How to Choose a Home Builder
When you begin building your dream home, one of the most important things is choosing the right home builder. There are many options out there, but you want to make sure you find one that will make the process a breeze. We have compiled ten things we think every buyer should evaluate when choosing a home builder to build their next home.
Every builder started at some point and it is important to know how long its principals have been building homes, but it is even more important to choose a builder who has experience managing multiple projects, constructed a variety of different types and styles of homes and is a full time seasoned professional. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the company or the professionals history.
Key things to watch out for is part-time home builders, past bankruptcies or business failures, limited experience outside one or two floorplans or finish styles and limited transparency to their building practices, materials, portfolio of work, communication and process.
The pre-construction and planning process is the most important step in the building process so it is important to interview the builder. Remember you are the customer and it is important to understand their achievements, but also ask questions and observe whether the builder listens and clearly and completely answers your questions.
Process and Communication
It has become very fashionable for companies to tout best in class communication, but what does that mean? We believe the keys to effective communication lie in a home builders’ ability to create a positive working and personal relationship. There are many stresses associated with building a home; however, we believe it is the responsibility of the home builder to reduce this stress throughout the process.
It is imperative to choose a home builder that can not only describe the building process step by step, but has a proven process to select and design interior finishes and timely track and record change orders and upgrades. We oftentimes hear about poor experiences with home building and it usually starts with little guidance and assistance during selections combined with a lack of transparency regarding upgrades and change orders.
Building a home is not only a large financial commitment, but it also involves spending significant amount of time with the builder and their organization so it is important to choose someone that you will enjoy working with for several months.
Home Site Availability
Sometimes the hardest part of the home building process is selecting the perfect home site. There are several key considerations when choosing the lot to build your new home.
Stable, safe and respected neighborhood in area of active growth
Desirable school district
Easy access to major roadways
Proximity to work
Proximity to retail and frequent activities
Desired neighborhood demographics (age, families, etc…)
Home Site Characteristics:
Does the area support desired size, style and price of home
Attractive surroundings, comparable or nicer homes with attractive landscaping
Covenants allow you to build the house you want
Desired size of lot, in particular does your desired home fit
Lot slopes to allow for desired basement (walkout/daylight/flat)
Sewer system and other underground utilities
Level or gradual slop from the rode
Fully usable. No ditches, ruts or irregular surfaces
Zoned exclusively for single family
Remember you can always remodel and update a home down the road, but you cannot change the lot that the home is built on.
Design Options to Meet Your Needs
An experienced custom home builder should have experience building homes across styles, sizes and prices. Although each custom home is typically unique, a quality builder will have a library of plans or resources to reference, identify, draw and tweak to meet your lifestyle and design style. Builders that have little experience outside of a couple plans may have difficulties if your project is unique.
Beyond a plan library, a reputable builder should have an online gallery of completed projects featuring homes across multiple styles and price points. A builder that has completed home styles similar to your own personal style is going to be able to provide you with better material recommendations and access to many suppliers with desired finishes.
Transparency with Specifications
As mundane as this part of the homebuilding process may seem, it is one of the most important. A home is no doubt a large investment and like any investment you should do your research to make sure it is superior to other available options. A quality builder will provide you with detailed specifications for two reasons.
The first is transparency, a smooth process begins here, nobody wants to be surprised during the building process or shocked if something was excluded. The detailed specifications help to eliminate this issue by clearly detailing what is and isn’t included in the home.
The second reason a quality home builder provides detailed specifications is to highlight the value that they are including. Oftentimes builders will cut corners and provide skinny allowances to entice a potential buyer with a low starting price. These clients may find themselves running into significant upgrades along the way as little was included in the initial price. For a home builder, this approach is enticing to secure business, but it tends to end with unhappy clients as the home price can change dramatically during the build.
Quality Construction Practices & Materials
Higher standards mean lasting value and that starts with the people building it. Although it is important to understand the materials used to build your home it is even more important to understand builder practices, inspections and on site involvement of experienced professionals.
Key questions to ask a home builder about quality and practices include:
Who will oversee the construction of my home?
What’s your process for inspection at key points of construction, at final walk-through, and to address any matters that need to be corrected or finalized?
How will questions and concerns be addressed during construction?
Ho do you qualify the competency of people and subcontractors that will work on our home?
What are the major energy-saving features in the homes you build?
Do you have a written warranty? And what is the warranty service process?
Will the builder give your references of recent buyers/occupants?
Are there options in the floor plan and how much customizing can be done versus standard features?
Do I have access to the jobsite during construction?
Tour Constructed Homes
There is absolutely no substitute for this step. When purchasing a new car, one of the first things you do is take it for a test drive. Although, builders can’t allow you to spend the night in ones of their homes…it is important to tour their completed homes to see their finished product.Try to avoid touring too many homes in one day, it becomes difficult to remember and compare effectively. If you must preview more than a couple homes in a day, for example if you are relocating and are from out of town, plan a break after every two communities to collect your thoughts as you rest and recharge with a meal or snack. It is also a very good idea to take notes to help draw comparisons between floor plans, communities, quality and builder finishes.
Value vs. Price
It is common for buyers to evaluate value based on providers who can provide the “lowest price per square foot” or the lowest base price. This process may work for entry level production housing, but even then there are a number of different points to consider including location, lot price and most importantly specifications included in the base price or rather in most of these cases what isn’t included.
Unfortunately, there is not an easy rule here when evaluating options, and as the homes become more custom you have to look at the big picture in relation to price and consider all aspects of the finished product.
Lot location, size and type
The grade of finishes you want in your home
The level of customization and design
The floor plan and type of home you want
The total size of the home, including garages, storage etc.
Included features outside the home, decks, patios, landscaping etc…
Building process, communication,
Customer service and warranty
Client Reviews & Referrals
Many builders offer customer references and referrals. If not, ask. And in either case, follow up. A few great questions to ask: Would you buy another home from this builder? Or recommend them to close friends or family? And don’t forget to ask for the key reasons why a past home buyer would or would not recommend a builder. At the very least hop on Google and look around, you can usually find reviews or horror stories pretty quickly.
One of the top advantages of new construction is that your home itself and most of the products, systems and components it contains are brand-new and under warranty. The peace of mind that comes with knowing that major repairs or a new roof are likely years away is important. Most importantly look for a builder who provides prompt and courteous service and who takes time to explain the proper maintenance and care that any home needs.