The Design-Build Process at Nakoma

By Nakoma Life

Finding the ideal piece of Northern California land for sale is only one part of the journey to building your custom mountain home in the Sierra.

Once you’ve zeroed in on Plumas County real estate and have worked with the Nakoma Life team to find your homesite at Nakoma, we’re ready to set you up for the successful design and build of your custom home.

Not surprisingly, we spend a lot of time answering questions about the building process, and there’s usually trepidation in buyers’ voices, as they know many jurisdictions and communities in California make the building process a nightmare.

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Unlike some areas with land and luxury homes for sale, Nakoma is fortunate that Plumas County, our “Authority Having Jurisdiction” (AHJ in developer-speak), is an outlier in the state of California in that getting building permits is easy and affordable. 

Likewise, the Nakoma Community prides itself on fostering an environment of architectural excellence, but gives buyers wide latitude to see their dreams become a reality. All of which amounts to a pain-free process in getting your home built in the 1,280-acre Nakoma development.

Our in-house builder, North Sierra Homes, can take care of the whole process for you. The design-build workflow is as follows:

1. Conceptual Design: Usually our clients, having purchased a homesite, have an idea of what shape their home will take. North Sierra Homes specializes in mountain-modern homes. Many times the buyers’ vision will be based to some degree on a previously built home or existing design. But “dropping” a plan on the site almost always instigates substantial changes — topography almost always nudges changes in the interest of build efficiency and drainage, plus the view has its say in terms of orientation and window placements.

2. Design Review Committee: Once we’ve got our conceptual plan confirmed, we submit it to the Nakoma Community’s “DRC” (Design Review Committee) for initial review. This is a rather benign experience, as the committee spends more time giving helpful suggestions on roof lines/snow management, etc. than critiquing design.

3. Consultants: With DRC approval, the plan goes to the various consultants: engineers, Title 24 (energy calculations), solar design, sprinkler design (both are required in California).

4. County submittal: When all architectural and consultant collaborations are reconciled and compiled, the whole package is submitted to Plumas County. The planset will go first to the Planning Department, whose role is to confirm that there are no planning/entitlement barriers to the project. From there, it goes to the building desk, where it is reviewed for building code compliance and safety. Along with the building permit application, we submit applications for fire safe driveway (to County Engineering Department), and septic permit (to County Environmental Health Department).

5. “Will Serve Letter”: before the county can stamp a set of plans, staff needs to assure that the house will have utilities (water and sewer). While the county is reviewing the project, the owner of the property engages with our utility provider, Gold Mountain Community Services District (GMCSD), completes required paperwork and pays the System Development Charge. When these steps are completed, the community services district will send a “Will Serve Letter” (as in “I Will Serve this property with utilities.”).

6. Final steps: The DRC will need to review the project once again, essentially to confirm that the approved plan hasn’t changed substantially. Also, we’ll likely need to file an application with the California Department of Forestry for tree removal prior to preparing the site for construction

7. Build!


As we’ve said before, it’s one thing to buy expensive land for sale in Truckee or invest in Lake Tahoe real estate, and then spend even more on sky-rocketing per-square-foot construction rates. Nakoma offers reasonably priced homesites that average 2 acres, and up 15 acres, all with existing power, water, sewer, and high-speed internet for those working or learning remotely.

And to reiterate, compared to Truckee and Lake Tahoe custom home builds, Plumas County’s permit fees are lower and with less costly regulatory add-ons.

For more information about the design-build process in the Nakoma Community or real estate in general, please call the Nakoma Life team at 530-927-8104 or email