Five Tips For Working with a Custom Home Builder

Five Tips For Working with a Custom Home Builder

A custom home built by Nelson Construction and Renovations.

When building a custom home, nearly everything pivots on your relationship with your builder.  You need someone who is more than just a contractor or designer – you need someone you can trust.  Reversely, your builder will rely on you for many things throughout the course of the project.  Understanding the relationship and working together as a team will determine how smoothly your project goes.  To help you with this vital aspect of your project, here are five tips for working with a custom home builder.

Get the planning completed before construction begins. If you are working with a Design-Build contractor, this step will be much easier than if you are working with a separate designer or architect.  In Design-Build, the planning is done by or under the umbrella of the builder.  This should include floor planning, 3D renderings, and architectural blueprints – but it should also include full specifications on your finishes, such as electrical and plumbing fixtures, flooring and tile, doors and windows, trim details, and even paint colors.  To the degree that these details are all worked out before you even break ground, the project will be able to flow smoothly from start to finish without any delays.  But if you are still deciding on which style of countertop you want while cabinets are being installed, for instance, this will likely slow your project down due to materials lead times and re-scheduling of trade professionals.


Another custom home built by Nelson Construction and Renovations. The planning and specifications were worked out by our team, which resulted in the project being done two months ahead of schedule.


Have a clear contract. Your contract with your builder lays out all your agreements on things such as the project schedule, payment draws, communication and updates, and even how you will handle disputes.  It is important to have a clear contract that both parties agree on, as this will help weather any storms that may come up over the course of the project and keep you both on the same page.


This custom home we built in Crystal Beach had to be raised to be FEMA compliant, due to its elevation.


Decide which kind of project contract you are using. The two most common (and very different) construction contracts are cost-plus and fixed price.  Cost-plus is an open book project, which means that your contractor shows you all his bids and detailed costing and earns a set markup on top of that.  This method is usually more expensive, and it requires a lot more work from you, since you will be expected to understand and approve every bid.  The other method is fixed price, which means that your contractor agrees to deliver a specific scope of work for a set price.  The only time the price would change would be if you requested additional work that was not on the scope of work that was sold.


The master bathroom of a custom home we built in Clearwater.  This project was done under a fixed price contract. 


Ask for regular updates. Building a custom home can seem complicated, with many intricacies that you may not understand.  It is important that your builder keeps you updated regularly, so that you are not in mystery about what is happening with your project.  At Nelson Construction and Renovations, our project managers are required to provide daily updates on our online portal, so that our clients understand what work occurred that day, any materials or scheduling delays, any RFI’s (requests for information), and change orders that may be needed.  This kind of communication is absolutely essential to a smooth project.


A craftsman-style custom home built by Nelson Construction and Renovations on the Intracoastal in Clearwater.


Resolve disputes in person. It is not uncommon to have bumps in the road while building a custom home.  You are dealing with so many moving parts and pieces, sometimes things don’t go as planned.  You may have moments of frustration, confusion or upset.  This can all be resolved easily with in-person communication.  Do not try to work out your dispute with your builder through distempered emails or texts – request an on-site meeting, and you will find that face-to-face communication can usually resolve anything.

 Hopefully you find these tips useful on your custom home project.  Creating a successful relationship with your builder will mean a smoother, faster project, so that you can have fun with the excitement and creativity of building your dream home.  Enjoy!


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Nelson Construction and Renovations, a family business founded in 2006, is a design-build company that specializes in high-end remodels, home additions, and custom homes. With our headquarters in Clearwater, Florida, we serve homeowners all over Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. We are an award-winning member of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.  

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to re-post this article in its entirety with credit to Nelson Construction and a clickable link back to this page

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