How to Choose a Custom Home Builder

What do you want your home to look like?  That’s a simple question but it can create a complicated answer, especially since no two people want the same thing for their domestic life.  Those who want a custom home, furthermore, may find that the details take on a life of their own, growing faster than they can manage them. 

The choice of a custom home builder in Charleston, SC, can be the most important decision in your life, one that can be the difference between a perfect fit and an unending stream of delays and price spikes.  For families interested in building a spacious, accommodating, custom house, the experts at Renew Urban can help bring their dreams into real life.

When Do You Choose the Builders?

The road from dream to reality is a long one when it comes to building a custom home.  In general, you want to start getting in touch with building contractors close to the time when you talk with an architect. 

With both an architect and a builder on board, you can coordinate ideas, get a better forecast of costs and timelines, and get the project off the ground.  The builder also works with the architect on many other important tasks such as:

  • Planning a development schedule
  • Inputting their own design ideas
  • Generating a preliminary design & cost
  • Choosing cost-saving options
  • Determining construction issues or opportunities

Choose Your Priorities

Building a home will involve juggling many different priorities, ranging from location to price to timeline.  One of your priorities may supersede all the others: if you want a spacious kitchen or multiple extra bathrooms, it may be less important that the project is completed quickly.  

Likewise, if you have a strict budget in mind, you may have a more limited number of building materials to choose from.  Determine what matters most to you before you begin research on specific home builders.  

Make a List, Check it Twice

Now that you’ve determined priorities, start thinking about style.  You may want a bungalow or a cottage or a townhouse, and whatever your dream, you want to be sure it’s not the first time your contractors have done the task. 

The next step is research: which home builders have experience with this style of house, and how many of these projects have they completed to customer satisfaction?  Any custom home builder in Charleston, SC, worth their salt will have a long list of customer recommendations and references.  Don’t be shy about asking for a list and don’t be shy about contacting these customers.

How Do You Trim Down Your Choices?

Trust your instincts in the next stage: whittle down your list of home building contractors from a lot to just a few, no more than two or three.  You likely had much better feelings about particular contractors than others, so don’t be afraid to cross the ones you didn’t like off the list; more often than not, you’ll only find more reasons why you don’t want to work with them as time goes on.  If you want to make decisions based more on ‘the facts’ than ‘your gut,’ make a list of competencies in several areas:

  • Experience
  • Diversity of projects
  • Quality of projects
  • Team strength & capabilities
  • Communication
  • Company values

If you are a numbers person, rank each contractor on these competencies using a scale of 1-5 and look at the highest scores.  Odds are good that these top candidates will be the best choices for turning your dreams into a finished home.

Ask Tough Questions

The next step is more in-depth interviews of the contractors themselves.  You not only want to find out whether they have successfully built a home similar to the one you’re wishing for, but also whether they have any advantages over their competition.  If you’re not used to putting people in the hot seat, here are a number of questions that you should consider getting answers for:

  • How many years of experience do you have?  How many total custom homes have you built?
  • Are you properly licensed and insured?
  • What warranties do you offer?
  • Will you build from custom plans?
  • What features and upgrades are possible in your homes?
  • What decisions should be finalized before construction begins, and what decisions can be changed during the process?
  • How and when will the final cost be determined?
  • Do you build model homes I can tour?

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but are all questions that any contractor is sure to be able to answer.  Some builders will have a lot more answers than you can handle in one sitting, so don’t be afraid to schedule follow-up conversations.  Others may be able to address concerns you haven’t even thought of because of their experience in the industry.

Make a Visit

A phone call can answer a lot of questions, but a site visit can answer a lot of deeper anxieties – what does the finished product look like?  What quality of materials are involved in the construction?  Does this contractor have an eye for the details that matter to you? 

A site visit to a model home or to an under-construction home can give you greater clarity and should give you enough of the most important aspect of your professional relationship: trust. 

How Do You Determine the Costs?

For many people, the biggest concern from start to finish is the final price tag.  You can get a preliminary estimate quickly, but there’s no guarantee that the end cost will be in the same ballpark as this estimate.  The last key decision to be made is how and when to pay for the cost of building your custom home.  A custom home builder in Charleston, SC, may require a construction loan, and that you commit to a down payment before the shovels hit the dirt.  This is a major expense, but it also provides certainty on both ends: the down payment may eliminate the need for interest payments altogether, or it might eliminate the need for closing costs, so that you don’t end up paying more over time. 

Still, other contractors may pride themselves on the reputation of not charging a dime until the job is done; if this is a better choice for your budget, you may want to go with cost certainty.  No matter the cost or structure of the payment, a home builder will help you to navigate the financial aspects, including any loans or credit needed to get the job done.

The Final Call

You’ve done the research, made the calls, visited the sites, crunched the numbers.  If you still can’t decide between two or more choices, then consider yourself lucky: you have several great options available, and may be able to get a lower cost from one over the other if they bid for the job.  In other cases, you may have a favorite that stands well above the crowd and can start moving forward on the home project.  It’s a hard decision, but it’s a decision that ends with the completion of a dream home, so be confident that your choice will be the right one.

If you are looking for a custom home builder in Charleston, SC, Renew Urban has the experience needed to see your vision through to the end.  Their teams have worked on large-scale housing construction projects and understand how to properly plan and budget for an upscale home.  Contact us for an estimate or for references, and don’t be afraid to ask us the hard questions about how we can help you build the perfect house for you to call home.