Want the honest, unvarnished truth? Not all homebuilders are created equal. The horror stories you may have heard about dishonest or incompetent builders are, sadly, based on reality. That's because anybody can print up business cards and call themselves homebuilders. Which is why it's up to you, the smart consumer, to do your homework. Because you're not just buying a home-you're buying the manufacturer of that home. And because a home is such a major investment-quite possibly the largest you'll ever make in your lifetime-it just makes good sense to protect yourself by doing as much research as possible. |
That being said, here's a checklist that will help you find the builder that can make your dream home come true:
o Find out the difference between the four different kinds of new homes: Custom homes; semi-custom homes; production/tract homes; and spec homes. Most builders focus on one type. Don't expect all builders to build all types. Figure out which kind of home you want and can afford, then go looking for the builders who specialize in this.
o Ask real estate agents you know about the reputations of various area builders. Compare their answers. If the same builders' names keep getting good reviews, then put those builders on your "take a look" list. Remember, home building is a tough, demanding profession; any builder who has not only survived but also thrived for a long period of time is likely to be a better bet.
o Ask anybody else you know who might know about builders' reputations. People in trades like plumbing, heating and air conditioning, roofing, etc., could give you invaluable insights into who's who in the local industry.
o Drive around neighborhoods and/or developments and subdivisions that you like and that are in your price range. If you have the opportunity, talk to homeowners who live there. Tell them you're trying to select a homebuilder. Ask them if they're happy or unhappy with the homebuilder they went with. And ask them why. Chances are, they'll be quite open about what they think and what their experiences have been like.
o If you're looking at a specific development or subdivision, don't hesitate to ask them who their best builders are. And be sure to ask them why they think so. More than likely, you'll get some very revealing and valuable information.
o Find out if a builder is a current member of your area's Home Builders Association. This is a professional organization that has local, state, and national affiliations. In general, their membership is composed of reputable, experienced builders.
o Take a look at every possible spec home and model home each builder has ever built. It may sound overwhelming, but your goal should be to see anywhere between 25 and 50 homes. No kidding! It's the only way to see if a builder is consistent in quality, style, and design. Look for excellent craftsmanship inside and out. Make special note of walls and woodwork, where quality-or the lack thereof-is most obvious.
o Visit a builder's homes that are under construction. Visit the same construction sites over a period of days or weeks, at different times of the day. Pay attention to details like the cleanliness and orderliness of the sites. Are the materials of good quality? If they are stacked up, are they being protected from weather and theft? If you have the opportunity, talk to the site foreman, the subcontractors, and the individual crewmembers. Find out what they think of the builder. Easy to work with? Demands high quality? Fair? Reliable? Well-organized? Meets deadlines? Do they respect and like the builder? Their answers will tell you a whole lot about what kind of experience you might have.
o Once you've got a list of builders that make your cut, it's time to start interviewing them. Here's what you're trying to find out: How long they've been in business under their present company name. If they've worked under some other company name(s), why did they change name(s)? The reason for this question is because you're looking for bankruptcies, lawsuits, and any history of questionable business practices. By the way, don't take their answers on faith. Check 'em out for truth and accuracy! Another thing you should find out is if a builder is in the business full time-or if homebuilding is just a part-time occupation. Be wary of those builders who don't function as full-time professionals. Ask about a builder's after-the-sale services. What's the builder's policy on how minor construction problems are corrected before and after you move in? Are the builder's homes under warranty? What is covered by the warranty and for how long? Are they willing to put all this down on paper, or is this just talk? Have your gut instincts and "truth detector antennae" turned on at full power when you do this interview. If a builder doesn't seem to answer these kinds of questions openly, thoroughly, and honestly-don't hesitate to wave goodbye and run far, far away fast!
Once you've done all this, you should have a strong inclination of what builder is the one for you. So start getting down to the nitty-gritty. Be clear about what you want in a home-go into specific details. Establish your budget. Select the area where you want to live. And get ready for the ride of your life. Because it's all part of making your dream into a solid, beautiful, live-able, lovable reality.
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