Your Guide to Building A Home In Mason

Your Guide to Building A Home In Mason

Mason is a Hot Spot For New Construction!

We Break Down the Top 3 Options for Custom Homes

The Mason area continues to be a hot spot for new construction, and for good reason! With a top rated school district, an abundance of recreational outlets nearby, a wide variety of shopping and dining, and close proximity to I-71 and I-75, new home buyers consistently add Mason to their top choice for a new home. As the 2109 selling season goes into full swing, we wanted to give you a brief outline of three of the most popular New Home Communities in Mason.


  • Site of Homearama 2019
  • Custom Homes from the $800s
  • Half Acre to One Acre Lots
  • Community Pool, Playground, and Gardens
  • Superb Location off of Fields Ertel Road

Vintage Oaks

  • Custom Homes from the $700s
  • Half Acre Home sites with Walkout Options
  • Water features throughout the Community
  • Mature trees & wooded views
  • Conveniently Location off of Duke Blvd

Long Cove

  • Prestigious Community
  • Custom Homes from the $800s
  • Elegant Clubhouse & Community Pool
  • Picturesque Waterways and Streetscape
  • Beautiful Entrances at Wilken and Snider

For more information, contact Mike Hines at 513.260.0424 or Jan Gerding at 513.608.3770 at Build Collective at Coldwell Banker West Shell. They can get you started on building your perfect home in 2019!

Allowances…. How Do They Work?

Allowances…. How Do They Work?

If you’ve built a custom home or are just thinking about building, you’ve probably heard the word ‘allowances’ thrown around. Typically, the term is used to describe one of the most confusing and overwhelming parts of the building process, but that shouldn’t be the case. I’m here to explain how allowances work and how to best capitalize on them with your builder.

So, what is an allowance? Well, just think of it as CASH!! What’s better than cash? When a custom builder prices out a home, there are several items that can’t be defined or selected up front. An example could be the cabinets or countertops. Since you can select virtual any item under the sun, a builder gives you a cash value that you can utilize to pick out items for your home.

Here’s an example: A builder offers you a $7,000 allowance for countertops. This could go towards whatever you pick: granite, quartz, cultured marble, soapstone…you name it! You’d head to a granite or countertop supplier, typically one the builder recommends (they tend to have preferred vendors), and make a few selections for them to price out.






A few items in the home that are often allowance based are:

  • Cabinets
  • Countertops
  • Landscaping
  • Flooring (Carpet, Hardwood, etc)
  • Tile
  • Lighting
  • Closet Shelves
  • Appliances
  • Interior Trim
  • Plumbing Fixtures

IMPORTANT NOTE:  When reviewing if an allowance is adequate, try to do some research! You can hop online, but more importantly, go to the vendors and suppliers. They can provide accurate estimates that include labor, materials, design, etc. You can also compare builders to one another keeping in mind that it’s VERY difficult to compare apples to apples unless you’re looking at the exact same plan, spec and allowances!

The good news is allowances are often traded amongst each other. Think of all of your allowances as separate buckets of cash. You can take money from one to help pay for another. If you’d rather spend your money on a high end appliance package because you’re a gourmet chef, then take a little bit off a few other less important items like landscaping or lighting.

Tips for managing your allowances:

  1. If you know an allowance isn’t adequate, increase it! This can be through negotiating or adding cost to the contract. If you go over your allowances, you often have to pay cash at the end of the build. Why not increase it slightly and finance that amount. You always have the option of putting more cash down at the end, but at least you’re not backed into a corner!
  2. Ask your builder for a list of suppliers and vendors. Go and meet with them briefly to discuss what things cost. A few meetings can give you peace of mind in knowing where you stand.
  3. Tour Homes! Chances are your builder has a few recent homes that you can tour. Ask them what they spent on the kitchen cabinets, bath fixtures, etc. If it was built within the past year, those numbers should be relatively close.
  4. Watch out for the internet! Chances are most items are cheaper online. You can buy everything on Amazon, but do you really want to outfit your house on there? Local Suppliers and Vendors might be a bit more expensive, but your builder uses them because they more reliable, they include installation (most often), and you know you can call them if there’s an issue. Builders always dread the statement, “I found this cheaper online!” so beware!

ALTERNATIVES: If you’re not comfortable with Allowances, there are alternatives that builders can occasionally offer. They’re not as common in custom building and often a little more restricting, but some builders might offer packages of selection items. This is common in production or semi-production builders. They offer lighting packages, countertop packages, or potentially option A,B,C packages that you can choose from. This is easier to manage and keeps you for over-spending, but are limiting because you can’t select anything under the sun! There is a time and place for this type of selection process so try to know yourself before jumping into this type of situation.

If you’re still with me now, that means you’re an allowance expert and you have nothing to worry about! Chances are you’ve selected (or will select) a great builder and will do the necessary research to feel comfortable. If you’re still a little weary, reach out to a new construction specialist/agent in your area! They can save you TONS of money!

Happy Hunting!

Understanding New Construction Contracts

Understanding New Construction Contracts

If you’ve started to interview builders, you’ve likely started to see the difference on how they operate. They each have areas they thrive in and other’s not so much. But no matter their skill set or competitive advantages, you’ll ultimately get to the big step of reviewing and signing a contract with one of them.  Even though this might be months from the first day you meet with them, it’s important to start asking questions early on their contract!

I bring this up because we’ve seen deals fall apart after drawings are finished and bulldozers are at the site because the Buyer or Builder didn’t agree on some facet of the contract. So, don’t wait until your 2nd or 8th meeting with the builder to review the contract, start EARLY!

And when you do, you need to know about the different types of contracts! Forget about the fine print, the overall premise of the contract is what’s most important in the beginning. What I mean by that is, how are you paying your builder? Is it a cost plus contract or a fixed price contract? This is a VERY important item to ask.

Below are the types of contracts and how each works:

Fixed Price Contract – The cost of building a home is essentially the sum of all the parts from foundation to countertops! A fixed cost contract puts the risk on the builder to price out all of the items accurately to be sure he has ample cost and profit in the deal for him. When you execute a Fixed Price Contract, the builder bids out the plan (typically) to all of his vendors and suppliers, adds allowances for items you need to pick, adds his profit margin and then gives you a price. The profit margin might be fixed on his initial pro-forma (which they may or may not share), but ultimately it will slide up and down based on the cost of each non-allowance based item. The spec sheet guides his choices to be sure he doesn’t skimp on anything in the house.


  • The Builder’s responsible for any overruns (not caused by the land).
  • You know your price from Day 1 of contract signing!
  • Your bank can easily give you a loan based on a for sure number (minus allowance overruns)


  • The builder will try to save money where ever they can.  
  • It’s on you to stay in line with your allowances and be sure they’re adequate for your taste.
  • You might not see what your Builder’s profit margin is.

Cost Plus Contract –  The alternative to a fixed priced contract is cost plus where you see each and every item that is needed to build a home. The Builder will get bids for each item and then take on a fee for themselves. This fee can be a cost plus or a management fee. Examples might be a 15% cost plus or $100,000 management fee added to the cost. Sometime it can be both! They can be floating depending on how the scale of the build carries out. The responsibility is on the builder AND the client to review the bids to make sure they’re accurate and there is enough buffer to make sure you’re covered. These contracts can fluctuate in price drastically depending on how things go on the building site and how well your builder priced each of the categories.


  • Full transparency because you can see each of the costs
  • You know exactly what your builder is being paid!
  • You can influence each item if you care to.


  • Builder profit can be tied to how much YOU spend.
  • The builder is less concerned about keeping price under control.
  • The price is always moving – positively or negatively!

As you meet with Builders, be sure to talk with them about how they operate on this regard. If you have a preferred way to go about it, you’ll want to be sure you let the builder know that from the get go! No sense wasting your time if you and the builder can’t agree on the framework for a future deal!!

As a bonus, here are a few questions to ask your builder about their contracts…

  • What is the deposit and when do I give that to you?
  • How long does it take to build a home and will the delivery date be added into the contract)?
  • Ask about their financial capacity to pay subcontractors and how quickly they are paid.
  • If there are issues with construction, timing, execution, how are they handled?
  • Do you finance the construction or do I need a construction loan?

I  know this seems a bit overwhelming, but it’s important!  An as always, feel free to reach out to Build Cincinnati to help guide you through the new construction buying process.

How Does Cincinnati’s Tax Abatement Work?

How Does Cincinnati’s Tax Abatement Work?

If you’ve been living in the City of Cincinnati, chances are you’ve heard about the tax abatement for new construction and remodeled homes.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, of course.

But, do you really know how it works??

Here’s a little crash course on the tax abatement and why it’s been such a driving force in the Cincinnati residential real estate market…
As you may know, when you build, add-on or invest in your home, your property taxes can and, most often, WILL go up!  This is obviously true in the City of Cincinnati  as other municipalities, but there is a special little incentive for those looking to invest in the City (all 52 neighborhoods).  The Cincinnati Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) Residential Tax Abatement, as it’s called, offers property owners the ability to minimize their tax implications.  This means that any improvements will NOT significantly add to your property tax bill.  You would only pay on the amount of “pre-improvement” value, up to certain levels.
Let’s give a few examples:
Example 1: You purchase a home or lot in Walnut Hills.  The value of that existing property is $100,000.  If you then build a $400,000 Leed Gold Certified Dwelling (we’ll get into the LEED certification below) on the property, you would only be taxed on the $100,000 for 15 Years. The remaining $400,000 would be abated for those years thus saving you around $8,000 per year!
Example 2: You own a home in Oakley assessed at around $250,000 and have decided to add on to the back of the home.  The renovation will cost $150,000.  That entire amount would be tax abated for 10 year.  It’s only 10 years as opposed to the 15 year new construction abatement because of the regulations.  This still saves you almost $3,000 a year for 10 years.  That’s almost $30,000 in savings!
So, how do you do this? First off, you’ll want to call a professional (a builder or us at Build Cincinnati) that understands the tax abatement and construction process.  You determine what the best plan of action is for your house or lot and then review the abatement guidelines at the link below.  Once construction is complete (and have an audit from a LEED professional if you did a LEED Home), you’d need to submit your application to the City with the necessary documentation, which includes an improvement spreadsheet, Certificate of Occupancy, LEED audit and a few other miscellaneous documents.
Now, the secret sauce: LEED Certification.  The City of Cincinnati is one of the BEST places to build a LEED certified home because it saves you even more money.  If you look at the link above, you’ll see that this energy certification has tiered savings based on the certificate level.  As you’ll see,  LEED Silver allows for up to $400,000 abated, LEED Gold is up to $562,000 and LEED Platinum is UNLIMITED.  
Of course, LEED comes with it’s extra building cost, but that’s specific to the home you build and how much money you can spend! Be sure to choose a builder (Shameless Plug ALERT…like Classic Living Homes, Walker Homes, Ashford Homes, Quest Homes, Legendary Homes) that’s knowledgable on the process because this will prove invaluable.  Also, an excellent resource on the subject is the Green Building Consulting in OTR.  They have spearheaded the LEED process for many of our client’s homes.
Now that you’re armed with this information, doesn’t building and remodeling in the City sound that much better! Not only can you design a home specifically for you and your family, but you can save money in the process!
For more information on the Tax Abatement, feel free to reach out to our Build Cincinnati team members at 513-686-7676.

Good Funds Law in Ohio!



  • Buyer’s need to make plans to wire deposits for closing rather than bring a cashiers check
  • Funds under $1000 will be accepted via a check, but anything above must be wired.
  • Buyer’s must prepare to wire funds weeks in advance to avoid any issues.

Closings are changing on April 6th and it might add another step for you as Buyers.  But don’t worry, we’re here to keep you informed and prepared!

Here’s what you need to know:

On April 6, 2017, the Ohio Good Funds Law goes into effect.  Settlement agents, which are the title people that close a real estate transaction, can only disperse funds once they’ve been deposited in their accounts.  What does this mean: the funds from the closing can only be dispersed and finalized once the funds from the Buyer are present in the title companies bank accounts (not just brought to closing as a check).  This means you can no longer bring a Cashier’s Check the day of closing as in the past.  The funds must be wired prior to closing so that they can verify the funds are “good” and available.

In an effort to ease the process for you as a Buyer, we suggest preparing for the wire as early as two weeks prior to closing. Make sure funds are ready to send from one accounts, or as few as possible ideally, while also discussing the wiring process with your bank.  Typically, you’ll have to do this in person at the bank branch so if you’re from outside of Cincinnati, make sure you make preparations prior to leaving your home.

If you are the Seller of a property, you can still choose to have the title company cut you a check for the proceeds at closing or wire the funds directly after.  Keep in mind that title companies will charge a fee for outgoing wires.  Also, as any wire, double check the wiring instructions (especially if emailed) to prevent any fraud or hacking.

Below is a list of acceptable forms of transferring funds to the title companies:

  1. Wires!
  2. Checks up to $1,000 (Cashier, Personal, Money Order, Business or Official)
  3. ACH – Automated Clearing House Checks or Transfer within the United States.
  4. Checks from Real Estate Broker’s Escrow/Trust Accounts.

Tips for wires:

  • Double check any wiring instructions sent via email with a phone call to the title company.
  • If you have questions or any doubt, ask your real estate agent or title company.
  • Keep in mind that there are wiring fees charged by the banks.  To keep these minimal try to wire funds from one account if possible to avoid multiple fees or any confusion.
Madeira New Home Tour – April 9, 2017

Madeira New Home Tour – April 9, 2017

Madeira New Home Tour! April 9, 2017 from 1-3PM

Strap on your boots! It’s almost time for Build Cincinnati’s 2nd annual New Homes Tour.  This time it’s all going down in Madeira.  We’re offering clients, friends and potential buyers the opportunity to tour ALL of our properties in Madeira, no matter what stage of construction they’re in: pre-teardown, raw land, framed, drywall-ed and completed homes!  Even though we’re focusing on Madeira this year, but our Question and Answer Session will stretch into all of our areas, which include Montgomery, Blue Ash, Hyde Park, Mt. Lookout and Indian Hill.


If you didn’t join us last year, we actually started things off with a live Teardown.  We’re changing things up this year and meeting up at a 100% completed home by Classic Living Homes at 7450 Shewango Way in Madeira.  This home is listed at $739,900 with a gorgeous white kitchen, finished basement and 2nd floor master. It’s worth your time just to see this house!

And, if this isn’t your cup of tea, we’ll have quite a few other homes and lots.  The final products range from $500,000 to around $750,000.  In fact, we’ll have 5 experts on site that can take you to our other properties.  We’re even offering  self drive or agent guided tours, depending on what you’re looking for.

So, what can you learn at the Madeira Teardown Tour.  Here’s just a few highlights:

What is a teardown or infill lot?

What does it cost to teardown a lot?

What is the ratio of house to land for a new construction home on a teardown or infill lot?

Who are some of the best builders in the area?

How can I compare builders?

How long is the building process?

Learn more about the steps of the building process.

What are the different price ranges in Madeira and other communities?


We hope you’ll find the time to join us to learn about new construction through Cincinnati.  We promise, it’s worth your while!!


-Mike Hines

Build Cincinnati


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