While working with customers to build a custom home can be a gratifying experience, this process often becomes a balancing act for builders as they seek to meet customers’ wishes and set realistic expectations simultaneously.
There are several steps that builders should take when developing a custom home to achieve a more seamless process for customers and ensure they are satisfied with the final product. Some of the most important steps include setting expectations, understanding your customers’ priorities, discussing resell value, clearly explaining your policies and providing helpful resources and support.
Dalamar’s innovative custom-home building process offers affordable solutions for families and individuals looking to invest in a custom home.
Set Expectations for the Process
Part of your role as a custom home builder is to set expectations for the process and help your customer understand everything that goes into building a custom home, from the engineering to the interior design stage. Walking through this process at the beginning will help when it comes time to make decisions about the home's layout and design, as the customer will better understand why certain rooms should be laid out how they are in the blueprints.
In today's economy, it's also crucial to set expectations for supply chain delays and explain to customers that certain products and finishes may take several months to arrive. I recommend conversing with customers about where they are willing to compromise and helping them select options for alternative finishes if their first- choice items are unavailable during their timeframe.
Understand Your Customer’s Priorities
As you begin working with a customer to design their home, it’s essential to get to know them and work with them to develop a list of priorities. Plans can shift during the building process, so it is important to help your customer identify their priorities up front in case design changes need to be made later. I also recommend asking probing questions to determine how precisely the customer has thought about what they want the final product to look like. These questions will help them proactively think through some of the more granular decisions they may not have previously considered, which can help them make critical design decisions when the time comes.
Think About Resell Value
One question that is extremely beneficial to ask at the beginning of the building process is whether your customer intends for this to be their forever home or if they plan to sell it down the line. While not every customer will have plans set in stone, having an indication will help you know how to best advise your customers throughout the design process. For example, if a customer plans to live in the home for less than 10 years, it's essential to consider resell value and make design recommendations based on what will be in style both now and in years to come. However, if the customer wants this to be their forever home, you might encourage the customer to take greater liberty with their design choices and choose more unique styles.
Explain Your Change Order Policy
One thing I have found to be extremely important in the custom home building process is walking through your change order policy with customers at the beginning. Sometimes the most significant delay in the home building process is a long series of change order requests from the customer, as even the most minor changes can keep the whole house from progressing. Walking through your change order policy early on can help your customer understand the best timing for submitting a change order request and think through their design preferences more intentionally. This comes back to setting expectations and helping your customers prioritize, as open communication and preparation will keep the project on track.
Be a Resource for Customers
When designing a home, customers must make countless small design choices, from lighting fixtures and windows to storage options and floor layouts. This process can seem overwhelming for customers, but one way to alleviate pressure is to provide customers with design resources. While scouring the internet and creating Pinterest boards can be a great starting place, I recommend providing customers with catalogs, sample books, drawings and 3D renderings so they have a more tailored list of options to sort through.
Lastly, it's essential to remember that you are your customer's greatest resource. Many customers communicate with their building company through a sales agent, but understand that as the builder, you have the insight that the customer needs. At Dalamar Homes, we have a dedicated customer experience department that works to communicate directly with our customers throughout the build to ensure they are satisfied with the progress.
As you continue working with customers to bring their dream homes to life, remember that communication is key to any successful build. Setting expectations, explaining the process, providing resources and establishing an open line of communication can save both parties time and ensure that all needs are met.
Matthew Martin is the CEO of Dalamar Homes, a custom home builder in Middle Tennessee founded by Dayla Martin.