Top 11 Tips On How To Choose A Custom Home Builder

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Choosing a custom home builder is a crucial decision when building your dream home. Having the right partner to help you build your home has a huge impact on the final product as well as the ease of your experience and satisfaction with the process. 

As a custom home builder in Idaho, we’ll share with you our top 11 tips on how to choose a custom home builder that’s right for you. We’ll also share examples of questions to ask potential home builders to help you in your search for a home builder that can bring your vision to life.

When To Choose Your Custom Home Builder?

Before we get into our top tips, let’s make sure you know when to choose your builder. Choosing your custom home builder is best when you are first getting started in the custom home building process before you design your home. Selecting your home builder at this stage will save you time and money because they’ll be able to provide you with valuable input on ways you can add value or save by adjusting the design or making different selections.

Keep in mind that it’s possible your home builder will also serve as your designer. In this case, you won’t need to find a separate designer and you can focus on communicating with one team during the home building process. We’ve found this seamless communication between designer and builder is one of the biggest benefits for our clients and is one of the reasons we have an in-house design team at Pathway Builders.

Top Tips On How To Choose A Custom Home Builder

Tip #1: Define Your Budget & Style

Before talking with any home builders it’s important that you have an idea of what you want in your new home. It will also be valuable to get pre-qualified for any financing you need before you select your builder. This way you know your limits and your budget matches what you can afford. 

  • Outline your goals and priorities for your custom home.
  • Determine the style of home you’d like to build and your preferences for interior and exterior styles and any other features that are important to you.
  • Establish a realistic budget that includes not just the construction costs but also allowances for unexpected expenses and upgrades.

Tip #2: Research and Shortlist Home Builders

When choosing a home builder, we recommend talking with more than one builder to help you understand your options. Start by researching custom home builders in your area. Once you’ve done your research, make a list of the home builders you’d like to talk with.

  • Check your local home builders association. For custom home builders in Boise and southwestern Idaho you can take a look at the Snake River Valley Building Contractors Association’s list of builders.
  • Ask for recommendations from friends or your real estate agent.
  • Attend a home show or tour of homes to see the finished work of home builders in your area. 
  • Be sure to look for builders who specialize in the type of home you want to build (e.g., contemporary, traditional, eco-friendly).
  • Read reviews about each builder for insight into past customers’ experiences. 

Tip #3: Check Credentials and Experience

It’s important that the home builder you are working with has the proper licenses and insurance. If credentials and insurance are not up-to-date, you’ll want to move on to work with a builder that does maintain these essentials.

  • Verify the builder’s licenses, insurance, and certifications. In Idaho, home builders and contractors are registered, not licensed, so check for a builder’s registration number. You can verify a builder’s registration on the Idaho Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses website to ensure it’s up to date.
  • Determine if the builder has experience building the style of house you are looking for by looking at their previous work or house plan options.

Tip #4: Interview Multiple Builders

Once you’ve done your research and verified builder licenses are up-to-date, we recommend talking with at least three builders to allow you to understand the differences and options you have. Schedule time with the builders on your shortlist. Take notes to help you compare after you’ve spoken with each of the builders.

  • Compare their approaches, communication skills, and personalities.
  • Ask about their past projects, experience, references, and their process.
  • Communicate your ideas, expectations, and design preferences clearly with each builder. Pay attention to their ability to understand and translate your vision.
  • Make sure you are comfortable talking with the builder. Communication is critical to a seamless and enjoyable home building process. It’s important to feel comfortable asking questions and talking with the builder you choose.

Our goal is to be able to answer all of our customers in a timely manner. If there are questions, we are here to answer them. If there is ever any question we don’t know the answer to, we make it a priority to find the answer. It’s important to us that our customers feel comfortable with the process and their communication with us.

TJ Bowles, Owner – Pathway Builders

Tip #5: Visit Past Projects

If you haven’t already seen one of the builder’s homes, take the time to go look at a previously built home or two.

  • Ask the builder for past projects you can visit or any model homes they have.
  • If possible, visit an active construction site managed by the builder. This provides insight into their work in progress and organization.
  • Talk with the homeowner, if available, about their experience working with the builder.

Tip #6: Talk With Previous Clients

Previous clients are an invaluable resource when selecting a custom home builder. Not only have they gone through the process, but they’ve also been living in their new home and will be able to comment on communication and any repairs required after the build was complete.

  • Ask previous clients about their experiences working with the builder. 
  • Inquire about the communication, quality of construction, adherence to timelines, and how the builder handled any issues or changes during and after the build was complete.

Tip #7: Budget Transparency

Budgets are important so you’ll want to get detailed information on your costs and options to upgrade or change before you make your final decision on a home builder.

  • Ensure that the builder provides a detailed breakdown of costs. Beware of builders who provide vague or overly optimistic estimates.
  • Discuss how any changes or upgrades during construction will be handled financially.
  • Look for value versus simply the lowest cost. Large differences in budget estimates are likely for a reason. Be sure you understand what each builder includes and how they arrived at their estimate.

Tip #8: Timeline and Project Schedule

Building a house is not an overnight endeavor. You’ll be working with the home builder you choose for a minimum of several months and in some cases more than a year. When choosing your custom home builder be sure to ask about projected timelines and schedules.

  • Request a timeline for your project. A realistic and well-planned schedule helps manage expectations.
  • Understand that construction delays are common. Ask about potential delays and how each home builder handles any unforeseen issues.

Tip #9: Warranty and After-Sales Service

Every reputable home builder should offer a warranty for their work. At Pathway Builders all of our work is warrantied for a one-year period after your home build is complete. If you are talking with a builder that does not offer a warranty, it’s time to cross them off your list. A warranty is a signal that the builder stands behind their work and values you as a customer.

  • Inquire about each builder’s warranty policy. Find out what is included and how long the warranty is valid.
  • Discuss the availability of after-sales service for any post-construction issues.

Tip #10: Trust Your Instincts

After speaking with each of the custom home builders on your shortlist, visiting past projects, and talking with previous clients, you’ll probably have a good feeling about who you want to work with and why. You’ll need to work with someone that can provide what you’re looking for within your budget, but beyond that, we recommend choosing the custom home builder you feel most comfortable with, as you’ll be working closely with them throughout your home building project. 

  • Trust your instincts regarding a home builder’s reliability, quality, and communication.

Tip #11: Contracts and Legal Matters

At the end of the process, you’ll be receiving a contract from the builder you’d like to work with. This document and all other agreements are critical to make sure everyone is on the same page about the work being done, what is included, and how changes are handled. 

  • Review your contract and make sure you understand all the inclusions. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if clarification is needed.
  • Have a lawyer review the contract before signing. Ensure it includes all essential details such as payment schedules, warranties, dispute resolution procedures, and a detailed scope of work.
  • Ensure all agreements, changes, and discussions are documented in writing to avoid any misunderstandings and set expectations.

Important Questions To Ask When Choosing A Custom Home Builder

These questions are tailored to help you choose a custom home builder to build on your land. You likely have other questions that you’ll want to ask regarding your specific situation and preferences. Don’t be afraid to ask. 

  1. What is your experience in the industry? How long have you been building homes? And, how long have you been building homes in [insert your area here]?
  2. Are you licensed/registered and insured?
  3. Do you have a portfolio of the custom homes you’ve built? 
  4. How customizable is my home? Are there options in the floor plans you have available? Do you build completely custom home plans?
  5. Can I pick all the materials and fixtures? 
  6. Can you help me find land to build on?
  7. What is communication like during the build process? Will there be a designated point of contact?
  8. How are any delays or changes communicated?
  9. How are changes in cost handled?
  10. When will I know the final price of my custom home?
  11. What is the average time it takes for you to build a custom home? 
  12. How many of your home building projects are completed on time?
  13. Can we make changes to our home during the build process?
  14. Can you make my home energy efficient?
  15. Can you include landscaping?
  16. Do you have a warranty program?
  17. Do you have any references I can talk with?

Overall, you should feel comfortable asking any questions of your home builder as the initial consultation is just the beginning of your communication. If you don’t feel comfortable asking questions of a particular builder, they may not be the best fit for you.


Here we’ve covered some of our top tips to help you choose a custom home builder that can best help you with your home building goals. Remember, building a custom home is a significant investment, so take your time during the selection process. A reputable custom home builder should be willing to answer all your questions and work closely with you to bring your dream home to life. 

If you are looking for a home builder in the Boise area, we’d love to talk with you about building your new home. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.