Home Buyer’s Guide

our very own “Frequently Asked Questions”

Where do I start?

Once you decide that you want or need a new home, you will need to ask yourself some basic questions:

  • What will my budget be?  What factors will affect that number?
  • How long will it take to solidify that budget number?
  • When would I want to move into the new home?
  • Where would I want or need to live?   Do I want to be in a rural setting?  Do I need to be close to hospitals and shopping?
  • How big should my house be, and how much land do I want to have?

Having a home custom built is an exciting and busy time and there are a number of issues to be resolved before the actual construction begins.

Determine your Wants versus your Needs. Something that seems essential to one person may be completely unimportant to another, so think about your lifestyle and start your list! How many bedrooms? Do you want a basement or not? Powder room? Is a garage a necessity? Your builder will help you put dollar amounts beside those items but only you can assess their value.

Do I have to choose one of your plans?

We have a large selection of house and cottage plans that we have developed over the years.   We encourage you to look through them to see what appeals to you and whether we have something that is fairly close.    This may save you quite a bit of design time and design money from your budget.   We will be happy to customize existing plans to suit your needs.  Want a bigger kitchen, and a smaller second bedroom?  Our in-house auto cad department can make those changes quickly and easily.

Alternatively we can price and build from your plans that you have hand sketched,   or plans that you have from an architect.

How much do you charge per square foot?

This question is asked often and some builders do build on a square foot basis.  We have found, however, that we can best serve our customers by determining a project’s cost on a case by case scenario.   There are so many factors that can contribute to the cost of a home or cottage.

For example, cathedral ceilings with pine v-joint versus flat 8 foot high dry walled ceilings; hand scraped hardwood vs builder’s carpet; size and selection of kitchen cabinets; additional bathrooms to name just a few.  These options can skew a per square foot cost and cause more confusion than understanding.      

How can I be sure that the price you quote me is the price I will really pay?

We utilize a detailed estimating software program that allows us to prepare a price for your job that reflects a true picture of the expected costs.  The contract that we enter into with you states this price clearly.   Before the actual building starts  you will be invited to spend 6 to 8 hours with a design and selections co-ordinator who will review all of the details of your home and record your colour selections.  If you wish to make any choices that differ from the contract you will be clearly advised of the difference in price, if any, and whether it impacts any other aspects of your home.

Any changes that you approve are processed as Change Orders which must be signed by you before we proceed.   We will make sure that you are always aware of the effect on your bottom line.

If we are building on your own land, we will need to make at least one site visit to be sure that we are aware of the topography of your building site.   However, it’s only when we put the shovels (well – that’s probably an excavator bucket!) in the ground that we find out whether your site is sand, clay, or good old Muskoka bedrock.  If we find that there will be unanticipated costs we will meet with you and determine the best solution before proceeding.

We have a long record of completing homes and cottages on time and on budget!  We know the importance of having accurate expectations in these areas.

What are the benefits of a custom built home over a ready built home?

Having a new house built to your specifications affords you the opportunity to enjoy living in a home that provides you with the best fit for your individual lifestyle.  You will have the comfort of knowing that the latest in building science has been utilized giving you a home that is safe and comfortable now and for years to come.

You will have Tarion warranty coverage, and the assurance that your builder is right here if you need us.  Household budgeting won’t have to include repairs or replacements that you didn’t see when you walked through some other family home.  No repainting.  No living with some one else’s counter top selection.  It’s all new, and chosen by you.

What is a model home?

A Model Home is built as a demonstration house from one of our many house plans.  It allows us to effectively display to potential purchasers what “fit and finish” of French’s Fine Home can be expected.  We like you to go inside our utility rooms to look at our HRV and ask questions about it.   We like you to see how neatly the plumber ran the water pipes.  You can look at the engineered floor joists that make up our floor systems.  Look inside our closets.

Ask our host / hostess which features are upgrades and which are standard in a French’s Fine Home. Our Models can be viewed during regular hours or by appointment.  We love to show off our good work, and we know that we will pass your scrutiny.   Come on in and check us out.

Do I need a lot?

If you currently own a lot we would be happy to arrange a site visit to determine whether or not the home you wish to build will work.  We also have a selection of lots available and awaiting your new home.  They range from in town fully serviced; to waterfront; to rural building lots. If you are looking for something different we would be happy to assist you in finding a location that will be the perfect site for your new home


Once the contract is prepared and agreed to by both parties there is a down payment required that is equal to 10% of the purchase price.

If the sale involves a property from our inventory, the balance of the purchase price will be due on closing.

If we are building on your property, the remaining 90% is divided into 3 payments which are due as follows: when the roof is on; when the drywall is complete; and, the balance on completion.

All selected upgrades or changes to the contract or plan are completed by way of a Change Order which is approved by the purchaser.

What if I have to sell my current home first?

If you have a house to sell it is important that you move ahead with that sales process as quickly as possible.  While your home is being marketed we can proceed with planning, drawings, and selections.  Once your house is sold we can begin building.

In terms of matching the closing dates you could seek a long (4 months +/-) closing for your existing house or arrange for rental accommodations for the interim.  Sometimes we can point you to a helpful solution – be sure to ask.


There are a number of permits that are required to allow the building process to begin.   Depending on the location and type of structure, and in which township your property is located, there would be different types of permits, and different fee structures.

Typically, all the Permits will be obtained by French’s Fine Homes on your behalf.  We are well experienced in dealing with all the building departments in Muskoka, so we can put our knowledge to work to your benefit. Of course, this arrangement can be altered through the contract negotiations.


Whether we are starting from one of our plans or utilizing yours, construction drawings specific to your project will be completed by our design department. You will have the opportunity to review the plans and make alterations.  The building permit applications require complete plans that include plumbing and mechanical schematics.

These permit plans must be the ones we build from, or the building department must be updated.   Of course, you must approve the plans before construction begins.  Even if you are out of town, technology makes it easy to keep you in the loop as we refine your drawing.

How long will it take to build my house?

The quick answer is: 4 to 6 months.   However, there are number of factors that can contribute to the length of time it takes to complete a job.  Some of them are:

  • The location – some building departments have more stringent requirements that extend the permit process.
  • The scope of work you want done – if your interior finishes are extremely detailed, more time is required to order materials and complete the work. Also, if we are doing extensive landscaping, more time is required at the end of the building process.
  • The environment can add some extra aspects – special habitats in a water front sites for example.
  • Site preparation – and in particular those sites where blasting is needed to permit the basement to exist.
  • Yes, we do build all winter long, but we admit that it’s not nearly as fast.  However, it could make a difference between having all summer in your new cottage, or just a couple weeks!
  • The time it takes you to make decisions on selections. You should set up a time with the selections co-ordinator as soon as your contract is signed. She will guide you through 26 pages of questions and those answers tell our team how to build your home.  She will also give you a time line indicating when the decisions need to be finalized.  These indicators are based on delivery times for things like wood siding, cabinets, or special trims.


These things all play a part in determining how long it will take to finish your home.  We will be happy to discuss this important element with you right from the start.

Can I view some of your homes?

We have Model Homes that are open during regular business hours or by appointment. It is also possible on occasion to view a private residence that we previously completed. This can be particularly helpful when the home is similar to a model that you find appealing. Talk to us about this possibility.

How much will it cost to live in my new home?

We have been building homes for over 40 years, and have been doing blower door tests on our houses since the ‘80’s. We can probably pull the files on a home of similar size and features to yours, and tell you what the energy cost forecast was for that home.

There are other factors that determine your total costs, such as taxes, insurance costs, and your personal habits. Are you home all day using energy? Or do you work all day and really only inhabit the home during nights and weekends? This makes a difference to your electrical costs because of time-of-use pricing. If you like to keep the thermostat set at 80 degrees, you’ll use more heat energy than a family who keeps their home closer to 70 degrees.