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How to Choose a Custom Home Builder: The Complete Guide

07 Nov 2018, Posted by Ellen Fowler in Home Building
custom traditional home

The time has finally come: you’re in the market for a new home! You’re tossing around the options: you could buy an existing house, build it yourself, or hire a home builder and build your dream home. You could go with a rustic post and beam home or a more traditional home. But how to choose a custom home builder? This is an exciting time, but you know stressful times are ahead. Do they have to be though? Let us ease your mind with your complete guide to choosing and hiring a custom home builder.

choosing a custom home builder

Why Build a Custom Home?

A custom home is one crafted around all of your wants and desires, where the end product is your ideal dream home. A custom home is the solution to this scenario:

You’re looking at houses with your realtor. You find the perfect home, in the perfect neighborhood. It’s got a beautiful porch, the perfect exterior, and a foyer that takes your breath away. But you walk into the kitchen just to find that there’s no island. You MUST have an island. Worse is that this kitchen isn’t designed in a way that an island could easily be accommodated. The renovation would be massive.

With a custom home, you get the porch, the foyer, AND the kitchen. How? Because it’s YOUR dream home, designed and built custom for you.

Does it Cost More to Build a House or Buy One?

It’s likely going to cost a little more to build a house than to buy one, but this isn’t always the case. The median upfront cost of buying an existing single-family house is $223,000. Compare that to the latest figures on the average cost of building a custom home at $289,415. There are numerous factors that could play into this and affect final price, but these are solid averages.

There are plenty of costs when it comes to building a new house that you don’t have to worry about with an existing house:

  • The Land / Property
  • Excavation / Foundation Work
  • Building Permit
  • Shell / Frame of House
  • Interior Finishing
  • Plumbing / Heating
  • Landscaping
  • Real Estate Tax
  • Other Unforeseen Expenses

Of course, there are plenty of financial pros to building a new custom home as well:

  • Maintenance will be cheaper for the first few years
  • Major appliances and HVAC units won’t need to be replaced for some time
  • The house will more energy efficient and save you money on power bills

Ultimately, there are countless factors, and this question will depend largely on what kind of home you’re looking for and what kind of price you could get on an existing house. Having said that, it’s hard to put a price tag on the home of your dreams, just as you imagined it. For some, that perfect island kitchen is worth more than a few thousand dollars.

custom home under construction

How to Choose the Perfect Custom Home Builder

So you know what you want, and you have an idea of what it will cost. The next step is to start a conversation with a residential home builder.

  • Determine what kind of house you want
    Many home builders specialize in certain types and styles of homes. Your search for a residential builder has to begin with knowing what style of house you want. Sexton Griffith boasts expertise in a variety of styles, including traditional, modern, contemporary, and post & beam. There are also log homes, cottages, tudors, bungalows, and colonial homes.
  • Put together a short list of builders
    This search could start on Google, talking to friends who have built homes, or racking your brain to remember the guy’s name you went to high school with who is now building homes. You could also reference the National Association of Homebuilders to see who might be in your area. Additionally, local lendors and reputable realtors can typically provide valuable insight.
  • Check out their portfolio
    Try your best to get a sense of their style. Though most custom home builders can adjust to your needs, make sure you approve of the homes they’ve built. So if they have a portfolio or gallery of projects on their website, spend some time there.
  • Visit their recently built homes
    Don’t be afraid to find where they’ve recently built houses and check them out. You may not be able to see everything you want just driving by, but it can be a big help.
  • Start the conversation
    Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a few builders, go ahead and pick up the phone or send an email.

10 Questions to Ask Your Home Builder

Once you’ve started the conversation with your short list, there are a number of questions you must ask while vetting them. Your dream home is on the line here, don’t wind up with a builder you don’t trust:

  1. How will you arrive at the final cost of my home?
  2. How are you compensated for your pre-construction services?
  3. Are you comfortable building the style of home I want?
  4. What kind of experience do you have building the style of home I want?
  5. How much customizing can be done v.s. standard features?
  6. Who will supervise the construction of my home and how often will my project be under direct supervision?
  7. Will I have a dedicated project manager?
  8. What kind of access will I have to my project manager?
  9. How do you choose subcontractors on my project?
  10. What is the anticipated timeline of a project like this?

Red Flags While Hiring a Home Builder

While you’re vetting your options and getting close to making a decision, there a handful of red flags to look out for. Here are a few:

  • A Big Deposit Up Front. If the builder looks for a large deposit up front, this may mean they need help affording the materials as you get started. This obviously isn’t ideal for you, they buyer, but more than that, it could be a sign that the builder hasn’t seen success in the past, and is struggling financially because of it.
  • High Pressure Sales Tactics. This goes for any purchase decision. If you notice lots of pressure up front, it’s likely you won’t enjoy working with that builder, or that they’re desperate for a project.
  • An Extremely Low Quote. On other other end of the spectrum, if the quote or bid they give you is absurdly low, it might be too good to be true. If this is the case, ask the builder to detail how they arrived at that price.
  • Unresolved Claims from the Contractor’s Board. It goes without saying that this would be a big red flag.
  • Ambiguity. As with any purchase, you want clarity on what you’ll be receiving in exchange for your money. Fight for this clarity, and if the builder won’t provide it, they might not be a good fit.

We hope this guide has been helpful. Our team here at Sexton Griffith would love to help you answer any questions you may have about the home building process, or how to find the best builder for your project. 

Contact Us today.

We specialize in a variety of homes ourselves, check out our portfolio and let us know if we can serve you in any way.

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