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10 Steps for Selecting the Right Builder

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Selecting the right builder for your needs is easy with these 10 steps.

Selecting the right home building firm for your needs and for the type of new home you seek is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your home buying process.

Fortunately, there are some proven ways to speed up the research and selection process and to help ensure that you find a quality builder who’s a good match to construct your new home.

In addition to the 10 key steps below, you may also want to review the other recommended articles at the end of this piece. They offer questions to ask a builder, a comparison of custom and production home builders, and a guide to who does what in the process of building your new home. Together, this advice can greatly speed your search for a builder and increase your confidence in that decision.

10 Steps to Select the Right Builder

1. Define your needs. What size, type and price range of home do you need?
2. Experience counts. While every builder was once a new builder, experience matters.
3. Are past buyers satisfied? Ask for – and check – references from past home buyers.
4. Verify the builder is licensed (where required) and adequately insured.
5. Is there a design fit? Does this builder have expertise in the style of home you seek?
6. Warranty and service. How does this builder stack up for each?
7. Resale value. Have past homes from this builder maintained or increased value?
8. Industry involvement. Is the builder a member of the local Home Builder’s Association?
9. Tour model homes or customer homes. There’s absolutely no substitute for this step.
10. Look for signs of quality. In workmanship, materials and practices when you tour these homes.

Here’s a bit more detail on each step above:

Define your needs: While some builders construct a broad range of homes, many builders also specialize in a specific type of home, price range, or style. For example, not many firms build starter homes for first-time buyers and also multi-million dollar homes for affluent custom home buyers. The building materials, trade contractors and even the building process itself can differ greatly by type and price of home. Look for a fit here.

Experience counts: Every home building firm (including the most experienced and well-regarded companies today) once built their first home. And many new home building firms were started by experienced veterans of other builders. Don’t overly discount a new firm – especially if their team includes seasoned pros – but do look for strong experience overall and in the type of home you seek.

Are past home buyers satisfied? 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.

Is the builder licensed and insured? Not every state or area requires builders to be licensed, but make sure that you work with a licensed builder in such areas. Ask about the insurance that the builder and his or her trade contractors carry. Make sure that they and you are covered during the building process.

Is there a design fit? A builder whose entire portfolio consists of contemporary homes may not be the best fit for that highly traditional home you seek – and vice-versa. While many builders have expertise in a variety of design styles and architectural details, in general, look for a builder whose work includes at least some examples of the style of home you want.

Warranty and service: 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. In addition, look for a structural warranty of ten years or longer on the home itself, ideally transferable to a new owner should you sell. Also look for a builder who provides prompt and courteous service under warranty and who takes time to explain the proper maintenance and care that any home needs.

Resale Value: Good reputations follow good builders, among homeowners and Realtors. Look for builders whose homes tend to hold or maintain their value. Granted, the last few years saw some declines in home value, for one of the first times in history due to the market. So this is not an exact science, but where you see a builder’s homes maintain or increase in value, that’s a good sign. Also look for Realtor ads that specifically mention the name of a builder for a home for sale that’s now five or seven years old. That Realtor clearly sees the builder’s brand name as a big plus.

Industry Involvement: Not every good builder chooses to join their local Home Builder Association, so don’t place too much emphasis on this. However, such membership does tend to show that a builder is committed for the long-term to the area. It’s also a sign of commitment to new home community developers, building product suppliers and trade contractors that work in your city or town.

Tour model homes and/or homes this builder built for past buyers: Once you’ve narrowed down a list of prospective builders using the criteria above, this is the most important step. Nothing substitutes for touring a home built by a builder on your short list. It can be a furnished and decorated model home that’s open to the public. Or, it can be a home the builder constructed for a past buyer that you visit by appointment. In either case, pay careful attention to the look, feel and quality of the home.

Look for signs of quality: Look for signs of quality construction and attention to detail when you visit the homes above. Also consider the building products that a builder uses. Are they brands with well-earned reputations for quality? What about the homes under construction you passed on the way to the completed model home? Were there signs of care and attention there, as well?

Last, look for the quality of people who work for the builder: Did the builder’s employees show sincere interest in you and your needs? Did they listen carefully? Did they provide good answers to your questions? Were they courteous, prompt and professional in your interactions with them in the model home, sales center or builder’s office?

With the ten steps above, you’ll be well on your way to selecting a good builder who’s a good fit for you, your needs, and the new home you’ll build together.