The first step to getting real value from Pinterest, and other sites like it, is to understand the strengths and weaknesses

Many of our custom home clients love photo-sharing sites like Pinterest, and those sites can be a big help when searching for design and product ideas. However, they can also lead to frustration and disappointment. The result you get depends on how you use the sites.

We want the process of designing and building a new custom home to be as enjoyable as possible. We never want you to feel disappointed. With that in mind, we’d like to offer advice on how to get the most from these sites, along with some cautions about pitfalls.

The main thing to understand is that images seen online are best used as sources of inspiration. 

Let’s say that you find photos of a home with a unique steel entry door. Your next step should be to show the photos to your architect, designer, and custom home builder so you can work together to find something as similar as possible that also satisfies the custom builder’s quality and warranty standards. After all, those standards are why you hired them in the first place.

What these sites are not suited for is product sourcing. That can be a surprise to some.

The surprise is understandable. In a retail world dominated by Amazon, we’ve come to expect that we can click on a product and have it show up at our house a few days later. It will have an attractive price and can be easily returned if it doesn’t suit us. We’ve internalized these expectations.

But things aren’t as simple when making selections for a new home. Products that you see on photo-sharing sites—or on Amazon, for that matter—tend to have issues that make them inappropriate. The main issues are budget and warranty which, unsurprisingly, are closely linked.

On Pinterest and the like, it’s easy to find pictures of beautiful interior designs with unique products, but those products seldom have costs attached. You can look around online for a cost, but if you find one it probably won’t be reliable.

Consider that steel door again. Let’s say you do some digging and find the one in the picture for a list price of $2,500. If you bring it to your builder, you might be told that their supplier doesn’t sell that model but can get one of similar design and color for an installed price of $5,000.

You may question why you need to purchase from that supplier. The answer is simple: custom home builders who care about their reputations and their clients only work with vendors who offer proven products, solid warranties, and reliable after-sale service. Unproven products from unfamiliar companies pose risks for everyone.

As professional custom home builders, we need to be able to stand behind everything that goes into your new home. That means we have to be very picky about what we buy and who we buy it from.

The truth is that the ability to find pricing data online is a double-edged sword. When people get emotionally attached to a product, they often avoid information that might dissuade them. They may not correlate its price to its quality and warranty, and they may not scrutinize the seller.

The best way to ensure an enjoyable selection process with no regrets is to use the internet wisely. Collect photos of designs and products you love. Get excited about them. Then sit down with your architect, designer, and custom builder and work together to find great products that give you the same good feeling and will provide reliable service for years to come.