By Jon Solomon
I love getting on my soap box for topics like this. First of all, builders of custom homes are very different than production or speculative home builders. No offense to those builders. I know and like many of them, but unlike the production builder who builds the same homes over and over OR the speculative builder who designs and builds a home WITHOUT a homeowner, the custom builder works with the homeowner through the entire process to deliver a one-of-a-kind, custom home. That's why I love being a custom builder.
Now that we have that little nuance out of the way, what are the 5 areas where custom builders are different?
- Bankruptcy & Lawsuits: I know that it’s been a tough time for custom home builders in recent years, but here is a clear difference between them. If a custom builder has declared bankruptcy, changed ownership or had credit problems, you can bet that it impacted their customers. Lawsuits are very similar. Whether it’s for Chinese Drywall, Warranty Disputes or whatever the reason, these issues are a reflection of the custom builder’s business acumen. Don’t be shy to ask the question and get the facts.
- Communication: Some custom builders are not responsive, organized or comfortable with the frequent communication that a custom home requires. Past customers will tell you the facts and your communication during the initial discovery interactions is another good indicator.
- Service: Given the long-term relationship between a homeowner and custom builder, exceptional customer service should top your list. Some builders make exceptional customer service a priority by investing in supporting technology, making sure their people aren’t overloaded and that it’s the core of the way the work. Other custom builders simply don’t emphasize this. Find out which you’re dealing with. From the time you begin design, build the home and go through the warranty period, this is a multi-year relationship. That’s why we believe this is so important.
- Timeframe: There’s that old advice that when it comes to large projects, it comes down to balancing cost, quality and time. Many folks advise that you can only pick two of the three and the one you don’t pick will be sacrificed for the other two. Of course you will want reasonable cost and high quality, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of time. After all, time is money, when it comes to interest expense during construction. There are some custom builders that are great project managers and know lead times, dependencies and the sequence of activities to keep a project on schedule. Other custom builders can only look forward a couple of days or maybe a week. The result is a much lengthier timeframe to complete a custom home.
- Trust: Most custom home builders are very trustworthy, but others simply aren’t. The best way to get the low down is to talk with past customers. Bottom line, there are a lot of judgment calls that builders make during the design and construction. You want to be comfortable that those decisions are being made as though the builder was building his own home. Get real experiences from several past customers to ensure that a custom builder is honest and worthy of your trust.
There are many other areas that can show the differences between custom home builders in Tampa, but from our point of view, the ones above should REALLY be the areas that you focus on.
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