Here’s how Eastwood Custom Homes is helping first-time homebuyers and those looking to affordably build their dream Northern Michigan home. From the benefits of a turnkey solution to mistakes to avoid, here’s what you need to know to get into your perfect house.

You know your “wouldn’t it be nice” real estate daydream? The one that crops up during your daily commute? That warm, fuzzy vision of zenning out on your patio in the private calm of your own Northern Michigan home? That’s the one.

Turns out that vision is more attainable than you might think. First-time home buyers and those looking to affordably build or buy have help clearing roadblocks and walls that once seemed tall. The answer for some buyers? A turnkey experience, where financing, design and build are all wrapped into one package.

Bill Clous and his brother Ron launched Eastwood Custom Homes in Traverse City in 1977, becoming the only builder in Northern Michigan to offer one-stop comprehensive home buying. In recent years, the team has built between 50 and 60 homes annually, serving a large segment of first-time homeowners and retirees.

Here, they share the best of their decades of experience to help get buyers into their Northern Michigan dream homes.

What are the benefits of a turnkey financing/construction process for a prospective home buyer?

“The financing needs to dovetail with construction of your new home,” Clous says. “If not, it is a guarantee that the construction will take longer than it needs to. Someone always pays for delay and it’s all too often the homebuyer. The goal is to choose a product that works well with the build to minimize time and costs.”

Oftentimes, financing products—such as loans with no PMI and zero down—can get overlooked or feel out of reach, but working with a company that has strong lender affiliations can open doors to mortgage products offering interest rates as low as one percent.

“Going to a bank and hearing ‘no’ is such a common experience,” says Eastwood Custom Homes Credit Specialist Jason Potes. “We build a roadmap to financing for each of our clients who need it.”

For example: A Credit for Life program helps consumers repair their credit and build scores, while a Lease to Own option enables clients to live in their new home while building credit prior to closing on their purchase. The company’s Home Trade-In option is designed to give those who already own a house an opportunity to move into a new Eastwood-built home while knowing that their previous home will be purchased.

The end goal is always homeownership. “It protects you from price increases for housing in the future—rental rates go up, mortgage payments don’t,” Potes says.

What’s one mistake you see happen all the time that could have been avoided?

Beware of the backyard professors tossing out unwarranted tips on credit report cleanup. “We’ve seen two people in the same week who thought they didn’t have good enough credit so they went out and bought a vehicle to build credit,” Clous says. “That then went against their ability to obtain a home loan.”

There are proven, reliable ways to build and repair credit, but hastily opening credit cards and buying vehicles are not on the list. Instead, sit with a credit specialist who will discuss good habits, budgeting and qualification factors to lock in the best mortgage for you.

“There is a lot of bad credit advice out there,” Potes says. “Your credit report is a snapshot in time and you could be just a few points short of getting a really great mortgage. The key is to have a coach that can see above the game board and tell you, ‘You know, with a few dollars and thirty days, we could get you a much better mortgage!’”

Even during this volatile time, he adds, buyers are getting qualified for an ideal mortgage with low interest rates, no money down, no PMI and less than $3,500 in closing costs.

Once you know what you qualify for, you can dive into the next dream-to-reality step and browse homes that are ready for move in, design your ideal ranch-style or multi-level home plan or cherry pick from acreage and developments currently available for new home builds.

What do you wish potential clients knew about the custom-home building process?  

If you decide a new build is your destiny, you’ll sit down with pros to put together designs, price out the construction and get started on building. Eastwood’s team will handle everything in-house—from loans to excavation to construction.

“This is true whether you are looking to build a home in one of our developments or on your own lot, and whether the home is one of our standard models or a custom home designed to your specifications,” Clous says.

Eastwood’s many developments represent the largest single company effort to provide housing for families across Northern Michigan. By building year-round and remaining vertically integrated with its own crews, Eastwood always has homes available in varying stages of completion and keeps a firm pulse on time and cost.

For active and honorably discharged military, the Veterans Program offers a two percent discount on the sales price of a new custom-built Eastwood home.

“Someone can walk in our door with an idea for a new home and they don’t have to leave to complete the steps. The whole process is done here,” Clous says. “We make it easy. That’s our slogan. It’s on our business card.”

What about potential homebuyers who are hesitant to get into the current volatile market?

Shelling out rent month after month, year after year can feel like throwing money into the wind. Especially when homeownership could mean a lower monthly payment. In fact, Clous says, his team builds three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes with a two-car garage for $325,000. A Northern Michigan home that size currently rents for $2,600 a month—more than what a mortgage payment would be.

What are options for keeping costs low?

Look for build products that are efficient. Our team offers homes like the Edison, one of the area’s most efficient and affordable homes, and the Value Max series that was engineered to offer the most square footage for the dollar by reducing waste and labor. Built on an insulated slab, the green Edison series is focused on minimizing utility consumption by using an open floor plan, efficient in-floor hot water heating and rigid foam and cellulose insulation.

“The Edison is the number one home style that we build,” Clous says. “It’s as close to a maintenance-free easy living home as you’re ever going to see.”

What are the top three tips for buyers to get the most out of the custom home-building process?

  • Be open and honest about your desires and level of commitment.
  • Approach it as an opportunity to permanently gain useful knowledge of household finances.
  • Build your team of the best people you can find, and follow their advice.

Photo(s) by Eastwood Custom Homes