Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What does Custom Home mean?

A lot of builders say they are custom builders or they build custom homes.  That may be true but there are various ways to define that term, “custom”.  Some builders call themselves custom if they allow you several choices or upgrades from their standard product.

At Cornerstone Builders, we consider both the product and the process to be customized to each of our clients.  As far as the process, some people want to be more involved, some prefer to be less involved.  Some of our clients are on the site every day.  Some live out of town and visit the site only occasionally.

As far as the product; ie: the home itself; we will work with you to determine the details, the products, the surfaces and the finishes that you want and that you can afford.  Some of our clients want to know what we usually do in a certain situation, others have very specific ideas of what they want.  Every Cornerstone Builders home is customized to each client.  In fact, since 1981, we have never built the same house twice.

The bottom line is that you decide where the priorities are, and we follow your lead.

  1. Can I use cost per square foot to compare builders?

Probably not in any meaningful or specific way.  Square foot cost can be a helpful gauge to see if your budget is realistic.  For that reason, it can be a valuable question to ask a builder what he or she thinks the approximate square foot cost might be for a given plan or idea.  But if you ask another builder the same question and the answer is $10 or $20 per square foot cheaper, that does not mean that builder will save you money in the end.  It depends on what they are including in that estimate.  Do they include site work?  Driveway?  Utilities?  Appliances?  Landscaping?  Even sometimes foundation or concrete slabs are not included.  We like to think of cost per square foot as a useful tool, but maybe just as much as a rock is a useful tool for pounding in a nail… you can get the job done, but don’t try to get too precise.

  1. How do I find a builder that I can trust?

First step is to download our free report:     CLICK HERE       In a nutshell, it’s a lot more than just asking for references.  It’s a big job but someone has to do it.  That’s one job you can’t hire out. 

  1. When people talk about the square footage of a house, what are they measuring and how do they arrive at that cost?

This seems to be regionally determined.  In our area, most often, the square footage of a home or commercial building is the measurement to the outside of the exterior walls, of all the heated or conditioned space.  So if you have a house that measures 40’x50′ to the outside of the exterior walls, with a 24′ x 24′ garage, the square foot price will be based on 2000 square feet.  (the garage isn’t really free, though!)

So if you take the above house on a city lot with a 2-car garage, a short driveway, and utilities that are already paid, and compare that to the exact same 2000 square foot house on a 5 acre parcel with a 3-car garage, a 400 foot long driveway, and an expensive septic system, the second house will cost more per square foot, even though it may have the same detailing inside.

  1. What is included in cost per square foot?

That’s a wild card!   There are legitimate reasons to calculate it in different ways.  Sometimes, builders will delete various costs from the calculation to make the square foot cost lower.  That seems a bit devious to us.  When we at Cornerstone Builders talk about square foot cost, it includes everything to get you ready to move into the house.  The only two things we usually don’t include are landscaping and window coverings.  When you ask a builder about square foot costs, you need to ask what costs are not included… such as septic system, well, utility hook-ups, permit costs, city or county fees, appliances; sometimes even concrete slabs, sidewalks and more.  Think it through.           And realize:  Here in Washington State, when building a custom home on your land, the construction contract amount is fully subject to sales tax.  8.4% in Clallam County, except Sequim where it is 8.7%.   So don’t forget to ask if that’s included in any builder’s square foot cost.