The largest investment most people make in their lifetime is buying a new home. You want to get it right the first time. That’s why choosing the right custom home builder is important.
The working relationship between you and your custom home builder will last 10 – 12 months, plus the service relationship post possession. As custom home builders, providing personalized service that focuses on you and your needs is paramount. A good builder will provide ongoing, transparent communication each step of the way, which should increase your confidence in your builder/homeowner relationship.
What is Your Custom Home Builder’s Role?
They serve as a master puzzle maker; they put your “needs and wants list” into bite-sized pieces that can be understood and priced so that they form the integral parts of your overall blueprint puzzle.
An experienced custom builder will also be able to weed out which “needs and wants” may be unnecessarily costly or will not add to the overall aesthetic or return on investment.
A realistic budget, time frame, and overall idea of the process both during construction and post possession are important roles of your builder.
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10 Custom Builder Responsibilities:
1. Prepare all paperwork including contracts, building specifications, blueprints, change/extra orders, collect draw funds, tracking costs, and warranty information. Documentation then can be forwarded to your bank for mortgage financing if required.
2. Apply for all building, development, and service permits. Submit for subdivision architectural approval.
3. Your custom home builder hires, schedules, and co-ordinates all subcontractors. They choose reliable trades to ensure the job is completed on time, that the quality of workmanship is up to standard, and that the project is within budget and adheres to building code.
4. Manage/co-ordinate all inspections and the final certificate of occupancy.
5. Your custom home builder/designer will schedule meetings where they will accompany you on trips to their suppliers. There you will choose your finishing products such as plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, railings, flooring, paint, doors, etc.
6. All building materials such as windows, garage doors, and all finishing products will be priced, signed off, and ordered to ensure a smooth transition between each building phase.
7. Check all delivered materials to ensure accuracy and review for deficiencies.
8. Arrange for builder/client site visits.
9. Once the custom build is complete, the home builder will schedule a final walk-through. A Certificate of Possession document is used as a checklist on which to note any deficiencies. A schedule to remedy any deficiencies is discussed and documented.
10. During the final walk-through, your custom home builder will educate you on the operation and maintenance of your new home. All warranty and service information will be discussed.
Define Your Needs:
Custom home builders work with you every step of the way to ensure you get the home you want, but that means you need to decide what you want with your home builder before you start.
Here are the things you need to define:
1. What is the ideal location for you? Do you want to live in a subdivision? What size/shape of lot do you want? When deciding on your location, also consider your budget, the property’s exposure, walk-out, cul-de-sac…
Decide what type of community you want to live in: Urban, rural… Consider your distance to work.
2. Price range: Do your due diligence to know what a realistic budget looks like for you. Keep in mind that most clients will choose a few “special” items that will exceed their original contract amount, so be prepared to drop something in order to keep an allowance for unforeseen extras.
3. Style of home: Do you want a bungalow, two story? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? Do you want a developed basement? How many cars need to fit in the garage?
4. Extras: Are there any “must haves” that may increase your budget, such as an imported grand chandelier? Ensure your builder includes these items in your original quote. It is proactive to include items that will keep the “extra” list manageable.
5. Any other special needs such as a barrier-free shower, wide hallways, ramps, etc., that you have to have in your home?
Your home needs to reflect its occupants in both style and function.
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How to Shortlist Your Builder Contenders
Go through each of these items below to narrow down your search for a custom home builder:
1. Word of mouth. Have you heard of a positive building experience from someone you trust?
2. What is was your initial meeting like? Does the builder possess good communication skills? Do they listen? Ask yourself, “Is this a person I could see myself doing business with for the next 12 months and beyond?”
3. When asking about a home builder’s previous projects, do those projects reflect your style and quality requirements?
4. Check their references. What was the feedback?
5. Do the custom home builder’s work flow, time management, and organizational skills measure up to your expectations?
6. Budget: Does the homebuilder’s estimated price range fit within your allotted budget? What is included in that estimated price range?
7. What is their payment schedule: What is the percentage amount due and at what stage is payment required? Your bank may operate on a different schedule, so be sure to confirm that your builder will work with your bank’s schedule if it varies.
8. Are they members of any home builder’s associations? Edmonton Home Builders Association, New Home Warranty Program, Canadian Home Builders Association, etc. Members of these associations are required to adhere to the ethics and standards laid out in their agreements.
When shortlisting your builder, it is important that you and your significant other are on the same page. Define your needs (see above), then arrange for a second meeting. You will be confident with the questions you have and will now be able to make an informed decision.
An additional resource is in the below link from the Canadian Home Builders Association. It’s a worksheet/questionnaire to use when comparing custom builders: http://www.chba.ca/CHBADocs/CHBA/BuyingNew/WORKSHEET_KnowYourBuilder.pdf
You know your custom builder’s role, you have defined your needs, and you met your builder candidates with information-revealing questions. There are a few last items to consider before you sign on the dotted line:
1. Does your builder offer any services that stand out?
a. Soil test to ensure your foundation is on solid ground?
b. Service beyond the industry standard?
c. Qualified designer to ensure your ideas are realized?
2. Cleanliness and organization of job site.
3. Previous client feedback: Was each project finished on time? What is the relationship post possession? Any unpleasant surprises?
4. Any memorable design features of their show home? Was the quality consistent with the custom home builder’s sales pitch? Were the building products used brands with well-earned reputations for quality?
Investing the time in choosing your custom home builder will be well spent.
Your home will reflect those who live in it and the quality you expected. Although most of us usually enjoy a surprise, this is one area where it’s not warranted.
Embarking on your custom home journey with knowledge and confidence will lead to a positive outcome.