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How To Choose a New Home Builder

Finding the right builder is key to achieving the new home that you envision.

Trigon Homes Article Released:
January 17, 2008

Today, more than ever, people are choosing to build a new home to fit their individual needs, tastes, and lifestyles. They have learned that custom-built does not always mean expensive, and that it more often means better quality, higher satisfaction, and better long-term value for their house dollar. When you find the right builder, the process of building your very own new home will be even more rewarding and a much less stressful experience that you might imagine.

What types of homebuilders?
There are three general types of homebuilders: custom builders, semi-custom builders and production builders. Production builders usually offer large housing tracts with pre-drawn floorplans and a pre-determined number of home styles, colors, and features. Rearranging floorplans, for example, is not usually an option with a production builder. This provides for a streamlined building process and cost-efficient product for customers. On the other end of the spectrum, custom builders typically specialize in one-of-a-kind homes from plans designed by an architect or designer. They offer the highest level of customer interaction and provide unique, high-end, luxury homes for a premium. Semi-custom homebuilders combine the best characteristics of both. Usually they offer a variety of pre-existing plans and customize from there. The result is an individualized product for each customer, with less cost than a full custom builder, but a more appealing, better-quality product than typical tract homes. Semi-custom builders are usually flexible regarding changes, including those that require engineering and building department approval. With a semi-custom builder, although you may begin with an existing floor plan, many more opportunities exist for you to alter the plan and craft a home suited to your lifestyle.

Why choose a custom or semi-custom builder?
If you decide that you want more flexibility and creative control in your home design, in choosing your home site, or in selecting your design options, then you’ll likely want to work with a custom or semi-custom homebuilder. Maybe you already have your own plans from an architect. Perhaps you have definite ideas about what you want but need help putting your thoughts on paper. These builders will listen to your requests and help guide you through the important questions on floorplan function, style choices, etc. They’ll usually build on your own land or help you find a location. They prefer to work with customers one-on-one, walking you through each step of the process. This type of homebuilder becomes your partner for the duration of your new home project – and finding a builder that you trust and with whom you can communicate is essential to your success.

Where to begin?
It all seems overwhelming – especially if this is your first time building a new home. The secret is finding the “right” builder for you. Before you start, it is important to do your homework. You should ask yourself the following questions.

What kind of home do you want? You’ve decided that it’s time to look for a new home, now you must consider your lifestyle and that of your family. How many people will be living in your new home? Do you need a home office or a guest room? How many cars do you have? Does your hobby need its own space? Will a parent be living with you who may need special access or a handicap accessible bathroom? What layout do you want? One story or two? Master bedroom on the first floor? Research magazines and go online to find pictures. Have your family make a list of “must-haves” and a “wish-list.” Spend time together driving around looking at different homes to help create your list.

Where do you want to live? Do you envision your new house on a private 10-acre lot? Perhaps you’ve always wanted mountain views? Or a smaller lot with less maintenance and friendly neighbors? Do you need to be near a particular school? Close to work? Drive around and look at neighborhoods. Do some research on the Internet to familiarize yourself with the area. Speak with local realtors, the local school board, and even local businesses and ask questions regarding the area.

How much home can you afford? The next step is knowing your budget. Visit your bank or mortgage broker and get pre-qualified for a loan. This will tell you just how much you can afford in your new home.

Finding your home builder
With plenty of builders out there -- you’ll need to look for tried and true signs of trustworthy businesses to help in your selection. There are many resources to help you research homebuilders before you even meet them. 1) Check with the Better Business Bureau, the local Chamber of Commerce, and the local builders’ associations. Ask about any complaints against the builder. 2) Check licenses. You can do this yourself by contacting your local and state homebuilders licensing departments to be sure they are licensed and ask if there have been any complaints. You might also want to contact the local building department and ask if there have been any problems associated with the builder. 3) Search the Internet. A homebuilder might have write-ups by professional publications or local media. Also, be sure to visit the builder’s website, if they have one. 4) Talk to local real estate agents to learn more about the builder.

Interviewing homebuilders
Once you’ve narrowed your search to some qualified professionals, you’ll want to meet with them in person. Visit with each builder and ask them the following questions:

  • What permits are required?
  • Can they provide a list of references?
  • What subcontractors will they be using on the project?
  • What product brands are used in the home?
  • Do they offer optional upgrades?
  • What is their timeframe for construction?
  • How does the builder handle change orders or budget overages?
  • What type of insurance do they carry?
  • What type of warranty do they offer once you are living in the home? What is the warranty’s duration and what does it cover?
  • Will they show you a blank copy of their new homes contract?
  • What sort of deposit is required?
  • Does the builder take contingent contracts – giving you time to sell your existing house?
  • Check references
  • Be sure to check the references that home builders provide. Ask the references if they are happy with their house. What went well, what didn’t go well, and why? Ask if the builder was on budget and on time? Were they comfortable communicating with the builder? And would they would use that builder again?

Five Important Factors
Once you’ve narrowed the field to a few good builders, your deciding factor will be your ability to communicate and work with a builder to achieve the home you want. The five factors below will help you decide which builder best fits your needs:

1) Service – You are embarking on a wonderful experience – building your home. You need a builder who will work with you every step of the way – giving you the personal attention you need and deserve. A quality builder will work to develop a good builder/buyer relationship.

2) Quality & Value - Quality is both visible and invisible. Inspect the quality of the builder’s previous projects. Look at the cabinetry, carpeting, trimwork, and paint. Ask the builder a lot of questions about their products, methods, etc. Ask to visit a job that is currently under construction. Get as many specifics as possible. Successful homes are crafted of high quality products and built to last.

3) Expertise – When building your home, you have to know that everyone has their own area of expertise. You are the expert at knowing what you want in your home. Your builder is the expert at knowing how to turn you dream into a reality. When a builder respects your needs and you respect his knowledge of construction, then everyone wins.

4) Creativity – As you are deciding what styles to have in your home, you will select certain finishes and looks that appeal to you. Do you want suggestions or need ideas from the homebuilder? Do they have a design center to help you visualize your choices? Sometimes the materials you want may be out of your budget range. A good builder may be able to offer alternatives that are less expensive but give you the same sense of style. Never let a builder push you into a selection or out of your budget range.

5) Reputation – Choose a builder who has a good reputation for being honest, having excellent quality and providing customer service and satisfaction. You’ll be depending on your homebuilder to complete your project according to plan, on time and on budget. Knowing that you can ask questions and trust your builder each step of the way will make your home building experience a good one.

Building a house takes a commitment from you and your builder. It involves listening by both parties. Two-way understanding is critical in the building process. When everyone seeks input and moves towards practical solutions, the whole building process is a success. Choosing the right builder will make the difference in giving you a happy worthwhile building experience and achieving the home of your dreams.

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