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Custom Home Building Tips for Research, Utilities & More

As a current homeowner looking to build the home of their dreams, the more knowledgeable you are about the building process, the more enjoyable the project will be, and the end result will better reflect your image. Custom home projects may seemingly be enormous, but with the right contractor the job will be manageable and on schedule, ending with that castle you always imagined living in with your family.


As with any major purchase, before you start construction on your custom home, there is a certain amount of research that should be done. Coming up with home design ideas can be hard. Listing out the features you want from your custom home design is the first step. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How large of a custom home can I afford?
  • Do I want 1 or 2 Stories?
  • Where do I want to live? Are there schools in this area?
  • What will I be doing in the home?
    • Do I entertain frequently?
    • Do I work at home?

When researching custom home builders, you should be aware of the five main phases of home building. The more involved you are in these phases, the more satisfied you will be at the end of the project. Researching custom-built homes should include:

  • Research
  • Pre-construction
  • Rough-ins/essentials
  • Interior finishing
  • Exterior finishing

These steps are essential in creating a custom home. Well-qualified home builders have experience going through each of these steps with a prospective dream house owner and will guide through what they need to know so they can get to work. This will satisfy steps one and two of the custom home building process, as an architect will be able to draw up a plan for a contractor to follow, who will start gathering a team to put the plan into action.

Home Building Costs

After you have met with the home builders or architects, you should have an idea of how much building a house will cost. Financing the construction of your new custom home may be one of your largest obstacles. Certain home builders may be approved by banks, and can work to get lower interest rates. Home building magazines and books should also help with ideas, as well as sitting down with experienced home builders. After this step, a home building budget should be set. Take a look at your list again, and see what realistically fits into your budget. Once you have a reasonable home building budget set, you will need to decide what will be the scope of your custom home design. 

Find A Pro

At this point, it's time to start looking for a home building professional. This is possibly the most important part of the custom home building process because you need to select someone you trust to deliver a great custom home. Researching custom home builders may be difficult, but luckily ImproveNet has already done that work for you, with a nationwide database of certified custom home builders who are ready to meet your home building and design needs.

How to Find & Hire A Builder

Ask for Personal Recommendations

Almost anyone who has already worked with a builder will be more than happy to talk about the experience. Family and friends are a wealth of information about the quality of work, the professionalism of the builder and the price of labor. A positive personal recommendation is perhaps the highest praise that a builder can get.

Attend a Home Show or Open House

Open houses allow an individual to see the quality of a builder's work on a first-hand basis. It may also give the individual a chance to speak personally with the builder. Questions to ask include:

  • What previous experience does the builder have?
  • Are they licensed and insured?
  • Do they have personal references from past customers? 
  • Do they offer a warranty on their work?

Check with Local Real Estate Agents

When a homeowner does not have family or friends who have used local builders, real estate agents are another valuable source of information. This is one of the best ways to learn about builders when a homeowner has recently moved or will move. Many realtors have worked closely with a variety of builders and will be able to share information about customer satisfaction.

National Association of Home Builders

This nation-wide association certifies builders who have completed its National Housing Quality course. The course teaches builders how to create a quality home to avoid costly and time-consuming repairs in the future. The association can give out contact information for builders and companies in one's area that have completed the program.

Government Agencies

After finding several potential candidates, individuals should check with your city's Chamber of Commerce, which will be aware of any complaints that have been filed against the builder. They may also know if there are any lawsuits currently pending against a builder. The county courthouse can give additional information about the builder's licensure with the state.

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

The Better Business Bureau will list customer complaints against builders and will identify whether or not the complaint was rectified. By calling the bureau or searching online, anyone can access this information. The bureau usually gives an overall letter score to each business listed on their registry with A+ being the highest.

Does He or She Meet Your Needs?

After finding names of reputable area builders and checking their credentials and satisfaction rating with past customers, individuals should choose the builder that best meets your needs. Homeowners want a builders who communicate adequately and who can give a detailed estimate. In addition, you will want the builder to have the same vision for the home as you do.


Once engineering and plotting are agreed, it's time to sign contracts and create blueprints. Not every set of plans are the same. You have an endless amount of options, however, one of the difficulties is that you won't see your finished custom home before you build it. If you decide to purchase from home builders who have a models up for you, you will have the advantage of knowing what your project will look like. Also, many architects are able to produce computer-generated 3D models. With the latest technology, you can even take a virtual tour of your new home - during the concept phases. 

During the pre-construction phase, some of the most critical home building decisions are made, but if you make the right choices, you will be on your way to a beautiful new custom home. Below are a few more things to keep in mind; qualified home builders will be able to help you with these items:

  • Permits
    • These are critical, as you will not be able to start without the proper permits. Make sure you choose a custom home builder familiar with these regulations.
  • Home Building Materials
    • Are you going to be purchasing the home building materials yourself? Will this be the best deal?
    • Budgets will change, as certain types of home building materials (i.e. bricks) can be more expensive.
  • Home Building Insurance
    • The Home Builder's policy is usually more cost effective, than if a home owner were trying to obtain it themselves.

Also, depending on where you live, home building may be impossible during certain times of the year. Some custom home builders will not work through the winter, or prices can be different, depending on seasonality.


Once this is complete and the building process has begun, it's time for the utilities to be installed. After the foundation’s been laid, the rough-in stage will involve contractors installing the essentials. The majority of the building work will be completed during this stage. Your house will be plumbed, wired, and connected during this time. Below are some things to keep in mind.

  • Will you need a gas line?
  • What types of insulation are best for your custom home?
  • Electric needs (air conditioning, heating)
  • Plumbing needs (septic tank or sewer system, well water or city water?)

Consider how you plan to live before this step. Do you want high water pressure, or would you prefer to have a water-efficient home? Are you looking to install heated tile? Do you have special lighting needs? Where are the ideal areas for having electrical outlets inside and outside? These will determine how many and what kinds of installations the contractor performs during the rough-in stage.

Interior & Exterior Finishes

Afterward comes the interior and exterior finishes: flooring, roofing, walls, and so on. This will complete the custom home and make it look like more than a shell. It will actually transform into a home. From there, it’s up to you to hire an interior designer or furnish the home yourself with the trimmings and furniture that it needs to be that perfect dream house you envisioned.

Custom Home Building DIYS

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