Once you’ve found the perfect blueprint for your dream home, it’s time to find a builder to be your consultant, advocate, and main point of contact for turning that plan into a reality.
Here are four questions you will want to have answered:
1. What does a builder do?
Having mutually agreeable expectations is an essential starting point. Here are some of the core services that your builder should provide:
- Keep you within your budget.
- Help you decide upon multitude of selections you will need to make, such as flooring, cabinets, countertops, fixtures, trims, paints, and more.
- Get bids from reputable companies in the various trades for the materials and labor needed to build your home such as the foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical, and carpentry.
- Manage the day-to-day scheduling, including delivery of materials and trade labor.
- Work with the city for permits, attend council meetings, and manage all inspections.
2. How can I tell if I am working with a good builder?
Here are signs that you are working with a good builder:
- They provide you with unique design ideas.
- They accurately price out the home with actual quotes.
- They recommend ways for you to save money.
- They are always on-site for inspections.
- They are a licensed builder for the city in which you are building.
- The builder and the trades they work with are known with good references from city hall.
- They provide a warranty.
- A great builder will say, “I will be 15-30k more than the competition because I am building you a home that will last.” Often, builders will cut corners to save money in parts of the home the client can’t see (such as such as insulation, plumbing, floor joists, etc.) to provide a lower bid. Make sure you know what’s being done inside the walls and under the floors.
3. How can I evaluate builders before selecting one to build my home?
Here is how we would go about finding out if a builder we are considering is trustworthy, experienced, and likely to finish our home on-time, on-budget, and to our expectations.
- Ask for references and speak with clients of the builder. Builders who have an excellent track record want you to speak with previous clients.
- Real estate agents are also an ideal place to start asking about builders since they are familiar with homes in their area and how they were built.
- How long has the builder been in business, and is residential their expertise? Aim for someone who has been in business for 15+ years.
- How long does it take the builder to complete a home? It should be 6-9 months if the builder can effectively order and schedule.
- Does the builder stay within budget and were estimates accurate?
- What parts of the homebuilding process met your expectations, and which parts didn’t?
- Ask the homebuilder if the trades they work with have experience in the type of home you are building, if they are licensed for your city, and how long have they been working together. You will want a builder who has strong, long-standing relationships with multiple trades to make sure you have the right team and have backups to complete your project on-time should there be scheduling issues after contracting.
4. What other important things should I be aware of?
- The Builder Fee – There are three typical ways for a builder to get paid. The preferred method is a "Flat Fee" where the builder receives a fixed amount for its services. Another acceptable option is called, "Cost Plus" where the builder receives a percentage over and above the total cost of the build, but is contractually obligated to pass along any savings, discounts or fees it receives. A third, but not recommended option is referred to as "Cost Plus Kickback" where the builder receives a percentage over and above the cost of the build, but can also keep for themselves any discounts, rebates, or incentives provided by the trades and suppliers. .
- Warranty – Your contracts with the builder and trades should all include some type of warranty.
- Insurance – While the builder and trades will have their own insurance, you as the homeowner should get your own insurance to protect yourself against incidents such as accidents, damage, and potentially catastrophic situations.
Taking the time to find the right builder for your dream home is well worth the effort to create the perfect space to experience family, entertaining, and everyday living!