What To Look For When Choosing a Custom Home Builder

Your home is one of your most valuable assets. While we all want to save as much as possible when building our home, choosing the lowest cost bid can often result in hidden costs and latent defects.

Unfortunately, many builders are “hungry” for your business and will tell you what you want to hear – especially in terms of cost – to get you to sign on their dotted line. However, their written construction specifications are typically vague allowing them to utilize substandard construction techniques and materials. When it comes time for final finishes, such as cabinetry, flooring, and fixtures your idea of finishes will likely be different than what was bid by the builder. Getting what you want could end up as a costly surprise.

In addition to visible finishes, there are significant unseen methods and materials in the construction process including foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical and mechanical – to name just a few. Builders going into your construction project with an artificially low price are going to cut important corners that will haunt you later. You likely have friends and family that have had to repair a leaky shower, rotten windows, or cracked floor tiles at significant cost. To make matters worse, monthly operating costs are unnecessarily high because the builder utilized code minimum insulation and heating/air systems coupled with inferior doors/windows to save building cost. None of these integrated construction materials can be corrected without spending significantly more money than if the job had been done correctly – and priced correctly – from the onset.

As you go through the process of vetting builders you should confirm the following:

  1. Experience – as common sense as this might sound, many prospective buyers do not ask how long the builder has been in business. You do not want a builder going through a learning curve on your project.
  2. References – can the builder provide a long list of clients with projects similar in scope to yours.
  3. Personality – depending on project scale you and your builder could be working together for more than a year. It’s important that you and your builder have a good rapport – the two of you will be working closely throughout the project.
  4. Financial Strength – confirm your builder’s financial strength. Financially stressed builders are often “cash flow negative” – meaning they always need new money for unpaid debt. The last thing you want is for your money to be allocated for projects other than yours.