Building a custom home can and should be an enjoyable process. Picking a builder who is right for you is as essential as picking the architect to design your home. So where do you start?

REALTORS® offer much experience in guiding you to lot locations and product under construction and listed for sale. Often
REALTORS® working or “farming” in your area of interest will have knowledge of builders to give you a great start. As you search with your realtor for a home site, talk about various builders and contact persons in each.

Should you decide to search on your own, you can explore the website of the Greater Houston Builders Association ( and get a list of builders to target. Click on Custom Builders for more focus. You would want to interview builders to get a sense of connection, look at product for quality which meets your needs and desires, and receive references to check out. For custom builders you would expect to talk to the builder personally, be shown product, and develop a rapport that would be the foundation of a team to produce your unique home.

Spend quality time with your builder discussing your hopes, desires and dreams. Talk with the builder about his role as a team player with architects. Ask about the length of time estimated for a given project. Discuss how the builder interacts with engineers and inspectors. Ask the builder about his feelings about your project. Ask the builder how quality is controlled and how you can inteact in the decision processes to achieve the quality you desire. Ask about customer service and performance on the home.  Ask who will supervise your home and how changes will be handled. Ask for a copy of the contract to be used and read it.

Ask for opportunities to visit completed homes. Talk to clients who have used the builder not only recently but in past years.  Ask, “if they could make the choice again, would they make the same choice?” As you visit with these folks keep in mind they have gone through the process ahead of you and could offer great insight into what is ahead for you.

To quote a wise old gentleman who shared the best business advice possible, “What you don’t understand in the agreement comes out in the settlement.” Don’t be afraid, be informed. No question should be considered trivial if it is important to you. The builder will listen and respond. You evaluate and decide-not on price but in concept. The price would be the final criteria with size and quality adjusted to achieve that goal. Just agree on the adjustments!!

Pick a builder only after your investigation gives you comfort that you are part of the team; you will be listened to, informed and satisfied. The perfect home has never been built, however, satisfied customers who enjoyed the process are daily moving into their new homes. Members of the Custom Builders’ Council welcome you to be added to that satisfied list.

John St. John, is President JSJ Inc. /John R. St. John Construction, Inc. Past Director of GHBA, Member of the Custom Builder’s Council, Remodeler’s Council and Codes and Standards Committee for GHBA.