IT'S TOUGH LOVE, HOME building style. While many builders will start construction before all the materials are bought, figuring they'll finish the purchasing details later, one family-owned builder has a strict policy against doing just that.

“We won't go to construction until the job is purchased in total,” says Patti Wynkoop, director of product development and purchasing for Miller and Smith, a production builder based in McLean, Va., that adopted the approach three years ago. Since then, the policy has saved countless amounts of money and time for Miller and Smith, which builds about 350 homes annually. By finalizing costs and contracts up front, the company doesn't need to worry about surprises.

“It eliminates the misunderstandings between subcontractors and the superintendent [on the job],” Wynkoop says. “Now there's a superintendent who also knows the history.”