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Our 2023 Best Builders Explain Their Custom Home Tips

Plus, the hardest part of the new-build process.
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Dining Room Entryway with Heirlooms
A Highland Park home by 2023 Best Builder Ellen Grasso & Sons Custom Homes. Nathan Schroder

Everyone tells you: Building your dream home can be a nightmare, with a roller coaster of emotions. And while there’s always going to be surprise twists and turns, you can prepare yourself with what to expect. We asked the 2023 D Home Best Builders what’s the hardest part of the new build process and what are their tips for navigating through it all.

What’s the hardest part of the new-build process for clients?


Patiently letting the preconstruction process play out. All parties, including your builder, are excited to get shovels in the ground. With that said, ensuring you take adequate time to get plans correct in the preconstruction stage will better ensure quality and timelines are hit during the construction stage.

— Elliott Perry, Hudson Construction Group  

The time it takes to build. It’s a custom home—crafted with thousands of parts and opportunities for input and creative expression of tastes and styles. That takes time to turn into a reality. 

— Joe Vastano, Joseph Paul Homes

In today’s climate, it seems that the most challenging part of a new build process for a given client would be keeping the same level of excitement and engagement that was had at the onset of the project!

— Eric Pastore, Dettaglio, LLC

The building process will feel like a roller coaster; it comes in waves. Foundation can feel slow, framing feels fast, MEP rough in can feel slow, sheetrock goes fast, then you slow down again while painting. Trust the process and trust you hired the right contractor. The ups and downs are natural, and the finish product will be amazing!

— Blake Byrd, Knox Built Construction


Realizing that things never cost what they think they should. Material costs, although now somewhat stabilized, have gone up considerably since pre-Covid times. And the types of craftsmen we employ are much more specialized and skilled than a typical track-home or production builder.

— David Leite, David Leite Custom Homes

Staying within budget. It happens so often—going a little over budget on this line item and that line item. Over the course of the project, a little bit here and a little bit there can get out of control quickly!

— Chad Brozovich, CJB Homes

The ripple effect. When clients change the scope of the project, add features, or upgrade design selections, there’s a ripple effect that will absolutely impact their budgets and timeline.

— Heather Lee, Endurance Homes

Too Many Choices

Clients have access to more information and selections than they ever have. This has both positive and negative consequences. The positive is that we have very informed clients; the negative is that just because it is on the internet does not mean it is accurate for our climate or location. 

— Wayne Atkins, Sterling Brook custom homes  

The beauty and curse of a true custom-home build is that there can be an infinite number of choices available for your new home, making the process seem a bit overwhelming. Making sure you have a good vision for the finish out details for your home, either personally or with the help of a good interior designer, will make the project run more smoothly and more quickly, saving the client time, stress, and money.

— Paul Rostron, Calais Custom Homes

The hardest part of the new build process for clients is committing to selections and the amount of decisions that have to be made over the life of the project. Decision fatigue sets in.

— Rob Cothern, Reside Builders

What’s the No. 1 tip you give clients before their first custom build?

Set Up a Dream Team

Choose a builder wisely that you enjoy and trust. Outside of your family it could easily be one of the longest relationships in your life.

— Victor Myers, Victor Myers Custom Homes

I always tell my clients to hire an interior designer! I also walk them through the build process and prep them for the ups and downs of construction. Just want my clients to always be prepared!

— Gary Starr, Starr Construction

Select your builder first. Look for a builder with reputable references, both from past clients and from subs or suppliers. Let your builder guide you through the lot selection process and plan design stage, while keeping your budget in mind. Doing your research up front will help alleviate some stress later down the line.

— Tony Visconti, Bella Custom Homes

Prepare Ahead of Time

Communicate your entire wish list, and ask lots of questions. A good builder can open up a world of options new first-time build clients never considered.

— Todd Arnold, Austin Taylor Luxury Homes

Engage a builder early on. This will help ensure the plans are designed to meet your budget goals, as a builder is more in tune with all costs and market fluctuations in labor and materials. Your builder will also provide value engineering throughout the design process to help stretch your dollar without compromising quality.

— Tanner Rivera, Tanner Homes 

Ask your lender for a contingency line in the loan amount. I can’t remember a project where the client didn’t upgrade or add something. It’s so nice to have that extra line item of money just in case you want to splurge.

— Natalie and Feild Patten, Patten Custom Homes

Be Prepared to Compromise

Understand that with any build, there are compromises, as lot size, zoning regulations, and budget are not without boundaries.

— Michael Wilderman, Double Door Custom Homes

Small changes you make during the process probably require more time and money than you think.

— Taylor Stark, Stark Homes, LLC

Understand for a house to be truly custom aspects of the house will be difficult to execute. Having an attitude of patients and trust that your builder will execute those difficult design details will help make the whole process more enjoyable. Building a custom house is a marriage with your builder. The closer both sides work together the better the outcome will be.

— Dylan Holmes, Holmes Builders


S. Holland Murphy

S. Holland Murphy

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