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6 Questions Architects Should Ask a Custom Home Builder

Questions To Ask Builder Before Signing Contract in Houston

Combining your expertise as an architect with that of a home builder at the start of a custom residential project in Houston is one of the most effective ways to establish a strong foundation and ensure feasibility from start to finish.

However, given the time and commitment involved in a custom home build, you want to make sure your partnership is based on clear communication and a shared understanding of what is expected from one another and your client.

What Questions Should I Ask a Custom Home Builder? 

In some cases, the prospective homeowner you’re working with will ask for recommendations for a Houston home builder to complete their custom project. Other times, you may both be hired separately by the client and brought together during the design phase. Either way, it’s important to make sure you are on the same page and can effectively collaborate for a successful, cohesive project.

To help ensure you have mutual expectations, here are some questions to ask the custom home builder before or at the start of a new construction project in the Houston area:

1. What is your availability in the coming months? 

To optimize the design phase of a new luxury home, it’s helpful to have the architect and builder working in tandem on planning and development. If you are about to start working on a custom project in Houston, you’ll want to find out from the home builder their level of availability and potential to contribute to the design process during the upcoming summer or fall. From there, how soon would they be available to start construction? Does it align with the client’s expectations for when their new Houston home will be finished?

2. What is your process for documenting changes in a proposal? 

Creating the plans for a custom home is inherently an iterative process. The client will request modifications that you will incorporate into the design. As these changes are made, that should be reflected in the home builder proposal, which spells out the various costs and specifications for new construction. If changes aren’t documented correctly during design and pre-construction, it can cause confusion, undermine transparency, and slow down the process. In some scenarios, it also leads to overages and unnecessary expenses. One of the questions to ask a potential builder before signing the contract is what systems and processes they have in place to track changes and keep everyone in agreement on what’s expected.

3. How deep is your bench of subcontractors? 

There are different types of home builders. Some have a wide array of in-house personnel to assist with custom home construction in Houston; others consist primarily of a general contractor and rely heavily on external assistance from subcontractors. During your meeting with prospective home builders, ask them how many subcontractors they typically use. It’s a good sign if they have a deep bench of qualified subcontractors that they regularly work with. On the flip side, it can be a red flag if they continually rotate subcontractors or work with new hires rather than an established crew.

4. How flexible are you with alternative building products? 

As an architect of custom homes, it is also helpful to work with a home builder that is clearly in tune with the market. That includes upcoming pricing situations and the availability of certain products. An experienced builder that strives to stay ahead in the construction industry will intentionally go to meetings and do research to evaluate future pricing scenarios and the availability of products and materials. They should also be comfortable adjusting and working with alternative building products based on what’s happening in the market. This is an effective way to help the homebuyer save money and keep the project on budget, and it's extremely important at present because of the rapidly fluctuating cost of lumber and limited supply. For example, oriented strand board (OSB) plywood is a popular product in new home construction. During the past year, however, CDX plywood was a less expensive alternative, so our team at Southern Green Builders transitioned from OSB plywood to CDX plywood for a while to help clients save money on their custom home projects in Houston

5. How familiar are you with new products and practices? 

In the same vein, an experienced custom home builder will utilize updated technology and construction methods to stay ahead of the curve. Before launching into the project, find out from the builder what they consider to be “best practice” for their field and what measures they take to research new products, systems and processes. Are they comfortable exploring innovative solutions to create the type of home the client envisions? Are they willing to adapt their methods or try new materials to make the project successful? Will they contribute their insight and provide suggestions that could improve the design and feasibility of the custom home you’re planning?

6. What are their methods of communication? 

Finally, if you’re the architect hiring the builder or supplying a recommendation to your client, you want to make sure you select a professional who complements your communication style and makes themselves available to you and the client via your preferred methods. Proactive and frequent communication can eliminate many of the challenges that crop up during the construction process. As a forward-thinking company, Southern Green Builders has invested in custom project management software to engage and connect with prospective homebuyers.

Selecting a Qualified Custom Builder in Houston 

Designing plans for a custom home is a complex process. The quality of the home builder you partner with for this project can make or break the experience for both you and the client. When you’re searching for luxury home builders in the Houston area, you want a company that offers collaboration, consistent communication and expertise. That’s exactly what Southern Green Builders brings to the table. We are accustomed to working with architects during the design phase and marrying our expertise with yours to produce the best possible outcome for each client.

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