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!