What to Ask Your Builder

Building a new home can sometimes feel overwhelming. There are so many choices to consider and decisions to be made. You might be asking yourself if building a home is the right thing for you and your family. If you are asking this question, chances are there are many other questions going through your mind. This section is designed to answer some of the more frequently asked questions. We hear them all the time from prospective customers and hopefully you will find value in the wisdom that we share here.

How do we begin the process of building our dream home?

1. Find a builder who builds the style of home that appeals to you and has a reputation for reliability and credibility (always check references). 
2. Acquire a lot or a piece of land that you love or determine the community that you want to live in. 
3. Hire an architect or plan designer you trust (always check references). 
4. Look for a house plan that has already been built, in a book or as a model home that fits your family’s needs or incorporates ideas that appeal to you.

Cost above are for illustration only and do not represent actual figures

Cost above are for illustration only and do not represent actual figures

Once you have determined the cost, you need to identify what it includes. This is the tricky component with custom homes. Without an accurate and detailed list of specifications of each home, comparing prices apples to apples is almost impossible.


How can I find a lot that is suitable for the house plan I like?

Lot size and topography are usually the most limiting factors. If you have a 100’ wide house with a side-entry garage, you probably will not fit it on a 120’ wide lot. With setbacks and other considerations, the house will probably be too wide. A walkout ranch style house probably will not work well on a flat lot. Depending on how much and which way the lot slopes will govern the type of home that utilizes its natural features best. An experienced builder or architect is best suited to make this preliminary evaluation. We provide this as a free service.

When purchasing a lot you will most likely be dealing with real estate professional. If he/she has experience selling lots, they can also help with this evaluation. However, it is always advisable to seek the advice of an experienced builder. The more difficult the more professional you might need to involved, including engineers, architects and land surveyors. We always recommend that a soils engineer do a soil examination prior to finalizing any lot purchase. If topography is not easily discernible or there are significant grades you should have a surveyor prepare a topographic map and so on. If a licensed architect is preparing the plan, he/she should be involved. Usually site features are not that ambiguous and the builder/ realtor evaluation is adequate. We suggest that any land contract should be contingent on resolving any questionable conditions. If you don't have a realtor involved, it becomes even more important to have a builder assist you.

At Covenant Custom Homes, we are happy to provide a free lot evaluation.


How much time should I plan for the design and build process and do I have to work with an architect to develop my plan?

The minimum time you should expect for design and build for your custom home is 2-3 months to design and 6-8 months to build. These numbers represent the most optimistic in both categories and would occur only if you found a house plan that required few modifications and was modest in size. Obviously the larger, more detailed and complicated the project the greater the time involved. An average for our projects now is approximately two months for design and seven months for construction.

A lot of what happens depends on how much personal time you can commit and how rapidly you can make decisions. The schedule availability of the other parties involved is also critical. Be realistic. Once you have decided on a floor plan, completed all the revisions and worked your way through all the details and finishes, the builder must then obtain the necessary permits and approvals. This includes design review committees for the subdivision, building permits, utility permits and whatever else the area requires. This can be relatively quick or very time consuming. You can see a detailed description of the “Building Process” to help you understand the process and timing involved.

The complexity of the project should be the determining factor as to whether you need to involve an architect or plan designer. Many times a builder will have a plan that meets 90% of your needs. In that case, the builder will usually have his architect or draftsman modify the plan to meet your specific goals. Starting with an existing plan also allows the builder to provide a more accurate estimate of the pricing since presumably they have built the plan before. The builder can often provide preliminary sketches of the home you are trying to create from existing plans he has or ideas you supply.

On more complicated and unique projects the architect is much more critical to the process and may be the first professional engaged. We believe that the most effective design scenario involves both the architect/designer and builder from the beginning.


What selections do I make in my new home and how are these selections made?

Theoretically, you have the right to make all the selections in your custom home. From a practical matter, you will probably be involved in the selection of only a few of the construction components and most of the finishes, which are loosely defined as "all the things you can see". You should choose a builder who incorporates as standard, most of the features you are looking for (i.e. cabinetry, insulation packages, wiring packages, etc). By doing this, you will minimize the effort involved in selecting items which are outside the builder's product offering. It also ensures that the builder will not always be saying "that will cost you extra". This can be uncomfortable for both parties as well as being inherently inaccurate in estimating the final cost.

At Covenant Custom Homes, we assist the client in making selections that deal with construction components such as windows, doors, roof material, appliances and similar items. Items generally dealing with color, texture and finish are handled by Michael Menghini, or your interior designer. If you choose not to work with an interior designer, Michael is well suited to assist you in developing the look and feel that compliments your lifestyle. Based on his extensive experience in custom home building, Michael is keenly aware of current style, trends, sources and techniques which provides you maximum versatility and confidence in your selections.

In order to minimize unknowns and surprises during construction, we attempt to have most selections made prior to contract execution. It is, after all, much easier for us to set an appliance allowance if we know what appliances we are including than it is if we are guessing at what appliances you might want. This puts an additional burden on our clients during the design phase…but it eliminates much of the confusion, stress and sticker shock during the construction process.


What type of warranty will I get with my new home?

Equipment and product warranties (i.e. appliances) received by the builder are fully transferred to the client. The builder will not usually provide any extended warranty related to these items.

For items not covered by these warranties, Covenant Custom Homes offers a one-year builder warranty which is covered in a warranty agreement that states, “the Builder, at its expense, shall make all repairs and replacements of any nature or description to the Residence, interior or exterior, structural or non structural, as shall become necessary by reason of defective workmanship or materials which are brought to builder’s attention in writing within one year after the Closing Date. This is effective up to a point. There are always issues that arise in the home which are not specifically covered and like beauty, much of it is in the eye of the beholder. When a questionable item arises, an agreement between the client and builder will need to be reached as to whether a deficiency exists and if so, what is a reasonable resolution.

The inherent problem with custom homes is that they are handmade using thousands of individual parts installed under all sorts of conditions by varying levels of skilled craftsmen. There is no perfect component in a home. The question is what level of perfection do you expect in the home you are having built? Before you commit to a builder, look at several examples of his existing product and determine if you will be satisfied with his level of finish work. There are differences in “fit and finish” from one builder to the next and it is worth your time to investigate and inspect these differences closely.

Also part of the one-year warranty is a 90 day walk-through of the house with our warranty coordinator. This gives you an opportunity to point out issues to concern so they may be addressed. There will be another walk-through conducted at or around the 365 day mark.