How to Choose the Right Home Builder
November 20, 2017
Building a new home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. You want to get it just right, right from the start. But if you’ve never worked with a home builder before, choosing the right partner for the process can be a daunting task. These five tips will help.
Step One: Shop Around
Depending on where you live, you’re likely to have a wide selection of home builders to choose from. You might even have a lot of input from friends or family, which can make it tricky to narrow that selection down to find the best builder for your needs. Even if a home builder worked for a friend, that doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for you.
It’s important to shop around for the home builder that will meet your needs. If you already know where you want to build, you can start with a list of the home builders in that area. Or, if you have you an idea of one or two builders you might be interested in, make sure you find a couple others to compare against them.
Once you have your list, check out each home builder’s website for these key elements:
- Do their portfolios appeal to you?
- Does their website have the information that is most important to you?
- Did you want to stay and look around their website?
- Do they have a selection of homes in the style you want?
- Do they offer custom options on existing layouts?
- Can they work with a variety of budgets and timelines?
It’s useful — but not necessary — to have a sense of what you’re looking for when you start shopping around. Visiting a variety of builders’ websites is a good first step in deciding what you want and don’t want from your new home. This first step in finding the right home builder is narrowing down your list to the top two or three that really appeal to you.
Step Two: Do Your Homework
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential home builders, you’ll need to do a bit of homework. But don’t worry — we promise this part will be fun.
Visit the home builders’ show homes and pay attention to how you feel in each, with these questions in mind:
- What was your first impression when you drove up to the property?
- How did you feel when you got inside? Was the representative inside friendly, knowledgeable?
- Is the style and design what you’re looking for in your own home?
- Does the layout they offer fit your lifestyle?
- Is the craftsmanship top-quality?
- Do you feel comfortable in their homes?
Touring these show homes is a fact-finding mission, but it’s also a gut-check. Living in a new home should feel good, and if the show homes don’t give you that warm-and-fuzzy feeling, listen to your gut and find a builder that makes you feel a little more comfortable.
Step Three: Ask the Right Questions
Touring show homes will show you the type of work a builder can do — but meeting with them in person will give you a sense of what working with them might be like. So sit down with each home builder to see what they offer.
This list of questions will get you off to a good start:
- Can you tell me about your company and history of building in the area?
- Are you fully licensed and do you belong to any professional associations?
- How do you choose your sub-contractors and tradespeople?
- How much customization can be done?
- Do you offer upgrades or downgrades on standard features?
- Can certain areas be left unfinished — for instance, the basement, deck, and yard?
- What does your build process look like?
- Do you have a financing program?
- Are there any additional fees I should know about?
- Do you have any references?
The answers they’ll give you are important, but equally important is the way you feel about working with them. You’ll be working closely with your builder for the duration of the project, so you’ll want to make sure you feel good about them.
Step Four: Check Their References & Testimonials
The home builder you choose should have a long list of clients who would love to talk about how happy they are in their new homes.
Ask your top candidates for a list of references, and get in touch with them with these questions:
- Do they like their new homes?
- How did they feel about the building process?
- Is there anything they don’t like about their homes?
- Was there anything unexpected during the build process? How did the builder handle it?
- How could the builder have improved the process?
- Would they work with that builder again or recommend them to family and friends?
If a potential home builder has been around for a while and has very few references (or, even worse, none), that should be a red flag for you.
Step Five: Stay Involved
When you’ve decided to sign with a builder, you should feel comfortable that they will do whatever they can to make sure your house is built to your standards. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be involved from start to finish.
Depending on the builder you choose, you may have a lot of up-front involvement or they may involve you as needed throughout the process. Whatever their build process, you should never be left out of the loop when your new home is being built.
Many new homeowners can feel nervous about leaving their vision in someone else’s hands, but if you choose the right home builder, they should ease your mind with updates, invitations to visit, or answers to any questions you might have throughout the process. If you’re feeling uncomfortable with something, don’t hold off speaking up about it.
Once you’ve signed with a builder, keep these points in mind to ensure you’re staying in the loop as your new home is being built:
- Is my homebuilder resistant to my feedback about certain house elements? Have they explained why?
- Is someone from their office responding to my questions in a timely manner?
- Am I being blocked from visiting the home site as they are building? Is there a good reason why I am not allowed to visit (safety, for example)?
- Is my home being built in the timeline discussed, and if not, have I been told why?
- When I visit, does something feel off or not right?
- Does the builder address my concerns with understanding and information?
It can be tricky to know if you’ve chosen the right home builder, especially because it’s a big investment and you might not know what to expect the first time around. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. We are here to help every step of the way. If you are thinking about taking that first step, learn more about getting started with us to see if our process is the right one for you.