Custom Home

The Budget

Choosing a Builder

The Lot

Architectural Design

Windows and Doors

Interior Design



Air Conditioning





Brick and Stone


Sheetrock ®



Paint and Wall Coverings



Say What?

Choosing a Builder

This probably sounds obvious, but one of the most important steps in home building is choosing the right builder.

To choose wisely, make sure you:

  • Ask your real estate agent if the builder has a good reputation for being fair during and after the building process. No new home construction goes perfectly. Something will need to be fixed after you have moved in. Find out from your real estate agent if your builder is reliable. If he doesn't know, ask him to do some research.
  • Ask the builder if he has ever been associated with a builder that filed for bankruptcy. Oftentimes, builders file for bankruptcy, stranding their home buyers, and start up under a new name.
  • Ask for references, and then call them. You'll want to talk to people who are currently living in a home your builder has constructed. Ask them many questions. Give them time to answer. Ask open-ended questions and ask for examples.
  • Talk to the developer. Ask him whom his best builders are.
  • Look at as many of his spec homes as you can. Look closely at the walls and woodwork. Is it quality craftsmanship?
  • Tour some of his homes that are under construction. Visit them more than once. Does he use quality materials? Is the worksite clean? Talk to some of the foremen for his sub-contractors. What do they think of him? Is he easy to work with? Does he demand high quality?
  • Pray for wisdom.

If a builder is well liked by homeowners, real estate agents, developers, and his sub-contractors, chances are good that you will enjoy building a home with him.

You better shop around

Before you choose a home builder, you need to look at a lot of homes from different builders. After you have looked at about 25-50 homes, you will start getting used to what the current trends are. Let me give you some examples. Almost every new custom home in Dallas has:

  • a media room
  • granite countertops
  • wood floors (often hand-scraped)
  • brushed nickel fixtures
  • a wood-paneled study
  • pre-wire for sound and computer network
  • a 12-SEER air conditioner
  • Faux painting

You need to decide which of the current trends are important to you and find a builder who can accommodate.

Spec Homes

Spec homes are homes that a builder constructs without a customer. Oftentimes they are show-homes that are built to display the builder's craftsmanship and attract new customers. Sometimes they are built in anticipation of customers that have not shown up yet. Sometimes they are used as offices until the final home in the development is built.

Spec homes are great for potential customers because they give you the opportunity to evaluate the care and detail that go into the home building process. If a builder has a poor paint job on a show home, how much care will he put into building your home?

Spec homes can be deceptive, however. Sometimes the finish-out in them can greatly exceed what the builder considers to be standard. For example, almost every spec home will have crown molding, but not all builders consider crown molding a standard option included in the base price. Ask the builder what his base package includes. Walk a spec home with him and ask what is considered an upgrade.

For example, right now most of the new homes in Dallas have brushed nickel plumbing fixtures and door handles. Is that standard or an upgrade? Most custom homes in Dallas have wooden windows downstairs and aluminum upstairs. Is that standard or an upgrade? Most homes have 10 foot ceilings with 8 foot doors downstairs and 9 foot ceilings with 6 foot 8 inch doors upstairs. Is that standard or an upgrade?

These comments might sound contradictory to the concept of a custom home. With a true custom home, every detail can be customized by the buyer. However, it is still true that when you are quoted a price based upon a floor plan, it will include certain standards or specs. You need to know what those are.

Questions to ask

  • Does your builder return phone calls promptly?
  • Does he have a cell phone?
  • Does he seem annoyed when you call?
  • How often was he onsite?
  • Is he flexible?
  • Did he ever yell or curse at you?
  • Did he catch mistakes before you did?
  • Did he always seem to have an excuse for why something that looked wrong to you was really OK?
  • Did he nickel and dime you to death?
  • Were his quotes accurate or was the price always going up?
  • Does he use quality sub-contractors?
  • Would you build another house with him?

Your follow-up questions are almost as important as your initial questions. Be sure to ask:

  • Why?
  • How?
  • Can you give me an example?
  • How often?
  • Wow! Tell me about that.
  • How did you feel about that?

Balthazar Custom Homes

If you are looking for a great custom home builder in Dallas, check out John Balthazar of Balthazar Custom Homes. He is fair and knowledgeable. His quality is first-rate. He uses great sub-contractors.

You can contact John at 972-618-7653.



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