Custom Home Building FAQs


Custom home builders construct unique homes based on a client’s specifications. A design-build custom home builder guides clients in designing their homes and manages the build process. In contrast, a speculation builder constructs a unique design and then looks for buyers.

Clients of custom home builders ultimately have a home suited for their needs. This home-building approach is very different from homes built by tract or mass builders, where the builder makes all design decisions.


To some folks, the role of a custom home builder is a little mysterious. These home builders construct a home on the client’s land. Many custom home builders will also assist clients in designing their homes. Some custom home builders will build homes per a design plan supplied by the client.

Building a home from scratch is a complex undertaking. To build the home of your dreams, you need a team. Your build team will include many specialists, such as foundation builders, bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc. The custom home builder is the captain of the team. Custom home builders also handle all the building permits required to complete the home.

The custom home builder coordinates all of the work in the proper sequence. Essentially, the custom home builder takes the two-dimensional blueprint and turns it into a finished home, which matches the buyer’s vision.


In our experience, it takes between 10 to 16 months to build most custom homes in Northern Virginia. Your timeframe will depend on:

  • The type of home you are building
  • The materials you select
  • The time of year you are building*

*For example, if you are starting during a rainy period, you may have weather-related delays.


Some folks buy the land first then seek out a custom builder. According to an article in The Washington Post, this is often not the ideal sequence.

As the Post article reports, buyers often spend less time and money, when they engage the builder first.

When custom home buyers purchase a lot and then hire a builder, they may move too slowly. To avoid making the mistake of purchasing the wrong lot, some buyers ask for a “study period.”  They use this time to assemble a design team and evaluate the lot. In a hot market, many sellers will not wait for the study period.

By defining your building requirements first, you can more quickly determine the suitability of raw land. When land is scarce, as it is in Northern Virginia, you must move fast in acquiring the land. With your build team in place, you can more rapidly evaluate each potential property.


Step 1: Define your budget  

You should first define your budget. This drives everything. Your budget will establish how much land you can buy and the type of house you can build. To get an idea of current custom build costs, research the local market.

Meet with a few builders and discuss your specific needs and potential budget. Builders will give you an idea of their process and potential fees. Meet with a few real estate agents, who specialize in acquiring land. The real estate agents will provide information on current land costs.

Step 2: Select your builder 

After you meet with a few builders, select one with which you would like to work. Feel free to contact Kohlmark Builders if you want to discuss a potential project. We will discuss your basic home specifications and help you determine the type of land you will need.

At this stage, you should also engage a real estate agent who focuses on acquiring land. If you do not have a real estate agent to help you in acquiring land, we can recommend one.

Read about Kohlmark Builders’ Custom Home Building Process.

Step 3: Obtain Financing 

After you decide to build, meet with your local bank or credit union and discuss your financial needs. If you line up potential financing early, it is easier for you to purchase the ideal lot as soon as you find it. Many financial institutions will provide financing for the entire process, such as:

  • Land acquisition
  • Construction and development loans
  • The mortgage on the completed home

Step 4: Acquire the land 

In any budget for building a custom home, the cost of the land is the single largest line item. Typically, in Northern Virginia, your land costs between 25% and 50% of the overall cost of your custom home.

Your chosen custom home builder will help you evaluate the property you are considering. The builder will often walk the lot with you and assess how it fits in your construction plans.

Step 5: Finalize your design specifications 

Once you acquire the land, your builder will develop a detailed building plan. The builder creates a construction schedule and discusses your building options. Our building team will review the architect’s design and make sure it fits your budget and lot.

During this phase, you will make most of your key decisions, as many as 50 different decisions. You will need to select finishes, colors, materials, energy efficiency elements, etc.  Making all the decisions at this phase makes the construction phase much easier.

Step 6: Construction Phase 

After you have made all of the design decisions, your custom builder will start the building phase. This phase involves preparing the land for the build, building the foundation, and finally building the home.


Define Your Needs 

Establish your price range by doing some research on typical prices in Northern Virginia. Determine the style and size of the home you want to build. After you determine your needs, start your custom home builder research.

Seek Out Experienced Builders 

Look for builders with experience in the size and style of home you want to build. Ask friends for references. Conduct your research. View their online portfolios. Do their projects match your vision?

Interview Your Top Two or Three Candidates 

Schedule a face-to-face (or zoom) meeting with each potential builder. Discuss their approach. Request a tour of one of their completed projects and perhaps a current job site.

Prepare and ask each custom builder some key questions, such as: 

  1. Do you have experience building custom homes of my style and budget?
  2. Do you complete your jobs on time?
  3. Can you describe your estimating process?
  4. How soon could I get an estimate from you?
  5. Whom on your team would you have manage building my home?
  6. How long do you believe it will take to build my home?
  7. How do you qualify your subcontractors?
  8. Can you provide me with some client references?

Contact us if you want to discuss building a custom home in Northern Virginia.