Palmetto Bluff SC Construction Sign
There is a dream dreamt by many, but few who are able to see it to fruition.  That is the dream to build your own family home.  It’s the inspiration for many a self-improvement novel, for a myriad of DIY YouTube videos, and the subject of the occasional Machiavellian dinner party conversation.  Now certainly the opportunity exists for one to build a home, by hiring an architect, and after that, a general contractor to organize and oversee the timeline, vouch for the permits, bring in the subcontractors and see it to completion.  Trust me when I say that owning your own construction company has its advantages, and clearly one is to see the dream through by acting as your own General Contractor.   This is the start of our personal story of building our own dream home within the beautiful vistas of Palmetto Bluff, located in Bluffton, SC.
At any given time there are 60 to 80 homes at various stages of the design and construction process in Palmetto Bluff, considered by some to be the most exclusive luxury residential development in the lowcountry. This steady build pace means subcontractors are not short of work and, for that matter, neither are the limited number of general contractors who work within the confines of this development.  If you go down the more expected route to construction you will basically have to pick a contractor you are happy working with and get in the queue.  Having an in-house construction team gave us the option to go a different route, controlling both our own timelines and costs.
The process was broken out into these four distinct phases and adjusted to a timeline to fit our otherwise busy lives of running a real estate and construction company in nearby Charleston. In this blog we’ll explore the first two phases, design and permitting, and in our next blog we’ll dive into the other two, construction and design sourcing.

For design, we came across a local architect, Pearce Scott, with both a deep experience of other projects in Palmetto Bluff and who’s team understood where we were coming from.   We bonded, so to speak, with a needed harmony as they will be responsible for turning sometimes unconventional ideas into something worthy of construction and acceptable to the Design Review Board at Palmetto Bluff.  All of that went well and we came out of the process eight months later with a great design and an approval to proceed to permit.  A word of caution here.  Of all the opportunities you will get to create impact and limit cost then the design stage and the size of the home are your best two chances – use them wisely (we have experience in this and can provide advice if need).  A final thought here, is that the architect and builder should both provide input on the design for an efficient process, you will also get a much better feel for the basic “build-ability ” of your dream and subsequent costs along the way. 

Permitting & Relationship Building
Next we began the permitting stage and this was also the time to identify just how to physically build the home from the ground up.  Homes don’t happen without people and in Charleston, our years of construction have yielded that the prevailing wisdom is to build a really solid subcontractor base.  Palmetto Bluff is a little under 2 hours from here and too far for most Charleston-based trades to travel in a workday.  So we set about either “deskilling ” the process by moving skills off-site, eliminating some of the more expensive trade requirements from the design, and probably most significantly, forming relationships with more local Bluffton based suppliers capable of the higher build standards needed at Palmetto Bluff. 
Permitting at Palmetto Bluff and the town of Bluffton is very different to what we were used to in the City of Charleston and you need approval from both local entities.  There were negatives, lead among them that the town of Bluffton web site and the reality of the process are not in line, and positives – being a small town the permitting staff was VERY accommodating and helpful to a hapless Charlestonian new to the process.  Three weeks and three trips to Bluffton later, we had a permit for both buildings, the main house and separate garage with living quarters (must be permitted separately), we also had approval from the Palmetto Bluff DRB to proceed.  We had paid to receive permits from the development (ouch, don’t forget soft costs in your estimates!), a deposit to Palmetto Bluff to encourage good neighborly behavior from our crews, we had a Simplified Construction sign in production and could start placing work orders.  

As the process moved into winter things slowed. It started raining turning the building site into a shallow muddy lake of sorts, and then the Christmas holidays arrived.  So we are two months late and the land prep crew will arrive on site on the first 

Stay tuned as we share in future blogs, challenges and insights into the next 2 Stages for Building in Palmetto Bluff: Construction & Design Sourcing.  Our goal here is simple.  That of custom building in the lowcountry with a mix of traditional and non-traditional systems and finishings in hopes of proving out the concept that there is indeed more than one viable way to achieve a timeless, well-constructed home with proper fittings and a beautiful look – and reducing costs, where appropriate, along the way.

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