There are few things more exciting than the opportunity to build a custom home. Oftentimes, it’s the realization of a long-time dream, and it’s the opportunity to create a place for your family and friends to gather and grow. You may have already browsed a few popular design sites – like Houzz or Pinterest – to gather design inspiration, and it’s even possible that you’ve begun sketching rough prints. Exciting as they may be, moving past these introduction phases will require the support of a custom home builder, capable of turning your dreams into reality and doing so in a safe, timely, and affordable manner.
Throughout this article, we’re going to explore the process of selecting a custom home builder, ensuring that you feel comfortable seeking out and selecting support. Your custom builder decision will weigh incredibly heavily on the outcome of your housing project, and as such, it’s critical that you spend time choosing the right one. The right builder will provide you with insights, guidance, and professional stability. Now, Let’s take a look at how to select one.
When to Choose Your Builder
You’ll want to have a builder selected either before you begin the design process with an architect or shortly after engaging with one. Having a builder on board early in the process will ensure that your home is designed in a budget-friendly manner and won’t require too many adjustments throughout the construction process. Throughout the architectural design phase, a good home builder will make an effort to help with the following:
- Provide initial project estimates based on preliminary designs
- Provide construction expertise and insights
- Maintain the plan development schedule
- Collaborate with the hired architect
- Suggest high-performance home specifications based on experience
- Serve up value-engineering and cost-saving recommendations
- Mitigate the potential for construction-related issues
With a builder in place from the onset of the project, you’ll be far better prepared to navigate the road ahead and have a much higher chance of success.
Beginning Your Search
The best way to begin your search for a custom builder is through word of mouth. Because of the restrictions and regulations in place throughout the GTA, the number of qualified custom builders is limited. As such, you should have a reasonably easy time collecting a few good custom builder options through friends, family, and the like. These conversations will often accompany high-level reviews based on personal experience, and they’re an incredibly effective way to gauge the quality of a builder prior to contacting them.
Beyond conversations with your own personal circle of influence, you’ll also benefit from assessing past projects and reviews online, as well as contacting the builder for more information:
Tips for Online Research
Look through custom builders’ past projects and online reviews to gauge the strength of their portfolio, the expertise of their team members, organizational ability, values and philosophy, style of communication, and recognition within the community and industry.
Tips for Reaching Out
Contact a builder via phone or email to learn more about their services. Your initial impressions of their correspondence, including responsiveness, professionalism, and willingness to help will be good indicators of the service they provide.
Interview Your Top 2-3 Choices
Once you’ve conducted research and are satisfied with a few options, you can begin the process of interviewing the custom builders to determine who is the best fit for your project. There are a few different interview approaches that will increase your chances of selecting the right builder for your home.
A face-to-face meeting with the builder will give you the chance to assess:
- Team strength and relevant industry experience
- Communication style, practices, and building team personality
- Organization, effectiveness, and transparency of their processes and systems
On the other hand, a job site visit will give you a chance to assess:
- Construction quality – including the exterior, finishes, and more
- Job site cleanliness and safety measures
- Knowledge and expertise of the builder, in combination with the quality of the building team
Questions to Ask a Potential Builder
Now that you’ve selected a handful of builders, conducted face-to-face meetings, and visited their job sites, there are a set of questions that you should ask the builder to determine how well they align with you and your project. Below is a list of the most important to consider:
How closely will you work with my architect and interior designer?
You’ll want to work with a builder that prioritizes relationships with the other parties involved in your custom home project, like the architect and interior designer. This will mitigate communication issues, which are the leading cause of delays and additional costs.
Do you have experience in building the style and quality of the home I’m looking for?
You’ll want to ensure that you’re working with a builder who has experience in the style you’re looking for, as this will ensure that they aren’t simply experimenting and can in fact build the home of your dreams.
Can you explain your estimating process? How do you ensure that budgets are accurate?
You’ll want to ensure that your builder offers up an extremely thorough estimating process, and this is what will determine whether or not they’re able to maintain the outlined budget. They should speak of a preliminary estimate, based on historical hard costs and current market pricing.
Their detailed budget estimate will depend on various vendors and trade costs. You’ll be comparing the multiple quotes given by each potential builder, and it’s important that you’re confident in the budget qualities for decision-making purposes.
In addition to these, there are a handful of other questions that you may want to consider, including:
- How long will my home estimate take to complete?
- How are you compensated for your pre-construction services?
- How will my questions and concerns be addressed throughout the construction process?
- How do you qualify the quality of subcontractors that will be working on my home?
- How long do you estimate this project will take to complete?
- Do you offer fixed-price or cost-plus contracts?
- How do you service warranty issues after we move in?
As a final step in the selection process, you’ll want to contact references who have worked with the builder in the past. The truth is that you won’t truly know a builder until they’ve begun their work, and the reference stage ensures that you gauge past experiences, both positive and negative, with the builders you’re considering. Here are a few question examples for you to consider:
- Did you enjoy working with this builder?
- What are the builder’s strengths and weaknesses?
- Was your project finished on time and within budget? If not, why?
- How was the communication with the builder throughout the construction process?
- How did the builder react to stressful situations and roadblocks?
- Was the project clean and organized?
- How has the builder responded to warranty issues following move-in?
- If you were building another home, would you use this builder again?
NICKs Developments is a custom home builder with years of experience servicing clients throughout Toronto and the GTA region. To learn more about our past projects, services, or to talk about a potential project, contact our team today!