Urban Home Builders Turns Home Design Dreams Into Reality
The custom home design and renovation company guides you through the process of building a bespoke house in Austin
By Darcie Duttweiler
Photos by Brittany Dawn Short
Gary Zygmont knew he wanted to be a builder at a young age. The grandson of a mill manager, he has been comfortable around tools his whole life, but it wasn’t until he got into skateboarding and decided to build a quarter pipe that he realized he could truly build what he was visualizing and maybe turn it into a career.
Now, the owner and superintendent of Urban Home Builders has been visualizing dream homes and building custom abodes in the Austin area for more than 20 years. While he originally had a team to craft a couple dozen homes a year, the self-admitted Type-A builder would rather devote all of his time and attention to a single client’s home to ensure it is absolutely perfect — and on budget — while giving the client the best experience possible. It means Zygmont on a construction site six days a week. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I commit all of myself to build the quality of homes that I want,” he confesses. “I like trying to bring perfection out of chaos.”
It’s no secret the Austin real estate market is truly insane these days. But if you’re patient and have a couple of million dollars and a plot of land, it’s not as hard as you might think to build a custom home. Zygmont says it’s all about picking the right builder, who will then steer you to the perfect architect, engineer and designer. As Zygmont says, “The architect writes the recipe, and the interior designer sets the table, but the builder is the chef.”
So what exactly does a builder do, and what is the process of constructing your perfect home in Austin?
First up is determining that you truly want a custom home and all the decisions that go into making that dream a reality. Zygmont recommends people understand how much communication is involved, especially in the first six months. You’ll then need to determine a budget and where this house is going to live — if it’s a teardown project or a new build on a plot of land.
Next up is choosing a builder. It’s important to vibe well with your builder, as you’re going to be forced to connect with them for at least two years, if not longer. Zygmont will take on clients he thinks are good fits since he’s going to be advocating for them six days a week. “They need to feel like I’m going to care about them and their money,” he says.
Once you have a builder in place, they’ll help you find a perfect architect and engineer (and a designer if needed) in your price range. While waiting for the land to be surveyed, Zygmont will talk to his clients about styles and create a vision board. He’ll walk through everything his clients want, from big picture items all the way down to drawers and light fixtures, to determine what the best custom home will be for them and their family. All of that is sent to the architect, who will draft everything up and send the plans to an engineer.
Zygmont says then, while the engineer is making sure your house stays up during a natural disaster, he sends his clients out to vendors (or to their interior designer) to pick out everything they need for their new home, including countertops and appliances, all while staying within their budget.
At this point, the engineer will come back and determine what needs to be changed in order to have the City of Austin approve the plans. The permitting process takes at least three months.
“There are so many battles going on behind the scenes that the client doesn’t even want to see,” Zygmont advises. But at this point it’s been roughly a year, and now it’s time to actually build.
When asked what clients should know prior to starting the process of a custom home, he responds, “I wish clients realized that the perfect project is where everything is picked before construction starts — the sink, the stove, the light fixtures, the bulbs — everything. If all of that is selected, it makes construction efficient and fast.”
The site is then prepared, and everything is checked to make sure it’s in compliance with all the city departments, including gas, electrical and sewage. The foundation crew can finally come in, and it’s time to assemble the home. Zygmont says currently homes are taking anywhere from 10 to 12 months to finish during COVID delays. Then, during that process, Zygmont is on site, making sure his client’s budget and timeline are being perfectly met up until it’s time to hand over the keys.
For him, all the work is worth it for the moment his clients first feel at home in the structure.
“The couple will walk in, and it will just click. What was this expensive untenable object on paper is now their home. They will look over at each other, and you can see it in their eyes. He’s picturing Super Bowl parties, and she’s thinking about Thanksgiving dinners. They’ve worked so hard, and now all of their dreams are going to come true.”