How to Pick the Right Custom Home Builder for You

Woman doing research on a laptop at her kitchen table

Setting out to find a new home has its challenges, especially if there’s no new homes on the market that totally satisfy what you’re looking for in a new home. If this is the case, then finding a custom home builder to create your perfect home is a great approach for you.

So how do you find the custom homebuilder that will bring your dream home to life? It’s imperative to find the right custom builder as this person or group will be charged with creating the home you’ve always wanted in precise detail. With that in mind, it’s best to have a detailed list of things to consider while selecting a custom home builder.

Step #1: Determine what you want in a custom home

The first part of the process is to jot down exactly what you want in your custom home. It can range from having a different layout for one or two rooms in the home or having a more intricate home plan.

The key thing to consider is that as you grow, your house should grow with you and be able to accommodate you and your family in that process with a consistent quality. If you do this ahead of time, when you sit down in interviews with custom home builders, they’ll be able to provide you better estimates based off your drawings and list of what features you’re aiming to have in your custom home.

Step #2: Make list of potential builders

Once you’ve outlined the home that you want built, it’s time to put together a list of potential builders that you want to contact. Reach out to the homebuilders association that is local to you – or in the location you’d like your custom home built in -- for a list to choose from. There is also the Homeowners for Better Building (HOBB), which is another resource for finding custom home builders. NewHomeSource.com also has landing pages for each custom homebuilder it works with to make your custom home building process a breeze.

It can also be a good idea to talk with your friends and family members to get recommendations on builders they’ve hired directly or those they know friends of theirs might have used.

If a custom builder has homes that are already finished that you can travel to, venture over to them to see their work in person, and, if possible, speak to those living there to get their feedback. Lastly, take a gander at your local newspaper’s real estate section. Sifting through the advertisements and articles will help you pick out those homebuilders that will operate in your desired price range for construction.

Step #3: Contact custom homebuilders

At the outset when you begin to make contact with custom builders, note how accessible they are. It’s important that the builder needs to be available whenever you have questions or concerns before and during the process of construction. While they’re not supposed to be at your beck and call, returning phone calls and emails in a timely manner is important. If your builder seems to take too long to get back to you even on minor things or doesn’t respond at all, that’s something that should be a disqualifier.

Step #4: Set up interviews with custom homebuilders & ask questions

After you’ve put your list of custom builders together, set up interviews with each of them and have a full list of questions ready to ask them. Take note of how receptive they are to you asking questions. Good builders will welcome any & all questions that you may have at the outset.

The list of questions you ask custom homebuilders should include:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How many homes have you overseen the construction of in that time?
  • Are you licensed and insured?
  • Are there additional fees that will occur with the home and its development?
  • What means will you use to determine costs with the building of my home?
  • Do you enjoy a good working relationship with your subcontractors?
  • Are you open to working with a designer that we’d bring in on the project?
  • Are you willing to share feedback and references from previous clients? Do you have model homes already built that we can check out?
  • How much experience do you have with rough-in work and do you charge extra for that segment of the project?
  • Will it be possible to make adjustments during the construction process?
  • Are there home owner association fees?
  • What is your inspection process like as the project progresses in addition to the final walk-through?
  • How and when will you be able to determine what the final cost of my custom home project will be?

Make sure that you take as many notes as you can while speaking to each custom builder. That way you’ll be able to compare and contrast the information afterwards to find the best one for you.

There are those who encourage a bidding period among custom builders, but that’s entirely up to you. Look for custom builders to provide a package of documents that are representative of what you’ll be seeing if you decide to work with them. This package can include forms like a sample budget that comes with details on monthly invoicing, a sample warranty document and construction schedule. This information will also be a boon to your research and preparation.

Finding the right custom home builder for you can be an arduous process, but keep in mind that you’re going to be in close contact with the builder for an average of 6 to 10 months, so you need all the information available to make the right choice. It’s a partnership that needs to start out well from the beginning and last throughout the building process in order to have your dream home become a reality.

Christopher A. Smith is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience covering stories and developing trends in the technology and music industries. He is enjoying writing about new homes, home design and everything else home related.

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