You’ve found the perfect piece of land for your dream home and want it to be something special. But with so many custom homebuilders out there, how do you decide which one is best for you?

Pedro Ocana, president of Sunset Homes, says the company offers a builder comparison checklist with several topics prospective clients can use to help make their decision.

“It’s really important to go through this list and then contact two or three builders,” said Ocana. “In the end, it’s a relationship as well. It’s not just getting the best price.”

Raham McIlroy, owner of acreage-home specialist Diamond Valley Custom Homes, says choosing your builder requires careful consideration.

“It’s a huge commitment,” he said. “You’re going to be spending a significant amount of time with your builder, so it needs to be a relationship where you get along well, you’re transparent, you’re on the same page as far as what expectations are.”

Here are three things to consider when choosing a custom homebuilder:

Company track record
Ocana and McIlroy both recommend checking a company’s references. Speak with past clients, tour a home under construction, ask about industry awards and certifications, and look at online reviews and their Better Business Bureau rating. It’s also important to see if the personalities of the people you will be dealing with mesh with your own.

“You’re going to be spending a significant amount of time with your builder, so it needs to be a relationship where you get along well, you’re transparent, you’re on the same page as far as what expectations are.” – Raham McIlroy, Diamond Valley Custom Homes Owner

Estimates and the contract
Ocana says ask what level of initial estimate a builder is willing to provide. Something with a breakdown of various costs is preferable to just a simple estimate of $200 per square foot. For the actual building contract, ask if it includes detailed specifications and a guaranteed lock-up date.  “There should be milestones in the construction that should have a specific date, otherwise the project can be derailed and delayed,” said Ocana.

Experience with your home style
McIlroy recommends choosing a builder experienced with the location and type of home you want. For instance, an acreage home will require knowledge of local regulations regarding setbacks and easements, and what your options are for water and septic systems.

He adds the typically larger lot size also means “there are lot more variables with the location of the house on the land, how that’s going to affect drainage, where you want to have sun on your decks – in the afternoon, evening or morning.”