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Home Building 101: How To Choose The Right Builder For Your First Home

Written by Posted On Thursday, 04 February 2016 09:23



If you're looking for a custom home builder, it can be difficult to choose between the hundreds of handymen clamoring for your attention. Here are just a few tips for narrowing your search and finding "the one."

Know Your Needs

What kind of house do you want to build? What kind of manpower will it take to create? If your dream home is something simple like a rambler, you'll have your pick of builders and contractors; on the other hand, if you want a sprawling, four-story mansion done in French Colonial style, you might want to look for a specialist in that kind of architecture.

Look For Experience

Never be a builder's first client. You want someone who is familiar with the industry and all its complexities, someone who knows what to do in the event of unforeseen events. Try asking your potential builder an insider question like "what happens if you discover broken sewage pipes under the foundation site?" If they have a prepared, well-reasoned answer, they probably know what they're doing.

Check Their Credentials

Do they have a business license in your state? Are they accredited with any professional organizations like the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)? Be sure to check both the lead builder and their staff. Their roofers, for example, should have certification from the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) even if they don't.

Read Their Reviews

This is often the best way to get the gauge of a company before you actually spend money on them. What do previous clients have to say about their services? Some builders (like this one) make it easy for you and include testimonials right on their websites. Others you may have to track down through referrals. Don't be afraid to ask.

Nail Down the Price

Beware builders who are evasive about costs. If they're constantly hemming and hawing about "quotes," "estimates" and "TBDs," they're probably hoping to overcharge you later while insisting that they never committed to a particular price. While it is important to have some flexibility in your budget for the creation of your first home, there's nothing wrong with getting fixed rates for, say, labor costs per hour.

Ask About Their Industry Involvement

Look for someone well-connected in the real estate industry. Not only will this legitimize their company and prove that they're not a scammer, but when they're on good terms with people in lumber, metal or painting companies, they can often secure you better deals than someone working solo. Like any industry, home building is about networking.

Take a Tour 

Any builder can look good on paper; the real test is whether or not their work holds up to scrutiny. Take a tour of their model homes or real estate listings. Are you impressed by the craftsmanship? Do you notice a fine attention to detail in things like fireplaces and window frames? Could you see yourself living in one of the homes they've already built?

Read the Fine Print

Make sure to read the entire contract before signing on the dotted line. If you don't like a sub-section or are confused by a clause, speak up and say so. A good builder is one who wants to accommodate you, so they should have no problem reviewing, editing or even re-drafting the entire contract to put you both on the same page about what's expected during the building process.

Analyze Their Resale Value

Last but certainly not least, check the resale value of their previous homes. While certain fluctuations here and there are to be expected, if you notice any alarming trends like all of their houses decreasing in value after 5-10 years, it's probably a sign of poor construction or site location. These are problems an expert builder knows how to avoid.


These are just a few things to keep in mind as you search for a builder for your dream home. As you can see, there are many different aspects to consider, so don't rush your decision. Take your time and choose someone who makes you feel confident, excited and ready to turn your visions into reality.


Image source: ArmchairBuilder via Flickr

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