Aside from finding and buying a lot for your new home, few decisions are as important as choosing your home builder. Whether you already have a dream home in mind and need builders to make it a reality or want to get ideas from the experts first, get some guidance from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Their checklist is an excellent starting point for future homeowners who are looking for the right builders.
Get meaningful recommendations. Start with your local or regional homebuilders’ association. These organizations can provide a list of member builders in good standing. A local HBA also offers a wealth of legal and environmental information specific to your area.
Family, friends and business associates can be a great source of recommendations, too. Ask around, and you’re sure to find someone who’s recently built. The new homeowners may be happy to share their thoughts on the builders, both positive and negative. If you don’t yet know anyone in the area, look online for forums and reviews. Keep in mind, though, that online reviews may not cover everything you’d like to know; when possible, it’s always best to speak to someone who can answer your specific questions.
Learn about the company. Find out how long your prospective builders have been in business. Companies that have been around for more than three to five years are likely to be more financially established than newer firms. Your builder should have a permanent office where you can reach the company for warranty service and any questions you may have. A permanent location also means having a good reputation with lending institutions, subcontractors and suppliers.
Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for any complaints filed against the builder. Your local BBB is a valuable resource for finding a reputable builder with a sterling reputation. The group’s website makes it easy to verify your builder’s good reputation; look for ratings no lower than a B in your search.
Talk to your prospective builders. After vetting your possibilities, talk with the builders who most closely fit your needs to find out more about them. Ask about workers’ compensation, OSHA compliance and general liability insurance; responsible builders protect not only their workers but also you from liability.
During your meeting with the builder, ask about previous work. A quality homebuilder will proudly point to references and welcome questions about past and current construction jobs. If possible, arrange a visit to a newly built home or to a site still under construction. If you go on site, note the quality of the workmanship, but also, pay attention to how well you and your builder communicate. You’ll be working with this team for months before your home is completed and often afterward if you have questions about warranties. You need a builder who works well with you.
Read bids and contracts carefully. Be wary of unusually low bids; they may indicate a company that takes short cuts with construction or materials or lacks sufficient insurance. If a low price means the homebuilder cannot pay for materials as needed, that bargain could delay the construction of your home. If a license is required in your state for builders and general contractors, check to make sure the builder has the proper licenses.
A clear, complete contract protects you and your builder from misunderstandings and complications, so it is a must. New homes should come with a full home warranty and a custom homeowner’s manual too, so set aside some time to read everything. You might consider having a lawyer scan bids and contracts if you feel unsure about any aspect of the paperwork.
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