What to Expect When Building a Custom Home in Los Altos, CA

Knowing the sequence of events, from finding the right home building team to the final walk-through post-construction, isn’t common knowledge. Learning how to prepare to build a custom home, knowing what to expect your custom home to cost, and understanding the construction process could be hours of research. We’ve created a concise beginner’s guide on what to expect when building a custom home in Los Altos to help you start the process informed. 


The professionals you will trust to build your custom home won’t come from a quick online search or even be handed to you by a friend or neighbor. Finding the right architect and custom home builder for your project is more intricate and will take some time. 

Expect to schedule several interviews with area architects and builders. You’ll likely find either an architect or a builder first and then benefit from their recommendation for hiring the other. How might this method help you? 

First, time will be saved by not having to search and interview so many prospective professionals. Second, when an architect and builder already have a report, their communication and expectations of one another are already established. This will mitigate miscommunication and the possibility of conflicting personalities and work styles. 


So how much does it cost to build a custom home in Los Altos, California, and the surrounding area? Several factors will affect the cost of your luxury home, including the architect’s fees, costs of material and labor, and soft costs, like permitting. This doesn’t include the cost of buying land if you don’t already own it

Next, you might be wondering how much hiring an architect costs to design a custom home. Architects typically use one of three fee structures: a percentage of the project cost, which is most common; an hourly rate; or a cost based on the square footage of your project. The fees include design meetings, producing plans and construction documents, and securing permits. On average, if going by a percentage of costs, the fee would be around 10%. 

As for the cost of building your custom luxury home in Los Altos, expect to pay an average of $600 to $1000 per square foot. If you choose high-end finishes like exotic wood flooring, marble countertops, and custom tile and millwork, the price per square foot will continue upward. 


Financing your land, financing construction, then converting your loan from a construction loan to a permanent mortgage loan is no small feat. However, going into the process having done your homework will help. Keep in mind that not all lenders offer construction loans, but many will take your loan and give you a permanent mortgage loan if you meet the criteria once your construction is complete. 

After your design is final and you receive your construction bid, be sure to shop around for a loan that suits you to avoid common pitfalls. To compare lenders, you’ll want to look into rates, fees, closing costs, and discount points because they will vary. You’ll achieve this by getting pre-approval from several lenders and then getting your Loan Estimate from each. The Loan Estimate form will detail the fees, rates, taxes, insurance, and other costs. Now, you’ll be able to make a fully informed decision and be able to move forward in building your luxury custom home. 


It’s standard practice for the architect or contractor on your project to obtain the proper permits in order to build your home. However, it’s important to be knowledgeable about the process, regardless. Obtaining permits requires specific architectural plans, so your design will need to be finalized beforehand. 

The City of Los Altos building department government website contains all of the permitting requirements that need to be met before construction can begin. The website also offers a complete guide to best home construction practices to avoid environmental degradation around the project site. A professional and experienced home builder will already be well-versed in these practices, but it’s a good thing to keep handy for your own assurance. 

Another important regulation that would affect your new home construction is the Title 24 update by the California Energy Commission. It builds off of previous regulations for California homes, new or remodeled. In short, new homes are required to be electric-ready, meaning that if you are installing a gas stove, your home should also include an electric panel that can support a switch to an electric stove, for example. This also covers heating, laundering, and EV charging. 

The update is meant to continue working toward reducing carbon emissions as well as improving public health by improving indoor air quality. Ask your architect or home builder about how your custom home design will include these updates and others


Pre-Design Phase

Pre-design may or may not be part of every custom home building process. For instance, if you hire your home builder first, they may be able to assist you with locating land to purchase, making recommendations on an architect, and giving you a ballpark idea of what your custom home may cost based on your vision. 

Pre-Construction and Design Phase

This part of the custom home building process will include both your architect and your home builder, which could vary from team to team. You will have design meetings with your architect while your home builder informs preliminary project costs, depending on the selection of materials and such. 

This phase will also include coordinating permits, creating the project schedule, and more. Your architect and home builder will be in communication about coordinating materials procurement and the project plan while keeping you informed. Many architects and home builders use project management software that will allow you to see design changes, schedules, and daily logs in real-time. During your interview process, be sure to ask potential architects and home builders if they use project management software for streamlined communication. 

Construction Phase

During the construction phase, expect frequent communication with your custom home team and checking in with the project management software to stay informed. If there are any challenges to address, you will be brought in to make decisions, so make sure to be available. Toward the end of construction, you will be led through walk-throughs to inform the final punch list or the final list of items that need to be assessed. 


A good architect and home builder will keep you informed. A great architect and home builder will give you confidence that your vision, budget, and time are at the center of the project while inviting you to be an active member of your custom home building process. 

K.C. Customs is a luxury custom home builder and remodeler in Los Altos, California, that centers on fine craftsmanship, attention to detail, excellent customer service, and professional project management. Our work exemplifies high standards of both efficiency and beautiful results. Contact us today and we’ll tell you more about our process and what you can expect from working with us on your custom home.  

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