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The Ultimate Guide to Picking a Home Builder

The Ultimate Guide to Picking a Home Builder

So you decided to build your dream home. What comes next? It’s time to select your home builder.

This should be a very thoughtful decision on your part. This article will help you work through how to select the perfect builder that fits your individual needs.

What should I look for when hiring a builder?

When looking to hire a builder there are some qualities you will want to look for.

Criteria #1 – How responsive are they to your call or e-mail?

Did they respond promptly or did you have to follow-up to schedule an initial conversation?

When building a home, you will need to have a good relationship with your builder filled with open communication. If you see red flags in response rates early on you can also expect poor communication during your project.

Criteria #2 – Are they licensed?

This sounds like a silly question but you may be surprised at how often people hire an unlicensed contractor trying to save a few bucks.

However, making this choice could prevent you from passing inspections, or worse, they may take your money and not finish the job!

Criteria #3 – How involved are they in your build?

Will your builder be on-site or will they hire a project manager to lead your build? Having a project manager is a good thing.

You will just want to know upfront who will be in charge of the details of your build. If it’s not the builder you spoke to on day one, make sure you are comfortable with who they assign.

Criteria #4 – How many homes per year does your builder work on?

This is an interesting question to ask. There is no right answer, however the response they give could shed some light into how your experience will go.

If a builder focuses closely on 1-2 builds per year, you should expect the builder to be heavily involved in every detail of your project. The flip side to this is maybe they don’t have enough clients to do any more.

If they say they complete 5-10 builds per year it could be a sign that they are a well oiled machine with a great team or they just push out products with low quality control.

Moral of the story, do your research. Ask for references and actually call them! Ask to walk through a build in progress.

Criteria #5 – What price point are their average builds?

This question can lead you to keep or eliminate a builder right from the start. When we were going through the process of selecting a builder we started with telling the builder the approximate price range we wanted to stay in.

A few builders told us they don’t work on projects under a certain price or square footage. We appreciated knowing this information up front before we wasted our time and theirs. Although their work product was beautiful, we knew building an 8,000 Sq ft home was not in our budget… yet.

Criteria #6 – Is their website informative?

Do they have a decent website? Are they on social media? Can you see images of their past or current work?

Not everyone is up to date on technology however having a website these days is necessary. If they don’t have one, even if its old school looking, you may take that as a red flag.

How do you choose a reputable builder?

Once you have compiled a list of a few builders you like on the surface, it’s time to schedule introductory meetings.

When we interviewed our potential builders we called and scheduled meetings with 7 builders. Most of the time, if you already have your lot, they will request to meet you at your lot so they can see what they will be working with.

A lot of the conversations will be very similar. For this reason, its best to try to schedule all of your meetings within a few weeks. You will want to be able to remember who is who and how the conversations compared to the rest. Its okay, and a good idea, to take notes.

Prior to these initial meetings, send the builder any information you may have.

This can include a general idea of what you want to build including, home-style, approximate square footage, or ranch or multi-level home. These details can impact the total cost and time for your project.

Once all meetings have taken place, note who follows back up to you. Reach back out to the 1 or 2 that you like and start discussing next steps. Y

ou may be ready to start the design phase right away or you may want to get on your builders schedule to start in a few months.

What questions should you ask a builder?

During the interview process there are some key questions you should ask. I have listed a few below that may inspire you during your own discussions.

  • How many houses do you typically build a year?
  • Have you built many in my city?
  • Do you like home owners to bring their own house plans or do you prefer us to work with your team or architect?
  • What is your average build timeline for a project our size?
  • Will you be on site daily or will a project manager be assigned to our build?
  • Do you allow us to stop by unannounced to see progress?
  • How will design decisions be made?
  • Is there a preferred bank you like to work with for construction loans?
  • Will you assist in getting approvals and permits with our city and HOA?
  • Can we walk through a current build?
  • Do you have references we can call?
  • Have you worked with this type of soil or landscape before?
  • Are there any considerations you would tell us about what may work well at this lot or neighborhood?
  • For what we want to build, do you see any problems being in our ideal budget?
  • Do you have interest in building our home?
  • If we were to move forward, what is the next step?

Red Flags to look out for in a home builder.

Now that we have discussed what makes a good builder and what questions to ask, let’s focus on some potential red flags.

Red Flag #1: They take forever to respond to your call or e-mail and show up to an interview late or unprepared.

If communication is poor at the beginning of a project it will only get worse.

Red Flag #2: They want you to sign a contract to begin design discussions on the spot.

After your initial discussions the next step will be to enter the design phase. You will need to sign a contract and put down some money for this phase but only after you agree to what it will include.

Do not sign anything before selecting your final home builder. The money for the design phase is to build out your completed home plans and do any soil reports or surveys necessary.

This cost is a down payment to complete this work and is typically non refundable. However, once you move into the construction phase the money you have spect for design will count towards the final construction cost.

Red Flag #3: They ask for money before you meet.

Do not pay anyone to have an initial meeting! A contract to start work should be signed by both parties before any money changes hands.

Red Flag #4: They have had multiple company name changes within a short period of time.

This could be a non issue, or it could be a massive red flag. Ask why their business name has changed. Do they have bad reviews under prior names?

Research all past business names on the Better Business Bureau and check their ratings.

Conclusion

You have a lot of choice in selecting a home builder and you have the upper hand in selecting who builds your dream home.

Just know that it is a two way street. They have to choose you too!

Also, if you have not yet found the perfect lot to build on – make sure to read our article on how to secure the land for your dream home.