Questions to Ask a Custom Home Builder Before Hiring Them

Questions to Ask a Custom Home Builder Before Hiring Them

Building your custom dream home can be one of the most exciting projects you will undertake in your life. 

The key to turning your vision into reality lies in choosing the right custom home builder — one who not only understands your wants and needs but also has the expertise to bring them to life.

At Cook Bonner Ebeling, we recognize the importance of making an informed decision when selecting a custom home builder, and we're here to guide you through the process.

In this blog post, we'll explore the critical questions you should ask before choosing a custom home builder. This set of questions is designed to make sure that the luxury home builder you choose is the perfect match for you.

Questions to Ask a Potential Custom Home Builder

Arm yourself with the right questions and set the foundation for a successful and stress-free home-building experience.

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Can you share more about your licenses, certifications, and background?

You want a home builder who not only has experience but has the appropriate license and certifications. This shows they comply with building regulations and have the foresight and knowledge to be able to build your custom home without experiencing delays and errors which can often arise without proper certification. 

Cook Bonner Ebeling carries an Unlimited General Contractor's License in the state of South Carolina. Although our focus is on custom residential construction, we have extensive experience in commercial construction as well. This allows us to incorporate construction methods and materials across planes and realize building efficiencies through both residential and commercial.

What is your experience with building luxury homes? Do you have experience building at the level of style and quality that I’m looking for in my home?

Asking a custom home builder about their experience with building luxury homes is a crucial step in making sure that your vision for a high-end, bespoke residence aligns with their capabilities. The builder's answer can identify their expertise, craftsmanship, and ability to deliver the level of style and quality you desire for your dream home.

In addition, gaining an understanding of the builder's experience with luxury homes goes beyond mere construction skills. It delves into their familiarity with intricate design elements, premium materials, and the unique challenges that come with upscale projects.

A top custom home builder with a proven track record in luxury home construction is more likely to have established relationships with top-tier suppliers, craftsmen, and architects, ensuring that your home is constructed with the finest materials and attention to detail.

Cook Bonner Ebeling has successfully completed over 500 custom home projects and renovations. From the Isle of Palms oceanfront to the expansive estates of Brays Island Plantation, our teams have constructed some of the finest homes the Lowcountry has to offer.


How do you show potential clients the level of quality that you are capable of building?

Quality is often a major concern when it comes to building a custom home. By asking this question to a potential builder, you’re essentially seeking assurance that they not only talk about their commitment to quality but also actively demonstrate it.

“The very best way for us to show our potential clients the level of quality that they can expect from our team is to invite them on a home tour. Pictures just don't tell the whole story - we want you to see yourself living in one of the homes we've built, and to hear first hand from our selection coordinator, Devon, just how thoughtful each and every decision was while making finish selections. The home tour may very well be our favorite time spent with a potential client.” – David Ebeling


A reputable custom home builder should have a portfolio of completed projects, including photographs and testimonials that serve as a visual testament to their craftsmanship, attention to detail, and adherence to high-quality standards. 

Seeing a builder’s previous work will give you a better idea of their capabilities and allow you to evaluate their consistency in delivering work of a certain caliber.

Additionally, many reputable builders will even invite you on a home tour after your initial meeting to give you a close-up view of their work and craftsmanship.

How do you select subcontractors, and what is your relationship with them?

The choice of subcontractors plays a highly integral role in the overall construction process, as these individuals or companies contribute specialized skills and expertise to many aspects of building a custom home.

The answer to this question gives you an idea about the builder's approach to putting together a winning team of professionals. Understanding their selection criteria allows you to gauge the caliber of talent and expertise that’ll be involved in the construction of your home.

A well-established builder typically maintains strong relationships with reputable subcontractors, all of whom should share a commitment to excellence. 

At Cook Bonner Ebeling, our investment in quality craftsmanship has been consistent and unwavering since our doors opened in 1976. Many of our trade partners have partnered with us for over two decades, allowing us to manifest a level of quality that is considered the very best in the industry.

How do you create a detailed estimate and timeline for the project? What is the estimation process like and how long does it take?

Asking this question gives you a better idea of your project's scope, cost, and the estimated time it will take to complete.

A detailed estimate is not only a financial roadmap but also a reflection of the builder's thoroughness and expertise, as the estimation process often involves a meticulous evaluation of various factors, including materials, labor, permits, and potential unforeseen challenges.

Equally important is understanding the timeline creation process. A well-thought-out construction timeline reflects the builder's project management skills and ability to coordinate with everyone working on the project.

A timeline sets expectations for project milestones and also ensures that the construction progresses efficiently with limited delays.


How do you handle unexpected challenges or delays? 

How a luxury custom home builder handles unexpected challenges is a major part of deciding on which custom home builder to choose.

The construction process often involves delays ranging from weather-related setbacks to supply chain disruptions and more. Understanding how a builder navigates these challenges provides insight into their adaptability, problem-solving skills, and commitment to keeping your custom home building project on track.

As David Ebeling of Cook Bonner Ebeling puts it, “Instead of using the word ‘challenge’, we substitute the word ‘opportunity’. Any roadblock we encounter along the way provides us with an opportunity for creativity. We are constantly adjusting one schedule to accommodate another — the more creative we get, the better the outcome.”

How long has your company been in business?

It’s important to consider how long a company has been in business because this is a reflection of how well they take care of past clients and nurture those relationships. At Cook Bonner Ebeling, we focus on building a partnership for the life of the home instead of a transaction that ends after the warranty period. We’ve been client-centered since we were founded almost 50 years ago. 

How will my project be directly supervised and how often will I receive project updates? 

The supervision process shows you the level of attention and commitment that your custom home building project will receive. This question also lets you know who will be responsible for decision-making and issue resolution, and who will be your direct point of contact during the entire home building process.

A well-defined supervisory approach demonstrates the luxury home builder's commitment to quality control, how they adhere to timelines, and their style of communication.

“Site supervision is what sets us apart from other builders. We feel our clients are entrusting us with an extremely important obligation to represent their best interest constantly during the build.” – Tray McCune.

Each of our projects is assigned a daily Site Superintendent and a Project Manager. The responsibility of the Superintendent is to be on the job every day. The role of the Project Manager is to look ahead and plan for the upcoming details of the project. This team provides an exceptional build experience for our clients in that they are given peace of mind to enjoy the process instead of worrying about the details.

Our team values consistent and continuous communication, which we believe helps our clients feel more in tune with what is going on as well as helping us manage our team and subcontractors.



If there are any changes to the plan or unforeseen conditions that result in extra costs, what is the process for handling them?

This question is vital for both budget transparency and project management. 

A luxury home builder should always provide clear documentation of any changes, an explanation of the associated costs, and a collaborative decision-making approach between you and the builder.

This helps establish expectations, prevents misunderstandings, and ensures that any modifications to the original plan are managed efficiently. 


“Our clients are never punished for making changes during the course of the project. While our team works very hard to identify design opportunities well ahead of construction, we understand that seeing the spaces in real time is much different than on paper. Changes during construction are treated no differently than if they had been incorporated into the original design; we offer consistent pricing, obtain client approval, and execute.” – David Ebeling

What is your preferred form of contract and why?

The choice of contract can significantly impact the dynamics of your relationship with the luxury home builder and also affect project timelines and financial considerations. 

Inquiring about the custom home builder's preferred contract basis and why they believe it works well gives you a better understanding of the terms, conditions, and overall structure of the contractual agreement. Ultimately, asking this question reduces the risk of misunderstandings and makes sure that you are comfortable with the contractual foundation.

Our clients' feedback has remained consistent for almost 50 years now; we are honest, reliable, and fair, and our integrity is what we are most proud of. 

The cost-plus contract allows us to provide accurate pricing to our clients that is consistent with the quality of homes that our team produces.  We spend tremendous amounts of time establishing working proposals for our projects, and our construction team analyzes our budgets on a constant basis.  If we see that there will be an overage in a particular category, we catch it early, and work hard to offset it with savings in another.  

Material costs can fluctuate during a build, so with a cost plus contract, we have the flexibility to adjust for increasing prices while allowing the client to participate in the price reductions as well. The goal is to anticipate these fluctuations ahead of time and have these conversations with the client and adjust accordingly

We really do believe that this is the fairest way to operate with our clients.

Could you provide some examples of building methods or materials that you prefer and explain the reasons behind your preference?

Many people either forget or don’t know to ask this question, but it allows you to gain an even deeper insight into the luxury home builder's expertise. 

The rationale behind their preferences gives you a clearer view of the builder's decision-making process — if the selected methods and materials meet industry standards and align with your vision. 

By discussing these preferences upfront, you’re in a better position to make informed decisions about the construction process, the materials used, and the overall aesthetic.

Can you provide me with at least one reference from a past client and one from a current client?

Always ask for references. Requesting references from both past and current clients gives you firsthand views into the custom home builder's ongoing performance and their ability to handle different styles.

A reference from a past client showcases the builder's track record and reliability, while a reference from a current client offers a more recent view of their expertise. These references help you to gauge the builder's consistency, professionalism, and effectiveness in delivering on promises.

Hearing directly from those who have experienced the builder's services provides a reliable basis for assessing their capabilities and reinforces their professionalism. 

You can find recommendations from our past clients through our Testimonials page. We are always happy to provide more references so that you can hear about our previous clients’ experiences and feel more confident in your decision.

Choosing the Right Builder for You

Choosing the right custom home builder can make or break your entire custom home building project.

By asking these questions, you will know more about luxury home builders’ experience, management processes, and client relationships. This will equip you with everything you need to know to make the best choice that’s ultimately right for you. 

At Cook Bonner Ebeling Construction, we understand the significance of your dream home and are committed to delivering the absolute best in service and quality.

If you have any questions or want to discuss your project in a little more detail, please send us a message. We’re ready to talk about your dream home and excited to bring your vision to life!


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