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How to Choose the Right Custom Home Builder

Whether you’re planning on having an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) added to your home, or building a new house entirely from scratch, choosing the right custom builder is essential to ensure satisfactory results. In today’s post, Evergreen Renovations & Roofing shares a guide on how to choose the right custom home builder.

Why Do You Need a Custom Home Builder?

Building a new home from the ground up is one of the biggest projects you will undertake in your lifetime, so getting most of it right the first time is important. A typical home building project can take up to 12 months, so you need to choose a builder that you can establish trust and clear communication with. This means you have to invest time and effort in interviewing prospective companies, review proposals and estimates.

Responsibilities of a Custom Home Builder

Much like a responsible bathroom or kitchen remodeling contractor, a custom home builder does more than just build your new home:

Manage Subcontractors — Some of the home’s key systems, such as the foundations, roofing and plumbing, may need to be delegated to subcontractors who specialize in building them. This means the custom home builder may need to work with foundation builders, roofers, plumbers, electricians and HVAC technicians to make sure these systems are built correctly, on time and within budget.

The custom home builder will also be responsible for making sure these contractors meet the builder’s standards. More importantly, the custom home builder is expected to manage these subcontractors so the client doesn’t have to. This is important if there are change orders that affect more than one system. 

Handle Permits and Paperwork — Even a comparatively small project like bathroom remodeling may require permits, along with paperwork related to financing and insurance, among others. The number of permits and paperwork can increase exponentially when building a home. A custom home builder is expected to handle permits and paperwork across all contractors and subcontractors while making sure the client is kept up to date with it.

Code Compliance — Compliance with local and international building codes is one reason for having building permits. Custom home builders are expected to be knowledgeable with building codes—another reason why you need to hire a local company—and therefore should be working with you and your designer during the early stages of the project.

Manage the Schedule — Building a new house requires managing all the contractors, technicians, and installers working on the project. A custom home builder has to manage their schedule so the transition from one home system to another is seamless; you don’t want roofers on-site when the framing is still being put up.

Quality Control — The custom home builder will be responsible for ordering building materials and making sure they meet the project requirements. Roofing and kitchen remodeling contractors may require specific part numbers for components such as asphalt shingles and kitchen fixtures. The custom home builder needs to make sure that these products match the home’s requirements. Upon completion of the project, the custom home builder will review the project for deficiencies at every step, and address such deficiencies before pronouncing the project ready for the city inspector.

How to Find a Good Custom Home Builder

If you’re already working with a designer, they can give you recommendations on a custom home builder. As we described above, you have to find a custom home builder that you’ll be comfortable working with for 6 to 12 months. Look for qualities such as construction quality, good communication skills and reputable business practices. In addition to referrals, you can use the following resources:

Local Lenders — Long-time lenders have worked with all manner of builders and remodelers and can provide valuable insight on which builders have a history of completing projects on time and within budget.

Realtors — Reputable local realtors likewise have experience in selling custom homes and can be a great resource when looking for custom home builders.

Internet Searches — Today’s search engines are far more sophisticated yet easier to use. For example, a quick search for “bathroom remodeling near me” can get you a list of local remodeling contractors, complete with business ratings, contact information and links to relevant websites. The Better Business Bureau’s website is another valuable resource on the internet if you’re looking for reputable builders (and businesses in general).

NAHB — Your local chapter of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) can provide a list of qualified home builders. Homebuilders who apply for NAHB membership are required to submit valid licenses and proof of insurance, so recommendations from them can save you time verifying individual licenses and insurance certificates.

Qualities of a Good Builder

You will end up with more than a few candidates in your list of potential custom home builders. As mentioned above, choosing those with valid licenses can help narrow down your list. Choose builders who have insurance coverage that includes general liability insurance (for accidental damage to property) and workers’ compensation (for worksite injuries).

 The following can help narrow down your list further:

Recent Projects — You have to be sure that you’re hiring a custom home builder that has experience completing projects of such scale. Your potential builder should have no problems providing a résumé that features photos of recent projects they’ve worked on. During your interviews, ask them about details such as how big or complicated the projects were, whether the project was completed on time and within budget, and how they dealt with changes to the project midway.

Communication Abilities — You probably won’t be conducting in-person interviews for the foreseeable future, but you should nevertheless be able to gauge how well a builder communicates with one or two virtual meetings. Do they log into your virtual meeting space on time? Are they always ready to answer your questions? How long does it take for them to answer your calls? Do they return calls? If getting in touch with them is always difficult, they might not be the best builder for you.

Client References — Every contractor should be able to provide at least three client references. Make time for calling each reference. Ask their references about whether the builder finished their project on time and within budget, whether they communicated well throughout, and whether they’re satisfied with the quality of the builder’s work.

Ultimately, the goal is to narrow down your shortlist to three candidates before asking for quotes and estimates. Make sure you review each one carefully and not base your decisions on the bid price. Some unscrupulous individuals may cut corners just to give a low bid: with a project of this scale, you will want to make sure not to leave anything to chance when you sign the dotted line.

Whether you need an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) or a custom home, Evergreen Renovations & Roofing is the builder for the job. Give us a call at (503) 720-4699 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.

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