Things to Think About Before You Build

By Dotty Brothers | November 20, 2023
Things to Think About Before You Build

Custom dream houses don’t just pop up overnight. Or overweek or overmonth. If they do, they’re not custom and they’re probably not anybody’s idea of a dream. Custom houses take time. They take time to design, time to build, time to craft. You can’t build a dream home without making time for dreaming: imagining what you want your home to be, and what it can be.

Really thinking through what you want is the best way to prevent the kind of stress and frustration that is all too common in the home building and remodeling field. Here are some things to think about before you build.


This is an early rubber-meets-the-road moment. If you’re building a dream home in the Brainerd Lakes Area, chances are good you’ll want it on one of the many beautiful lakes the area has to offer. Lakefront property isn’t cheap. Building a dream home isn’t cheap. And chances are it’ll end up costing more than you expected. Not because anyone is lying or being nefarious, but because there’s almost always something that comes up, or a change that has to be made. We make estimates as accurate as possible, but we’re also working with commodities (lumber, concrete, luxury stone, metals) that are prone to price fluctuations. In addition, the market price of copper affects the cost of wiring your home.

Determine your budget. If you find that your budget is going to force you to make too many compromises, then it might be best to put the project on hold and save, save, save. You’re building your custom dream home—it should meet or exceed your dreams, not let them down! We will gladly help you make this determination, even if it means we don’t work on your project for a few years. Our goal is to make your dreams come true, not have to explain why they can’t be met.

One last note about budget: if you’re financing the home, you’ll need a construction loan rather than a mortgage. Not every lender offers construction loans because they are riskier than a regular mortgage (because there is no existing house to act as collateral), and they often require more money down up front.

Home Site and Location

Our design/build process starts with a thorough site evaluation. We walk the lot where your custom home will be built. During that survey, we think about a number of different factors:

  • Water: If you’re building on lakeshore or on a river, where is the best place for a home relative to the water? Do you want the house to face it directly? At an angle? Does the shoreline curve or jut out in a way that suggests a specific location?
  • Sunlight: What’s the best orientation to maximize sunlight? Do you want your kitchen, or your main bedroom, or a deck to be broadly exposed to the sunrise? The sunset? Both? Neither? We consider that factor as well, while keeping in mind that the angle of the sun changes during the year.
  • Earth: What does the lot itself suggest? Are there features or trees that you really want to keep, or highlight, or remove? We aim to build beautiful dream homes that fit in with their surroundings, so the home complements the lot and vice versa.

We’ll also consider how the seasons might come into play. In the end, we’ll find the optimal location and orientation for your home.

Your Lifestyle

Think about your life, both now and in the future. For now, how many people will live full-time in your home? Do you or anyone else in your family need to work from this home? How about working out at home? Everyone’s needs—little kids, teenagers, adults, pets—come into play.

There are also factors that stem from your location. For instance, if the nearest grocery store is an hour away, you’ll want to consider a larger pantry space, more storage, and bigger refrigeration and freezer options. Your home also needs to accommodate your hobbies, interests, and passions. If you need a dedicated craft room, or a painting studio, it’s much, much easier (and cheaper) to design with that in mind than to alter the home after it’s built.

We build “forever” homes. That means they are intended to last your lifetime, and then some. While humans change as they age, your house is harder to modify. That’s why we want your home to meet your needs now, but also in the future. This might be your future, but it might also be your parents’ future, or your kids’ future. Will there be an aging parent who lives with you in their later years? A mother-in-law apartment might be worth considering. The same could be true for an adult child who needs to stay close to you.

Then there are the accommodations of your own aging. Stairs can get harder to manage as we age, and the long-term effects of a fall can be more pronounced. We can address some of these by designing the home to provide single-level living, with a main bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and laundry all on one level, even if any or all of those exist on another level as well. Zero-entry showers, door and hallway widths, countertop heights—all of these can be incorporated in a way that blends your current needs with your future ones.


It feels a little odd to include something so, well, boring when we’re talking about dream homes. But having a place for your stuff is a critical function of any home. This is going to have a lot to do with your lifestyle, too. For instance, boats and pontoons are a great way to enjoy a lake. But this is Minnesota, and water freezes. You’ll have to figure out what you’re going to do with those boats during the winter.

The same goes for any hobby or interest—you want a place to do it, and a place to store it. That might mean dozens of fishing rods, several pairs of Nordic or alpine skis, basketfuls of yarn and a whole series of knitting needles, or an industrial kitchen’s worth of pots and pans. No matter what you love to do, we want your home to make it easy and fun.

On to the Design

This might all sound like a lot to consider, and it is. But don’t worry: Dotty Brothers can help guide you through most of these decisions. (We’re not a lender, so we can’t help with financing, but we will help you with your budget from early ballpark estimates to final, detailed cost breakdowns.) We believe in open, clear communication from the beginning of a custom design/build to the very last walkthrough. We want your dream home to actually be the one you see in your dreams.

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