Find A Great Custom Home Builder: A Step-By-Step Guide

Building your dream home can be both a simultaneously exhilarating and stressful experience. Many first-time builders can feel at a loss when it comes to beginning the process. When you find the right custom home builder, however, most of the battle has already been won. Finding the right fit for you can be tricky, but not impossible, if you do your homework. It can require a little research on your part, but when you eventually step into a home made just for your family, it will be all worth it.

Determine your style

Know what you are looking for. Are you looking for a traditional farmhouse? Country living? French classic? Take every opportunity you can to learn what you want. Flip through magazines, drive through old neighborhoods and do your online searches. If you are uncertain as to what your style is, then consider your environment and your needs. Determine the size of home for which you are looking and the physical area in which you will build. To find a custom home builder that fits your needs requires you to connect with someone who specializes in the style you desire. It would not work out if you are looking for a classic mid-century style, while your builder specializes in modern urban homes.

Look online for contractor’s previous work

The best predictor of the work your contractor will conduct for you is the previous work of the builder. Ask for portfolios and models of previous homes. Look for ongoing projects in neighborhoods close to where you would like to build. Do not be afraid to request more examples of previous work. This is essential to the first step of feeling a connection.

Discern the reputation

Not all builders are equal: some are notorious for falling behind schedule while others shine in their ability to make homeowners feel like they are being heard. Of course, check with friends, neighbors and relatives for recommendations. Pay special attention to the complaints and praises of your acquaintances and be mindful of the critic’s own personality to determine whether the criticism is reasonable and legitimate. Check online sources, as well, including review sites. There are some good sites available that allow homeowners to rate builders.

Do your research

First, it is very important to check the licensure of a builder. To find a custom home builder that is reputable, you need to ensure that he or she is qualified. State regulations can play a part and certifications can indicate an adherence to high standards. Additionally, do not neglect to inquire after the insurance coverage. Home builders employ individual workers and outsource various stages of the building process. It is important to ensure that they are covered in case of liability, so that you, too, will not be financially at risk. The Better Business Bureau and local chambers of commerce can be good places to start for information.

Request your first meeting

Finally, just meeting in person can give you a good idea what sorts of things to look for. The process to find a custom home builder demands a great connection. You need to trust your contractor and feel at ease with the decisions you will make together. Never be afraid to ask questions and continue your search if you are not completely satisfied with your in-person experience.

How to Have the Best Home Building Experience With Your Custom Builder

1. Know your builder – It is very important to get to know your builder. Treat your first meeting like an interview. Learn about them, their background, their business, and experience. You are going to be working with this person very closely for the next year, it is important to choose carefully and understand their role in the process.

  • Some good personality traits to look for in a builder: a good listener, a good communicator, honest, and field experience. Make sure you are actually talking to the builder not just the sales person!
  • Think service because ultimately this person is providing you a service. What are your expectations for service during this process? Ask questions that tell you how they provide good customer service.
  • Are they showing a genuine interest in you, your family, and your values? It’s NOT about them, it should be about you!
  • Is the builder being up front about how the process works? For instance, let’s say the good, the bad and the ugly! Are they realistic?

2. Be involved! – This is your home and you’re choosing to build, not buy an already completed home. Depending on how custom you want your home, there can be hundreds of choices that need to be made. Have a realistic expectation of the time that it will take to get it done. In addition, all partners should be involved in the process from beginning to end. This can be difficult as the process is long and everyone is busy. From finding a lot, to picking finishes, or approving the budget, everyone will be happier in the end if they stay in the loop from the beginning.

3. Know and understand your budget. – Make sure your builder goes over your budget in detail and that you understand what is included in each category or allowance. Ask for pictures of what is included and if you don’t like it, tell him. And then ask for a price for what you do like. Try to eliminate the surprises and have a realistic number from the beginning.

4. Have discipline. – The happiest customers are those that stay closest to their original budget. This might be the hardest one because it puts our emotional side against our logical/realistic side! Try to keep your emotions in check. We know that a $6,000 dining room chandler is perfect, and this is the last house you will ever build, but be realistic. How high is it on the priority list? Can it be upgraded down the road? How important is it really going to be in 10 years? We say have a lot of discipline or a big contingency!!

5. Communication – It is important to have open communication with your team. That includes you, your partner, your builder, your designer, and anyone else involved in the process. Learn early the best way to communicate with your builder and stick to it. Remember, many builders are running multiple jobs or spend most of their time in the field. Try to write down and save up your non-urgent, important items and communicate them all together. Realistically you should be talking to your builder 1-2 times per week throughout the process.

6. Always keep your eye on the ball. – Stephen Covey said “start with the end in mind,” and that is the “ability to envision in your mind what you cannot see with your eyes.” This does a great job of summing up the home building process. Remember what your goal is: to have a beautiful, unique, new home that you designed and helped build! It is a very rewarding process to see a home come together in a place, where just weeks before, was only earth and trees.

7. Enjoy the process and the outcome! – This may be the only time that you build a custom home. By following these tips hopefully this will be an enjoyable experience and one that creates memories that last a lifetime.