Building A New Home
If you’re in the market for a new home, you should shop for your builder as carefully as you shop for your home. Whether you are buying a condo, a townhouse, a house in a subdivision, or a custom built house, you want to know that you are buying a good quality home from a reputable builder. Here are a couple of tips to help you choose a builder.
Make A List of Possible Builders
Once you have thought about the type of house you want, you will need to find a builder.
- Contact your local home builders’ association to obtain a list of builders who build homes in your area.
- Look in the real estate section of you local newspaper for builders and projects. Looking through the ads and reading the articles can help you to learn which builders are active in your area, the types of homes they are building, and the prices you can expect to pay. Make a list of builders who build the type of home you’re looking for in your price range.
- Local real estate agents may also be able to help you in your search. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Ask about builders they have dealt with directly, or ask them for names of acquaintances who have recently had a good experience with a builder.
You must also choose between a custom builder and a production builder. Here’s a quick run-down on how to tell the difference between custom and production home building companies.
Custom home builders generally:
- Build on land you own. Some custom builders also build on land they own.
- Build one-of-a-kind houses. A custom home is a site-specific home built from a unique set of plans for a specific client. Some custom builders may offer design/build services.
- Build single-family homes.
- Are generally small-volume builders (those that build 25 or fewer homes a year).
- Tend to build high-end homes.
Production home builders generally:
- Build on land they own.
- Tend to use stock plans, but usually offer a variety of plan choices and options.
- Build all types of housing — single-family, condos, town houses, and rental properties.
- Are large-volume builders (those that build more than 25 homes a year).
- Generally build for all price points — entry level, move up, luxury, etc.
Do Your Homework
Once you have a list of builders, how can you find out about their reputations and the quality of their work? The best way to learn about builders is to visit homes they have built and talk with the owners.
- Ask builders on your list for the addresses of their recently built homes and subdivisions. Builders may even be able to provide names of some home owners who would be willing to talk with you.
- Drive by on a Saturday morning when home owners may be outside doing chores or errands. Introduce yourself and say you are considering buying a home from the builder who built their home. Talk to several owners, and try to get a random sample of opinions. The more people you talk with, the more accurate an impression of the builder you are likely to get. At the very least, drive by and see if the homes are visually appealing.
- When you talk to builders and home owners, take along a notebook to record the information you find and your personal impressions about specific builders and homes. Doing so will help you to make comparisons later. Some questions you can ask people include: Are you happy with your home? If you had problems, were they fixed promptly & properly? Would you buy another home from this builder?
- Usually, people tell you if they are pleased with their homes. And if not, they’ll tell you why.
Shop For Quality and Value
Look at new homes whenever you can. Home shows and open houses sponsored by builders are good opportunities to look at homes. Model homes and houses displayed in home shows are often furnished to give you ideas for using the space. You may also ask a builder to see unfurnished homes.
When examining a home, look at the quality of the construction features. Inspect the quality of the cabinetry, carpeting, trimwork, and paint. Ask the builder or the builder’s representative a lot of questions. Get as many specifics as possible. If you receive the answers verbally rather than in writing, take notes. Never hesitate to ask a question. What seems like an insignificant question might yield an important answer.
Checklist For Finding A Builder
- Contact your local home builders’ association for the names of member builders and remodelers. You can also ask family, friends or coworkers for recommendations.
- Make sure the builder or home remodeler has a permanent business location and a good reputation with local banks and suppliers.
- Find out how long they have been in the building business. It usually takes three to five years to establish a financially sound business. You want to make sure they will be around after the construction is complete to service any warranties.
- Check out the company’s rating and if there have been any complaints filed with your local Better Business Bureau.
- Make sure the builder/remodeler has sufficient workers compensation and general liability insurance. If not, you may be liable for any construction-related accidents on your premises.
- Ask the builder/remodeler to provide you with names of previous customers. If they won’t, beware. If they do, ask the customers if they would hire the builder/remodeler again.
- Ask if you can see the builder/remodelers work, both completed and in progress. Check for quality of workmanship and materials.
- Do you feel you can easily communicate with the builder/remodeler? Remember you will be in close contact with them throughout the construction process and afterward as you live in your new home.
- Make sure the builder/remodeler provides you with a complete and clearly written contract. The contract will benefit both of you. If you are having a new home built, get and review a copy of the home warranty and homeowner manual as well.
- Be cautious of unusually low-priced bids. If the builder/remodeler is unable to pay for the materials and labor as the project proceeds, this may indicate a potential problem. Keep in mind that less expensive does not necessarily mean better!