FAQ's - (Frequently Asked Questions)

Choosing the right custom home builder in the Hilton Head area is a tough job. Here is a quick list of FAQ's that we hope will make that task easier. The answers represent my own advice about the best approach a consumer can take to a home construction project.


How do I select a custom home builder in the Beaufort County area?

There is there is no foolproof way of selecting a custom home builder in the Hilton Head - Beaufort County area. Ultimately, it comes down to trust. You do not want to work with a home builder you do not trust, regardless of how attractive the price. Trust alone is not enough, but it is good starting point. You also want experience, competence, service, and value for your money. Referrals are usually your best source but they also can be misleading. It is best to visit some of their previous projects, to see the craftsmanship first hand. Don't be afraid to ask questions of past clients. Ask your potential builder tough questions. You are turning over a lot of money and you should go into the deal with complete confidence.


Should I competitively bid my project to several builders or negotiate with one builder?

There are lots of custom home builders in the Hilton Head, Bluffton and Beaufort County area. There is no right answer to this question. I recommend negotiating with a builder whom I have researched thoroughly and believe to be reputable and trustworthy. Obviously, the danger with this method is that if your judgment is wrong, you could end up paying way too much for your project. Your home builder might be a great craftsmanship piece but overpriced. Your home builder might be very fair on pricing but incredibly inefficient, which could end up costing you more than dishonesty.


Why do so many people have a bad experience with their builders?

There are many great custom home builders in the Hilton Head area and there are many mediocre custom home builders. If you analyze most construction nightmares you will find a common theme: the consumer was seduced by a low bid. If you are buying a television and you shop at different stores and you are accurately comparing the same model, size, year, features and one store has a lower price, not much should go wrong if you buy the less expensive television. However, when purchasing construction, you are never comparing apples with apples. Every builder builds differently. If you get seduced by a low bid and then have a construction nightmare you are not an innocent bystander in the story. You are spending your hard earned money on a very expensive purchase. Take it seriously. Do your homework!


Why are there so many problems on a construction project?

Even when you are involved with a good home builder, there often are numerous problems. The reasons are many. Quite often there are mistakes on the construction plans. Most builders sub out the various trades. Each one of the subcontractors is a separate business that the builder does not directly control. Many of the subs are good mechanics, but they don't necessarily know how to run a business. Many of the materials used in construction are continually changing because of competition or new technology or environmental issues. Many of these changes are not fully tested in the real world before they come on the market. A new rubber gasket or window caulking or water base paint may not work properly or fail entirely when the weather changes. The more custom your project is, the more vulnerable you become to the unknown and the vicissitudes of the construction world. A good builder can shield you from a lot of problems, but construction is inherently problematic. The good news is that almost every problem has a solution.


How do I avoid overruns?

Overruns are the amounts spent building your custom home or renovating your house that go beyond the original budget. This might include changes, additional work, low estimates, or unforeseen conditions. It is always good to start a construction project with a contingency. It is rare that a residential construction project doesn't go over budget. Changes and additional work can be kept to a minimum by fully understanding what you are building before you start. If you can't read plans, then have the architect or builder explain to you everything that is on the plans. Once you have accepted the design then you have to maintain the discipline to enforce the budget. You can always make the house nicer; but that costs money.


How do I know that my builder is truly "green"?

The most reliable way to know that your builder is proficient in green construction is by their past performance within a recognized green building program. I am not implying that a home can't be green or have some green features without being certified. However, when a 3rd party becomes involved and certain components of the home are measured, tested, and documented, it provides an added level of security. Look for a builder that has proven their ability to adapt to green building practices and techniques, not just one who is using green products inside the home. The reclaimed wood floors and low VOC paints can be great components of a green home, but that's just scratching the surface. Prod your builder and dig a little deeper. What kind of insulation is being used? How efficient is the HVAC equipment? How is the hot water being heated? Where is the rainwater going? Some of the greenest components are behind the walls. Be bold and ask if they have ever tried recycling waste from a jobsite or reusing the trees that were cut down; you may be surprised.