founded Bongers HomeBuilders in 2001.
Where do you build?
Bongers HomeBuilders works primarily inside the perimeter of Atlanta, focusing on intown neighborhoods such as Buckhead, Sandy Springs, Decatur, Druid Hills, Emory and Oak Grove.
How do you communicate with clients about their projects?
We like to stay in touch informally through email and phone conversations but also enjoy weekly structured meetings at the project to really discuss progress. We also have an online project management system that allows our clients to log on and view our construction schedule to see
what we are planning for the following week.
How do I know if a major remodel or a new custom home makes sense for me?
If your home is a charming bungalow with great curb appeal maybe an extensive remodel that adds and addition and remodels the kitchen makes sense. Often though if you have a 50's or 60's ranch with 8 foot ceilings we steer people to a new home if they are planning to add a master suite and remodel the kitchen. The costs for this level of a remodel is tough to recoup on an older ranch home.
How much will a new home cost?
This is the most important question but also the most difficult to provide without a set of plans. A simple range of cost per square foot always seems to miss the mark because home design varies
so much. That is why we developed a decision tree cost calculator for pricing. Please give it a try
on this website.
How do most people finance the construction of the home and the lot purchase?
Most often people use a Construction to Permanent Loan (CP Loan) from their local bank. The loan allows the client to purchase the lot and fund the construction of the home over a fixed time period. When that time period is up the construction loan converts into a traditional mortgage. Often the
rate for the permanent mortgage is locked in ahead of time. Generally the bank will appraise the anticipated home's value and then lend 70-85% of that appraised value. This amount varies depending on the bank and the project.
What should I do about having plans drawn?
If you are settled on remodeling you will have to hire a designer or architect. If you are thinking about a new home you also have the option of buying homes plans off the Internet. We recommend clients print off a free online version first for preliminary pricing before they purchase the plans. If those plans work, great; if not, you can still get a designer--either way you will already have a good sense of the home cost before you commit to the project. If you need a designer, Bongers can assist you with
that as well.
How long will the construction take?
It varies depending on the project but a good rule of thumb is 5-6 months for homes on concrete
slabs and 6-7 months for homes with basements. These numbers assume a building permit is
already in hand.
How difficult is the permitting process and how long does it take?
Often times a permit can take a month or more to acquire. Permitting the construction of a new home in an older neighborhood has gotten more and more difficult over the past 10 years. Municipalities have implemented new rules to control the size and impact a new home has on its neighboring houses. This has created a confusing list of rules that vary between municipalities. While these rules can be found online often they produce more questions than answer them. Your best defense is to use a designer that has done several homes recently in your neighborhood.
Also, try to stick to some basics:
  1. Design a home that fits into the buildable area of your lot. Every lot has a 'buildable' area at its center that is defined by a front build line, side build lines and a rear build line. These build lines are determined by your zoning designation and municipality. For example a Dekalb County zoning designation of R75 requires a front build line of 30' and sides of 7.5' and a rear of 40'. These rules don't change much and are easy to find online.
  2. Don't try to cover too much of your lot with a house and driveway. All municipalities limit the amount of your lot that can be covered by impervious surfaces to varying degrees but a good rule of thumb is to keep it under 35 percent. These 'coverage ratios' are also tied to your zoning designation and can be found online.
  3. Try not to impact too many trees and stay clear of 'specimen' trees. The rules regarding tree removal are dramatically different between municipalities and focus on protecting large older trees. Trees under 6"can generally be removed but all others will need to be inventoried on a site plan and reviewed by the municipality.
What level of plans will I need in order to get a building permit and how much will
they cost?
Once again, all municipalities are different but they normally require the following:
  • Site Plan -- A site plan shows where the new home will sit on the lot along with all of the existing trees and a current and proposed topography. The county or city will want this plan to show how many trees you are removing and also how you will control water runoff. Usually drawn by a land surveyor, the site plan typically costs around $1200 for a half acre lot.
  • Building Plan -- The building plan shows how you plan to build the home. The building official will focus on the plans meeting current building, safety and energy codes and not the home's appearance unless it is located in a historic district. The cost for plans can vary dramatically with some designers charging a flat fee while others charge a percentage of construction cost. Our recommendation is to select a flat fee designer.
What energy efficiency options make the most sense?
Focus on efficiency options that have the quickest payback and spend money on items that reduce the energy your home uses and are difficult to upgrade later. Insulation is the best example--once it is installed and the walls are closed, upgrading later is almost impossible. Water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners all have a limited life and by the time they need replacing the newer units will be much more efficient.
What is the difference between a 'fixed price' contract and a 'cost plus contract'?
  • A fixed price contract sets the price of the home's construction with the only variables being change orders or the amount spent on allowances. This contract puts the risk of cost overruns onto the builder and not the client.
  • A cost plus contract places the risk of cost overruns onto the client and not the builder. In return for this reduction in risk the builder generally accepts a lower fee percentage. Normally in a cost plus contract arrangement the builder provides the client his cost estimate upfront and then keeps an accurate accounting of all money spent for the client's review.
Cost Calculator
Start your budgeting process for your custom home with our easy-to-use cost calculator.
Satisfied Customers…
“I can't imagine a finer man than Ray to deal with in this often overwhelming process.”
—Jim Fortenberry