How to Choose a Custom Home Builder Fit for Your Needs

May 10, 2021

The journey of building a custom home is truly a dream come true. While there is great excitement, the process does involve a bit more detail than deciding on the number of bedrooms, picking out cabinetry or choosing the flooring. Planning, developing and building a home that is uniquely personal to its owner requires a lot of work and preferably a great deal of experience. With that in mind, it’s important to know how to choose a builder you can trust with your vision (and money).

Where do I start?

Choosing a luxury home builder who shares a similar communication style as yours will serve you both well, making for a smoother process in the long run. You’ll want to establish an easy rapport that involves your builder serving as your on-site representative, collaborating with architects, honoring your vision and budget, providing regular updates and keeping a close eye on the agreed upon schedule. 

Although purchasing your lot seems like the right place to start, some experts recommend finding a builder first and then identifying a lot together. After all, builders have expertise in evaluating a lot’s value along with potential issues. As a builder with over 45 years in the industry, we also manage the development of your land, coordinating with trusted engineering and site specialists, thereby allowing us to offer guidance before you are locked in.

Selecting a custom home builder requires doing your homework and creating a solid list of candidates. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Look at new homes builders are showing. You may also ask a builder to see unfurnished custom homes.
  • While researching the area you like, keep track of homes under construction that appeal to you. Make note of contact information found on the site signage, if any. If no sign exists, you can contact the local government to determine the name of the company on the building permit application. 
  • Ask friends and family about builders they have dealt with or acquaintances who recently worked with a builder. Or, ask the builder for references. 
  • Contact the area’s home builders’ association to gather names of local builders.
  • Check with local REALTORS®, especially those specializing in new homes. 
  • Take time to explore each builder’s website and online portfolio to gauge experience, quality, photos of homes constructed, reputation and industry recognitions.

It’s also important for you to have all your finances in order, know your budget and if it’s something that’s set in stone or flexible. Do you have a targeted time for starting construction and moving in? By taking care of all these details from the start, the relationship with your builder and overall process will go much smoother. 

What questions should I ask?

Once you’ve narrowed down a shortlist of candidates, the next step in how to choose a custom home builder is to begin contacting each one. This is also a way to measure their responsiveness! 

After an initial phone conversation with the builder, you may discover there’s more research on your part. For instance, you’ll want to determine your budget with a lender, your targeted time for starting the home and moving in, and lastly your “must-haves” versus “nice to have” features. For example, an in-law suite for many was previously a “nice to have” and has become a “must-have” for many homeowners. Once those details are solidified, the next step would be to schedule a face-to-face meeting with the builder and have them share options from their portfolio, both completed and under-construction homes, that you might like to visit in the interim. 

During your initial meeting, you can then dig deeper into the builder’s capabilities and values. By asking the right questions, you can then determine whether that builder is able to meet your expectations.

Here are some questions to ask your custom home builder: 

  • How long does a construction project like this typically take? Of course, the answer will depend on the size and complexity of your vision. However, Mitchell & Best Next Door can deliver a home in 5-8 months, depending on weather and other factors that may cause delays.
  • How do you hire and supervise the subcontractors? You want to know if they have regular contacts who have been thoroughly vetted.
  • What is the process if designs change or unforeseen conditions result in extra cost? Change orders are inevitable on custom high-end home projects. How would the builder present, approve, and generally handle the change?
  • How would they go about your custom plan ideas and endeavors? You want specific, actionable feedback on your own plan. See our suggestions for tips on choosing the right custom home floor plan (link to blog post).
  • What building materials do they prefer to use and why? The answer will illustrate their expertise in building quality homes and how they present themselves as the expert.
  • What service warranties do they offer after you move in? You want to know they back up their work for years to come.
  • Can they provide references for both past and current clients? A custom home builder with a great reputation will gladly offer references and let you see both their completed and uncompleted work.

The National Association of Home Builders has a list of other “Questions to Ask Your Home Builder” to further help you determine whether a particular partnership is the right one for you. 

Are you ready to get started?

Building a luxury custom home is an exhilarating and enjoyable endeavor, but like many things in life, it can also be stressful if you don’t have the right partner, or in this case home builder. 

Mitchell & Best Next Door is a distinguished custom home builder with more than 45 years of experience. We are well-known for delivering quality and expertise in prestigious locations throughout Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Contact us to learn more about our process, explore our portfolio, see what previous customers have to say and discover why we’re the right custom home builder for you!