How to Choose a Custom Home Builder

How to Choose a Custom Home Builder

With the recent wildfires affecting Santa Rosa and the Sonoma County area, many new home buyers are choosing to get a custom home built – whether by choice or necessity. Needless to say, choosing the right home construction contractor will make a big difference in the final outcome. Here are some tips on how to choose a custom home builder.

Research Local Home Builders

There is a lot of demand for home builders right now in Sonoma County and there are a lot of local contractors and a lot of “out of area” contractors looking to provide service. There are some shady players out there, so you need to do your homework.

  • Do a Google search for for Santa Rosa or Sonoma County Home Builders. Established, local companies will show up in the top 1 or 2 pages. Checkout their portfolio pages to get a sense of what they have done.
  • Ask local real estate agents who may be able to help you in your search.
  • Ask friends and relatives or even a post for recommendations on social media.

We suggest restricting your selections to local, established building companies. There’s too much at stake to take chances on such a big investment.

Do Your Homework

With your list of potential custom home builders, it’s time to really dig in and find out as much as you can about each.

  • Interview potential home builders to get the answers to all the questions you have. Building contractors are very busy, so it’s fair to conduct this initial interview by phone. Here are some questions to consider, add anything specific for your situation:
    • Will the builder give you references of recent buyers/occupants?
    • How much “customizing” can be done versus standard features?
    • Are there any additional fees relating to the home or development?
    • What are the estimated taxes on the property?
    • Are there any major development plans for the area in the next five years?
  • Then, visit a builder’s recently built homes . If you see the homeowner,  introduce yourself and say you are considering buying a home from the builder who built their home. Most people are happy to share their experiences. Talk to several owners if possible, and try to get a random sample of opinions. The more people you talk with, the more accurate an impression of a builder you are likely to get. Some questions to ask:
    • Are you happy with your home?
    • If you had any problems, were they fixed promptly and properly?
    • Would you buy another home from this builder?
  • Usually, people tell you if they are pleased with their homes. And if they are not, they’ll probably want to tell you why.
  • At the very least, drive by and see if the homes are visually appealing.
  • Keep a notebook handy to record any feedback you get or impressions you have. As you research the various homes and builders, it can be challenging to remember who said what about who. Also, snap lots of pics to help remember.

Choosing Your Custom Home Builder

With your list narrowed down, it’s time to meet in person. By now you may have established a relationship with potential builders through one or more phone calls. Think of this as a job interview – after all, you are hiring someone to perform a job. You will want to get a sense of how they communicate with you:

  • Are they happy to make time for you or are they rushed?
  • Do they answer your questions in an easy to understand, patient manner?

Then ask questions specific to your project. Share your vision and goals and see what they have to offer. Do they understand what you are looking for? Are they in sync with your goals?

After all the interviews and research, hopefully you will be ready to choose a custom home builder.  Good luck!

Building a Custom Home – Getting Started

Building a Custom Home – Getting Started

Building a custom home can be a dream come true for home buyers. Imagine picking and choosing every detail and option of a new home from the lot on which you build on down to every fixture, light and door handle. Ah yes, finally – your dream home comes true! But as most custom home buyers discover, building a custom home is a huge undertaking. Carrington Construction Inc partners with the home buyer to provide a process and years of experience to help things run as smoothly as possible. One of the first questions we get is which come first – the lot or the builder:

Should I Choose a Lot or a Builder First?

Custom home buyers instinctively want to find their dream lot first, get an architect to design the perfect house and then get bids from multiple builders to find the lowest build price. But this is rarely the best way to go. Why? Because individual buyers face a myriad of challenges acquiring the lot. Typically, a buyer will be competing with other builders and real estate investors who have more resources to research a lot’s value. Builders can evaluate the value of the lot and submit offers to the seller much more quickly than most buyers can. There are many considerations when selecting a lot including setbacks restrictions, topography, soil quality, title issues and lack of public water and/or sewer hookups. Any buyer needs to be aware of these issues and the builder typically has the knowledge and resources to get an evaluation done faster and can therefore pull the trigger on an offer to an eager seller.

How Carrington Construction Helps Building a Custom Home

As an experienced custom home builder in Santa Rosa, Carrington Construction Inc can provide insights into the viability of a lot that ordinary buyers might miss. Typically, a buyer may seek out a flat lot on which to build. But the reality is that a lot with some sloping can help with drainage. Larger slopes can allow interesting design options with multi level entries and more. The point here is that an experienced home builder can see value in a lot that others might miss allowing for cost savings on the lot purchase.

In addition, a custom home builder like Carrington Construction Inc can help clients manage their project budget. We have several interior designers we recommend that help our clients with the design choices that have a direct impact on project budget. From door handles to windows, flooring choices to crown moldings, every detail adds up on project cost. The interior designer can help with option selections and save a lot of money overall.


Searching for a your dream lot may sound like a fun and exciting way to begin from custom home project, but the reality is that buyers should engage with their home builder first. Any custom home construction project is a big complicated job and you should get the help of an experienced builder right from the start. By doing so, buyers will likely save a lot of money and avoid major mistakes while making the process less stressful.

Fire Victims Checklists, Information and Resources

Fire Victims Checklists, Information and Resources

“We may have lost our house, but we did not lose our HOME.”

Fire Recovery Checklist – compiled by Shaina Sovel

Contact Insurance Agent
• Get a claim number (this applies for both renter or owner)
• Ask for complete copy of home Insurance Declaration Page (this is the cover sheet which contains the details for your selected insurance coverage policy)
• If replacement premium requires contractor plans, find one now.
• Start tracking and listing lost items (don’t feel like you need to do this all at once – just start doing it).
• If claiming value of inside property: assemble pictures where they support your claims.
Contact Mortgage Holder (if property owner)
• Let them know your house burned – Future reimbursement by insurances will also be including the mortgage holder.
• If renting, notify your landlord.
Find Temporary Housing
• Keep spreading the word if you are still looking
– networking is helpful.
• Contact a realtor you trust.
Immediate Supply Needs
• Get necessary immediate supplies & clothing.
• Find where to go. There are many donation centers located throughout the county. Our community and even other states
• Re-route your mail: Get a PO Box or re-route to friend/ family address.
• Make a list of all places that send you mail (credit cards, medical plans, insurances, social security, banks or financial institutions, FastTrack, memberships, Amazon, utilities). Inform them via email or calls.
Replace Personal Identification
• There are currently ‘central hubs’ set up to help with this, free of charge. (i.e. in Santa Rosa, go to the Press Democrat building in the downtown)
• Some items to replace: drivers license, auto pink slips, passport, social security card, Medicare card, birth certificate, marriage license. Contact County Assessor (If property owner)
• File re-assessment claim form with county assessor.
• Apply for duplicate copy of title.Contact Dept. of Environmental Health and Safety
This is optional: Obtain/review debris removal permit. For Sonoma County the address is 625 5th Street, Santa Rosa
• Register with FEMA Online (approx. 20 min process).  Even if you are not asking for assistance, this has been a continual recommendation. Many programs are supportive of regrouping/rebuilding and this FEMA identification can serve as a reference point for them.
Cancel all utilities
• Also request waiver of early termination, where applicable.
• Water, garbage, sewer, television, phones, internet (keep your email address), power.
• Is your head spinning with items lost? Start making spreadsheet lists. Just start tracking and get these items out of your head and onto paper.
Mental Health
• You are in shock, as is much of your support system of friends/family are as well. It will show in many ways, such as difficulty making decisions or even anger.
• It is ok to get counseling.
• Remember to have compassion and kindness. We can all pull through this together, supporting one another.
Are you a Survivor and your house is still standing?
• You may be experiencing “ survivor’s guilt. ” It is ok to have this response.
• For the survivors, when talking to those that lost their house:
find out what they need, not how they feel (they have likely been getting asked this over-and-over and it forces reliving the emotions).
• Giving back and providing within your own means (this could be physical items or of your own personal time) is the best way to help our community rebuild.
More Resources to Receive Help
North Bay Fire Relief by Redwood Credit Union, The Press Democrat, State Senator Mike McGuire and business leaders:
Neighbors who lost their homes can apply for an immediate $1,000 to assist with essentials such as rent, food, clothing and other personal necessities.
• The deadline to apply is 4 weeks after the fires are listed as 100% contained by CalFire. Unemployment and Disability Insurance:
State Supplemental Grant Program (SSGP): California’s State Supplemental Grant Program (SSGP), administered by California’s Department of Social Services, Disaster Services Bureau, may provide grant funds to assist people who have suffered damage in a disaster area declared by the President when the federal assistance to IHP is implemented. If you have questions about the State Supplemental Grant Program, you may contact SSGP at 1-800-759-6807, or for the speech- or hearing-impaired, the TTY number is 1-800-952-8349. Click on the following links for more detailed information about the SSGP.: State Supplemental Grant Program (SSGP) Information Sheet (Spanish Version) State Supplemental Grant Program (SSGP) Information Sheet
Ways to Help
The Press Democrat has created lists of various ways to help, including volunteering and donating. Click here for a list and here for another list .
United Way of The Wine Country:
North Bay Fire Relief:
• Visit any RCU branch (
• By Mail: RCU Community Fun, P.O. Box 6104, Santa Rosa, CA 95406. Checks payable to RCU Community Fund, including 2017 North Bay Fire Relief in the memo line.
Donations to Santa Rosa City Schools district: The Santa Rosa City Schools is just beginning to assess the needs of our school community after the devastating fires. The best way to help is to donate money or gift cards. If you do not specify that the donation is for a particular school, we will make sure your donation goes to those in our district who need it. The need in our school community is unimaginable. Thank you for your donation! – From the SRCS website.
• To donate: :
1. Send checks or gift cards to Superintendent’s Office, Santa Rosa City Schools, 211 Ridgway Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA, 95401.
2. Contribute using this PayPal link

1. Listen
– Provide opportunities for children to talk and express whatever they are feeling and thinking.
2. Be supportive and non-judgmental
– Let children have their own reactions. Don’t tell children what they should or should not feel.
3. Support children in expressing feelings, verbally and non-verbally
– Talking, crying, drawing, writing and playing are all helpful ways to process reactions. Children will often work through their feelings through play and may re-enact the death, trauma, funeral, etc. with playmates, dolls and other toys. This is a normal and healthy way for children to heal.
4. Be honest and provide accurate information appropriate to the child’s ability to understand and wish to know
– In order to cope,children need to trust that we will be honest with them. The unknown and the imagined can be much more terrifying than the truth.
5. Be patient
– Realize that this will take time. Children may take longer than adults to resolve trauma and grief. Their processing of it may be intermittent. They may need to ask the same questions over and over.
6. Share your feelings
– It is okay for children to know that you are human and have feelings, too, but don’t overburden your children with your anxieties. Make sure you take care of yourself and have good support from other adults.
7. Provide affection and reassurance regarding safety issues
– Let your children know that they are loved and that the adults in their lives will do their best to keep them safe. Children may temporarily need extra safety measures: i.e., sleeping in your room, leaving lights on, etc. You may want to say, “We will do this for a while and then get back to normal.”
8. Maintain order, security and stability in your children’s lives
– Children need regular routines and structure to continue as much as possible.
9. Give choices so that children have a sense of control and participation
– Ask: What would help you feel safe? Do you want to go to the memorial service?
10. Memorialize
– Light candles. Create a scrapbook or memory book. Write letters to the person who has died. Ritual helps us heal.



A Letter to Our Community

A Letter to Our Community

Dear Fire Victims on our Community,

We at Carrington Construction, offer our sincerest condolences to the citizens of Sonoma and Napa County for the tragedy you have all suffered. There are no words that adequately express the sorrow we feel about your loss of property, possessions, memories and lives. The strength of our communities was evident as we as supported our first responders and fire victims with donations to help one another’s families and offering homes and meals to one another.

As we begin the process of rebuilding our communities and neighborhoods, the strong spirit and community bond will pave the way and carry us through the difficult tasks that lay ahead.

As a contractor I know the road to rebuilding can be a daunting task. Unfortunately this is a rebuild of a home that has been lost to fire and not a rebuild by choice. The excitement of creating your home to be exactly what you want, has been replaced with the thought of I have to rebuild my home because it was taken from me. The stress and trauma you felt from the fire tragedy, coupled with the stress of making so many decisions and keeping up with your life, family, and obligations create a very emotional and potentially panic feeling. To say the least, a person may feel distressed in the process.

There are many preparations prior to the start of your construction project that must be done. There are also many factors that determine the price of your project. Here is the short list of items to help you as you rebuild:

Establish your Team – The start of your rebuild team starts with an Architect, Structural Engineer, Civil Engineer, Geo Technical Engineer, Interior Designer and General Contractor. First, you will need to have your plans drawn or recreated by an Architect. You may want to move walls, add on, build out or even add that granny unit that can be built first so you can live in it while the main home is being built. The Architect will most likely need to upgrade your plans to make them title 24 compliant and possibly add WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) compliant upgrades.  Your Architect should be able to connect you to the engineers needed for the project. You may ask if the Architect can offer you recommendations on the designer for your home.

As your design team is formed and your plans are being created you will want to seek a contractor who can work with and understand the building process. The contractor should have an understanding of what is important to you and have insight and opinion to help the design team create a plan that will makes for a smoother build. The contractor may be able to help any or all of the design team members to overcome roadblocks that may show themselves through the process. One thing to always remember, it is less expensive to make changes on paper than it is in the field. Also, fine tuning the plan is very important for your budget. As the plans are being completed and specifications called out a contractor can begin to develop your budget.

Building Permit – Once the plans are created you can apply for a building permit. This process, due to the circumstances, should be very fast. The city and county are both working very hard to get you back into your home and rebuild our community.

Choose your Custom Details – Your finish specifications options are endless and though you may have started out with a semi-custom home when your purchased it, chances are you most likely remodeled or added to the home in the years of living there. Hardwood floors, new kitchen or bathes, solid surface counters vs tile, plantation shutter, casing upgrades etc.. All these are customizations play a part in the square foot cost to recreate your home.

Communicate with Insurance – Since insurance is involved, many are building to the insurance allotments and payments they received. Most people want to know, What will it cost to rebuild my home per square foot? Or can you build the home for this amount. The answer is no one knows until they develop the project on paper and create a budget. I know that is difficult to hear because it gives no clarity to the budget of the rebuild but it is true. The budget lies in the Architectural and Engineering plans and Designers and home owner’s choices. The plans give the contractor a fairly clear idea of what it will take to build your home, the materials needed and the subcontractor trades that need to be involved. The Designer will give specifications from paint color, cabinet design, countertop choices etc. You may choose to have that closet organizer installed or upgrade your cabinets that were a paint finish to conversion varnish, change your textured walls to smooth wall and choose wood casing instead of MDF.

All these factors will drive the cost per foot. If you choose to put the home back to the same way it was you will still need a design person to help in the process and give direction on all the specifications and the price per foot will be created by building an estimate for you so that you actually have a budget number to work with on all the plans, design and specifications that have been chosen.

When choosing your contractor to build your home, choose wisely as you will be a team for a long period of time. Transparency, knowledgeable, flexibility, precise and integrity is what you need in this process. Hiring a contractor with a good team will alleviate stress and many sleepless nights and give you the security to go on living your life without always questioning what is going on with your home rebuild.

Carrington Construction is dedicated to help home owners and property owners rebuild their homes and estates.  Our process is simple and we take the complexity out of the project with creative solutions and a mindful approach. Carrington Construction is here to rebuild our community.