Custom builds give you total personalization. The flexibility to design your own home just the way you like it! But let’s get real y’all, it’s also a total nightmare sometimes. Decision fatigue. Countless planning hours. Money. Just ask me– I’m in the middle of building our forever home right now. If you’re thinking about building a custom home, where do you start?

What’s the process look like?

How do you even do it?

Today, I’ll cover the 5 most important things you need to know about building a custom home and how to make your process run a bit smoother.

Always build a house checklist.

So, you’ve decided to build a home from the ground up. It’s a daring challenge, but I’ve got a few tips and tricks up my sleeves to share. The first and most important one–build a checklist!

On this checklist, include:

❶ A lookbook. Use magazine cutouts or Pinterest. Get as much information as you can about the style and look you’re going for. After you start building, so many factors come into play that will limit your vision. Budget, what’s possible construction-wise, and logistics. It’s always best to over-prepare and have plenty of ideas on hand.

❷ Friendly and trained experts. Pick good people that “get you!” You’re going to spend A LOT of time with your build team and contractors.

❸ Planner. Keep a notebook or planner with you to jot down things as they come up. Keep track of your dates and timelines. Also, keep in mind, you will experience delays in your custom home building process. It’s inevitable. No matter how prepared you are, expect some one-offs.

❹ Budget. Specify a clear budget and add a 20% contingency budget on top (for anything that comes up along the way).

Managing Expectations is Key

Even if you define your budget and planner, reality will kick in. Know that your build WILL look different on paper than it does in real life.

For example, in our home, we asked for three cased windows in a nook with a backyard view. But, the divisions between the window created a block in the scenic area. We ended up getting one large one instead.

This is why it’s so important to give yourself time and attention as you develop your plans.

Don’t rush the process.

Once you finalize your blueprint plans on paper, builders will only go off of that.

If you start making changes AFTER, it will cost you money and time. 

Communication Will Save you Costly Mistakes.

There’s a lot of timelines to keep track of in the custom home building process. Tile shipment delays. Kitchen cabinet installations. Space planning. Builders asking you A LOT of questions. Remember, the style decisions and placements will be yours. Your builder will only install.

My best advice? VISIT your building site AS OFTEN as possible. Communicate regularly with your contractor. Ask questions.

What’s coming up next design-wise?

Which decisions do you need me to start brainstorming by next week?

The more you stay in-the-know, the less you’ll feel frantic…

Asking questions like, “Wait, WHAT? You need me to pick the kitchen cabinets out by tomorrow!?”

Your Builder is NOT an Interior Designer

Builders want you to love your home, and they’ll support the process as much as possible. But, builders are not designers. They are truly experts in their own field, however.

They’ll stay transparent on every nitty-gritty detail you ask about, like load-bearing walls, plumbing lines, and construction how-tos.

BUT, grout colors? Tile shapes?

They don’t care.

It’s your choice and your style. They’ll install and work their magic based on what YOU choose. You’ve got to pinpoint your style and look BEFORE you start your custom home building project.

That is why designers and builders are a perfect partnership. Each of us brings our expertise, which results in a functional, safe, and beautiful home that you’ll appreciate for years to come.

To Buy or to Build

On average, it costs $313,316 to build a custom home ($100 to $200 per square foot). This means a 2,800-square-foot home = $280,000 to $560,000 to build.

Custom and luxury homes cost $200 to $500 per square foot, in addition to labor (makes up about 40% of the build cost), along with permits and design fees. AND materials. This makes up the rest of your build cost.

So, before you dive into your home build project, brainstorm pros and cons. Everyone is different. And so, which pros and cons speak to you will vary.


  • Personalization of every detail.
  • Layout/space planning control.
  • Quality of finishes and materials.


  • Higher budget needed.
  • Custom builds require a lot of time.
  • In most cases, you will have to find and purchase your own land for your custom build.

✬ Home advisor has great resources, including a house building cost calculator, budget building estimator, AND costs by state or city. The decision to custom build should reflect your priorities alone, including things like:

  • Money
  • Time
  • Availability

Building a custom home soon?

I’ve helped many others and would love to give you the benefit of my design experience!

Find me at

On Instagram @courtneywarren

See my Facebook page for more design tips!

Or check out what our team here at Courtney Warren Home can do for YOU on our YouTube channel!

Got design questions? Consult with me (safely), and let’s find ways to help you love your home!
I offer a complimentary, no-strings-attached phone call consultation. We can also consult by video conference. If you’d like to meet in your home, please know we will use all current safety protocols.