How do I avoid the horror stories of builders?


If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already made serious progress toward making the home-building experience much less painful. The more you plan and think things through, the better the experience will be. I truly believe there are many builders out there who can, and will, deliver a truly high-quality custom home, but there are very few builders who can do it without making you crazy in the process. Or even worse, blowing your budget (or both).

We’ve talked about planning, defining your budget, finding a builder, getting a loan, and designing the right house plan, so now what? Now it’s time to let your builder do his thing and follow his process. After all, he does this for a living. Since you’ve chosen a builder you can trust, it’s time to act on that trust.

What to expect from the home builders process, and what NOT to expect

We live in an age of consumer products. They’re designed on computer systems, made in high-tech factories, and displayed in stores under tightly controlled conditions and wrapped in shiny, new, artistic packages.

Forget all that!

Your house is built outside in the rain, snow, wind, cold, and heat. Therefore it is exposed for weeks or months. Also, it is built from natural materials, not manufactured ones. Furthermore, it is built by hand, not by computer-guided precision robotic machines.

It is a prototype, which means it is the only one being built. Do you think Boeing draws plans for a new passenger jet, builds a scale model, loads it full of paying passengers and says, “Good luck, we’re pretty sure it will fly” to their customer? Of course not. Because of this Boeing builds prototype after prototype to solve all kinds of little issues they couldn’t predict in their cutting-edge computer-aided design software. Additionally, if Boeing needs to build actual prototypes to solve little problems, do you think a builder will foresee every little detail in your one-of-a-kind custom home?

If you can’t live with that idea and will be extremely upset by the first big mistake a subcontractor makes while building your new home, then don’t build a new home. Instead go buy an existing one and save your sanity. However, If you understand and have made peace with the fact that the world is a wildly imperfect place and you trust your builder to correct inevitable mistakes, read on.


You’re Buying the Builders Process

Because you’re not just buying a house, you’re buying into your builder’s building process. Therefore, the only way you’ll get the finished product your builders promised is to let him do what he does. Again, if you don’t want to let the builder do it the way he’s done it hundreds of times, and rely on the wisdom of the lessons he has learned, then don’t expect the process to go well. Asking, or expecting, the builders to go outside the process he has built over years of building and correcting mistakes, is just like putting those paying passengers on the prototype Boeing jet and just wishing for the best. You’ll crash and burn. Nevertheless, I’ve seen it happen more times than I’d like to admit. For more on the home building process see our “From Bare Land To Dream Home” book.

The Emotional Roller Coaster that is Building a Custom Home

You’ve found your builders, bought the land, have a house plan, and you just closed on your construction loan. Next, your builder is sending out the dozer tomorrow to begin work. Oh, the joy of beginning work on the dream you’ve had is real!

Now the roller coaster tops the hill and starts to gain speed as it drops. The slab gets poured…. The framing begins… and the problems begin. Oh, the agony, the fear, the pain sets in. You begin to think, “how could this happen? The builder doesn’t even care!

The house starts to take shape, you invite your friends over to see the progress, and you’re riding that emotional high. However, the framer misinterprets a detail on the plans and frames a opening the wrong width. Your emotional high turns into borderline depression.

Yep, that’s really what it’s like.

Just because you’ve accepted the custom home builders process, and you’re committed to moving forward. While this doesn’t mean there aren’t stressful times ahead. Remember you are emotionally tied to the outcome of your family’s dream.

That means every mistake, every warped board, every dirty handprint on a newly-painted wall is going to get under your skin. However, just know this going in to the process.  Also, know that every beautiful new home you’ve ever toured went through this exact same process. Although, the difference is that you didn’t have the emotional attachment to those houses. Therefore If the builder of that beautiful model home told you all the things that went wrong during construction it would not bother you. You’d look around, seeing that everything got fixed, and your rational mind would make sense of it. Somehow, though, when it’s YOUR home that gets a broken window or a muddy footprint on the carpet, your emotions kick in and you simply can’t BELIEVE that a contractor could do anything that stupid.

So, just relax, breathe deeply, and be really, really glad your builder has your back and is going to do what he does, and the end result will be what you expected. The process is ugly. That’s a fact, plain and simple. Once it’s over, though, and you’re living the dream of that new home, it will all have been worth it.