Experts' Guide to Buying & Building in Birmingham

For the uninitiated – like the first-time homebuyer or nascent renovator – homeownership is daunting. And whether you’re buying or selling, renovating or building, the current landscape of labor shortages, supply chain complications, and limited inventory only further complicates the American Dream.

To provide much-needed guidance, our Scouted Home Experts weigh in, sharing decades of experience to demystify the process of buying and building in Birmingham. Keep reading for advice from Sarah Stewart Consulting, Boehm Nolen Group, Cobbs Allen, and Fry Construction.



Sarah Stewart & Virginia Kranzusch | Residential Construction Project Management |

CURRENT TRENDS: Historically, after the architect completes the construction set of architectural plans, projects bid out to multiple contractors. However, due to the current pricing volatility and labor shortage, it’s much less likely a contractor will present a complete bid on a project. Now, it’s more common to receive an estimate based on the contractor’s industry knowledge and current price per square foot. We recommend selecting a contractor while your architect is still working on your plans to ensure that you secure a spot on your contractor’s schedule. Doing so will also allow your contractor to start pricing the project, which will help you stay on budget throughout the build.

TIPS & TRICKS: Build your team – architect, contractor, interior designer, landscape architect, etc. – early and make all finish decisions before the construction begins. Doing so will give you actual pricing (instead of allowances) and help manage your budget on the front end.

2023 PROJECTIONS: Things aren’t slowing down! Therefore, we encourage everyone interested in renovations or construction to have realistic expectations for cost and time. Construction costs are higher than ever before, and homeowners need to understand their three basic options: 1) pay a premium, 2) make concessions, or 3) reconsider construction. We have had clients who have encountered each of these scenarios.

BEST ADVICE: Construction and renovation is a complicated, often frustrating process. To simplify and streamline the experience, tap a project manager that can represent and advocate for you. We cannot stress the importance of working with someone who offers years of experience navigating the inevitable complications of residential builds. We specialize in anticipating, troubleshooting, following-up, and working with our clients’ team to complete projects as efficiently – and painlessly – as possible.

Sarah Stewart Consulting works with homeowners, contractors, and architects to elevate the building & renovation experience and positively impact their final budget and timeline. No two jobs are the same, so Sarah Stewart Consulting formulates their fees based on the scope of the project, offering hourly rates, flat fees, or percentage totals. Learn more about working with Sarah Stewart Consulting…


Mimi Nolen, Brian Boehm, Jacob Dorsett | Residential Real Estate |

CURRENT TRENDS: While interest rates have risen, they are still historically low. Therefore, we expect that multiple offers will continue to be the norm. We’ve heard clients express concern about a “bubble,” but we are in a different, stronger market than we were in 2008. Not only are lending regulations solid, it is a lack of inventory that is driving the current appreciation. We expect appreciation to slow, but it will take time for market inventory to catch up with buyer demand.

TIPS & TRICKS: Preparation is essential for both buyers and sellers. Sellers need sound advice on how to bring their homes to market in top selling condition, establish proper pricing, and execute a proven marketing plan. We advise on these key points daily and find that clients enjoy more success when they invest more time and effort on the front end. Likewise, buyers must be prepared, especially when it comes to financing. Otherwise, they risk falling in love with a house, but not being prepared to make a competitive offer. Writing winning offers in this marketing isn’t easy, but having a knowledgeable team with a clear plan and strategy will help tremendously.

2023 PROJECTIONS: While we can only make an educated guess, we expect many of the current market trends to continue. Rising interest rates will affect affordability, which may push some buyers into a holding pattern. However, we don’t expect that to last long. There is too much demand to expect things to taper off, and with time, buyers will regain the comfort to re-enter the market at the prevailing rates.

BEST ADVICE: Teamwork! At Boehm Nolen Group, our team approach allows us serve multiple parties at any given time, creating more opportunity for our clients to buy and sell. We believe our approach is unique, and we hope to always find ways to exceed our clients’ expectations. We believe that together, we have More to Offer.

Boehm Nolen Group boasts five licensed agents with over 53 years of combined experience. Offering a full-service approach, Boehm Nolen Group helps clients to buy or sell property, providing the highest level of service, market knowledge, and value. Learn more about working with Boehm Nolen Group… 


Margaret Ann Pyburn, Margaret Brooke, Billy Walker | Insurance | | 205-414-8100

CURRENT TRENDS: While renovations aren’t a new trend, there seems to be a renewed interest in investing in one’s current home. That interest, in combination with the rising cost of materials and labor, makes it essential to review your homeowners policy before starting a renovation.

NEED TO KNOW: Many are unaware that the sales price of your home doesn’t always align with the cost of replacing your home. In fact, the cost of replacing your home is determined by many factors, including square footage, zip code, interior + exterior finishes, appliances, and roof type + composition. Do you have a policy that offers the replacement cost of re-building your home at its former quality? Does your home policy provide complete replacement? Or is it limited?

TIPS & TRICKS: Build effective communication habits with your insurance agent! When starting a project, you will want to review your insurance portfolio to ensure that your policy covers the value of your improvements.

BEST ADVICE: Find an insurance company that prioritizes service and empathy. Cobbs Allen, for example, prioritizes communication with our clients to understand their unique needs and customize a policy that works for their family.

Margaret Ann, Billy and Margaret specialize in personal insurance and commercial insurance sales, assisting individuals, families, small business owners, and non-profits with their unique insurance needs. Learn more about working with Cobbs Allen…


Robert Fry, President | Custom Residential Construction & Renovation

CURRENT TRENDS: We’ve seen a growing number of homeowners bypassing the multi-contractor bidding process, heading straight into the budgeting phase with a contractor that came recommended. This helps them secure more accurate pricing while securing a start date for their project. This change is due, in part, to limited contractor availability and scheduling conflicts caused by labor shortages and increases in lead time and prices.

TIPS & TRICKS: Make decisions on finishes, appliances, and hardware as early as possible – before starting the budgeting process, if possible. Doing so will not only allow contractors to provide you with the most accurate price but will also allow your contractor to assess lead times that could affect the scheduling of your project.

2023 PROJECTIONS: Based on the number of projects presented to us, things aren’t slowing down anytime soon! And the sheer volume of work will continue to contribute to extended lead times, labor shortages, and price increases that, in turn, affect every aspect of the construction process.

BEST ADVICE: Select a contractor that manages every phase of the construction process, from demolition to final inspection, to ensure that your project is built to the highest quality standards. We also recommend selecting a contractor based on recommendations. Do they have repeat clients? Do other vendors speak highly of them? We take pride in working closely with architects, homeowners, and craftsmen to build lasting relationships and, by extension, build homes that exceed expectations on time.

Fry Construction takes pride in building lasting relationships with homeowners, architects, designers, specialized workers, and suppliers, striving to consistently deliver superior detail, quality craftsmanship, reliability, and honesty while upholding budget and time constraints. This proficiency has helped Fry Construction build a reputation of professionalism, competitiveness, and high quality throughout the community. Learn more about working with Fry Construction… 

Whether you’re building or buying, renovating or selling, Birmingham boasts world-class home experts. Find a Scouted Home Expert for your next project here. And don’t forget to tell them Scout sent you!