Building a new home is the dream of many, but it takes a few more steps than those required for buying an existing home. One of the most important steps, and one that will have an enormous impact on how you remember the homebuilding experience, is choosing the right home builder.
Choosing a home builder is something that you should spend as much time and research on as you would on choosing your future home itself. Builders vary in their level of experience, their homebuilding process, the quality of their work and their communication style. Finding a builder that is a good match for you and your needs is the single most important factor in how your homebuilding adventure proceeds.
Given how important it is for homebuyers to find the right builder, here are seven tips to help in your decision-making.
1. Decide What Type of Home You Want
There are all sorts of home builders out there and not every one is going to meet your needs. Once you decide what kind of home you want, you can then start searching for suitable builders.
As Angie’s List points out, “Builders may specialize in tract, spec or custom homes, so learn the differences and figure out which one is right for you and your homebuying budget.”
Builders might also specialize in a variety of other areas such as two-story homes, villas, senior homes and more. They may specialize in remodeling homes as opposed to building them from the ground up. If you’re building a new home, choose a builder, not a remodeler. The more you can narrow down your home preferences, the easier time you’ll have researching builders. There’s no sense wasting your time on a custom home builder, for example, if a custom home is out of your price range or if you have no interest in being that involved in the home’s design.
2. Research Builders
. Your local home builders association is a great place to start your research. Look up your local association, and then request a list of builders who construct the type of home you are interested in, or who build in the community you’re interested in. You can also get builder referrals from friends, family and colleagues, or from your real estate agent. Realtors are a great source of information about builders and home buying in general. They can give you professional insights about a local builder’s reputation and quality.
3. Check For Basic Requirements
After you develop your short list of candidates, check out their basic information. Are they licensed (if required)? Many home builders list their license number on their website. At the very least, it should be on their marketing materials. Is the builder local? Many buyers prefer to hire local builders who know the area and employ local people. What is the builder’s reputation like? Thanks to the internet, you can easily check a builder’s Yelp or Google reviews, Facebook page and other social media pages to see what others are saying about them. Finally, you can always call city hall and talk with someone in the building inspection or economic development department. They should be able to tell you if the builder has been doing a good job or not.
4. Visit Building Sites
Find active construction sites for the builders you are interested in and visit them. Look for signs of quality materials and safe work practices. Stop in to a model home to grab more information and tour the home. Do you like what you see? How are you treated? What does the finished product look like (inside and outside)?
Cindy Stumpo, a Boston-area custom home builder, also advises speaking to homeowners in the communities you’re interested in and checking into the builder’s suppliers:
“Before hiring a builder, drive past their previous jobs and speak to the homeowners,” Stumpo writes on HGTV.com. “Ask if the builder had good follow-through, whether the job was completed on schedule and on budget and if they were pleased with the quality of work. Also, check the builder’s relationships with subcontractors and supply houses — essentially find out if they pay their bills. A builder who is behind in payments will most likely encounter delays in receiving materials and have a hard time keeping a quality crew.”
5. Interview Your Short List
Now that you’ve narrowed down your selections even more, arrange times to meet with each builder, or the builder’s sales representative. This is your chance to ask questions, see how the builder treats clients and ask for referrals or references. Use this list from the National Association of Home Builders to start brainstorming your questions. Be sure to ask about the process and typical timeframe to completion and whether the workers are employees or subcontractors. Builders who use a number of subcontractors may have more trouble sticking to the timeframe than those who employ their workers. They might also try to pawn problems off on the subcontractor instead of dealing with it themselves, which can be a hassle for you.
6. Let the Builder Ask Questions, Too
Don’t dominate the conversation. Let the builder or sales representative ask questions about you and what you want in a home. This will help them determine if they would be a good fit for you or if another builder (or even another one of their communities) would be a better fit. Conversations like this help builders match buyers with the best solutions and can help avoid headaches due to miscommunication or misunderstandings later on.
7. Don’t Ignore Your Gut
It’s all very well and good to review credentials, check references and tour model homes, but just because everything looks good on paper doesn’t mean it’s right for you. You need to feel comfortable with the builder. You should be able to ask questions freely and receive satisfactory answers. The more transparent a builder is, the better. However, different people require different communication styles; make sure yours and your new builder’s mesh.
It’s Okay to Take Your Time
If you don’t feel like you are getting honest answers or feel that you and the builder are not communicating well, keep looking. You’ll inevitably run into roadblocks and challenges during the process of building a home. If you trust your builder and have a good relationship with them from the start, getting through these challenges will be much easier. Ideally, you’ll find a builder who will be honest and realistic about the process and the challenges that will arise, but will also work hard to make the process as smooth as possible for you. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself for taking the time to do your research and hold out for the right builder once you get into the thick of it!
Liyya Hassanali is a Project Manager and Content Strategist for Kinship Design Marketing, a boutique agency that provides marketing strategies and content for architects, interior designers, and landscape designers. She is a 15+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry, working closely with her clients to provide written content that meets their marketing goals and gets results.
Liyya is passionate about home design and décor and is a confessed HGTV and Pinterest addict. When not providing content writing services for her clients, she can be found browsing home décor sites or spending time with her family.