A Checklist for the Best Custom Home Building Experience

If only building a custom home were as simple as the Property Brothers make it look. One 60-minute episode, a touch of shiplap, and a couple of minor issues easily solved, and BAM—it’s time for the reveal walk-through. Unfortunately, building a custom home takes a bit more time and a truckload of patience, but in the end is worth the wait. Start by reviewing our checklist of tips to ensure you set yourself up for the best custom home-building experience.

Define Your Priorities

You likely have lots of ideas about features you want to include in your new home. Take time to organize them in a notebook or on a Pinterest board by topic, i.e., room type, flooring and finishes, storage solutions, architectural features, exteriors, etc. As you continue to curate your ideas, be selective in deciding which elements are of greatest importance to you, knowing that some will likely need to be dropped from your plan or saved to be used at a later date.

Analyze your current home layout, noting what works well for you and what doesn’t. It’s just as important to identify what you don’t like as it is to know what you do want in a new home.

Select a Location

Finding an ideal lot on which to build involves many considerations, and is best done with the help of professionals who can assess key aspects of the property such as slope, access to resources (water, sewer, electrical, and gas lines), and the quality/stability of the soil. Other issues, such as zoning, proximity to neighbors, the style and type of other homes in the neighborhood (if applicable), and the size and shape of the lot also come into play.

Assuming all of the above conditions are satisfactorily met, you will also want to think about which direction the home will face in relation to the sun (snow on a south-facing driveway, for example, melts much more quickly than it does on a north-facing slab), the size and number of trees (how many—if any—will need to be cleared from the lot?), whether having a view is more important to you than having privacy, and the convenience of the lot in relation to everyday commutes.

Finalize an Architectural Plan

Once you’ve purchased a lot, it’s time to start designing your new home in earnest. You may decide to start from scratch, working with an architect to draw a completely custom plan, or you may find a builder or architect who already has a library of plans that could serve as the starting point from which to begin designing your home.

As you work with the architectural team, pull out those Pinterest boards and clippings you’ve been compiling and share with them what you like and what you don’t. Build your lifestyle into your home, whether that looks like including lots of built-in bookcases for your library collection, large wall spaces for hanging art, or dedicated rooms for hobbies or work. Think big—this is your custom dream home, after all—but be prepared to assess priorities and to scale back to meet your budget and timeline, if necessary.

Establish a Budget

And there it is:  that nasty B word. You knew it was coming, yet it’s still a bit of a killjoy—right?

As of 2022 in the Denver metro area, a custom home-build averages $300/sq. ft. for a two-story and $350/sq. ft. for a ranch-style home. Use these numbers as a starting point, and don’t forget to add a contingency line to your budget, as unforeseen elements are almost guaranteed to arise during the course of any project.

Rather than shying away from the topic of expenses, embrace your budget. Working through your design priorities and deciding how much money to allot to each gives you permission to spend without guilt or regret. Your budget serves as a tool for decision-making, guiding your selection process by setting parameters for it.

Hire a General Contractor

Perhaps the most important decision you will make in the custom-build process is who to hire as the general contractor (GC). We’ve all heard horror stories about shoddily-built homes, or of the contractor who takes your money and skips town. Spend time and due diligence researching and interviewing contractors in your area. Ask for references, look for online reviews, visit their offices, ask to speak with the owners/operators.

Ask them about their construction process—i.e., how will you be billed, who will be your point of contact, how will communication be facilitated, where will you make design selections?

Set Expectations

Once the permit has been pulled and the excavators begin digging, your project becomes real! You’ll be excited to see things progress, and you may be tempted to think that it’s a downhill ride from here. Barring unforeseen circumstances such as harsh weather, jobsite theft, or supply chain shortages, the construction should progress smoothly; however, set a realistic timeline for yourself, and don’t assume you’ll be moved into your new home by Christmas, your child’s birthday, or in time to host the summer family reunion. Remember what we said earlier about bringing along a truckload of patience?

That being said, you are completely within your rights as a client to communicate with your builder regarding issues that are important to you, whether relating to timelines, construction management, materials, or billing. Make your expectations known, and work with your GC to meet them.

Make Timely Decisions

Your project has the greatest chance of timely completion if you make decisions within the required time-frames and then stick to them. Be prepared for decision fatigue; you’ll be asked to select items you never even thought of before—everything from the color of the grout to the finish of the door hinges. Delayed decisions most often result in costly project delays.

Create a Foundation for Open Communication

The best route to successful project completion involves open, honest communication between you and your GC. Find out how your builder likes to communicate—is it through email, text, a project management software platform/app, or in-person meetings? How will change orders be handled? Be available for discussion, when needed, and communicate your preferences clearly but courteously.

When you’re ready to start the custom-build process, we’re here to walk you through each step of the way. We’d love to show you what makes Sheffield different from our competitors, and why clients have continued to come back to us throughout our 40+ years in business. Let’s work together to build your dream home! Give us a call!


6777 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003
(303) 420-0056