Here’s how to build your dream home for your dream price [VIDEO]


Helen Drennen, RealtySouth, new construction
Helen Drennen on site in Cahaba Heights. (Ben Johnson / Bham Now)

Building your own home sounds so glamorous, until you realize it means making a million decisions, all while navigating a rapidly changing market for materials and labor. We spoke to Helen Drennen of RealtySouth and Patrick Gilbert from Wedgeworth Construction to learn more about what you need to know before you build. Here’s what they told us.

Meet the experts who can help you build your dream home

Helen Drennen, dream home
Helen Drennen can help you build your dream home. (Ben Johnson / Bham Now)

Helen Drennen has been serving clients in the Birmingham area for over a decade, where she has consistently ranked among the top 1% of agents.

Before real estate, a decade in commercial banking gave her a deep understanding of the financial side of real estate. Her love of architecture and interior design helps Drennen prepare homes to look their best before they go on the market.

This unique combination of skills and sensibilities makes Helen Drennen someone you want to have on your side whether you’re buying or selling.

Patrick Gilbert, Wedgeworth Construction
Patrick Gilbert of Wedgeworth Construction (Wedgeworth Construction)

Patrick Gilbert began his career with Wedgeworth Construction back in 2009. In 2019, he bought the company from retiring founder Mike Wedgeworth.

An Auburn University graduate, Gilbert’s service on the Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders (GBAHB)’ Board of Directors helps him keep current on standards and trends in the industry.

Looking to build a new home? Have questions about the process? Contact Helen Drennen or a RealtySouth office today.


Helen Drennen’s top tips to build your dream home

1. Establish a budget

And, more importantly, stick to it.

“It’s important that you work within the allowance that the builder gives you and that you make your selections early so there’s no delivery delay.”

2. Budget for landscaping

“Curb appeal makes a difference, so leave an adequate amount in your budget for outdoor living spaces and landscaping.”

3. Consider resale value

new construction, RealtySouth
Who doesn’t love built-in bookshelves? (Ben Johnson / Bham Now)

“Certain amenities like tall ceilings, built-in bookshelves and plenty of natural light are super-important.”

4. Pick the right contractor

“Make sure you select a reliable contractor who’s licensed and insured. Be sure to get references, and go see other jobs that they’ve done.”

5. Hire a RealtySouth agent

Helen Drennen, RealtySouth, new construction
A Realtor can help walk you through the home building process. (Ben Johnson / Bham Now)

“Homebuilding can be overwhelming, but a RealtySouth agent can be your advocate in the process.”


What you need to know about the new construction market as you build your dream home

New construction, RealtySouth
Build in plenty of lead time. (Ben Johnson / Bham Now)

To learn more about the state of the new construction market, we talked with Patrick Gilbert of Wedgeworth Construction. Here were our top takeaways:

  • Compared to pre-COVID times, the new construction market is down, but builder confidence is up a little, coming into 2023.
  • If you’re planning to build a house now, you need a good bit of lead time for materials and supplies.
  • While the cost of lumber has come down from its pandemic-era highs, costs of other inputs including concrete, roofing, drywall and labor have gone up.
  • One of the hardest things for new construction right now is finding land.
  • Working with a real estate agent on new construction can be very helpful to ensure the client and the builder both get and give what they need throughout the process.
  • Since COVID, there’s been an increase in people’s desire for dedicated rooms, including:
    • Offices
    • Movie theaters
    • Exercise rooms

Wanting to build a home? Have questions about the process? Reach out to Helen Drennen or a RealtySouth office today.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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