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Building a Custom Home? 7 Questions to Ask Designer-Builders

This is the home you’ve been dreaming about for years—waking up to the glassy lake, opening the door to guests awestruck with your view, pulling in to the driveway knowing this home is everything you wanted, and there is not another one like it anywhere. And so, choosing the designer-builder that’s right for you is critical.

How do you know which designer-builder is the one for you?

Simple! Ask these 7 questions…

1. Are you a true designer-builder?

This is an important place to start your conversation because this can make a significant difference in your experience at every stage. Instead of outsourcing the home design, a true designer-builder does both, bringing significant benefits you might not be aware of, including:

• Cost accuracy
• Capturing every detail of your vision
• Commitment to scheduling and stand-out builds

Learn more in our article 3 Advantages of Hiring a True Designer-Builder.

2. What are your standards for products and craftsmanship?

Only superior construction methods and excellent products will give your home the lasting value and everyday enjoyment you’re after.

Find out what products the builder uses, and when you compare quotes:
• make sure you’re comparing apples to apples
• define your standards: cost-savings and possibly having to replace products in a few years, or sourcing high quality products that will last for many years

3. How experienced are you?

Experience counts, especially when building a custom home in the Kelowna area. It’s likely your Okanagan retreat will need to embrace a challenging hillside for a view or lakefront lot. These lots can present costly slope stability and drainage issues, but an experienced Okanagan homes designer will take the terrain into consideration early on.

Here are some other reasons to give weight to a builder’s longevity in the industry:
• You know someone will be there to answer your call and take action if a warranty issue arrives 11 months after you move in

• The best trades subcontractors will opt to work for longstanding builders who do good work, are good to work for and pay on time

• Professionalism: If they’ve done well over a long period of time, it’s likely they understand the importance of returning your calls in a timely manner, answering your questions honestly and organizing your project

Which bring us to question number 4.

4. What is your approach to organization?

Imagine going through the experience of building a custom home without having to worry every day about delays or design details getting missed. To find out if that could be the case with this builder, ask about:

• Written schedules
• Procedures and manuals
• Organized data collection

To give clients peace of mind knowing every detail will be taken care of, at Bellamy Homes, we use online Dropbox folders containing all plans and details for all trades and the homeowner, updated in real-time and accessible by mobile phones or computer.

We also tape the most up-to-date version of plans to windows in every room of the home so hard copies are always within arm’s reach for trades.

5. What do other clients have to say about their experience?

Having a conversation with the builder’s homeowners is a valuable opportunity to get honest insight about how the design and build phase went, and how they feel about their home now that they’ve been living in it for a while.

These people were once like you, searching for a stand-out builder they could trust, and so they’re often happy to help others benefit from what they have to say.

• Ask for references you can reach out to yourself. Ask those people how the builder handled communication, setbacks, supporting decision-making and handling quality control
• Read testimonials with full names attached and look for common threads around transparency, collaboration, quality, budgeting & scheduling
• View the builder’s gallery and see how their work speaks for itself

6. How does your reputation as a builder translate into value?

Is there name recognition when you mention a builder? Do local real estate brokers say there is value attached to a builder’s name? Someday, you might want to sell, and being able to boast your home was built by a certain Kelowna designer-builder could garner a higher sale price.

An established designer-builder with an outstanding track record and beautiful designs will have a reputation. When you’re doing reputation research, look for:

• Articles in the local newspaper about their projects or community support
• Home builder associations in which they are members
• Awards they’ve won from a home builders association, including the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Central Okanagan, Okanagan Housing Awards of Excellence (formerly The Tommie Awards)

7. What happens after you get the keys?

It’s important to find out what the builder’s commitment is to customer service and the home warranty. If a kink arises down the road, you want to know how you can expect to be treated.

Be sure to ask:
• How is your warranty defined?
• What would we have to maintain to keep our warranty valid?

A builder focused on customer service will take you through an extensive walk-through before you move in so you can identify and agree on any remaining work as well as locate the fuse box or the furnace emergency shut-off switch. This is also the time to pass on a manual that defines the warranty and explains how you can care for your home and keep the warranty valid.

Of course, if you’ve chosen your builder wisely, this will also be the time to pop the champagne, snap a photo and bask in all the little details of your vision that are now built all around you.

Since 2008, Bellamy Homes has been quietly building some of the Okanagan’s most spectacular custom homes, including 31 award-winning homes in Kelowna and beyond. If you want an exceptional home-building experience marked by collaboration, quality and creativity, we’d love to talk. Call us 778.940.7803
or visit us today.