What to Look For in a Custom Home Builder

October 16, 2017

A custom or semi-custom home is the ultimate dream for many homeowners. Every detail is yours, from the cabinet hardware to the color of your shower tiles. Building a new home is the largest investment most people will make in their lifetime, so it is essential to choose the best custom home builder in order for your journey to be successful. It is vital to find a custom home builder that understands your needs, wants expectations, and will work to stay within your budget.

Choosing a home builder can be daunting. Within the custom home industry, there are a wide variety of people who call themselves custom home builders. From the “Chuck in a truck” – essentially a person with a truck and a business card – to those who have years of experience and have successfully delivered quality homes, all have the right to call themselves custom home builders in Georgia.

If you are looking for a custom home builder in Atlanta GA, there are a number of things you should look for in the builders you interview. Here’s a guide on things to consider and questions to ask in order to select the right fit for your needs. During the interviews with the builders you are considering, there are three primary goals.

First, help the builder understand the type & style of custom home you want to build, and make sure they have experience with that size or style of home, or even the particular area or lot you are planning to build on.

Second, collect more information on this builders experience and reputation. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recommends that you gather the following information on each builder you are considering:

  • Does the builder you are considering have a license in your state & a permanent business location?
  • Do they have extensive experience in the custom home building process? Your custom home builder will be the project manager for your home and will need to possess experience, competence and leadership.
  • How long have they been in business? The NAHB reports that it can take 3-5 years to establish a financially sound business so considering builders with more tenure can give you greater confidence that they can financially support the process of building a custom home, and they will be around after the home is complete.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints
    Collect names of past customers and seek out a review of the experience during the builder and after the completion from some past customers.
  • Set up an appointment to see the builders previous work and look for quality and craftsmanship.

Third, develop a rapport with your builder and ask yourself this question – will I be able to see and work with this person every day for the next 9-12 months.

Once you collect this information you should be able to narrow down your top choices to 1-2 companies.

After you narrow down your choices, then you should begin collecting estimates for the final cost of the home you want. The process of collecting estimates is something you really want to take your time with because you can get caught in a budget that is either not comprehensive enough for the home you desire, or over inflated with things you really don’t need. Before you request a quote from them, make sure you have a complete list of features you want. How will the builder know what to include in the estimate without this information? For example, maybe you want wide plank 5” site finished hardwood flooring, but your builder has created an allowance for only 2 1/4″ engineered wood flooring. This not only can cause a discrepancy in cost, but also your expectation.

It is important to go through this estimate in detail, especially if you are torn between builders. If one is much higher than another in a particular area find out why. You may discover that the higher priced item like in-floor radiant heat, insulation or windows have certain advantages that appeal to you long term. After all your custom home is something you will hopefully enjoy for many years and through many generations. It is also important to understand that no matter what estimate you put together and approve, you want to expect at least a 10% overrun due to change orders and other incidentals that may come up through the process.

Throughout the selection stage, your explorations and conversations will no doubt lead you to the same names again and again. Comparing one detail after the next, you will probably keep coming back to the same builder. When the price range is in line with your budget, and you feel more excited than ever to get started, you have probably found the right builder.

A good custom home builder should be an advocate for you, the homeowner, as well as an integral and collaborative member of the design team. They should work with the homeowner and design to team to help establish a realistic budget for the project and then monitor the cost and scope through the design and construction process.

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