Through a Builder’s Eyes

It’s one thing to tour a custom home with potential home buyers. It’s a completely different experience to walk through a luxury home with a group of custom builders. What draws awe from the home buyers invites scrutiny from the builders.

While on a tour of multi-million dollar custom homes last month, I was privy to insights from some of the more than 200 custom builders on the tour with me. Before entering each home, its vitals were announced: $4 million including land; $400 per square foot; and even $1,400 per square foot. Impressive numbers, right? Not according to some builders on the tour.

Every element of these homes was subjected to inspection. The spiral staircase in one home looked beautiful, but for some of the builders, with their faces only inches from the steps, they focused on the wood veneer glued to the front and back of each step, and not exactly flush at the top. Builders predicted a warranty call within six months of owner move-in to replace the wood that inevitably, they said, would fall off.

In other situations, the architecture was called into question. These homes sit on waterfront properties yet one design didn’t take advantage of the view. Upon entering the home, we were staring at a wall rather than through a window at the lake behind the house. Then, leaning on the railing overlooking the two-story great room and the lake beyond it, several of us noticed how difficult it was to see the water. The wall of windows on the rear of the home was interrupted by a catwalk that supported two chairs, an end table and a clear view of the lake; interesting but unfortunate design according to many on the tour.

Building materials, craftsmanship, products and all aspects of design were scrutinized. But to be fair, these homes were beautiful. They sat on gated streets in a gated community. Neighboring homes included those owned by Celine Dion and Paula Abdul. These were nice homes to say the least, which makes the good-spirited criticism of them that much more meaningful. No detail is too small to be overlooked.

My cab driver the next day — a former local carpenter — said these builders were being too picky and suggested they look at their own homes with the same level of scrutiny. That’s fair. But what about you? What would happen if these builders walked through the homes you design or build? Are you confident enough to invite a group of your builder and architect friends to critique the next project you complete? Let them submit anonymous criticism if they don’t want to hurt your feelings. You might be surprised at how they view your work.

Or, at the very least, take yourself on the next local custom home open house and go through it with a critical eye. Make note of your observations, then scrutinize your homes in the same way. What do you notice?