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Building Your Dream Home: An In-Depth Guide
Part 3: Recruiting Your Custom Home Building Team
In Part 2, Creating Your Custom Home from the Ground Up, we discussed design and planning aspects. Now it’s time to learn how to recruit your dream team of real estate professionals to take your custom home from concept to finished product.
Hiring a Home Builder
Your next step is to hire a Home Builder. Hire a home builder before you finalize your design plans with the architect. Engaging the builder with the architect from the start allows them to input their knowledge and expertise into the project.
Keep in mind that your home builder is the one turning ideas on a page into a physical reality. Their job is to oversee construction and ensure that every deadline gets hit. You have to trust that they are capable and competent, as the home builder you choose will determine the entire direction of the project.
Home builders will manage all aspects of the project and tailor it to your goals – when it comes to budgeting, land selection, and determining your timeframe. You will be spending a lot of time with your home builder over the coming months or even years, so make sure they are someone you get along with and trust.
Tips for Finding the Right General Contractor
- Search Online
Yelp, BuildZoom, Redfin, and Zillow can all connect you to a home builder. Be sure to look up a builder on multiple sites to get an accurate feel for their reputation and abilities. Research communities they have built in and their models or customs. See if you can find photos of their homes on their website, community websites, social platforms or Houzz.
- Use Friends/Family/Professional Referrals
If you live in or near the neighborhood in which you will be building, ask around if people you know can recommend a good builder. Also, ask about which home builders to avoid. It doesn’t take long for home builder to establish a reputation in a community from their interaction with customers and the quality of their homes once lived in.
- Your Architect
In the course of their duties, your architect will have worked with and come across many different home builders. They will be able to recommend you to a home builder they work with regularly.
Steps to Take Before Hiring a Contractor
- Talk to Their Previous Clients
Start by scouring builder testimonials to learn as much as you can. But the best way to gauge a potential hire is to speak with the clients they have worked with in the past. Ask about their communication, any issues they ran into, and if they would work with the builder again. Any repeat customers are a great indicator that you’ve found an excellent candidate.
- View Their Completed Projects
Physically visit or look at photos/video of projects they have completed. If possible, get an inside look at one of their projects to see the craftsmanship, and how the home is holding up over time. Get a second opinion from a real estate broker or tradesman who knows how to evaluate the quality of the work.
- Meet the Contractor’s Team
Try and meet the people who will be on-site, building your home. The foreman or site superintendent is a good place to start, and you should try and meet anyone involved with the project on a high level, like electricians, roofers, plumbers, etc.
- Inquire About Suppliers
The materials that your contractor uses to build your home are as important as his management. Ensure that your contractor uses reputable suppliers, both to make sure that your home is built of quality materials and that they can deliver on time to keep the project on schedule. Also, most every major supplier will offer a third-party warranty in addition to the home builder’s warranty.
Find an Architect
You’ve set your architectural program and decided what you want your home to be. Now it’s time to hire an architect. You may think that architects simply create blueprints. While they are in charge of drawing up plans, they have so much more to offer. Their creativity factors in the micro details that comprise a macro masterpiece.
You will find some homebuilders use a certain architectural firm exclusively, especially if the firm has distinguished itself with awards and industry recognition. This can be the case from large production scale builders down to boutique custom home builders. This scenario is ideal, because a synergistic design-build team will guide you through the building process much more effectively. Together they can tell you which of your ideas are possible, advise you on optimal efficiencies and ways to minimize costs, and better help you create ways to get to the home you want.
Tips for Finding the Right Architect
- Ask Around
Speak with friends, family, co-workers, or other people that you know about their experiences with home builders. You can also check out your local Home Builders Association (HBA) directory and awards, social media, Yelp, Google Reviews, Houzz, etc., but make sure to get a balanced view of any potential hire.
The American Institute of Architects is a professional organization that connects approved architects with clients. You can search their online database for an architect in your area.
- Use Your Favorite Homes to Find an Architect
If you have found a particularly appealing home, you can use the local government’s permit office to look up the name of the architect who designed it. Most county registrars or property authorities have searchable databases where you can find this info. Many home listings on the MLS will list the architect as well. You may also find that the builder of your inspiration home has an architect/firm that they team up with on all of their models or customs. These scenarios will simplify your search and consolidate all of the moving parts to one team.
Questions to Ask a Potential Architect
- How do they charge for their services?
Typically, architects will charge an hourly fee for the planning stages, as well as a percentage of the finished project. If teamed up with a builder, the architectural services cost will often be listed in the project estimate the builder presents.
- What technology solutions do they use?
It is standard for architects to provide you with PDF and full scale printed plans, which are certainly helpful to visualize. But you can also ask if they have a rendering program they can use to show you potential concepts and changes. This will help you see your home before it gets built, and it dramatically improves you will get the features and feel you want. Some architects will include simple exterior “white box” modeling, while making 3-D modeling available for a premium fee.
- What other homes have they built?
Look at their completed work to ensure that their abilities can create the home you want. Have the homes in their design portfolio won awards or received special recognition? Review their testimonials or perhaps contact their past clients to get a feel for how their experience is, 1, 5, or even 10 years down the line.
Meeting With the Architect & Home Builder
There are a few things you should know before you sit down with your potential architect and home builder.
Knowing how much you have to spend is essential. A budget will help the design-build team understand the scope and scale of your project. This will direct them to work within the parameters and help guide you through how to keep the project within budget.
- Architectural Program
This will help you showcase your ideas for your custom home. You will have a detailed list of your wants, needs and lifestyle, and when combined with your budget and timeframe can help your home builder create a reasonable quote for the project.
The timeframe helps the design-build team to understand if your budget and architectural program are feasible, and they may have to find time in their schedule to take your project.
Other Real Estate Professionals
Some home builders offer value adds like in-house certified professional designers to help guide you through the design selections process at no additional cost. Sometimes landscaping incentives are offered. If you don’t have these perks, here are some professionals you may want to hire to make your home extra perfect.
Watching Over the Construction Process
It is your responsibility to make sure that your builder has workman’s comp and general liability insurance. In most jurisdictions, a home builder needs to hold both in order to maintain their state license. Make sure that you verify these in the contract before you start construction.
Your builder will be in charge of permits. Have a discussion with your builder beforehand to make sure that you are on the same page, and that all legally required permits are in place. If permits are not in order you can face serious cost overruns, and it could even torpedo your project. The timeline for permitting in some municipalities can vary greatly compared to others, which can significantly impact the project timeline. Ask your builder about average permit turn times for your city and county.
Your builder is responsible for meeting municipal and county inspectors. They will schedule the meetings at the site, and go over any issues with the inspector. Have the builder alert you to when they are meeting with inspectors, and keep track of any developments.
After Your Project is Finished
Cleaning Up the Site
Your builder’s contract should have a provision that they will be responsible for cleaning up the site after construction, but before the move in. If it does not, negotiate this point beforehand.
Now that your home is finished, it is time to beautify the outdoors! If you have a landscape architect, this is when they get started implementing their plans.
Move in and Enjoy!
You’ve put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears- not to mention money- to get to this point. Bask in the glow of knowing that you are one of the lucky few who gets to live in their dream home. Move in and start living your best life with the peace of mind that your home is well-built and backed with a solid warranty.