The UBuildIt Way
Lexington Herald-Leader - Lexington, KY
Kim and Randy Gullatt's 5,000-square-foot ranch-style home with a walk-out basement sits on a hilltop on a 170-acre, 40-thoroughbred farm.
Photos by: Joseph Rey Au
This is the story of two Central Kentucky couples who initially planned to hire builders to craft their dream homes.
But when they encountered complications, they took a different route. They built their homes themselves with professional guidance and support from the UBuildIt franchise in Lexington.
Both families admit such a hands-on home-building process wouldn't work for everyone, but for them it was the blueprint for a happy ending.
First-level owner's suite bathroom in the Gullatts' home.
The Gullatts in Woodford County
Kim and Randy Gullatt had spent a decade preparing to build their dream home on a hilltop on Twin Creeks Farm in Nonesuch in rural Woodford County.
Randy Gullatt is the farm's manager. He oversees the 170-acre, 40-thoroughbred farm, which breeds and sells horses.
The Gullatts and their son, 15-year-old Taylor, a freshman at Lexington Christian Academy, had lived in a 1,500-square-foot house on the farm for 10 years.
For years, Kim Gullatt had attended new home tours throughout Central Kentucky and clipped ideas from magazine after magazine.
When the couple decided it was time to find a builder, they interviewed three companies who each quoted a price above $750,000, including allowances for selections such as flooring, cabinetry, appliances and lighting.
"But we couldn't iron out the price for a custom house," Randy Gullatt said. "It was going to be hard to get what we wanted."
A friend suggested they explore the UBuildIt franchise. "We went to a meeting and thought this would probably work for us," Gullatt said.
Randy and Kim Gullatts' new home in Nonesuch in rural Woodford County features panoramic views of Twin Creeks Farm, which Randy Gullatt manages.
One of UBuildIt's architects took Kim Gullatt's sketches and drew plans for a 5,000-square-foot ranch-style home with a walk-out basement. The architect's fee was $1,800, compared to a $10,000 quote from an architect the Gullatts had previously consulted.
The home's main level features 10- and 12-foot ceilings, an office, a living room, a formal dining room, a kitchen and breakfast area, the owner's suite, a powder room, a laundry room and a mudroom.
The lower level, which is Taylor's domain, features 9-foot ceilings, two bedrooms, a bathroom, a family/game room and a mirrored fitness area.
Both levels offer panoramic views of the surrounding horse farm.
The Gullatts liked UBuildIt's budgeting system and step-by-step guidance. "They have a nice program that plugged in numbers and gave us an estimate of where we'd be," Randy Gullatt said. "And they give you the ABCs of the process. With that, we said we think we can give it a go."
The cost savings UBuildIt offered allowed the Gullatts to add more upgrades to their home, which they say is their last. Their house features Brazilian cherry hardwood floors, granite countertops, Mouser custom cabinetry, KitchenAid appliances and $11,000 worth of lighting fixtures.
Kim and Randy Gullatt's kitchen featuring Mouser custom cabinetry, KitchenAid appliances and granite countertops.
One builder they interviewed had given them a $6,000 allowance for lighting fixtures. "They would give you allowances for what you could spend in different areas," Kim Gullatt said. "But that wasn't the way I wanted to do it."
The UBuildIt system worked for the Gullatts because Randy was always on site, working on the horse farm. He devoted a minimum of five hours a day, six days a week to the construction, which took 11 months because of rainy weather.
"The hardest thing about building a house is that people aren't going to show up when they say they will," Kim Gullatt said. The self-described perfectionist finally surrendered to that reality and turned that issue over to her husband.
"We were wanting perfection, so I spent a lot of time with the subs," Randy Gullatt said. "You want to get perfection (from them) or as close as you can."
His wife agreed. "If you aren't there and they have a question, they're just going to do it their way," she said. In their situation, Randy Gullatt was there to discuss changes such as ceiling heights and closets.
And they weren't shy about calling the UBuildIt consultants when they encountered problems. "They'd give us advice and get us out of the snags," Randy Gullatt said.
When a subcontractor failed to show up, Don Butterfield investigated, Kim Gullatt said. "We were able to take their program and adjust it to our way of doing things."
The Gullatts moved into their hilltop home on June 1. Although they still have minor projects to complete, their home is already beautifully decorated and furnished.
It cost them $525,000 to build, not the $750,000-plus they had been quoted by various builders. "I got a lot more house for a lot less money," Kim Gullatt said.
"We knew this home was it for us," she added. "We wanted to make it perfect with no regrets. So far, we have no regrets."
The Senters are proud of the 2,400-square-foot home they built themselves with guidance and support from UBuildIt.
The Senters of Franklin County
Fran and John Senter know houses.
Married for 40 years, they have lived in Frankfort for 35 years. Their new house on Peaks Mill Road in northern Franklin County is their ninth home and last, they say.
This is the third time the Senters have built a home. One time they purchased a house whose construction was already under way; another time they had a home built from the ground up.
This time they ended up serving as their own general contractor because their much-respected builder had died.
Meanwhile, John Senter had been a volunteer supervisor when their son, John, had a home built on 5 acres next door to his parents' future home site. The retired Senter drove out each day and kept an eye on the progress of his son's house.
With that experience under his belt, Senter thought he could build his home on the adjacent 5 acres.
"We had the concept we wanted," he said. "We had three sets of house plans. We liked the front of one house, the center part of another" and the split-bedroom design of a third.
Architect C.P. Luttrell took the couple's three plans and merged them into specifications for a 2,400-square-foot ranch-style house. The house has another 2,400 square feet between its front covered porch, enclosed back porch and garage.
But when Senter began inviting subcontractors to bid on various phases of the construction process, he ran into problems.
"One of the things that was different in our situation was that we wanted to start building in September or October, get the foundation in and then quit for the winter so we could go to Florida," Senter said. "Then we wanted to come back in the spring and start the framing, but it was hard to get people to give you a quote."
Fran Senter said their plan was logical for them, beyond the fact that they spend winter in Naples, Florida. "The springs are usually so wet in Kentucky, we thought if we didn't start until spring, we'd be half the summer just getting the foundation done," she said.
On the day a subcontractor failed to show up for an appointment, Senter read a newspaper advertisement about a free informational UBuildIt seminar scheduled in Lexington that very evening. He went.
"I liked what I heard, but I still thought I could do it myself," he said. "But then I still kept having trouble with subcontractors."
The couple scheduled a meeting with UBuildIt owner Wayne Henning and senior consultant Don Butterfield at their Lexington office. "We talked in more detail than we had at the seminar," Senter said. "We took our house plans with us and told them what we could spend."
The Senters signed on with UBuildIt, a national franchise with 114 offices in 31 states. The system is 17 years old; the Lexington franchise opened four years ago.
Between them, Henning and Butterfield have 61 years of building experience. Henning previously worked in commercial and residential construction for 30-plus years, staffing projects on three continents.
"Of the many benefits we offer, having total control over quality and saving substantial monies are two of the most important," Henning said. "Our detailed system takes people step by step through the home-building process, avoiding typical pitfalls such as hiring questionable subcontractors and not being prepared for the inspection process."
The Senters spend a lot of time in their great room, which is open to the kitchen and breakfast area.
The company helps clients find building lots, obtain construction financing and work with architects to create customized house plans.
Because UBuildIt has three franchises in Louisville, five in Cincinnati and one in Florence, "we can offer our clients multiple vendor cost-saving programs," Henning said.
In addition, many of their clients gain what they call "Smart Equity," ranging from 10 percent to 20 percent, which is the difference between the actual cost of their home and its appraisal after completion.
Most of their customers are in the middle- to upper-income brackets, with their new homes ranging in cost from $200,000 to $1 million. They must be willing to devote at least 1 1/2 hours each day to their home-building project, Henning said.
The UBuildIt consultants, who expect to help build 30 homes in Central Kentucky this year, are available to their clients 24/7.
"It can be a very dangerous path to tread if you're doing it without some professional guidance," Henning said.
Once the Senters hired UBuildIt, their project got on track.
They valued the company's timetable, which guided them through every phase of the process. They also appreciated paying builders' prices on most of the materials for their home.
"We started in September 2002 and got the house done up to the foundation by October, when we left for Florida," John Senter said. "When we came back in March, we started framing and moved into our house in August 2003."
The Senters, whose house cost less than $190,000 to build on their existing property, were also impressed by UBuildIt's budgeting process.
"Our costs were quoted in July and August of 2002 and even though we didn't finish our house until a year later, we would have come in under budget if we hadn't added upgrades," Senter said. The couple upgraded their cabinetry and installed hardwood flooring and a geothermal heating system."
They used a mix of their subcontractors and UBuildIt's. "We interviewed three to four subcontractors for each job," Senter said. "Even on some of our own subcontractors, UBuildIt would check their references for us.
"And if we did have any problems, we would call them and it would be resolved within a couple of hours."
Although the Senters don't plan to build another home, "We would use UBuildIt again tomorrow," Senter said.
Reprinted with permission of Lexington Herald-Leader
Article Run Date: August 21, 2005.
Author: Connie Holman