8 Tips for Finding the Right Custom Home Builder
Do you dream of building your own custom home? Then you must find the right builder who can turn your dream into reality. You shouldn’t work with just anyone, and the worst thing you can do—especially when building a new home—is to assume. The quality of your new home will only be as good as the builder and the people who work for them. Follow each of these key pieces of advice to find a builder who is right for you and your family.
1# FOCUS ON BUILDERS WHO BUILD WITHIN YOUR PRICE RANGE
While it’s totally feasible for a high-end builder to build a lower price home, you should be wary of the opposite situation. A low-end builder offering to construct a high-end home with no prior experience should make you skeptical. Narrow your options by determining your home shopping budget and focus on builders that have a proven record of building the types of homes you want within your price range. Consider the four home types—custom homes, semi-custom homes, production/tract homes, and spec homes. Choose which one suits you best and look for potential builders that specialize in your choice and budget limitations.
2# KNOW YOUR BUILDER
Do not skip doing research. Even a builder who has only ever built a single home has a reputation. While finding a builder with a dissatisfied customer or two is not uncommon, it should be a big red flag if negative feedback is a common occurrence. Ask around about your builder and look for online reviews on Google and social media. Talk to previous customers, friends, and industry professionals—especially vendors and contractors. You can tell a lot about a builder by the way they treat the people who work for them. If the builder pays vendors and contractors on time and treats them with respect, honesty, integrity, and fairness, they will likely treat their customers the same way.
3# FOLLOW YOUR BUILDER
Check out a promising builder’s website, social media, and marketing materials. Pay particular attention to how the company markets itself. Do they do a good job of branding themselves professionally? Does the copywriting in their marketing materials seem honest and personalized, or does it just sound like marketing fluff? Some companies claim they don’t do any marketing because they don’t need to. While this may be true, the message to you should be that these builders are not interested in growing their company. They may or may not be around for you if you encounter any problems down the road.
4# INVESTIGATE COMPLAINTS
See whether the builder has had any complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Also, find out if the builder has operated under any other names in the past, as this might reveal former bankruptcies, lawsuits, and questionable business practices. Check whether your builder is a member of a trade associations, such as the National Association of Home Builders, the Texas Association of Home Builders, or the Rio Grande Valley Builders Association.
5# PLAN FOR YOUR FIRST FACE-TO-FACE MEETING
By the time you meet the builder in person, you should have already done your research and know more about them than they know about you. If you walk out of the first meeting and the situation hasn’t changed, look for another builder. It means the builder did not do a good job of listening and asking questions that would determine if you are a good fit for their company.
This first meeting should be a job interview—their job interview. Prepare a list of questions that are important to you and pay attention to how the builder responds to them. They should never make you feel like you asked a silly question. Remember, you are not the one in the home building industry—they are. The most important thing to keep in mind in this initial meeting is that you are trying to establish a connection. You are trying to decide if the builder is someone you can trust—someone who can become your partner and will have your best interests at heart. Make sure you pick someone you like because you will be working closely with them for 6 to 8 months, depending on the size of your project.
6# KNOW ABOUT ENERGY EFFICIENCY CERTIFICATIONS
Builders are only required to build homes to minimum building code, with “minimum” being the key word. To put it bluntly, “minimum code” means “the bare minimum standards” a builder must meet to be legal.
Every homebuyer should know that the State of Texas requires all new homes built after August 1, 2016, to be tested upon completion with a blower door test and a duct leakage test to make sure the home meets the current International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) requirements. Does your builder comply with the State law?
If you are not satisfied with bare minimum standards (and you shouldn’t be), ask your builder if they build “above code” homes verified by high-performance home programs, like BUILT TO SAVE® (BuiltToSave.org) or ENERGY STAR® (EnergyStar.gov). Homes verified in these programs are inspected during construction and tested upon completion by an independent, licensed home energy Rater who verifies them as high-performance homes. The certification will be invaluable when or if you decide to sell your home.
7# DON’T GET BLINDED BY THE HOME’S EYE-CATCHING BLING
Those gorgeous granite countertops, designer ceilings, fabulous building materials, or spacious open floorplans might be what you want, but they will not give you what you really need. They offer great bling to look at, but none of them affects the most important things—home comfort, healthy indoor air quality, utmost energy efficiency, savings on utility bills, and durable construction. All of these items and more are key elements of BUILT TO SAVE® and other high-performance home programs. The bling is a bonus.
8# THE SMALL THINGS MATTER THE MOST.
Just like the small things in a home’s construction— like sizing the air conditioning unit properly or making sure the insulation was installed appropriately—it’s the little things about how the builder treats you as a customer that you should focus on. For example, do they return your calls in a timely manner or at all? Not responding to texts or phone calls is too common in today’s business world. It is a sign of disrespect, but also a good way to measure how much a person really values your relationship. If this happens when you are thinking of hiring a builder, you can expect more of the same afterward—especially if you have a problem with your home. So be aware of how the builder you are considering hiring responds to you. If all goes well and the two of you make a connection as you plan your custom dream home together, then you can be sure you have selected the right builder.
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