So you own your own lot and you have your building plans in hand. You have interviewed numerous builders over the last couple of years, and have narrowed the field to three or maybe five. You are ready to hand your plans over to your selected builders and request quote proposals. Then all you need to do is look over the quotes, choose the builder and you are well on your way to building your dream custom home.
But wait! What are you looking for when you get those proposals back in your hands? Are you looking for the lowest price? And what does the lowest price mean? Are you looking for quality? And how is that quality “demonstrated” in the proposal? Are you looking for a fixed price? And what does that “fixed” price really include? Are you comparing proposals? And how do you know if the proposals you are comparing are equivalent? The bottom line is that a proposal is only as good as what it represents. And not all proposals are equal.
First let me underscore: There are no right or wrong or good or bad proposals. But as a consumer, who wants to build a custom home, it is imperative that you be an informed consumer.
The two most important documents in any custom-build proposal are:
1. The detailed specifications and 2. The allowances
These two elements actually determine the quality (construction and finish) of the house and have the greatest influence on the cost of the home.
Detailed specifications are critical to knowing exactly what you will be getting in the house. And to really evaluate and compare proposals, you need to compare each and every item in the proposal from one builder to another. If you want a certain quality, you may submit your own specifications that are to be included in the proposal. If not, then look at each line of the proposal’s specifications and compare what will be included. For instance, roof sheathing, one proposal may be based on using standard OSB sheathing, another may be using OSB with a radiant barrier, another may stipulate ZIP system roof sheathing. Each of these options has cost consequences, as well as, different advantages. So be diligent and compare each line item and if you are not sure about something, call and ask the builder. Good builders are always happy to clarify and help you understand the details of their proposals. And be wary of any builder who does not provide you with a detailed specifications document as part of his proposal.
Allowances are important, too! And they can have a serious effect on the bottom line. Generally, with true custom building, the builder provides a list of allowances for various finish selections for the home. Allowances are common for such items as appliances, lighting and plumbing fixtures, flooring, cabinets, counter tops, exterior doors and hardware. It is smart to find out from each builder what allowances he usually includes in his contracts and how he determines what each allowance will be.
W. Epstein Builders advises to compare the specifications of your quotes closely; and make sure the allowances are tied to specific products either as designated by the builder or specifically selected by you.