Building a Custom Home? Interviewing Custom Builders on Your Short List

Building a Custom Home? Interviewing Custom Builders on Your Short List


Building a custom home, or undertaking an extensive remodel, is not for the faint of heart! The number of decisions you will make is daunting. Industry experts have quoted in excess of 10,000 for new house construction. Just thinking about this can cause stress! Saving yourself from heartache and disappointment begins with finding the right custom home builder for you.

Building a custom home is demanding on relationships, time and finances. Here are some tips to help you get into the appropriate mindset. These will inform your decision making process and pave the way to a happy ending.

Let’s assume you have already approved the design plans with your home designer or architect and are trying to decide between 3 builders. Here are some things to consider:

Reputation check- Have you checked the reputation of each? Any lawsuits? Your state’s Construction Contractors’ Licensing Board can be very helpful in assisting your inquiry.
Reliable detail & decision tracking- We all listen through the unique filters of our experience. Consequently, we remember what we hear differently. How does the general building contractor keep track of all the details that get discussed and the decisions made? Hopefully, your builder of choice has reliable communication routines in place to do just that. Ask about it. How often will you meet together? What specific methods are used to keep track? A reliable system to reference what was said when questions arise is imperative to create mutual understanding and prevent costly mis-communication. You’re in for a rough ride without reliable tracking.
Accountability documentation- How do they track promised actions? Not only theirs, but yours too! A home building or remodeling project will demand your full attention. To think otherwise is a recipe for trouble. It’s tremendously helpful to have a building contractor who provides accountability documentation to keep everyone on track, including you. Delays on your part, in getting the builder what he needs when he needs it, are costly. Whether there is one sub-contractor working on your job or five, you are still incurring the labor expense for the project superintendant who continues to supervise your project, even when delayed.
Project delay prevention – Does the building contractor have a written guide or form to apprise you of the project sequence or phases of construction, well in advance, so that you can be prepared to provide him with what he needs, when he needs it? This is more than just a timeline, but rather a tool for you to use to anticipate rather than react. Staying ahead of the curve eliminates crisis management and unnecessary stress.
Roles & responsibilities- The general building contractor’s role is to execute the approved building plans. General building contractors are often mis-perceived as masters in all aspects of building. If this were the case, there would be no need for other allied trade professionals. Make sure you clearly understand roles and responsibilities and what you can and cannot expect. Most are not also landscape, interior, Kitchen or lighting designers. You will be best served to seek the expertise from the appropriate allied trade professionals. The mis-perception that using specialty designers will be financially prohibitive causes lost time and money in the long run more often than not. Specialty designers don’t mind one bit if you use them to pick out your paint colors, or help you figure out lighting for just the Kitchen or home office. Most of them work on an hourly rate and would be happy to assist in any way you’d like. Wouldn’t it be worth it to spend a couple of hundred dollars in design consulting to get the paint colors right the first time, rather than paying the painter to re-do the paint job throughout the house? Think of the stress you’ll save yourself in the middle of the night when you’re second guessing your choices! Believe me, I have heard many middle-of-night-second-guessing stories. Spare yourself. Life is too short!
Change orders – Make sure to inquire about the “change order process.” Expect changes, but keep them to a minimum to save money. Let’s be realistic here. You are embarking on converting an idea, a concept, from 2-dimensions (paper) into 3-dimensions… your house! Some things just don’t look or work as you envisioned. Be forewarned! Do not get attached to the starting budget. Make sure you have funds on reserve to cover changes that will occur. Do not delude yourself into thinking that everyone but you will make changes. I guarantee that you won’t find one custom builder who has ever built a custom home or done a remodel without changes. Believe me, you won’t be the exception. The best way to keep changes to a minimum is at least two-fold: a) use allied design professionals as mentioned above, and b) do your homework in advance.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: