Updated: Apr 3, 2018
Written by Travis K. Boyle & Heather J. Howard
You have decided it is time to build a new home for you and your family. That’s a huge start and what an exciting one! Now where do you go from here? Choosing your builder is probably the most important decision you need to make to begin this process. The big question is how do you go about choosing the right builder for you when there are tons out there? Here are some tips to help you make this important decision.
The number one objective is to make sure you pick a builder who you feel comfortable with and can trust. This is huge, folks! This one concept can affect everything from your planning, designs, contracts, process, and warranty. From the time you start planning and designing your new home with your builder to the time you move in can easily reach 8 months or longer. Plus your warranty period which lasts at least another year. When you plan to spend so much time with someone making important decisions and spending your money, I can tell you if you don’t feel comfortable or trust your builder, you will not have a positive experience and will spend more time worrying and arguing than anything. Making sure you have a good relationship with your builder is critical to making this experience a success, and leave you with a positive mindset...and your sanity.
Where do you find a good builder? One great source is to find out who are members of your local NAHB (National Association of Home Builders). Builders who are members of the NAHB have great access to education and some are even NAHB certified graduate builders. These builders are dedicated to their trade and carry with them lots of experience. Another great source is to ask your local lumber yard who they recommend and have a good relationship with. Lumber yards work closely with local builders and sometimes know them on a more personal level. They can tell you which companies know and use the latest products and who are good to work with. Another option to check is with the Better Business Bureau to see who are members and what kind of rating they have. Only businesses in good standing can obtain and keep a membership with the BBB. The BBB tracks complaints against businesses and also gives them letter grade ratings. Lastly, recommendations from friends who have had work done are always good, and then you can still cross check those companies with the above resources.
Does the builder utilize well-written contracts? On a project of this size you want to be sure of what you are getting. The only way to ensure that you get what you’re paying for is through legal contracts. Contracts are not meant to be scary or intimidating, but they are there for the benefit of both parties. You should make sure your builder has detailed project specifications listing out what materials and building types are being used. Another important document is a Construction contract that discusses payments, project timeline, and what happens when there are disagreements. An optional but beneficial contract is a company policy which discusses what you can expect from your builder and what is expected of you during construction. These are great documents that keep both you and the builder on the same page so there are no doubts about what is included.
Some questions you probably want to ask are: What is their process like? Do they have a clearly defined building process that makes sense to you? How do they keep you informed of job progress? How do you make selections? How are change orders handled? How many homes do you build a year or at one time? The amount of homes might tell you how much time they will have to dedicate to you personally. For instance someone who builds 10-20 homes a year might not be stopping by your house as much as someone building 3-5 homes. Do they have anyone who will be guiding you through the building process or are you on your own? This last one is really important to most people since for the majority it’s their first time building. Some builders have someone who caters to the customer and works closely with them to stay on track with selections, deadlines, and budget. For example, a great way of staying organized is using an online program where all this information is in one place and accessed by both the builder and customer. It’s a great communication tool where you can make selections, see job photos, budget and payments, the schedule, and comment or message back and forth. This is a great asset that might be something to look for within a builder.
It’s important to not get hooked solely based on pricing, but to look beyond that as to who you can see yourself working with and spending those long awaited months beside. Using the tips given here can greatly increase your chances of picking that great home builder who will make this a great experience for you.