I would not suggest any other builder except James Craig.
After driving around the Oconomowoc area a few summers ago when a friend of ours had relocated and was remodeling a house, we started to get more interested in the area. Knowing that Oconomowoc actually was a place where my parents wanted to move but never did, I was always thinking, why not us? I love this pretty little town, especially the old Queen Anne’s when you drive through Main Street. So after driving around a while, we came upon Lac La Belle and the houses on the lake. It seemed like its own little village. Everything about it was charming. And we just felt connected right away, plus two teenage kids saying, “oh, my gosh, mom”. The three of us agreeing was very unusual. We found that one of the properties had a very old house that looked like it was uninhabitable. As a tear down we decided to pursue the lot and contacted Scott. He trusted my judgment and said, “yeah, go for it”.
We had built a total of six times prior. Our first projects happened in our early 20s just because we were looking for our first house and we couldn’t ever get an offer in before the home was gone. It was a seller’s market with constant bidding wars. So we started going to open houses for new builds and found that we could actually build for less money than buying, knowing by the time we would fix a house up the way we would want it, it was financially more sound just to build right away. And so we did that for our starter home. And then from there, I would find myself roaming around and looking for the next project, whether it be driving, looking for land or going through open houses.
We built three houses in Wisconsin and then we moved to California and bought an existing home. We absolutely could not stand that we didn’t build it. I kept saying, “I’ve never done this. I would have done this differently, I would have done that differently”. So we eventually happened upon a piece of land in Southern California that we purchased and built again. Then we moved to Austin, Texas and said, okay, we’re just going build again this time while staying in an apartment. We do enjoy the results more than the process. However, the sixth time with James Craig was obviously a charm. We actually enjoyed the process. As a teardown there’s a little bit of a different process than just starting with a blank slate piece of land and building straight up. It was a learning process for us to do a demolition and the things that go with it.
We have ended up loving every one of our built homes. Everybody always says, OK, you’re going to build again, is it going to be the same home since you love your house so much. My answer is always yes we love our house, but it’s more fun if we do something different. We always lean towards traditional. Since this area and the village of Lac La Belle and Oconomowoc is such a historical area (back in the late Eighteen hundreds, a lot of people would vacation here from Chicago at their summer homes here) I wanted to build something that looked like it had always been here. A traditional farmhouse style home.
There are definitely some unique aspects to building on a lake, especially with the windows focusing on the lake view and how things have been set within the house with certain focal points. It was a definite challenge because I kept thinking, where’s my backyard? And reminding myself this is the way it is. But we actually ended up with a panoramic view. So I’m very, very happy. Even the back bedrooms upstairs, when you sit in the window seats, you have an awesome view of the lake.
When it came to deciding to go with a builder, we thought back to who had designed our last house in Wisconsin. It was Jeff Messer, so we called to have him design something for us that we figured we’d take to three builders for bids. When we reconnected with him, he told us that he was working for James Craig Builders. He spoke very highly of them but told us to do our own research and decide if we wanted him to do a side design for us or if we wanted to go through the process with James Craig. I did research and soon decided, yeah, I trust Jeff. Let’s go for it. And I met with Craig and Jeff and there was no question…we signed and started our design from scratch.
I think the biggest thing that we found with James Craig Builders is that there weren’t surprises. I think in every build we went through there was always something that came up at the end. We were always left wondering “Why are we paying for this or not paying for that, etc.”? Their process and how they wrote the proposal to the contract, everything was spelled out. We knew everything that was going on throughout the process and what was included.
When it came to the design, I knew exactly what I wanted. Jeff was amazing, I gave him several pages of notes and a couple photos. He quickly came back with a plan, we had just a few tweaks, but we were finished with the design within a month.
During the actual build, we still lived in Austin, Texas, through the whole process. I had actually planned to fly up once a month because during some of our last builds, I felt that if I wasn’t there every day, it would be a disaster. To my surprise, I didn’t need to be onsight like our previous experiences. I was being sent pictures, I was being texted, I was being called. It was never a challenge to get somebody on the phone. I asked our Project Manager, Troy, at one point, are we going to talk like once a week? Are you going to give me a weekly time? He said, “Rene, you call or text me whenever you want and I’ll pick up.” And honest to God, I don’t know how he did it but but I would start texting him in Austin and the phone would ring with Troy on the line. The service was truly amazing.
Their communication is by far the best that we’ve ever had with a builder. And that’s the big thing, because, like I said earlier, you just know during the building process, stuff can and does happen. That’s just part of the process. But, I could always get a hold of them, they communicated very well with photos and writing, whatever was going on. They’re very transparent. If there’s a problem, they’re going to tell you exactly what it is. They’re not trying to hide anything which we had unfortunately experienced with previous builders in the past.
Being from this area originally, I had a lot of friends and family in the area. In fact, we have a really close friend who was in building trades business for a long time who volunteered to stop over and keep an eye on the construction for us. We never mentioned anything to James Craig, but the reports we would get back from him were ‘this is some of the best craftsmanship I’ve seen. All the work they’re doing is fantastic.’ It put our mind at total ease, even being so far away. That’s the attention to detail that James Craig Builders provides. They’re not cutting any corners.
So if I’m ever asked, I would not suggest any other builder except James Craig. We wouldn’t be doing a testimonial or discussing it if we wouldn’t strongly recommend that if anyone is considering building their first house or their sixth house like us, they work with James Craig Builders. The experience, the craftsmanship, the communication, the passion…we love our new home and could not have had a better experience.
Renee & Scott Pompe