Jim and Susan had six—count ‘em, six—separate flooring companies at their home in a three week period providing estimates to sand and refinish their hardwood floors. About a month later, an unusual sound came from Jim and Susan’s house, loud enough that everyone in the neighborhood heard it. There was an explosion of screaming and yelling that continued for several minutes. A hardwood flooring van was parked out front; can you guess what happened? The couple expected a beautiful, high- quality floor, but what they got was what they paid for. They were not happy.

Jim and Susan had selected their hardwood flooring contractor based strictly on price, but somehow they expected they would receive quality, speed, service, and the best price. Sure, they probably got the lowest price, but with it came a lot of heartache because they expected more and got a lot less.

It’s no different than selecting a builder for your custom home. You need to determine what you value and decide what’s most important: quality, speed, service, or price. Of course, you want all four components, but most often you will need to find a builder who can provide three out of four. That’s reality. Is it reasonable to expect that you’ll get a builder who will give you the lowest price with great quality, great service, and a timely finish?

Let’s consider the merits of each:

  1. Quality: A good company prides itself on providing a quality product, especially in the custom home market. They encourage prospective homeowners to look closely at the work they’ve done for other homeowners and affirm they would be pleased with the excellent workmanship the company provides. Comfort with quality, luxury with outstanding craftsmanship.
  2. Speed: An on-time finish is important, but there may be times, especially in a busy market, when a builder misses some deadlines. If that happens, you want your builder to proactively communicate with you and, if possible, find a way to make up the time and get it done quickly.
  3. Service: A builder with exceptional customer care will provide good communication and attend to the homeowner’s needs before, during, and after their home is completed.
  4. Price: The best companies aren’t usually the cheapest, but consider this: they’re probably not the most expensive either. Great companies deliver good value. An honest builder charges at or below market value for the level of service and quality product they provide. Very seldom is the cheapest price the best choice for a homebuilder.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can have all four qualities in one builder. A Lexus or a Mercedes is priced differently than a Pontiac. If you pay Pontiac pricing (like Jim and Susan) and still expect a Lexus or Mercedes level of performance, you are setting yourself up for disappointment, conflict, and sometimes even a lawsuit.

Know what’s important to you and adjust your expectations. If cost is your most important value, then choose the contract with the lowest price. However, if you value quality, be sure you look for excellent workmanship. You can get the results you want in a quality, custom home; just be sure to select your builder based on what you truly value.

The bottom line

Realistically expect to get three out of four components from your homebuilder. Decide what’s important to you.