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Taking on any major endeavor in life is bound to present you with excitement, inspiration, and yes, a fair share of challenges. Building your very own custom home is no different.

You’ll be charged with the high-stakes task of building your dream team (builder/architect/designer), there will be hundreds of decisions to make, and things will inevitably get off track at some point along the way. But if you go in expecting to deal with unforeseen issues, you will be prepared to solve them quickly, easily and without undue cost or stress. We’ve put together this guide to help you navigate the most common issues that arise when building a custom home.

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What Issues Are Most Common During Custom Home Construction?

Unlike tract or semi-custom homes, each one-of-a-kind custom home presents its own unique set of challenges. Its design elements are oftentimes incredibly complex and require a builder whose well-honed skills and experience allow them to anticipate and solve the many problems that will come along. Because so many things can go wrong during construction, it’s important to work with a reputable builder that you can trust. Every home is different, but custom homebuilders commonly face the following issues:

Design/Budget Misalignment

When your budget doesn’t allow for all the bells and whistles of your design, the solution is to scale back. But how?

In truth, the best way to resolve this issue is to steer clear of it altogether. Oftentimes homeowners design their dream home without ensuring that their plans and budget are in sync along every step of the architectural design phase. This can be incredibly frustrating once they finalize their plans and receive a hard estimate for their home that exceeds their desired budget.

The trick is to bring a builder on early in the architectural design phase so that they can provide updated estimates for every iteration of your plans. If at any point your home design and budget get out of sync, the misalignment will be caught quickly and tweaked before your architectural plans are finalized. The builder will be able to work collaboratively with you, your architect, and your interior designer to value-engineer your plans by listening to your priorities then guiding you on where to splurge, where to compromise, and which materials and/or design elements will maximize value. Putting in the extra work during this critical phase to ensure design/budget alignment will pay dividends in the long run by avoiding budget busts or the need to make undesired design compromises later.

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Permit Delays

There are two things to know about permits. The first is that your builder should take care of all permits, licenses, HOA approvals, and inspections. This is part of their job. Confirm with your builder that this is the case and inquire at the start about city permit and HOA approvals processes and timelines.

The second thing is that permits nearly always take longer to secure than you think they should. This is frequently because of the bureaucracy involved in issuing them, but by keeping in touch with your builder about permits and upcoming inspections, you’ll know what to expect--and who to talk to if there’s a delay or a problem with any inspection. Avoid unnecessary costs and delays by choosing a builder who has experience successfully navigating permits, licenses, and HOA approvals.

Also remember that a lot can be accomplished while waiting on permits and approvals. A proactive and organized custom homebuilder will be getting a jump on scrutinizing the architectural plans and specifications, soliciting and vetting additional bids, providing you with a comprehensive selections timeline, and helping you secure financing if desired.

Material Selection Delays & Lead Times

Cabinets, sinks, countertops, flooring, hardware, fixtures--virtually everything you can think of that’s going to be in your home needs to be decided and ordered early in the process. It can take weeks--even months--for your order to be fulfilled, and sometimes materials are out of stock. Without the right materials, your builder can’t work. Having them before they’re needed helps keep your timeline on track.

For materials that the builder orders, make your final decisions early. Your builder should give you a comprehensive selections sheet with specific deadlines so that you know what decisions to focus on when. If they don’t provide you with this document and guidance, stay ahead of them and ask for it.

The decision-making process can be overwhelming. Give yourself plenty of time to consider your options, ask questions, do research, and make your decisions. Then, do your best to stick to those decisions… frequent mind-changing is known to be the number one killer of construction schedules.

Ready to build the home of your dreams, but don't know where to start? Download  our guide. »

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Changes in Design

It’s exciting to watch your custom home come to life. The challenge for many people is translating pictures and 2-D plans into a 3-D home. Once you start building you’ll almost certainly get inspired and change your minds--maybe even a few times. Just be prepared that change orders will likely cause delays and will increase costs.

If you anticipate you will make changes along the way, build in some wiggle room in your budget to allow for this. Make changes as early on in the process as possible, but be sure to avoid asking for changes unless you’re certain you want them. The best thing to do when you’re thinking about requesting a change is to talk with your builder about your thoughts. They can help you hone in on what you’re trying to accomplish and guide you towards the best possible solution. It may end up that you can accomplish what you’re wanting without a major change after all.

Unexpected Costs and Delays

Even the best-laid house plans face delays and unexpected costs. Before beginning construction, talk with your architect and builder about what can come up and how much to budget for unforeseen costs.

Delays happen for all kinds of reasons--sometimes world markets and natural catastrophes that don’t impact you at all can still impact the construction of your home. Just as you did with your financial budget, give yourself a cushion in your timeline beyond the given delivery date.

A great way to get ahead of these unexpected hassles is to be in constant communication with your builder, always ask for next steps, and do regular walk-throughs with them. You can’t entirely avoid extra costs and delays, but together you and your builder can minimize them.

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What Can You Do About Them?

Building a custom home won’t be without its challenges, but being aware of the most common problems goes a long way in avoiding them. More importantly, choose an experienced custom homebuilder who you know will always be one step ahead of any possible issue so that you don’t have to be. We have over 30 years of luxury home building experience. Talk to us today about building the home of your dreams.

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Michael Sims
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Michael Sims

From cleaning jobsites during his teenage years to becoming our “chief remover of obstacles and barriers” as our President and COO today, Michael lives and breathes custom homebuilding. He’s been known to geek out on the latest products and best practices in sustainable building, and enjoys sharing his passion with others.

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