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  • Writer's pictureKeith Groninger

Choosing a Custom Home Builder

How to Choose a Good Custom Home Builder in Winter Park, Orlando and Central Florida.

Little is more meaningful and personal than a home, and the experience of designing and building your own home should be rewarding and enjoyable. Choosing a builder is difficult.

There are typical recommendations like checking references and financial credentials that should be part of your investigation but we offer some additional suggestions that will help you dig a little deeper in your search.

Check Trade and Supplier References

Every builder you ask probably has some past customers that like them and will give them a good reference. Contrarily, they won't refer you to those that weren't pleased. The secret to finding out which builders really do the best job comes from the trade contractors and suppliers.

The trades prefer to work for the best builders on projects that are organized and managed professionally. They want to be paid promptly and appreciated for their work. They demand good communication and timely scheduling. Preferred Builder status is achieved when trade contractors and suppliers prefer to work for one particular builder over another.

Understand the Difference Between Product and Process

Many unwary customers have selected a particular home builder because of a beautiful home they built, however there's a risk in dealing with some spec home builders.

A "spec" or speculative home is one that's built to sell. Since it isn't built for a specific customer, the builder makes all the decisions. The process of working with the home owner before and during construction is absent and believe me when I tell you, the difference is huge.

True custom home builders need dynamic processes and procedures for working with the owners and managing all of the information for a one-of-a-kind home. Think of the house itself as the Product we are creating but the Process is the experience in doing so.

Transparent Information and Reporting

The process of designing and building a home involves numerous decisions about components, systems and services selected from criteria that includes price, quality, appearance and performance. How can you possibly understand everything unless the builder is willing to share all of the information?

Here are three key things you should look for:

  • Separate Checking Account - The builder should open a checking account that is used exclusively for your project. At a minimum, make sure they aren't depositing funds from your project into an account that's comingled with their other projects and general operating expenses.

  • Open Access to Project Information - These days it's easy to share information online. Look for project management software or organized online access to your project.

  • Timely Project Reports and Updates - Everyone hates surprises. How will the builder keep you up to date on the project costs and construction schedule? The last thing you want is a big surprise at the end of the project.

Product and Service Education

What does aluminum soffit say about your builder? Aluminum soffit is common for tract or production housing but I often wonder when I see it used on a custom home. Did the builder have a discussion with the owners about better alternatives or are they just trying to build the home as cheaply as possible? Aluminum soffit is just one example.

The reality is that many home buyers don't know enough to ask the right questions and assume that the builder is going to do the right thing, only to find out later that better options were available but never discussed. It's our intent to educate and inform you so you will have the information you need to make the best decisions for you and your home.

Understand the Construction Contract

We like to call it a Construction Agreement. It's an agreement between the builder and owners about how all of the important matters will be managed and the responsibilities of the parties to each other. Here's a link to a related article on our blog: Contracts and Risks.

Feel free to ask for a copy of our Construction Agreement or any other pertinent documents that we use to manage our projects.

Specifications and Documentation

Specifications compliment a set of construction drawings as the written description of work to be performed on a project. The commercial construction industry has a standardized format for their specifications, but the residential industry does not. As a result, nearly every residential project has uniquely formatted written requirements if they exist at all.

Good specifications should provide all the information required by the builder, the trade

contractors and suppliers working on the project. Concise information supports accurate

bidding, enhances communication, improves quality, expedites the time schedule and prevents mistakes.

Additional documentation includes, Scopes of Work, Product Order Checklists, Worksheets, Project Reports and the Construction Schedule.

Some additional articles that compliment this topic:

Allow us to introduce you to The GCH Way of building your next home. Please let us know if you have any questions. Keith Groninger

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