Custom building your own home can be the biggest, and best decision of your life. It can also be the most costly and most frustrating decision you will ever make. The experience depends largely on your choice of builder, yet many people make that choice on a whim, on cost or on a recommendation. There’s no “right” answer when choosing a builder, but there is a way to make the process easier by following the checklist below. It will assist you follow a path to your right builder … the one right for you and your building project.
Do your research
Internet? Yellow Pages? Local paper? There are almost as many ways to find a builder as there are homes to be built. The obvious sources are a good start, but smart researchers step outside the usual avenues and speak to the people who really know – the builders themselves.
Interview the Builder
Don’t just meet the builder. Treat the meeting like an job interview. After all, it’s a major transaction and agreement you are entering into. Come prepared to the interview with a clear idea of your expectations, your budget and your timeframe – then ask detailed questions about how the builder will meet them.
The issues you should cover are:
- Who will be my main point of contact during construction?
- How and where will I meet that person?
- How available will they be?
- How will my concerns and questions be addressed?
- Do we have the same understanding of cost, quality and timing?
- How long have individual contractors been working with you?
- How do you ensure the quality of your contractors work?
- What is the time-line?
- What happens if dates on the time-line are not met?
- What is your record for completing on time?
- How are extra charges dealt with?
- What is your definition of complete?
- Will work continue after we move in?
- What is the cost and what does this include?
- What costs are outside the standard contract?
- When are part payments due?
Visit Builder’s Projects
Every good custom builder will have a portfolio of properties to show you – but don’t stop there. Ask to visit homes under construction, or recently completed (allowing for the privacy of the owners). While not every builder will be able to take you through many completed houses (after all – they are being lived in!) any good builder should be able to provide you with written references and a list of satisfied customers to whom you can talk.
Ask for References
Satisfied clients are a good sign, good trade relationships are a great sign! A quality custom builder will have strong connections with contractors, suppliers and lenders. Speaking to these people will give you a true picture whether the builder will deliver on time, budget and high quality.
This is perhaps the most important part of the process. The documentation is never as daunting as it first appears. Think of the documentation as a list of all the things relating to your home, then read it carefully, then read it again, and again … then start asking questions.