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How to Choose a Home Builder

Building a new home is, undoubtedly, a major investment. You've already spent some of your hard-earned money on purchasing land, as well as countless hours searching for the perfect house plan. Now comes the next big step; finding the right builder. You'll certainly want to avoid potential pitfalls and prevent your dream home from becoming a disaster. It is very important to spend time thoroughly researching your options. Here's a breakdown of the process.


It's best to gather names of builders from the area in which you plan to build. If a builder and crew have to drive several hours a day to and from the construction site, you're already adding unnecessary costs before you've even begun. Start collecting names for your list from building organizations and websites that specialize in home construction referrals. Also, contact the local building department for a list of licensed builders.

Real estate agents are another good source of builder referrals. And some of the most valuable sources for qualified builders are other homeowners in the vicinity who have recently built or are currently building a new home.


Eliminate those who may not be appropriate for your project. For example, a remodeling contractor will be less likely to handle an entire new large home construction project. The same applies to a spec-home builder involved in track homes rather than custom one-on-one building.

Seek a builder whose work reflects your desired quality level and whose overall price range matches your budget. If you plan to build a home with average quality and standard materials, using a contractor who builds only high-end homes with unique, special order materials would not be appropriate; and vice-versa.

It's also helpful to narrow the list to builders who construct homes that more closely reflect your style preferences. A builder who specializes in a more traditional style home with lots of intricate, old-world details may be out of place with a sleek, modern design.

Finally, decide whether you would be more comfortable with a large contracting firm or a smaller builder who will be on site working along with the crew.


Overall you'll want to know if the homeowner was satisfied with their builder and if they would choose the same builder again. Even if the answer is yes, you'll still need to dig deeper and get specifics. Each person's level of tolerance is different; an issue that may not have bothered them could be a deal breaker in your situation.

Questions to Ask:

  • Was the builder courteous and easy to get along with?
  • Were questions and concerns addressed with respect?
  • Was the builder helpful in product choices and explanations?
  • Was the builder helpful in finding money saving solutions?
  • How many years has the builder been in the construction business?
  • Does the builder specialize in any particular type of construction?
  • What were the builders' strengths, weaknesses?
  • Was the builder attentive to miner details?
  • Did subcontractors provide satisfactory work?
  • Was the jobsite clean and well organized?
  • Was the quality of material satisfactory?
  • Did the builder respond to the "punch list" adequately?
  • Were call backs responded to promptly?
  • Were problems fixed satisfactorily?
  • Was the project finished on time?
  • Did the builder stay on budget?
  • Overall, was the construction worth the price?

Also, check with various trades people/suppliers for more input regarding the working relationship and reputation of the builder. In addition, you'll want to make sure that the builder's license is up to date and doesn't belong to someone else.

Finally, when you meet with builders, get a sense of their construction knowledge and how well they like what they do. Do they take pride in their work and show enthusiasm for your project? Also, do not underestimate the importance of liking your builder. You'll be spending the better part of a year with this person, so getting along and trusting someone is a major part of the equation.


Ideally, about three written estimates should be enough. You'll need to know exactly what you're getting for your money. In order to make an accurate comparison between builders make sure each category is spelled out, amounts are specified and grades and types of materials are detailed. Allowances for finish materials not yet chosen (cabinets, light fixtures, etc.) should be itemized. Make sure that these allowances are sufficient to adequately meet your level of quality. Check with building supply warehouses to ensure that the amounts are realistic.

Once you've made your final selection, make sure to get a contract in writing; estimates are merely estimates, not binding contracts. The scope of the work and the builder's duties must be clearly stipulated. All work to be performed by the builder as part of the contract price should be listed, (final clean up, landscaping, etc.). You should also have a completion date specified, as well as all the included home warrantees.

It wouldn't hurt to get the expert help of a lawyer to at least review a contract. The small amount of money spent to avoid any future potential problems is well worth the expense when compared to the cost of the entire project.

Once you have your property and a set of house plans, it's important to get the right builder for your major investment. The reputation, quality level and personal rapport all need to be addressed in order to make the correct decision. A project that runs smoothly without exceeding your budget will allow you to thoroughly enjoy your new home for many years.

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