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How to Choose the Best Custom Home Builder Near You

Selecting the wrong custom home builder can be a costly mistake. Here's what to consider as you start your search.

By: Brian Carlin

Finding the Best Custom Home Builder

Here are 3 types of custom home builders, 6 questions to ask yourself when looking for the best home builder near you and some ways you can seek references for their previous work. 

 

 

 

What Type of Home Builder Do You Need?

Calvin A Home Plan with Garage (Hedgefield Custom Homes North Texas)


There are 3 common types of custom home builders: 

 

 


What Do FULLY Custom Home Builders Do?

Fully Custom Home Builders: 

  • Typically do not build the same home plan twice
  • Are usually working with the owner's plans and specs, or those provided by the architect
  • Are almost always working on land owned by the customer
  • Tend to be smaller outfits and more expensive

These builders' contracts tend to be written cost + a percentage or contractor fee.


What Is Cost Plus

 

Why Do Fully Custom Home Builders Use Cost-Plus Pricing?

1. Budget - Their work is so varied and specific on each job, they don't always know exactly how to budget for it. 

2. Project-Based - Their projects are unique, so they often build their estimates based on actual labor and material bids from subcontractors and vendors. 

3. Customer Financing - Their customers usually provide financing. 

4. Sales by Owner - They often do not have a sales staff separate from the owner/operator, or a model home. 

I know a builder whose client asked him, "Where are you going to buy these doors, Rick? I don't see the profile we've drawn at any dealer showrooms." The builder looked up toward the ceiling and said, "David, the trim man, is up in the attic now, with his table saw, milling the lumber."

Now that's a fully custom builder. 


Best Fully Custom Home Builders in North Texas

If you live in North Texas and are looking for a fully custom home builder, we have created a list of some of the top builders in the area (in no particular order). See our list and learn more about Fully Custom Home Builders near you!

 


What Do PRODUCTION Custom Home Builders Do?

Production Home Builders:

  • Typically own many lots in a subdivision
  • Build hundreds of thousands of homes. They are the DR Hortons, Lennars and Toll Brothers
  • Utilize a standard set of specifications that can be upgraded in places according to pre-established options, and often the plan changes they allow are limited to a pre-designed set
  • Have a model home or a sales center in the neighborhood or in a commercial area

 

These builders will offer financing options, have a full-service staff and design studio and make limited modifications to their stock home plans. Their contracts will always be fixed pricing and they can afford to buy land in appealing locations close to job centers. 

Best Production Home Builders in North Texas

If you live in North Texas and are looking for a production home builder, we have created a list of some of the top builders in the area (in no particular order). See our list and learn more about Production Home Builders near you!

 


What Do SEMI-CUSTOM Home Builders Do?

Semi-Custom Home Builders:

  • Have a portfolio of plans, BUT they will liberally customize them for home buyers
  • Have standards that don't change from house to house, BUT they will allow the owner to buy some of their own fixtures
  • Typically have in-house sales staff and may have a model home or a sales center
  • Build homes for quick move-in
  • May provide construction financing, or, if they do OYL (on your lot) building, work with the owner's construction-to-perm financing
  • Offer liberal upgrade options, which may be custom builders adopting more production-oriented practices to scale their business. Their contracts tend to use fixed pricing, possibly with allowances for material selections

 

SEMI-CUSTOM Builders are a blend of fully custom and production builders. Builders in this category take the operational processes of a production builder and combine them with some of the flexibility and creativity of a custom builder. 

 

The key points to keep in mind here are: these builders are best at different things. 

 


What to Know About Each Type of Custom Home Builder



Production Home Builder

Strength: Good at providing a prime location and an affordable home with less opportunity for customization.

 

Other Considerations
If you want to minimize commutes and are looking for neighborhood amenities and you can work with a plan as-is and require only minimal changes, buying from a Production Builder will be your best option.

 

 

Fully Custom Home Builder

Strength
Good at taking a specific vision and making it a reality, especially if it requires fine craftsmanship.

 

Other Considerations
If you are looking for more flexibility, you may need a FULLY custom builder. They tend to be more organized, have larger teams for your project and are more systemized in their processes.

   

Semi-Custom Home Builder

Strength
Bridge the above two concepts.

 

Other Considerations
If you find a plan you like but want to make changes, a Semi-Custom Builder is your best option.

 

 

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What Type of Home Builder Is Hedgefield Homes?

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At Hedgefield Homes, we would be classified within the semi-custom builder group. Now you may say, "So you're not a custom builder?" 

My answer: We are absolutely custom builders. 

We offer a portfolio of plans with pre-designed popular structural options, and many will opt to build one of these combinations. However, we also have a custom design option for folks who don't see a plan in our portfolio that fits their needs. 

Furthermore, we tell everyone: We embrace customization. We will customize literally hundreds of features of your home up-to and including the pre-construction meeting. In the pre-construction process, we typically don't limit our customers; their only limits are money and time. 

When you are building your dream home on your land, you have a vision for how that home should sit on the lot, what the views should be and how you'll live in it. So we call ourselves custom builders, because to our customers that is exactly what we are. 

 Learn More About Hedgefield Homes

 

 

Related Articles:

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6 Questions to Help You Evaluate Custom Home Builders Near You

There are 6 questions you should ask yourself BEFORE seeking a home builder:

 
 
 
 
 
 
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Location: Where Do You Want to Build Your Home?

Choose a builder who is actually located near your build site. We suggest that the builders’ location—either sales or field office—is located a maximum of 50 miles from the site. This means they can be adequately present on the job site every day and address issues in a timely way. You don’t want to call your builder with a problem on site and have him tell you: “I’ll check it out when I’m at the job in a few days.”

Additionally, home builders located nearby will be more familiar with local codes, restrictions, utility providers and possibly site or soil issues. Their trade and vendor partners will also be familiar and accessible.

See some locations in North Texas where we build.

 

 

 

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Budget: What Is Your All-In Budget for Your New Home?

Understand your budget and what builders in your area can offer you, then start to compare your options. 

Remember to only compare builders who are similar.  If you want to build a 2,000 square-foot, single-story ranch home with a 2-car garage, then find a plan from two different builders in your area and ask for the pricing and included features. You should be able to easily acquire this information. You’ll also want to verify which site improvement expenses are and aren’t included. 

Create a simple matrix with budget line items in rows, and Builder 1 and Builder 2 in columns. This is basically the process of building up the initial budget

From time to time, I will get a call asking me what our standard price is for building a standard house. My answer used to be: "What are the standard features you would want in your house?"  

“Oh, you know, granite counters and wood cabinets.” But now, I simply quote them our starting price and refer them to our website, which has all of our updated pricing for every plan, along with our standard included features.  

You need to understand what standard means to your builder prospects. 

A builder should be able and willing to help you compose a budget for your entire project, even the parts they aren’t handling directly, such as: well, septic, roads, culverts, utilities, etc.

Ask builders if they will commit to their price, once quoted.  Is it fixed? All of our pricing is fixed—once contracted, it will not change.

 
 
 

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Customization: How Custom Do You Want Your Home to Be?

Think through and list out things you need to be involved in and those you wish to control, and decisions you don't need to drive. Share this with potential builders and listen to their responses.

 

 


Home Customization Questions for
Determining the Type of Builder You Need

 



1) Do you want to be involved in the design of the floorplan? How involved?

If you want to design a floorplan, then cross off most larger production-oriented builders and most semi-custom builders (but not all) from your list. 

 

2) Will you hire an architect yourself?

Cross off even more semi-custom builders (including us).

3) Do you expect to provide your own fixtures or appliances, or do you own low voltage wiring? 

Cross off all production and all but a few semi-custom builders (we will welcome such requests!).



4) Do you want to "feel your way through" the interior design as you build, making changes along the way?

Your best bet is to hire a fully custom builder.


5) Do you have certain materials or systems you just have to have, like a built-in safe room or space for parking UTV's?

Discuss these early with potential builders.

 

 
 

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Communication: What Are Your Expectations for Attention, Communication and Reporting?

Small custom builders can be very effective building a few homes at the same time. These smaller operators tend to be experienced in the field, so that's where they really shine. They understand how things get built. 

However, if you need design support, pricing or documentation, small operators may drag a little getting you what you need. They may also (but not necessarily) lag behind in warranty service, simply because they are busy with other jobs. It's best to simply ask: What is your average time to complete warranty calls? If they don't know, pay attention. If they say 14 days or less, that's a good sign. 

Smaller firms may also lag in communication: Keeping customers up-to-date on what's happening, what comes next, obstacles and ongoing completion updates. Larger teams have dedicated sales and support staff to help the customer along the way, and their processes for doing so tend to be more defined.

However, it can also be true that very large organizations can lose touch with their customers if they are not intentional. Ask builder candidates: Who manages our relationship as we go along? How do we get updates, get questions answered and stay in touch with your company. If you get a vague answer like, "Oh, we'll call you when things come up," you'd better get your running shoes on, because you're going to be chasing your builder. 

 

 
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Compatibility: What Is Your Personality and What Is Theirs?

Ask a potential builder: Who on their staff will you be working with during your pre-construction and construction process? Will there be an opportunity to meet them before you commit? See if you can get a feel for their personalities and style; after all, you'll be working with them for months, and the best way to get to know a builder is to know their people. 

 

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Vision: Which Type of Home Builder Can Best Execute the Vision You Have for Your Home?

There are a lot of details and expenses to manage in the homebuilding process.

  • Look for a builder who is professional—even if they are small—who listens well and takes the time to understand what you are looking for, with clear processes to help you through budgeting, design, pre-construction, construction and warranty.
  • Figure out if you can trust them—check references, online reviews and get to know the key people with whom you would be interacting.
  • Understand your own needs, and find a builder well-suited to meet those needs. 
  • Understand what is included; it shouldn’t be that hard. If it seems hard, then let that be a yellow flag. 
  • Most of all, find a builder who will walk you step-by-step through the whole process, helping you to determine what’s best for your family at each step, and who does high-quality work at an affordable price.

 


The Basics of Finding a Home Builder


1. Walk through past or existing homes, if possible. 

2. Ask for references and contact them (and see our questionnaire with questions to ask those references)

3. Get the contract and read it ahead of time. Make notes. Ask questions. 

4. Look at online reviews and social media posts. 

 
 
 
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Seek References for the Builders Who Make the Top of Your List

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Once you have decided on the type of builder you think you want to work with and gone through the list of questions (provided above), it's time to make a list of potential builders.

After you have compiled this list of potential custom home builders in your area,  look at reviews about those builders and then ask for references.


Look at Online Reviews

A great option these days is to search online for reviews about the home builders on your list. This is another great way to narrow down your list. 


Ask for References

From there, we'd recommend asking for references, as these will often be more detailed and you can ask them specific questions about the building experience.

A customer sent the following questionnaire to an actual customer of mine as she was checking our references. It was so good, I’m including it here. Use it!

 

 

 

Good Morning!  I am hoping you can help me.  Hedgefield Homes gave me your name as someone I could contact as a reference.  I am in the final stages of selecting a builder and Hedgefield is high on my list of choices. 

I have your phone number as well and would be happy to call instead of asking you to draft responses, just let me know what is easiest - if you are willing to share your experience.  

My questions are below:

  • Would you hire this builder again - why or why not?
  • How accurate were the cost estimates of the build after the design phase was complete?
  • How long did it take to complete the build?  Was this on schedule with what you expected?
  • How was the quality of the subcontractors work?
  • If there was an issue, did you feel like Hedgefield thoroughly managed it? 
  • How involved were you in the building process? Is this what you expected?
  • How involved do you recommend the homeowner to be?
  • Can you comment on the quality of the communication between Hedgefield and yourself during the building process?
  • Were they responsive to questions and concerns? 
  • How were any problems dealt with?  
  • How has Hedgefield dealt with any warranty claims (length of time, extra cost to you, etc.)?
  • In hindsight, were there any things you wish you had done differently with your build? (i.e. design of the house, communication, etc.)


I really appreciate your time in sharing your experience! 
Thank you.

 
 

Are You Ready to Decide?

We hope this article helps you feel more prepared as you interview custom home builders near you. And if you are building a home in North Texas, we would love to talk with you and see how we can help you build your dream home!

 
 
 Learn More About Hedgefield Homes

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