Selecting the right builder for your needs and for the type of new home you seek is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the home building 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.
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 build starter homes for first-time buyers. Or 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 good fit here. Then, be ready to make sacrifices. In fact, a 2016 report from Bank of America found that 95 percent of first-time buyers are already willing to make sacrifices in order to make homeownership a reality.
Every home builder (including the most experienced and well-regarded companies today) once built their first home. And many new home builders were started by experienced veterans of other builders. Don’t necessarily 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. Professionalism and experience is tremendously important.
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.
Not every state or area requires builders to be licensed (Maryland does), but make sure that you work with a licensed builder in your area. Ask about the insurance that the builder and his/her subcontractors carry. Make sure that you are covered should any issues arise during the building process.
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.
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 it will be transferrable 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.
Good reputations follow good builders, among homeowners and Realtors. Look for builders whose homes tend to hold or maintain their value.
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.
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 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?
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.
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