Bill Haney, who makes documentary films in addition to co-founding the company Blu Homes, likes to conduct a quick experiment at his movie screenings. Once the credits roll, he’ll ask the audience three questions, and ask them to raise their hands whenever the answer is yes. The questions are: If you’re building a new home, do you expect it to happen on schedule? Do you expect it to finish on a certain budget? And if those two things didn’t happen, would you tolerate this with any other piece of capital in your life?
Invariably, not a lot of hands go up. Building a house is a dream that comes with a massive headache. Architects come stake out a plot, contractors come in with a staff and hit delays. Costs run wild once it’s deemed, after the fact, that different roofing is required. “If I close my eyes and think about how houses were built when I was a child and today, it’s the same,” Haney says.
Haney’s company Blu Homes is his effort at rethinking the experience of building your own home. There’s no traditional hiring of architects, contractors, and interior decorators, who each come with fees and deadlines that have to snap together perfectly. Instead, Blu Homes offers an interactive online catalog where aspiring new home owners can peruse floor plan templates and then hand pick details, right down to the countertop materials and cabinet finishes. You can zoom into rooms, scroll through design choices, All of the sudden, shopping for a house becomes a little like buying a custom piece of technology. The houses get assembled off-site at the company’s factory in Northern California, fold up like origami, get delivered nine to 12 months later, and unfold like a very big piece of paper onsite. A team needs about one work day to get the basic structure set up, and then a few weeks to take care of siding and that ilk. ….