Lots of us dream about building our own home. A place that has everything exactly as we want it, where you can incorporate every detail you've ever loved. That amazing bathroom design you saw on Pinterest? You can do that! The gleaming professional kitchen right out of Architectural Digest? Let's make it happen! When you're building a custom home, you can have it all!
You'll need a good builder. But how do you choose? There are probably hundreds of builders in the Austin, Texas area. How do you know the one you choose will do a good job for a fair price? How do you know the builder will guide you in the right direction? How do you know you won't get taken for a ride??
Do your homework. Ask around and look around. Make some calls and talk to people. And follow these 5 common sense criteria for selecting a custom home builder:
1) Experience. How long has the builder been building? Two years? Two decades? Experience matters because the seasoned builders have seen it all. They know people at the city, they know architects, they know all the good subcontractors and engineers. You want somebody on your side who won't be surprised by anything. You want somebody who will tell it to you straight, then guide you around the obstacles to reach your ultimate goal. Find somebody who is well-seasoned.
2) References. Talk to the builder's past clients. Ask if the builder was fair and honest, if the builder finished on time and on budget. Ask why or why not. Ask if the builder was easy to reach, and how helpful and responsive he was each time they reached out. Ask if the past client is happy and if they refer the builder to their friends.
3) Tour. Does the builder have a project you can tour? You should go see as many as you can. On current projects, you need to see how clean, or dirty, the builder keeps the job site. A clean site is a safe site, and it shows pride in craftsmanship. Is the job site busy and bustling with workers, or does it seem abandoned? A well-run project has constant activity (barring rain days). A site that looks abandoned for long stretches of time is a sign of poor management. If you can tour a finished project, you should look to see how the structure is standing the test of time, what the quality looks like after the newness has worn off.
4) Price. The budget matters, and nobody likes to overpay. You need a builder who won't sugar-coat the money part, and who is willing and able to explain how projects are priced. Transparency is key. Once you are on the same page about the budget, you need to look for the builder who is nimble and smart enough to adjust a project as needed. Because things will pop up during construction. A budget-conscious builder will be able to pivot to find places to save money so it can be reserved for the most important details of your project. That's the builder you want. Refer to tip # 2 above to know how to find that builder. Because his past clients will know if he adhered to their budget, adjusted as needed, and gave them the end result they wanted.
5) Likeability. You will be working with this builder for a year or more. DO YOU LIKE this person? You don't have to be best friends and golfing partners, but you do have to like and respect each other, and you have to look forward to those weekly progress meetings. If you don't get the feeling you can work with a builder, it doesn't matter how good the references are. Find someone you like!