Tips for Selecting a General Contractor

Selecting a general contractor is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during your home renovation. This individual will oversee much of the building process and consult you on every decision throughout the experience. As a result, finding a general contractor that shares your vision is of the utmost importance. To that end, you should also find a professionally equipped contractor. Here are four tips to set you in the right direction. 


Only consider contractors who are licensed, bonded, and insured.

This is a basic necessity, but it is important enough to mention it here. A contractor who is licensed, bonded, and insured is also reputable, professional, and proactive. Don’t settle for anything less. 

Check their references.

If references aren’t actively advertised on a contractor’s site, ask them for a handful of contacts. Speaking with prior customers is an absolute necessity, as these people can testify to the overall experience of working with the professional. You’ll have a better understanding of their personality, the cost, and the quality of their work. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to visit a home the contractor built. As a note, if your contractor has no references or refuses to provide them, consider another option. This is a big red flag. 

Ask about their warranty.

If your contractor has a warranty, they stand behind the quality of their work, their subcontractors, and the products they recommend. If they don’t have a warranty, there might be a reason. Consider another option. 

Spend some time on the internet.

See what type of footprint your contractor has left on the internet. Use resources like Houzz, Angie’s List, Facebook, and Yelp to better understand their professionalism and quality of work. Here’s a solid guide from Building Advisor about choosing a general contractor. This is an essential strategy for verifying your confidence in a contractor. If they have little or no internet presence, there might be a reason.   

Do you Need a Realtor when Building a Custom Home?

Building a custom home is a wholly unique process, but some aspects are strikingly similar to a standard homebuying experience. The most common factor? Hiring a realtor. You may have a vision for your new home, but if you haven’t dialed in the specifics, you’ll need some professional help. Do you know the precise area in which you want to live? What about the square footage of your home? School districts, local zoning codes, and neighborhood guidance will also need a professional’s consult. Realtors can help guide and narrow the search, overseeing and negotiating the process of specific elements of the home throughout the process.

However, we should make an important distinction early on in this process: there is a different between the builder’s agent and the buyer’s agent. The former is the agent representing the builder, who is considered to be the seller in the transaction. The latter is the agent who will ultimately represent you, the seller, and who can help get you want you want.


Do you know and trust the builder?

Building a custom home does not always mean “custom.” As we’ve discussed previously, there is a difference between a custom home and new home development communities. A custom home allows the buyer to have a say in nearly every step of the design process, while a new home development community build has a pre-selected range of building options. You may have already picked the subdivision of where you’d like to live, but you’re not completely “sold” on the home builder itself. This is where having a realtor will provide an advantage. Hiring a realtor to oversee your personal interests will help rein in the builder and maintain your preferences.

Similarly, building a new home is an expensive process, and in a new development construction, the builder will likely oversee much of the construction and contracted work. If you don’t have professional real estate experience, you may not have the ability to know when a builder is overcharging for a service. A realtor, however, will.


What about building a custom home?

Building a true custom home—a home not associated with a new development community—will not likely necessitate the help of a realtor. Working with a hand-picked architect and contractor should provide all the guidance and consult you’ll need to get your project off the ground. However, there is one situation wherein having a realtor will be beneficial: if you haven’t found a lot. The realtor will be able to find and present a range of options suited to your needs.

It also bears repeating that custom homes will cost between 20% and 30% more than other new homes. If you’re opting for this type of build, cost efficiency may not be the most important factor in the process. In most cases, a realtor’s fee is likely to be just a small cost of the overall build, so investing in this professional may be worth your time.


How much of a realtor’s commission are you paying?

For new construction and even custom home builds, using a realtor is not an all-or-nothing proposition. The real estate industry is experiencing a fair amount of innovation and diversification, especially for niche services and flat-fee rates. Most of us have heard about flat-fee listing services for sellers, but there are flat-fee realtors for all kinds of buyer and seller realty services. This can help buyers hone the services they want to prioritize while simultaneously saving money.


What is the advice given to realtors themselves?

When working on custom home builds, realtors are told to prioritize the client’s needs over all else—and to ready for debate with the builder’s agent. In a custom build, realtors understand that their primary role is as negotiator. It is the agent’s job to discuss financial decisions with the buyer; if they choose to not utilize an agent, they are taking a big risk with one of the largest investments of their lives. Realtors understand that buyers who opt out of working with their agent are not saving much, if any, money. The commission that would have been paid will instead go to the builder’s salesperson, or the builder will keep it as profit. Realtors prepare for and are familiar with unexpected costs, how timing will factor into the price, and how to move builders on their bottom line.

So, is it necessary to hire a realtor for your custom home build? In most cases, having a consultation is an excellent idea. If you’re seeking a home in a new development company, can’t find a great plot, or are otherwise unfamiliar with the custom home process, having a realtor on your side is extremely beneficial. If you’re building a custom home with hand-picked contractors and architects, you won’t necessarily need a realtor, but having some kind of representation is always a good idea.


How to Lower Your Carbon Footprint During a Home Build or Remodel

Advances in research and eco-friendly technology have created endless opportunities for sustainability. We’re offered stainless steel straws at coffee shops, encouraged to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, and allowed to sign important documents digitally rather than on paper. With countless environmentally conscious decisions available, incorporating sustainability into your home build or remodel is a foregone conclusion. The difficult part is figuring out how, exactly, to incorporate sustainability. Here are a few tips for reducing your carbon footprint both during the build and while living in the home.  


Utilize local materials.

If you can, source materials locally. This will reduce the pollution created by transporting materials from where they were produced. Plus, you’ll have a better idea of how the material was sourced and help support local businesses. This can be anything from hardwood to handmade light fixtures and hardware.  

Use recycled and/or upcycled materials.

Reclaimed wood for flooring and trim isn’t just trendy—it’s environmentally sustainable. Consider using recycled glass for countertops and other surfaces, and ask your contractor about the availability of recycled and upcycled materials. Anything you can do to reduce the demand for producing new goods will help. 

Install water-saving appliances.

Water-efficient sinks, toilets, and shower heads are both accessible and affordable. You don’t have a reason to not incorporate these into your custom home build. 

Utilize technology.

Consider installing a smart home system to connect light fixtures and appliances to your smart phone. Maybe you have a family member who doesn’t shut off the lights when they go to bed, or perhaps you consistently leave the house without powering everything down. This is a great way to ensure your home uses as little energy as possible. If you don’t like the idea of a smart home, consider motion detectors instead.  

Ask about alternative power.

Building a custom home is an excellent time to invest in alternative power sources. Talk to your contractor about the efficiency and possibility of solar panels in your area, and be sure to do your research. If done correctly, utilizing alternative energy can have massive cost incentives, which can make you custom home build more affordable in the long-term.  

Three Tips for Finding the Best Lot for New Home Builds

As I’ve established, the custom home construction process will require hundreds of decisions. However, one of the most important is one that does not require hiring a professional.

What do I think is the most important decision? Choosing and finding the best lot for your new home build. This choice will affect the type of home that can be built as well as the type of lifestyle you lead while living in the space.

If you have a specific issue–if you’re looking at a hillside lot or corner lot or drainage–you can check out this type of minutiae here. But from what I’ve gathered, there are three essential steps to finding the best lot for your construction project. If you can follow these tips, you will find yourself in a better, more prepared position for your home build.


  1. Understand the land.

Become familiar with the lots available in your target areas. Real estate agents and Multiple Listing Service websites can help you identify and narrow down a list of suitable properties, but it is essential to see what types of lots are available in the community at large. If you can, drive around and visually inspect these options. Then, pull on your hiking shoes and take a walk through the lots you’re most interested in purchasing.


  1. Narrow down your options.

Compile a list of property attributes that are most important to your construction project. Do you want a view? Do you want privacy? How much space will you need. Consideration must be given to each element that may have a direct bearing on what the property can accommodate. Quality of life and cost-related factors should also be identified and ranked. Think about area home values, property taxes, access to service providers, proximity to highways, and school systems.


  1. Perform the assessment.

Once you’ve settled on a property, have your builder or a separate professional perform a thorough site assessment prior to purchase. This will be your last opportunity to identify and consider issues which may prove to be problematic during construction. A site audit will also be helpful, and you must pay attention to anything that may add to building costs, such as tree clearing and grading.


Why You Should Consider Hiring a Residential Architect

Building a custom home is a dream come true for many of us, but the process seems weightier than simply buying a home. If your custom home construction goes wrong or doesn’t look the way you want it to, the burden falls to you.

If you want to get your custom construction just right, you should consider hiring a residential architect. These professionals have the experience and knowledge you need for a great custom building experience.


Designing a home is a lot tougher than you might imagine.

So, what do architects do? A lot, as it turns out.

They’ll design your space, but they won’t just do it to meet your aesthetic requirements. They’ll ask you about your life, how you live, and how you often use your home. In understanding the people inhabiting a space, the architect will be able to design a home that both looks great and can facilitate life inside.

If you go with a custom builder with pre-designed options, you might not be satisfied with the end product—it won’t be a home designed with you in mind. An architect can manufacture everything from the general structure to the details—as well as building codes—in order to build the home of your dreams.


The architect knows the language and the vocabulary of the homebuilder, so they’ll be able to serve as an interpreter of sorts.

Additionally, your residential architect will serve as an essential tool throughout the contracting process.

Throughout the planning and construction process, you’ll need to make hundreds of decisions. In establishing a one-on-one relationship with an architect—a person who has experienced this process before—you’ll have a voice of reason to defer to in times of tough decisions.

Finally, a custom home construction is usually a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You get one shot to build your dream home—you better do it right. An architect can point you to great builders, contractors, and designers to ensure the home looks as perfect as you’ve always imagined.