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Choosing a Builder |
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How To Choose A Builder
Buyers often tell us they want the "best" homebuilder in the business to build their home. The difficulty with that statement is that there is no one best builder or even one best type of builder for all buyers or even all homes. The truth of the matter is that some builders are a better fit than others are with certain types of buyers and certain types of homes. That means a builder who is highly recommended by a friend or a relative of yours might not be the best builder for your needs.
Start with sources you trust, such as co-workers, friends and family members who have custom homes. Check out the local bookstore or library for reference material. Contact the local residential building associations, building inspectors and building supply companies. Keep your ears open for remarks about those who pays their bills on time, have good relationships with subcontractors, and who does quality work. Take it all with a grain of salt, since you’re getting other people’s opinions. But you’ll hear useful insights that can help you avoid some builders outright and help you ask better questions when you interview potential builders.
Go through the yellow pages, real estate guides, Sunday newspaper real estate sections and drive through new and old neighborhoods to get a feel for how new construction differs from the past.
You’ll eventually develop a list of potential builders. Call them and briefly describe the size and design of the home you have in mind. Ask them:
- Would they be interested in building your type of home?
- How many homes do they build a year?
- How many homes do they build simultaneously?
- Will they provide financial references from banks and their suppliers?
- Will they provide a list of previous clients?
You want to develop a clear sense about work ethic, qualifications, availability, solvency and customer satisfaction.
Interview Them in Person:
Select up to five builders to meet in person. Get acquainted. You’re going to spend a lot of time with them and it’s important that you establish rapport. Ask them what they look for in a project—the type of customer they like to work with, the type of house they like to build. They should ask you similar questions: What do you expect from them? Show them your house plans. If you haven’t purchased land yet, ask what type of land they prefer to build on. Tell them the type of lot you want. If your house is destined for the type of lot they like to avoid, better to know that up front. Ask them for a copy of their standard contract. And remember they have a right to interview you, too!
Aside from discovering if they’re qualified and interested in building your house, you want to get a sense of how well they communicate with you and what it will be like to work with them, particularly when you have differences. At some point during the building process, there will be a misunderstanding, miscommunication or mistake. Hopefully it will be minor. It may be your fault, theirs or you may share responsibility. There is nothing wrong with either of you having strong opinions or preferences and “agreeing to disagree.” However, you need to understand what it will be like to resolve differences with them. What is and is not negotiable. How well the two of you can reach a compromise. You both have a vested interest in a completed, quality home that you want to live in. It is important that you speak candidly about this early.
Call References, Visit References and Job Sites:
When you call there past clients, check your interview findings vs. their experience. Ask if you can see their home. Visiting a current job site is also worthwhile to see if you like the workmanship in progress. Is the site safe and clean?
Having reached this point, you may now know that even without comparing prices, there are one or two builders who probably aren’t a good fit for you and your new home. For those that remain, ask them to bid the job and prepare a contract.
For details on evaluating contracts and pricing, go to Construction Contracts section.