If you're thinking about building a custom home on your land, there are lots of things to figure out: how to find the right builder, how to get a construction loan, how to find land, how to determine if your land is suitable for building, how much is it going to cost, etc.

The next few blogs will focus on a single question to ask each person you'll need as you pursue your dream of building on your land. That's not to say you only need to ask one question, but the question we'll pose will be a foundational question. It's the question that will start the conversation that helps you get the real information you need to make a good decision.

Here's the one question to ask your builder: "In your experience, what is the most important phase of the building process?"

Ask that question and then stop. Don't give any hints or examples about what you're thinking it should be. Let the builder consider your question, and the answer will reveal a lot about the builder's values and thought process.

Recognize that there's no wrong answer

Any answer to this question will start a conversation that reveals the builder's overall philosophy, which means you can start to judge whether that philosophy is compatible with yours.

Any answer involving the building process (preparing the land, laying the foundation, pouring the slab, etc.) might indicate a building-centric focus or philosophy. That's fine, but understand that the builder might value the building process itself more than the purpose of the project: to turn your dream into reality and do so in the least painful way possible for you.

Watch out for someone who dodges the question

If the builder says "all phases are important," it could mean that the builder has never put much thought into it or that he doesn't want to reveal to you his true feelings or thoughts on the matter. That's a potential concern, as you're going to be spending a lot of time with your builder to create the home of your dreams.

Look for a client-centric answer

The builder might say that the pre-construction planning process is the most important, or that the process of turning your vision into a buildable house plan is the most important. This type of answer could indicate that the builder understands the whole experience is made or broken in the planning phases, when all problems can be solved with lines or words on a piece of paper.

It takes lots of patience, good questions, listening skills, and planning to get the details right on paper, and most builders aren't "paper" people. They're more interested in getting some walls put up and solving problems on the fly. Good problem-solving skills are critical, but the best experience for the client is created when those problems are solved up-front.

Keep the conversation going

Whatever the builder's answer, use it as a conversation starter. Ask probing questions based on his answer, have a deep conversation, and use the opportunity to discover whether the builder's philosophy and temperament aligns with yours.

The custom home building process requires a lot of communication with your builder, so it's critical to make sure your philosophies align and that he or she is someone you can work with throughout the process. If the way they answer this one question concerns you, move along to another builder.

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