The most important decision you will make on the road to your custom home is choosing the right builder. Choose well and you will have a true partner; one that will bring to life your dream home, and ultimately a house that your family will love living in for a lifetime. Settle for less-than-the-right-fit and you may regret it, not just during the build, but for years to come.

Here are five tips to consider before choosing a custom home builder:

Focus on quality first.

A custom home isn’t a temporary residence. This is the place where you and your family will live for years to come. The place where your children will laugh, play and run down the halls. The place where you’ll entertain family and friends during holidays, birthdays and Saturday afternoons. The last thing you want to worry about are repairs, especially repairs to critical structural systems that may be difficult and costly to fix or upgrade later.

Your first priority when selecting a builder should be the quality of their work. Ask to tour past projects, be sure to check references, and question the builder about the structural materials you can’t see.

The key to your home’s longevity is a solid foundation throughout, and your custom home builder should be choosing high quality products from the countertops all the way down to the framing. Ask builder candidates what materials they use, so you can be sure that you are getting a quality-built home from the ground up.

Do your research.

Narrowing your search for a builder can be a bit overwhelming. A good start is searching based on your future home’s location. From there, you can browse for builder portfolios and past floor plans. Word-of-mouth is also a great way to learn about local builders.

Consult friends and family who have already built custom homes, create a list of potential builders and conduct thorough interviews.

Remember transparency is critical.

Some of the best builders to work with are fully transparent and happy to answer every question from the start. They will give you a timeline and a comprehensive estimate in a prompt manner. They will tell you their building philosophy and what products they use. And, they’ll tell you their relationship with contractors and all the different people who will be helping build your home. Steer clear of builders who have trouble answering these questions clearly.

Never be afraid to ask questions.

This might be the first time you’ve built a custom home, and no one enjoys appearing uneducated. But, building a custom home is a huge investment of both your money and time. A good builder is not only willing to answer even your most ridiculous questions, but will encourage you to ask them as well.

Make sure your communication styles are in sync.

Find a builder and design team with whom you can connect. The ideal team will ask questions and listen to your goals and vision. They will work hard to understand what products and design will best fit your lifestyle. Connecting on needs and wants early in the process can help avoid headaches later.

If a builder takes long periods of time to respond to you, it may be an early sign that you will experience frustration with communication throughout the build. You want a builder who responds promptly and makes you feel like their only customer.

In the end, you want a home that has been crafted to fit your family’s needs. There will most likely be more than one road block along the way, so be sure to choose a builder who will make that road as smooth as possible.

There’s no silver bullet for selecting the right builder for you. But, following these tips may help lead you toward a builder you can trust and one that uses quality materials on your dream home.