Thursday, May 30, 2024 May 30, 2024
78° F Dallas, TX

D Home’s 2021 Guide to the Best Builders in Dallas

How to choose a custom home builder, what to expect from the process, and other words of wisdom, straight from the pros themselves.

The last year revealed or confirmed an important fact for many of us: We like to be at home. Unfortunately, some of us also discovered that our homes weren’t exactly designed to spend 24/7/365 in them. The same was true pre-pandemic as it is now: The best way to get exactly what you want out of your home is to build it yourself. “A true design/build residence allows the client to consider the way they will live and enjoy the spaces with family, friends,” says David Lewis of luxury residential construction firm David Lewis Builder. “There are also many instances when the cost/time to fix or improve an existing home doesn’t make sense versus just building new,” says More Design + Build’s Kurt Bielawski. Plus, with a custom home, you have the assurance of knowing that your house was designed well, engineered right, and built correctly. If you’re thinking of building, you’ll no doubt find our list of 2021 Best Builders helpful. But a list of names isn’t enough. Building a house is an intimate process—and choosing the right builder for your project is an all-important step. We asked this year’s winners for their candid advice to people who are contemplating building their dream homes. Here’s what they said.

How do I find a builder?

As with pretty much any professional service, you’ll do well to start with referrals. Ask friends, co-workers, and clients for the names of builders they’ve worked with in the past or heard good things about. Also call architects and interior designers and ask for referrals.

You’ll need to do more work than that, however, to find the firm that’s right for you. “Once you have the referrals, request tours of recent and older projects completed by the builder to include in your decision-making process,” Lewis says.

David Goettsche of Desco Fine Homes advises that you visit job sites and look for a few things. Are they clean? Is there a dumpster on-site? Are trucks parking under the trees or in the yard? “A tidy job site indicates your guy is on top of his job and is paying attention to the things that don’t matter but really do. Every job site will have bad days-—not bad weeks or months. A clean site actually makes the builder’s job better organized and easier to spot the problems before they manifest.” Then, Goettsche says, go look at finished homes and talk to the people who live there.

In addition to personal referrals, “drive the neighborhoods you want to live in and recognize the styles you like and try to research who built the home. Then solicit feedback from people in the community to see if they know someone who has experience working with this builder,” says Robert Elliott Custom Homes principal Robert Elliott.

Even better: Find a builder who frequently builds—or even lives—in a neighborhood in which you desire to live. “The builder will have built a rapport with neighbors and has insight into off-market lots available, understands certain  zoning or deed restrictions in the area, and may also be raising their own family in that neighborhood,” says Tanner Rivera of Tanner Homes. “That personal connection can ensure a long-term, quality relationship beyond the project timeline.”

Once you’ve identified a handful of builders you think may be right for your project, set up interviews with the principal and some of the team, preferably in person. “Personality fit is really important,” Bielawski says.

Joe Kain of Joe Kain Homes agrees. “Meet face-to-face with at least two prospective builders that you have narrowed down to on your list and see who you want to be in bed with for the next two years,” he says.

What should I ask a potential builder?

You’re going to be spending a lot of time and money with this company, so don’t be afraid to ask direct questions about the person you’ll be working with and dig into the operation of the business. The goal is to see if you connect with the builder on a personal level and if the business is trustworthy. “Every builder is just as unique as every homeowner. A homeowner should consider quality, price, service, and personal chemistry when making a decision on who will build their custom home,” says Sam Chapman of Chapman Custom Homes. Michael Mishler of Mishler Builders offers this excellent advice: “If you don’t feel comfortable at your first meeting with the builder, move on.”

  • Some questions to ask the builder personally: What’s your background? Where did you go to school? Why did you become a custom home builder? What excites you about your work? What are you particularly proud of as a professional? What are you not proud of and don’t want me to know? What do you consider before taking on a project? Why should I choose you as my builder?

  • Some questions to ask about your project: Have you done homes similar to what we are looking to do? Based on your experience, about what will my project cost? What timeline can I expect? Who will be the point person for my job? How often and how will someone communicate with me? What happens if I’m not happy with something? What kind of service can I expect after the project is complete? Do you offer a warranty?

  • Some questions to ask about the company: How long have you been in business? Are you a member of the Dallas Builders Association? Have you ever been sued? Have you ever filed for bankruptcy? Has anyone ever filed a lien against the company? Who’s your insurer? Can I call your bank? How many projects do you have underway right now? Can I have a list of subcontractors and vendors? Will they all say they are paid on time?

  • ALSO! Ask for a comprehensive list of client references—and then call several. “One of our clients once told us that she called the references for the various builders they were considering and asked, ‘If you were to build another house, would you hire the same builder?’ The results were very telling,” says Lauren Grasso of Ellen Grasso & Sons.

Does the Order in Which I Assemble My Team Matter?

Yes, the order in which to involve an architect, builder, designer, landscape architect, and more absolutely matters, says Natalie Patten of Patten Custom Homes, who says you can hire an architect before you hire a builder, but you ideally need the builder in place before the architect begins drawing.

“We encourage potential clients to start conversations with builders prior to starting the architectural plans—especially with our clients that are budget conscious. As we always say, ‘The plans dictate the price,’ ” she says. “We want our clients to be able to get exactly what they want, at the cost they want to end up at. The only way to achieve this is for us, as the builder, to be involved in the plan process. As the builder, we are able to recommend window styles/brands, roof materials, etc. that will either make or break their budget. It is really disheartening to us when a client comes to us so excited about their plans, but because of the level of their architectural plans, they have to go back and redo what they are so in love with to get within their budget.”

Ben Coats of Coats Homes agrees. “Hiring a general contractor first is one of the best decisions you can make. I don’t disagree, however, with hiring a designer or architect first, but I believe most everyone in our industry strongly urges the client to bring on the homebuilder at the beginning of the process. The reason this is so important is because the home builder is the only one on the team that truly understands current pricing for subcontractors, vendors, materials, and commodities.”

Coats also has this insider tip: “Most builders do not charge for their preconstruction hours. Therefore, the earlier you bring us on, the more bang for your buck you are getting.”

How Much Collaboration Can I Expect From My Team?

“Hopefully a lot,” says Bielawski. Echoes Feild Patten of Patten Custom Homes: “It is completely common to work with the architect and designer from beginning of plans to end of construction.”

As Barringer notes, a collaborative approach not only heads off problems from the start but can help iron out any wrinkles that pop up: “If a selection is made that won’t logistically work in a space, or is outside of the budget, solutions can be made more quickly.” 

Where the work begins and ends for each professional can vary based on the project—and the parties involved. Though a tandem approach is common, Coats says, “There are also great projects we have been on where there have been distinct lines in the roles between everyone. Those projects can also go very well, as long as there are clear expectations set in the beginning of the project between everyone on the team.”

As for who’s leading that communication? According to Chapman, “As builders, we typically coordinate between all parties from beginning to end.”

How Will I Know My Builder Is Doing Good Work?

“If you select the right builder from the beginning by seeing their previous work and checking their references, then you know what you’re getting from a quality standpoint,” Rivera says. “The trust has already been established before we start swinging hammers.”

That said, your builder should communicate with you and meet weekly or biweekly at your site  to evaluate progress. This validates your decisions and reassures you that you are getting the quality you expect.

Though regular walk-throughs are a great idea, micromanaging is not. “The first thing you must do to hire a builder is trust them,” Coats says. “If your mentality and mindset is checking in on your builder and double-checking the quality of their work, the relationship will not flourish and the process will be challenging for all involved.”

If it’s your nature to worry, lean on other members of your team, says Sheri Barringer of Barringer Custom Homes. “Having a designer or architect that you also trust allows there to be a nice checks and balances.”

What Does My Builder Really Want Me to Know?

A custom home is just that. It’s never before been done. It takes planning and skill. It takes time and money. You’re building a custom home because you want something special—and to get something special, you need patience.

“We are not building widgets in a factory,” Elliot says. “Every single project has its own unique characteristics, and the builders and subcontractors have to solve many issues to accomplish the client’s goals.”

“Sometimes people forget that it’s a one-of-a-kind creation built by hand. Things can take time to finesse,” says The Newport Group’s Joe Jackson.

If, once your custom home is underway, you start to feel stressed, Michael Wilderman of Double Door Custom Homes reminds you to remember that you made the effort to put a great team in place for a reason. “It’s like putting a puzzle together. When you spill out the pieces, it can be overwhelming. Stay focused on the next task/selection and do not hyperfocus on any one piece. Utilize the expertise that your builder, designer, and architect bring to the table, and the pieces will come together and look great when finished.”

the full list

The Best Builders in Dallas 2021

Alair Homes

Alford Homes, L.P.

Attaway Homes

Austin Neuhoff Homes

Avida Custom Homes

Bailey Family Builders

Barnett West Custom Homes

Barringer Custom Homes

Barrow Builders Group

Bauhaus Custom Homes

Bella Custom Homes

Biggerstaff Construction

Bob Bobbitt Custom Homes

Bob Thompson Homes

Bond + Truss


Calais Custom Homes

Caprock Custom Construction, Inc.

Chapman Custom Homes

Charles A. Barnett III, Inc.

CJB Homes

Classic Urban Homes

Cleve Adamson Custom Homes

Coats Homes LLC

Constructionologists, Inc.

Craft Barnett Homes

Crescent Estates Custom Homes

Crescent Signature Homes, Inc.

Cresswell Custom Builders

Crowbar Constructors

Custom Homes of Texas

Danes Custom Homes

Dave R. Williams Homes, L.P.

David Leite Custom Homes

David Lewis

Davis Signature Homes, LLC

Desco Fine Homes

Double Door Custom Homes

Douglas Signature Homes LLC

Durrett Construction LLC

Edinburgh Custom Homes

Ellen Grasso & Sons

Ellerman Homes

Endurance Homes

Faulkner Perrin Custom Homes

Ferrier Custom Homes

Gardner Custom Homes

Garrett Brothers Luxury Homes

Garvey Homes

George Davis & Associates, Inc.

George Lewis Custom Homes

Goff Custom Homes

Greenwell Homes

Hardy Construction

Hawkins-Welwood Homes

Hayes Signature Homes LLC

Herman Darden

The Hill Group

Hoffmann Homes

Holmes Builders

Homes by Bowen

Hudson Construction Group

Isler Homes

Jarrett Construction

J.D. Smith Custom Homes

Jered Custom Homes

Jim Johnson Group

Jim Scott and Sons Builders

JLD Custom Homes

Joe Kain Homes

Joseph Paul Homes

Key Residential

Kienast Custom Homes

Larry Hartman Construction

LeComte Homes

Lingenfelter Custom Homes

LRO Residential Development

Malone Custom Builders

Mark Clifton Homes

Mark Siepiela Custom Homes

Martin Raymond Homes

Matie Custom Homes

Matt and Paul Architecture Design and Construction

McCowen-Sainton, Inc.

Michael S. Wilson Custom Homes

Milan Design + Build

Mills Custom Homes

Mishler Builders, Inc.

Montgomery Custom Homes

More Design + Build

Mullinix Custom Homes

New Leaf Custom Homes

The Newport Group, Inc.

Nixon Custom Homes

Ogden Custom Homes

Patten Custom Homes

Pencil Point Constructors

Phillip Jennings Custom Homes

Platinum Series by Mark Molthan

Provenance Builders

Randy Clowdus Construction


Richard Dietrichson Fine Homes

Richard Miller Custom Homes

Rick Shipley Custom Homes

Ripple D+B

Robert Clark and Associates

Robert Elliott Custom Homes

Robert Hopson Construction Group

Ron Davis Custom Homes

Ron McHam Homes

Rosewood Custom Builders

SCH Homes

Sebastian Construction Group

Shaddock Caldwell Builders & Developers LLC

Shaddock Homes

Sharif & Munir Custom Homes

Sleepy Hollow Homes

Snelling Homes

Southgate Homes

S&R Development, Inc.

Sovereign Luxury Custom

Stark Homes LLC

Sterling Brook Custom Homes, LLC

Susan Newell Custom Homes LLC

Sustainable Structures of Texas

Tanner Homes

Tatum Brown Custom Homes

Thomas Development + Construction

Thomas Signature Homes

Tim Jackson Custom Homes

Tim Seymore Custom Homes

Todd Bonneau Homes

Todd James Homes

Tommy Ford Construction

UC Properties

Ventura Custom Homes

Victor Myers Custom Homes

Waterside Properties

Wes McKenzie Custom Homes

Westchester Custom Homes

Zachary Custom Homes

This list is the result of a survey that was sent to more than 1,200 area builders and their peers. A panel of industry professionals vetted the nominees. The resulting list reflects the companies who received the most votes. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or the publishers of D Home.