Custom Home Quotes And 4 Key Elements to Look For

Posted by Jamie Kline on Jul 15, 2022 11:00:00 AM
Jamie Kline
Custom home quotes

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if after deciding to build a custom home, you immediately found the perfect contractor?

Odds are that’s not going to happen. 

You’re probably going to talk to a few custom home builders and get quotes before signing on any dotted line. It’s just like buying a car -- you’ll check out a few different models and see what’s under the hood before committing to buying.

While not all custom home builders are the same, the information in their quotes should be very similar. And there’s a big difference between what’s considered a good quote and a bad quote. 

What makes a good quote?

Let’s dig into four key elements.

Custom Home Quotes Vs. Estimates

Before jumping into what comprises an adequate custom home quote, we’d like to clear up a common misconception. Quotes are not the same thing as estimates. 


An estimate is essentially a quick quote. It’s nothing more than an educated guess about what it will take to build your home. Usually, a custom home builder can give you an estimate on the fly. A custom home estimate is not a formal commitment to any figures or completion date.   

A quote takes a deep dive into your project. They take a few days to complete. Quotes cover everything you need to know about building a home, from the pre-construction work and costs to the final inspection. An accepted new home build quote guarantees costs and labor. 


4 Key Elements of a Custom Home Quote

For many future custom homeowners who are moving forward in making their dream home a reality, getting quotes is a major step. 

When evaluating a custom home builder’s quote for your next home, make sure it includes:

  1. Building specs
  2. Price breakdown 
  3. Site work
  4. Proposed timeline

1.Building Specs

Building specs are the foundation of any custom home project. They detail everything that goes into the actual construction of a home, from the size of the support beams to the type of insulation between the walls. 

Building specs shouldn’t be confused with blueprints or a floor plan. They go beyond measurements and layout. 

Standard building specs include:

  • Pre-construction services, e.g. obtaining permits 
  • Scope of work
  • A list of materials and quality standards
  • Special installation instructions 
  • Workmanship quality standards

How Building Specs Help You

Building specs are a valuable tool in taking your first step into constructing your next home. 

With a complete set of specs, you’re able to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of competing quotes. 

As building specs lay out everything about a house, you’re able to better design a home to your needs. Maybe you’re looking for a certain type of wood for your floors. Or perhaps you want a few exterior design elements.   

What’s more, building specs help you hire a home builder with eyes wide open. There will be little room for surprises in your finished home and its construction. 


2. Price Breakdown 

The last thing anyone wants when building a custom home is a final bill that exceeds expectations. 

Any quote worth its salt includes a detailed breakdown of how you’ll spend your money. A single, round figure doesn’t cut it.

Building a home is a major expenditure -- one that often takes decades to pay off. You deserve to know exactly how your hard-earned money will be spent. 

Just like a set of building specs, a breakdown of the price to build a custom home helps you accurately compare quotes. 

If it’s not called out, be sure to look into how long a quote’s price is good for. Materials and labor costs do fluctuate. For instance, lumber prices have been volatile since 2020 – driven largely by supply chain issues from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A custom home builder’s quote today might be very different a few months later for the exact same project. 

How Much Does a Custom Home Cost? 

We detail what comprises a custom home’s price in our open letter to Barden clients


Bonus Resource: Our guide, “Introduction to Hard Costs & Soft Costs: A New Way to Look at

Your Custom Home Building Budget,” takes a deep dive into financial planning for a project. 

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3. Site Work

Building a custom home is like cooking a gourmet meal. Before you get to cooking, your kitchen needs to be in order.

In this analogy, site work is getting your kitchen ready. 

Building a home requires a lot more than boards and nails. A good portion of a home’s actual construction starts long before the lumber and materials arrive on-site. And that site work costs money. 

We’ve seen plenty of quotes provided by customers that did not include site prep and its costs. While a quote for just constructing a home may look good, it becomes a different story once site work enters the equation. 

Site work costs are the wild cards in a quote. 


Site work prep often involves multiple specialty contractors. And their costs vary depending on where you live. 

If you don’t already have a lot picked out for your home, a contractor’s quote will likely be lower than what the actual costs will be. 

Like other elements of a solid custom home quote, make sure proposed site work activities are detailed. The site work portion of a quote should include:

  • Grading
  • Excavation 
  • Foundation installation 
  • Tree and brush removal
  • Driveway allowances 
  • Septic tank installation
  • Underground utility line installation 


4. Proposed Timeline 

Some contractors may give you a great quote that syncs up with your budget. However, their idea of when your home will be ready might not be the same as yours. 

Without a timeline, you risk your budget being subjected to upcharges after construction begins. If your custom home builder needs to rush order material, hire more crew members, or expedite work, your building costs go up. 

A construction timeline lets you know exactly what’s being done and when. There won’t be any question about when you should expect to move into your new custom-built home. 

From a practical standpoint, a construction schedule helps you complete important tasks in tandem with your contractor, such as:

  • Securing financing
  • Selling your current home
  • Hiring movers
  • Picking out new furniture


Master Your Project’s Schedule 

Download a copy of our Custom Home Building Checklist to learn about the what’s and when’s of custom home construction:

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Good Quotes = Informed Choices 

Choosing a custom home builder to construct your next house isn’t something that just happens. It should be done carefully. 

When taking the first steps to build your dream home, quotes that cover all the bases leave you better equipped to select the right home builder. 

Explore what it takes to build a home with Barden Building Product’s panelized construction method: 

Custom Home Building Guide: Panelized Home Construction & Building the Barden Way - Learn More

This article was originally published in 2020 and was recently updated to reflect current industry trends. 

Topics: Custom Home, Technical Specs, Process, Home Customization, Construction Timeline

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