Rick Arnold

Rick Arnold

Richard B. Arnold Real Estate

How to Custom Build Your Dream Home: Know the Process!

I’ve been selling real estate on the North Shore of Long Island for nearly 50 years, and I’ve experienced it all! I’ve seen changes in interior-design trends, and communities have grown as developers bought land to accommodate growth & demand. And prices! Prices have certainly grown over this time. One constant, however, that I’ve seen in the real estate business is homebuyers always start their search with a list of “must-haves.”

The challenge when looking to purchase a home on the North Shore of Long Island – many of which were built over 50 years ago with some over 100 years ago – is that it’s hard for buyers to get all of their “must-haves.”  Open concept kitchens & family rooms, master bedroom suites, custom built-in furniture & molding…these things are not always common in older homes.

Often times, the way to get all of your “must-haves” is to either custom build a home or to purchase a home that was recently constructed.

A custom built home can be a dream scenario.  However, it’s easy to get caught up in the dream and forget the reality that building a home is a process – a process with many steps and many decisions to be made along the way.

I spoke with Ray Gentile from Anray Custom Builders to learn more about the process of building a custom-made home and to learn about what to look for when you’re purchasing a newly constructed home.

Ray has been serving the North Shore of Long Island since 1985, and his reputation as a premier home builder and project manager is impeccable.  I decided to share Ray’s insight with you because I know a quality builder when I see one – and Ray is certainly a quality builder!

New Construction: Know the Process

When you buy an existing home, it can be a straightforward process: set a budget, pick a community, and choose a house.  

Once you have an accepted offer and close on the purchase of the house, you move in. 

In contrast, when you choose to construct a new home, there are many more steps & decisions to make, all of which require time, insight, & money. 


Ray Gentile recommends that you understand every step of the process to construct a new home before you start anything.  Often times, Ray says, people will buy a piece of land or have plans drawn by an architect before they articulate what they really need or before they even establish a realistic budget for the entire project.

A beautiful gable is a design feature that often times requires custom construction.

The first step in the process is to identify what you need in your home – your “must-haves.”  Some things to consider are school district, size of home, and an overall budget which accounts for special accommodations & requirements for the home.  At the end of the day, you’re custom building a home so you can get everything you want!

Do you have a handicapped relative for whom you need accommodations?  Is this the home you want to live in for the rest of your life?  Do you value a formal living room, or do you prefer to invest in additional casual living space?  Do you need separate living quarters for an older child, a relative, or a nanny?  

All of these things and more are considerations before you find an appropriate plot of land on which to build your home.  We haven’t even started talking about architect’s fees, permits, lot preparation, construction and design decisions yet!

Your Contractor as a Trusted Partner

A quality homebuilder empowers the buyer by participating in the planning stage before the buyer is ready to build anything.  In short, a reputable homebuilder adds value before the job even starts.

A good homebuilder will guide you through the process from selecting an appropriate lot, to tackling zoning issues, to setting a realistic budget.  An experienced custom builder might even help you obtain financing for your project.


When you custom build a home, every fixture, color, and material becomes a decision that your homebuilder will guide you through.

A less experienced home builder might not meet with a customer unless architectural plans have already been drawn.  Remember, though: your architectural plans are not the first step in this process.  

Your home builder should become a partner who works with your architect to develop plans that meet your needs and are appropriate for your selected plot of land.  

You want a home builder who is excited to invest time in your project and become a trusted partner in the entire process!

Understand the Importance of Land

Ray Gentile accompanies many of his clients on site visits to give clients feedback about the land under consideration.

Ray estimates that the land value should be 30%-40% of the value of the finished project. While this is not an absolute ratio, it is a good guide.

There are many considerations when you’re buying a piece of land on which to build a new home.


45 Fern Drive in Roslyn required a wall to accommodate the landscaping and to account for the property's elevation.

Is there an existing structure that needs to be demolished?  Is there a slope that needs to be leveled?  Are retaining walls necessary to ensure the integrity of the property?  Are there any zoning complications with the town?  Can your dream home even be built on your chosen property?These questions must be answered before you purchase the land for your project. At worst, if you make a mistake at this stage of the process, your entire project and all of your dreams could be compromised.  At best, you could overpay to get the final house that you want.


Neither scenario is ideal, and a good homebuilder will guide you to avoid these costly mistakes. 

Quality Craftsmanship

A reputable contractor is like an orchestra leader.  A contractor hires & oversees everyone on the project in the same way that an orchestra leader chooses the musicians and trains them to work as part of the ensemble.

When each member of an orchestra is talented, hard-working, and on the same page with the ensemble, the music is inspirational!  


The complimentary details on the wooden floor & the molding create a pleasing aesthetic.

When one of the musicians is off for any reason, that deficiency becomes the focus of the performance and ruins the rest of the talent.

The same can be said of a reputable contractor.  A talented contractor becomes a trusted advisor.  Your contractor hires all of the tradespeople to do the work, and he synchronizes their efforts.

Likewise, Ray points out that a good contractor foresees problems before they arise and plans accordingly.  By hiring the best talent, you can be sure that you’re getting the quality you expect with your custom home.

Talented tradespeople create quality products & homes, and people know quality!  They can feel it.  The electrical, the plumbing, the painting, the tile, the masonry – all of the details combine to create an experience when you walk into a custom-made home.


The coffered ceilings in 45 Fern Drive in Roslyn are a perfect example of how details contribute to a home's character.

From the second you look at a home’s exterior to the moment that you touch the handle on the front door, you can feel a home’s quality.  The design, the aesthetics, the molding, the panel work, the coffered ceilings…all qualities that speak to the attention to detail in a home.

A quality home does not get built by accident!  It takes talent, time & money to build a finished product that you can truly call a stunning custom-made home. 


A reputable & talented custom-home builder will get you there!  Getting there on budget, however, is what you want to do. This is perhaps the greatest challenge that separates a good home builder from a great homebuilder.

Final Thoughts: Price vs. Value

When you’re building a home, your goal is to get the best builder at the best negotiated price.  That said, if the only factor in your decision-making process is to get the least expensive price, then you’re probably being short-sighted in your thinking.


Hiring a custom home-builder is an investment.  You’re investing in the person who will lead the project that results in an incredibly valuable asset. 

Warren Buffet is credited with saying that “price is what you pay; value is what you get.”  In the case of building a home, this is especially true. Often times, the cost to hire a talented custom builder will pay dividends on the overall value of the completed project. 


The custom coffered ceiling in the large dining room at 45 Fern Dr in Roslyn provides a great design detail that brings warmth & character to the space.

Invest the time, energy, & money to hire the right custom builder for your home.  You will not regret the decision to invest in this relationship, for it will most-likely be the deciding factor that leads to the home of your dreams!

Rick Arnold

Rick Arnold

Rick is an owner & a Licensed Real Estate Broker at Richard B. Arnold Real Estate in Sea Cliff. He leads an exceptional sales team dedicated to full service and integrity. As a "local institution" for almost 50 years, Rick's extensive experience positions him in the forefront of the current real estate industry.

Ray Gentile

Ray Gentile

Ray Gentile has been building dream homes for over three decades. Fully licensed and insured for all work performed on site, Ray leads a highly experienced team at Anray Custom Builders who will give you a house you can truly call “home.” Click on Ray's picture to see Anray's work and to learn more about Ray's highly regarded company.

Heidi Hunt

Heidi Hunt

Heidi holds a BFA in photography and has been working in the field for over twenty years. Her commercial employment includes Kodak, Fox News and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She uses her lens every day to capture life's moments. To see more of Heidi’s work and to contact her, click on her picture to visit her website: www.heidihuntphotography.com

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email