How to Survive Custom Home Construction: 6 Tips

Buying a new home is exhilarating, scary, and one of the biggest life stresses in adulthood. Building a new home adds even more layers to the experience. But custom home construction doesn’t have to be stressful — use these 6 tips to survive your project.

We all have an idea of our dream home. We have a vision of a home that can ultimately be reality through the right project.

However, taking something that is an idea all the way to moving day reality can be tough on even the most experienced home buyers.

Even though every building experience is different, there are some common areas that can always be anticipated.

Common Custom Home Construction Mistakes

With such a huge project, problems are bound to arise.

However, with proper planning, you can avoid some mistakes commonly seen during custom home construction.

These common mistakes include:

  • — Rushing yourself and making rash decisions
  • — Hiring the first contractor you find
  • — Underestimating your budget (or not having a budget)
  • — Failing to work with your builders
  • — Neglecting communication
  • — Forgetting to create a “Plan B”

Learning about these pitfalls can help everyone prepare for an overwhelmingly positive construction experience.

Use these 6 tips to ensure that your construction goes as smooth as possible and your dream home becomes a reality.

1. Know Yourself

Building a custom home is a big decision. The time to explore your ideas and dreams is – well, before you begin.

Even though there can be changes to blueprints, it’s best to really explore your thoughts about your ideal home before you start the process with your builder.

Custom home construction is not for the impatient.

You’ll be much more zen about the process if you are patient with yourselves while you do your homework and research. It’s easier than it used to be – there’s even apps that can help you organize.

There’s no shame in keeping all those inspirational articles, floorplan ideas, and wish lists. Before you start getting into the process, sit down and really analyze what all that information is telling you.

If you keep seeing open floor plans, make a note. If your favorite room photos always have lots of windows and natural light, add it to your list of desired features.

More information means that you’ll be able to move more efficiently through the process of finalizing blueprints and other floorplan details with your builder. Get your lists together at the beginning.

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2. Know (and Trust) Your Builder

It may seem obvious, but you need to feel confident about your builder. They’ll be a big part of your life while the house is going up.

Check references, look at their portfolio, and go with a company that is properly licensed and bonded.

A good contractor will have experience, will be happy to show you previous projects, and will be transparent with you throughout the home construction process.

If you don’t feel comfortable with your builder at the outset, it will not get better as you get further into building your home.

You want someone who will answer your questions and who will provide clear specifications about what will be involved during the project.

3. Know (and Follow) Your Budget

Any home construction project has the potential to become a budget creeping nightmare. Be realistic with what you can afford.

Your builder can be an invaluable resource in this area.

When you’re dealing with a company that is experienced with your area, and that is experienced with completing projects successfully, you can rely on their skill with estimating costs.

They’ll know the way to project their costs for everything from labor to lumber.

Be honest with your bank, if you’re financing the build, and listen to their recommendations. Setting your budget is one of the most important milestones in your new home journey.

4. Know Your Team

You may choose to be very hands-on and present during custom home construction – or you may prefer to let the work take place and wait for the updates.

No matter where you fall along the spectrum of involvement, it’s a good idea to know your building team.

A good contractor will take the time to keep you posted with progress reports. It’s exciting to see the phases of the construction take place – from the ground up.

When you know your own foreman and the people who are actually doing the labor on your new home, you’ll have a more personal connection, and feel more comfortable asking questions.

And, your contractor should feel comfortable making the introductions.

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5. Know How To Communicate

Ask for regular progress reports, and don’t hesitate to sit in on meetings. You’ll be making a lot of decisions during custom home construction. You’ll also be coming up with a lot of questions.

At the outset, talk with your contractor about who will be the point person for various questions and concerns.

If it’s possible to set up appointments to visit the building site and view the progress, this is also a good time to bring up questions.

It’s sometimes easier to talk about items when you are actually there on site.

It’s hard to visualize some features from just a blueprint. Once your home is starting to spring up in rich 3D detail, it’s best to visit it to see exactly what things will look like.

Keep a list of your questions, keep the list with you, and keep the lines of communication open.

6. Know Your Plan B

No-one wants to think about the worst case scenarios – but you should. If there are delays in your home-building process, you should be prepared with alternatives and plans.

If you are working around a firm timeline for your move, you should never lose sight of who and what will be changing.

Do you have family members who will be changing school systems, how will a delay affect your plans? Will you need to arrange for transportation for them to get to the new school from your current location?

Are you selling your current house, based on the construction schedule? Do you have a contingency plan for putting things into storage, should your own move-in be delayed? Have you built in adequate time in your selling contract to allow for your vacating the home?

Will you possibly need temporary housing in the area of your new home? What special needs should be addressed? Will you need a rental that accepts pets?

These are concerns that may never need be addressed – but if you think about them beforehand, you’ll be ready to deal with them, should something go wrong.


There’s a lot to learn in the process of custom home construction, and it’s not just paint colors and architectural styles.

With a bit of self-reflection, a positive attitude about research, and a commitment to finding the right builder, you’ll be able to navigate the journey with much more confidence.

Don’t be afraid to communicate, and keep asking questions.

A good contractor will have the answers – and you’ll not be afraid to ask them.