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.

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.