In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be an issue, but here in Texas, homebuilding is unregulated.
What does this mean? It means anyone can build your home — and the same goes for design. They don’t have to pass any tests or answer to any regulatory boards to ensure they know what they’re doing.
They also don’t have to take continuing education courses, and they are rarely penalized if they build a low-quality house or if their design has small flaws, or even severe ones.
Now, this isn’t to say builders are out there building houses that collapse in a week — we still have building codes in each city here in Texas (though they differ from city to city).
These building codes are enforced to greater or lesser degrees, depending on your city, and they ensure you’re not moving into a deathtrap.
That being said, they’re not robust — these codes are in place to make sure your family is safe, but they won’t stop you from being inconvenienced or paying a small fortune to fix an ongoing issue.
It’s also pretty common to run into selective code enforcement, where an inspector will let certain builders slide on some areas of the building code while enforcing others.
Still, all is not lost — there are good people in Texas doing good work.
There Are Still Amazing Home Builders, Design-Build Firms, and Architects Out There — You Just Need to Take the Time to Find Them
This can all sound very gloom and doom, but there are plenty of amazing, talented, principled design-build firms in Texas, and the same goes for individual designers or builders.
For every fly-by-night builder out there, there’s a design-build firm who understands that success depends on incredible quality and unparalleled customer service, not cutting corners or rushing a job.
Quality takes time, commitment, and effort, and a great architect or builder understands this. They’re not turning a profit based on quantity and output — they have higher prices because they’re creating consistently impressive work that awes clients and keeps them coming back in the door.
They’re not turning a profit based on quantity and output — they have higher prices because they’re creating consistently impressive work that awes clients and keeps them coming back in the door.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to wait an eternity for your dream home to be completed. While some design-build firms can take over a year to build a home, we’re known for our quickness.
We usually finish custom homes in 4–6 months, 30% faster than the industry standard.
If the design-build firm you’ve hired is experienced and efficient, quality and speed is a possibility, but companies like this are few and far between — you’re usually going to get one or the other, unfortunately.
This unique combination of quality and speed is out there, but you need to take the time to vet builders, architects, and design-build firms properly if you want to find someone who can turn the home of your dreams into a reality in a timely fashion, a reality that won’t suffer from ongoing, systemic issues (and end up costing you more in the long run).
What to Look for to Properly Vet a Builder, Architect, or Design-Build Team
Some of this may seem pretty obvious, but you can’t take anything for granted in the unregulated Texas home market — corners are cut constantly, and you have little recourse if your custom home project goes sideways.
And is that something you really want to deal with anyway?
Throw a bunch of lawsuits, bad feelings, and arguments in the mix, and your project may be held up indefinitely (with you feeling miserable in the meantime).
Choosing right from the beginning is critical, so here’s what you need to look for:
A Proven Track Record
- Have they designed or built a custom home similar to your project?
- How many similar projects have they completed and how long have they been completing projects like this?
- How many years experience do they and their employees have?
- Who will be working on your project — long-term employees or day laborers?
- If they’re a design-build firm, how long have they been handling custom homes from design to completion?
- How much experience do they have building in this area?
References and Current Projects
- Do they have references from previous clients?
- Can you see their previous projects and check out the quality for yourself?
- Do they have a portfolio of previous work that you can look through?
Communication and Project Management
- Will they manage all aspects of your project, including finding a lot for your home and obtaining building permits?
- Will you have a dedicated project manager?
- Do they have a communication system that’s simple to use?
- Will they respond quickly to your questions and concerns?
- Do they have software or a system in place that makes it easy for you to choose materials, deal with unforeseen problems, or see the progress of your home?
- Do they have a process in place for dealing with issues, problems, or change orders?
Remember, You’re Likely Going to Live in This Home for a Long Time, if not the Rest of Your Life — It’s Worth Putting in the Time up Front
You’ve got a busy life, and it’s easy to feel pressured to just pick a home builder or a design-build company and go for it.
I urge you to reconsider — take the time to vet several companies, get to know them, and research more than one firm.
You’ll be glad you did.
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