How to Evaluate a Custom Home Builder

When making a decision about which Sacramento-area custom home builder you work with, there are several important factors to consider. You don’t want to choose the first contractor you interview who has the appropriate licenses and seems to know how to swing a hammer. A good builder will have many other characteristics beyond the basic skills required to get a license, and those characteristics could make the difference between getting the building the luxury home of your dreams and a very expensive hole in the ground. Below, we list some of the things you should look for in a good custom home builder.


It’s important to select a custom home builder who has plenty of experience designing and constructing energy efficient homes, which are sometimes referred to as “smart homes”. The CEO of ESI Builders, Dave Sipes, has decades of experience building these types of homes. In fact, it’s our goal that every home we build have a net zero energy bill—in other words, we want your electric bill to be as low as possible. Accomplishing this takes a very good understanding of how every aspect of a home’s design affects energy efficiency, which is not something most contractors will have.

One way to determine if a custom home builder you are considering has the skills necessary to build you an energy efficient home is to see if they are participating in the Energy Upgrade California (EUC) program. This program is a state initiative to help Californians take action to save energy and conserve natural resources, help reduce demand on the electricity grid, and make informed energy management choices at home and at work. Contractors like ESI Builders can be certified by EUC as a way of demonstrating that they have the competency to design and build net zero homes.


Another characteristic of a good custom home builder is that they will be participating members of industry associations that provide continuing education programs and certifications. These associations usually hold their members to a higher standard than what is required for a basic contractor’s license, and thus members tend to be experienced, trusted, qualified, ethical and dependable business owners.

One such organization is the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), of which ESI Builders is proud to be a member. The purpose of NARI is to advance and promote the remodeling industry’s professionalism, product and vital public purpose, and to help consumers identify builders and remodelers who are committed to excellence in every regard. As a member of NARI, we have access to training and resources that help us stay at the top of our game.

Contingency plans

One thing that many people don’t think about when choosing a custom home builder is the possibility that something could happen to their contractor.   If you hire a contractor who is basically a one-man company, you run the risk of your project grinding to a halt if that person is incapacitated by an accident or medical problem.

At ESI Builders, we have a three-man leadership team consisting of CEO David Sipes and vice presidents Allen Priest and Bob Wellman. We have contingency plans in place so that if anything happens to a member of the leadership team, the company will continue to function with minimal disruption to our clients.

Insurance and licenses

At the risk of stating the obvious, when selecting a luxury home builder, you should not even consider working with a company that doesn’t have the appropriate licenses and insurance coverage. When it comes to insurance, a contractor should not only have worker’s comp insurance, but also liability insurance. Otherwise, you as the property owner could end up being liable if someone is hurt while working on your property.

Use of subcontractors

Just about every custom home contractor uses at least some subcontractors, and ESI Builders is no exception. However, it is important that the contractor have a process in place for finding and vetting subcontractors to ensure that the quality of the work they perform meets the same high standards of the general contractor.

ESI Builders does have such a process, and when selecting subcontractors we only use companies with a proven track record, and who are recommended to us by people we know and trust.   We have working relationships that go back many years with most of the subcontractors we use.

As you can see, there is a lot to think about when selecting a custom home builder, and it can be a little overwhelming. However, it is worth taking the time to do your due diligence and make sure the company you choose is one that represents the best our industry has to offer.