Architecture, ART, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Gardens

Our Home Online!

Whittle & Johnson Custom Homes, Heath TX


If you think we’re proud of our new house, you should talk to our builders, Whittle and Johnson Custom Homes (W&J).  They just put us on their website.

Finding Our Lot

The first Whittle we got to know was Rob Whittle of Whittle Development.  He found us wandering around a parcel of land in his Buffalo Creek development.  Sure, he wanted to sell us some land, but he was also a very nice guy.  He’s so in love with Rockwall County that he wants to share it with everyone.  He showed us several lots before we happened on to the one we bought and the one we picked was one for which he’d already had plans drawn.  Still , he was almost as excited about our plans for the lot as we were.

Now that we’re in the house, he’s just as excited about us as he was the first day he found us.  We had some tough days during the build, but Rob was a straight-shooter every step of the way and took the hit a few times when others might have stuck it to us.  Not everybody in town is as fond of Rob as I am, but I appreciate the vision he had and still has for the area and the determination and perseverance he’s applied to making his vision a reality.

The Other Whittles

Once we were the proud owners of our pond-side lot, Rob handed us over to a couple more Whittles, Mike and Aaron, a.k.a Whittle and Johnson Custom Homes.  Mike is Rob’s brother and Aaron is married to Rob’s daughter.  If you go over to their office you’ll find more of the Whittle clan.

There are very few lots left to build on here in Buffalo Creek, so Rob’s primary concern these days is a huge development called The Heath Golf and Yacht Club.  What was nothing but some empty land this time last year now has roads, sewage, utilities and more.  Were you to attend a meeting of the Heath Planning Department, I’ve heard you’d have to listen to a lot of chatter about the new development.   The Whittles also have projects in Royce City and other Rockwall County locations.

The Good News

We absolutely adore our house, but you guys know I am very honest here in this space.  I tell you what I love, but I also tell you what I don’t love and why.  I love Rob Whittle’s vision.  I also appreciate that when the results of a routine inspection came in after we’d purchased the lot said our lot might benefit from water injections for the foundation, he didn’t sweep it under the rug (which he could have done), but revealed the findings to us and split the cost of it with us.  I love his enthusiasm for our area and the way he keeps plugging away at developing it, even in the face of a lot of conflict.  If you Google him or Whittle Development, you’re going to read a lot of ugly things, most of which are based on mis-information.  You have to have a tough skin to be a developer, that and the heart of a salesman.

I’m also fond of Mike and Aaron.  How could you not like Aaron?  No matter what we threw at him, and we threw a lot, he always had a smile for us – and still does.  If his name were on our deed, he couldn’t be prouder of the finished product.  Mike, too, is a nice guy.  He works hard and his heart is definitely in the right place.

The Less Than Good News

Even though I happen to be a personal fan of Rob, Mike and Aaron, I haven’t come away from our building experience with complete satisfaction.  It’s not that they don’t know how to build a house.  It’s that they are first and foremost a builder of spec homes and “custom” isn’t their usual gig.  I’d have no problem going out and buying a house built by Whittle and Johnson, but I’d never have them custom-build for me again.  We know that we couldn’t have built this house so economically with any other builder, but the headaches and heartaches sure made up the difference in sweat equity.

Basics to the custom home building process like, “tell-us-before-you-spend-our-money“, seemed impossible for them grasp. We’d ask what the standard was for a Whittle home, go out and research other options, and then we’d ask, “What would it cost to do it this way?”  Either they’d go ahead with it before telling us any price or they’d start the upgrade while we were still negotiating a price.

This would happen, in part, because they use the same subs for their custom builds as they do for their specs.  The subs are used to doing things the “Whittle Way” and that didn’t always line up with our way.  For instance, the brick layers showed up one Saturday in December and started putting down brick.  Our build was the next project on their schedule, but we were still discussing ornamental treatments with Aaron.  A neighbor called us and alerted us to the fact that the walls weren’t going up as we’d told him we’d planned.  What a nightmare!

Another challenge was making changes.  This wasn’t our first build, so we knew the difficulty of change orders, but this project took the frustrations to a whole new level.  Because W&J have been using their subs for so long, the subs, like the brick layer, make assumptions about the way things are going to happen.  Compound this with a lag time between when we’d tell Aaron what we wanted and when Aaron would tell the subs.  Pure frustration.

Far too many times we walked into the house and what we saw going up was not what we wanted.  We’d stop the sub and try to contact the Whittles.  Everything would then come to a screeching halt and the sub would move on to their next project.  It could take months to get a sub back to finish something.  Sometimes the other subs would just have to work around a project on hold, but sometimes everything would have to stop. During one of our many complaint sessions, I was told one of the reasons we were having so much trouble was because we were interfering with the sub-contractors’ rhythms.  That explained a lot, but it does not recommend W&J as “custom” builders.

Another issue was their spec sub-contractors aren’t familiar with custom features.  The builder’s tile guy is one of the sweetest, hardest working subs we had working on our house.  We have a lot of tile in the house so we really got to know him and like him a lot, but Carrera marble on the shower wall with black grout and a glass tile feature, slate laid in a Versailles pattern on the patio and other custom features were either just at the edge of his capabilities or in the case of the Versaille pattern, beyond them.

Bill actually had to sit down and figure out a pattern which would properly utilize the tiles which had already been purchased and then supervise the installation.  Bill is not in the tile business, but even after we googled Versaille pattern and gave it to the tile guy, the tile guy couldn’t figure it out.   Our wooden stairwell with slate trim and rod iron balustrades?  I don’t even want to go into the challenges we had trying to get three subs and various suppliers to cooperate with our design.

There was more – like locking up at night.  It’s one thing for a builder to decide they can live with the risk of leaving a spec house open overnight.  They do have insurance after all.  But when clients have installed one-of-a-kind or hard-to-find features, the risk of theft and vandalism escalates. We were lucky to have befriended a guy that plays golf on most afternoons.  After seeing the house wide open late in the day, as he played the hole next to the house, he gave us a call and offered to lock up for us.  Then, the situation repeated itself so often that he just got in the habit of locking up our house each night.

Never Build
Bill’s Promise to Never Build Again

After Everything, We Still Love Our House 

I think you get the idea.  All this and more is why, even though I love the finished product, I hated the nightmare of the build.  We’ve been here for three months and W&J are still working their way through our first punch list.  It’s been tough; a real love-hate relationship.

Building a house is always a challenge.  We can tell you nightmares about the house we built in California too, but those have more to do with tree-huggers, slow-growth proponents and restrictive CC&R’s.

Don’t build a house unless you are really ready for a lot of headaches.  Were the headaches we had with W&J out of the norm?  You’ll have to be the judge of that.  I’m never, ever going to build a house again.  Next time Bill suggests it, I’m going to show him this blog post and this napkin.

Come back next week and I’ll tell you about that nice guy that kept locking up our house each night and some other wonderful people we’ve met here in Buffalo Creek.

9 thoughts on “Our Home Online!”

  1. We are going through architecture plans now with them. After almost 5years are you still happy with your house. We are looking at building in Ambrosia (heath).


    1. Michael, as my post indicates, I have a love/hate relationship with the Whittles. However, I can honestly tell you that five years later, I love my home and I still have affection for most of the Whittles.

      We’ve had a fairly serious, intermittent leak that we chased until just a month or so ago. I felt along that journey the Whittles did not always take it as seriously as they should have. They’d show up with a little caulk and say everything was fine. In the end, an entire section of the front of the house had to be removed and rebuilt. The windows had to be reset. The roof had to be repaired. It was a big deal, not something caulk could help.

      In the final stages we were pretty upset. My husband told them they better hold off on the caulking, because if it didn’t work, the next time it leaked, we’d get it fixed ourselves and sue them for the cost and anything else we could. He told them that whatever they spent fixing it right would look like a bargain after the suit was over and we had won.

      So, it finally, got fixed. Other than that we’ve been really happy with the house. The Whittles will build the house for cheaper than anyone else will and how satisfied you are will depend on your expectations.

      Our next door neighbor, who also had their house built by Whittle, did not suffer the same difficulties as we did, but they also didn’t go quite as custom as we did. The Whittles are used to doing it their way and that’s the reason they can do it so cheaply. Everything about the way we went about doing things was a conflict with them.

      If you want Whittle to do it their way and don’t want to be involved in the build, you may be fine. Just leave them to it and come back when they are done. But if you plan on being more interactive, the way we were, I’d say proceed with caution.


      1. thank you for your honesty and information provided. Do you mind me asking what was the cause of the leak? We all know there isn’t a perfect builder out there but I had a good feeling about Aaron(our main point of contact). I spoke to several realtors and other builders in the area and no one really had anything bad to say. Some new of them but didn’t have experience on their builds. We are doing a custom build but probably not to the extent as you did. Before we sign the final agreement I will have a conversation with Aaron about how we, as newbies to the building word, will want to be involved and I’ve already told him we will have a million questions along the way. I’m ok with them doing it there was since they are the pro’s but I want to make sure you corners are cut and build a solid home. Unfortunately I just pray our house is build by quality subcontractors. Since I’m bilingual I’ll be making many onsite visits to talk to the subcontracts to inspect the quality 🙂
        we visited the spec home in ambrosia and really thought he built a solid house with quality products. I’m really sorry you had to go through some of the terrible issues. My friend went through even a worse one. I guess I’ll find out if I ever build another custom home at the end of this one 🙂 . Last question- do you know if the Whittles or Aaron viewed your blog about the build?


        1. The problem had to do with the concrete surrounds around the window. They did not have enough support, because they were not installed properly. That and the leak damage was the reason the huge rebuild was necessary.

          As to my blog, I’m sure they have read it, but we’ve never discussed it. I feel I was fair to them. Not just slamming them for problems, but also giving them credit where it was due.

          As to builds, this was our third and yes, there is no perfect build. I think if you are bilingual you might be OK. We’d try to talk to the subs and they’d just shrug their shoulders. I don’t know if it was because they didn’t understand us or they just didn’t want to.

          You are beginning an interesting adventure whatever you do. Good luck.


  2. Jane – My experience building with Whittle & Johnson, not so much custom homes, has been far worse. I wish I would have read your original post before I signed on the dotted line…would have saved a ton of heartache, pain, misery, and money.


    1. So sorry you had such a bad experience. How such nice people can frustrate you so completely, I have no idea. We really bad wanted to hate them several times, but walked away with an affection for Whittles in spite of everything.


  3. I wished I would have seen your post PRIOR to building my new home. Yes, on a personal level, I really want to continue liking Aaron and Mike. But on a professional level as a custom home builder…????? My home is still in the process of being built. March 2019, will be one year to build a 3300 square foot single story home. I suspect if I were to meet them and we were friends sharing stories, I would enjoy their company. But to build my home….. my experience… I don’t BUT, I hope once my home is completed… I am looking forward to enjoying it and creating wonderful memories with family and friends. Hopefully the roof won’t fall in, and rain find its way through, and the electricians safely wire the home, just some simple building stuff.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.