Our house

By Ray Piaskoski


Just about any homeowner will tell you the right house is not only the most important investment you’ll ever make, but also a matter of very personal taste.
Steven and Jane Aliota of Nashotah love their custom-built home that is designed to suit their family. Staying on your timetables during the construction process is important, Jane said. Gas Light Homes of New Berlin built the Aliotas’ home.

But with the market values and resulting prices of pre-built homes as high as they’ve been over the last few years, more and more people have been looking at the option of building their own home these days in an effort to get exactly what they want for their housing dollar.

“We both reached the decision that we really wanted what we wanted in a home,” said Jane Aliota. She and her husband have been in their custom-built home in Nashotah since February of last year. “We wanted people to walk through our house and know it was our home.”

The Aliotas and their three children had been living in South Milwaukee for six years, in a home with only one bathroom. Their new home has three bathrooms, but Jane says made-to-order facilities aren’t the only benefit to custom building.

“Our niece is an interior designer, so the kids could each have pretty much whatever they wanted in their rooms as long as they ran it by her first,” she said.

The Aliotas decided on a custom home after looking around at existing homes in the area and having nothing “jump out” at them.

Then, while visiting a relative in Charlotte, N.C., they fell in love with his custom-built home.

“We bought the plans from the designer in Georgia but our builder wound up changing them around once we decided what we wanted,” she said.

Those changes turned a 2,300-square-foot plan into a 3,100-square-foot home — a phenomenon other custom-builders say is not uncommon.

“The planning phase took longer than the actual construction,” said Bambi Voss, another custom-built homeowner in Nashotah. “We showed our concepts to the builder and he pulled them all together in the final plans.”

The Vosses have been in their 2,900-square-foot home since November of 1998.

Bambi and her husband, Jim, went the custom route because — although they wanted a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie-style exterior — they wanted a very modern interior for their home.  

Jim and Bambi Voss built their custom home in Nashotah. They wanted a Frank Lloyd Wright exterior design with a modern interior. Bambi is standing in the front yard with her daughters Chental and Le’erin. Gas Light Homes of New Berlin built the home.

“We were looking and we just couldn’t find exactly the right model  home,” she said.

Because the Vosses had built their previous home of 12 years in the Town of Vernon, they had some idea what to expect from the whole process. Not so for first-time home builders and owners Brandon and Andrea Bergman.

The Bergmans broke ground on their Waukesha semi-custom home in December, which was something they never planned to do when they started looking for their first home.

“We were definitely not going to build,” said Brandon who, until recently, rented an apartment with his wife on the East Side of Milwaukee. “We were anxious to get in somewhere right away and the construction time would be at least five months.”

Once the couple started looking, however, they were amazed to find how little their housing dollar would buy.

Working on a budget of just under $200,000, the Bergmans were really only able to find one location they really liked. And that house, Brandon said, would’ve required a lot of work.

“The new trend is open spaces and first floor bedrooms,” said Brandon, who works in the real estate business. “We would’ve spent even more money just to make that house the way we wanted it.”

Brandon said for approximately the same cost, they were able to choose from one of 35 different floor plans and then customize those plans to suit their needs.

“We’re very excited to get in there,” he said.

The Aliotas could relate to that excitement, but have some words of caution for first-time buyers.

“Stay on your timetables,” Jane warned. “That’s really important. And when the builder asks for something, be sure to get it to them right away or you could slow down the whole process.”

Most of all, Jane said, it’s important to be patient.

“Be prepared that it’s going to take more time than you anticipated,” she said.

The Bergmans also have some helpful advice for those considering a custom home.

“You’ve got to know going into it that things are going to happen,” said Brandon, who spent considerable time doing research before settling on a builder. “That’s when you have to be able to put your trust in a builder with a good reputation.”