Help with a small dream home build

last month
last modified: last month

As our family looks into our next home, we're considering a new custom build, along with other usual methods of buying a house.

Main reason for custom build: My mom lives with me and my husband and we would like a house where she has her own space (like a studio apartment connected to the house). We rarely see these MIL suites with the houses that are on the market, and when we do, they're inside mansions! Our family is small (3 people), so we don't want a big house.

Target area: Eastside in Seattle, WA [our boundaries: Bothell (N), Lake Sammamish (E), Renton (S), Lake Washington(W)]. My husband and I work in this area and a shorter commute is the main priority and reason why we're looking for our next, and hopefully last, home. We currently own a townhouse and are not in a hurry to move out, so that's why building has become a part of our options.

Dream home details: More or less about 1,600 sq ft., flexible. 2-3 bed / 3 partial bath (no tubs). Our style is simple mid-century with Japanese influences.

Max budget: $650,000 - $700,000 including land


  • We don't have land yet.
  • All the lands we see for sale are huge. We're looking for something just less than 0.5 acre, which seems rare nowadays.
  • Most highly-rated builders we've talked to are all about luxury million-dollar custom homes (which equal to high price), so they tell me my project is too small. We're having a hard time finding a company with a modest vision.
  • If we go with the normal house-buying route, we'd be paying the same or probably even more, for an older house that doesn't meet our layout plan of having an MIL studio. Townhomes also go more than $650,000 in this area, on top of that are hefty HOA fees.


  • Are we setting high expectations for such a small budget?
  • How do we set about finding a modest builder?
  • Should we buy land first for now and build later? I feel like it's smarter to choose land with your builder with you as they know what to look for.

I'm just in awe that it would be harder to get someone to build a small, modest home than it is for a big, fancy mansion. Please keep in mind that this is just a plan right now. We haven't signed any contracts or spent any money, so if this is not the way to go, we can drop it definitely. I just hate to do so without exploring all our options.

I'm open to any suggestions, recommendations, and opinions. If you know a builder in this area that you think fits, do let me know! Even though I value honesty, please be nice and civil. Thank you in advance!

Comments (14)

Loudoun County's Expert Kitchen & Bath Renovation Firm | Best of Houzz