Should You Commit to a Builder Before You Know All the Details?

    When you're building on your land, you want to find the right builder for you. And in most cases, builders require a deposit before they'll even quote you a price. That's because giving you a price on a custom home requires a fair bit of work.

    It's critical to do your homework and choose a builder you can trust.

    Shopping around to compare prices is not the way to choose a builder.

    Trust us on this one. How can you compare prices for something that doesn't exist yet? Any builder who quotes you a standard price per square foot is just trying to get you to commit before you figure out what you've gotten into.

    Reputable builders who have lots of work lined up want to give you an honest and fair price for your custom home. The only way to do that is to invest time, energy, and money in a conceptual house plan and a complete set of specifications.

    You have to make the commitment to the builder that you're all-in by making a deposit. That deposit will apply to the price of the house, but if you don't end up building, the builder will keep that deposit to compensate him or her for all that effort. That's only fair, don't you think?

    Tips on Finding a Custom Home Builder

    #1 Know your budget first

    How much can you borrow? How much can you afford? (Yes, those two questions are different.) Think about your absolute top number in terms of budget and what you're willing to sacrifice in your forever home to stay under that number.

    It's important to decide your priorities before the emotions take over. You're getting ready to make a lot of compromises and decisions. The more of those you can make before you're in the heat of the moment, the better.

    #2 Ask about feasibility

    Talk to prospective builders and get their opinion of the general feasibility of what you're wanting to build. It's a ballpark number, so make sure you know what assumptions went into that ballpark.

    #3 Stay flexible

    Stay flexible throughout the process, but especially when you're talking to a builder and getting a price. Know how much room you have to maneuver within your requirements. What are you willing to give up to make your dream a reality? Something will have to give at some point, so get realistic about it.

    #4 Be comfortable showing your cards

    Is your builder a partner or an adversary? If you feel like you need to keep secrets from your builder, that's not the relationship you want to be in. You need to trust that your builder has your back throughout the process.

    That doesn't mean things won't go wrong—it can happen in any relationship. But if you trust the other person and his/her intentions, you know that it will work out for the best overall.

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