If you’re in the market for a new home, you should shop for your builder as carefully as you shop for your home. Whether you are buying a condo, a townhouse, a house in a subdivision or a custom-built house, you want to know you are buying a good quality home from a reputable builder.
Make a list of possible builders
Contact your local home builders’ association to obtain a list of builders who construct homes in your area. In Greater Columbus contact: biahomebuilders.com; In the Greater Miami Valley contact: hbadayton.com; In Greater Cincinnati contact: cincybuilders.com.
Look online or in local publications for builders and projects. Ads and articles can help you to learn which builders are active in your area, the types of homes they are building and the prices you can expect to pay. Local real estate agents may also be able to help you in your search.
Ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Ask about builders they have dealt with directly, or ask for names of acquaintances who have had a good experience with a builder.
Do your homework
When you have a list of potential builders, it’s time to start asking lots of questions.
Interview potential home builders to get their answers. (See below for suggested questions.)
Visit a builder’s recently built homes and subdivisions. Drive by on a Saturday morning when homeowners may be outside. Introduce yourself and say you are considering buying a home from the builder who built their home. Talk to several owners and try to get a random sample of opinions. The more people you talk with, the more accurate an impression of a builder you are likely to get.
Some questions to ask include: Are you happy with your home? If you had problems, were they fixed promptly and properly? Would you buy another home from this builder? Usually, people tell you if they are pleased with their homes. And if they are not, they’ll probably want to tell you why.
When you talk to builders and homeowners, take along a notebook to record the information you find and your personal impressions about specific builders and homes. Doing so will help you make comparisons later.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR HOME BUILDER
You should feel comfortable asking a potential home builder every question you think is important. A professional builder or sales representative will want to make you a happy and satisfied homeowner.
Besides “How much does it cost,” and “When can we move in?” here are some other questions you should ask:
❖ Will the builder give you references of recent buyers/occupants?
❖ Does the builder have a financing plan established?
❖ Are there options in the floor plan — for example, can a basement or deck be added?
❖ Can a room such as the basement be left unfinished?
❖ How much “customizing” can be done versus standard features?
❖ Can appliances be up- or down-graded?
❖ Are there any additional fees relating to the home or development?
❖ Will there be a homeowners’ association? If so, what will the dues cost and what do they cover?
❖ Does the builder offer a warranty program?
❖ Does the price include landscaping? What if the plants die within a year?
❖ Are there any restrictive covenants?
❖ What are the estimated taxes on the property?
❖ How is the school system rated?
❖ Are daycare centers and grocery stores convenient and satisfactory?
❖ What about emergency facilities — police, fire department and hospitals?
❖ Are there any major development plans for the area in the next five years?
CHECKLIST FOR FINDING AND HIRING A BUILDER
✔ Make sure the builder or home remodeler has a permanent business location and a good reputation with local banks and suppliers.
✔ Find out how long they have been in the building business. It usually takes three to five years to establish a financially sound business. You want to make sure they will be around after the construction is complete to service any warranties.
✔ Check out the company’s rating and if there have been any complaints filed with your local Better Business Bureau: bbb.org.
✔ Make sure the builder has sufficient workers compensation and general liability insurance. If not, you may be liable for any construction related accidents on your premises.
✔ Ask the builder to provide you with names of previous customers. If they won’t, beware. If they do, ask the customers if they would hire the builder again.
✔ Ask if you can see the builder’s work, both completed and in progress. Check for quality of workmanship and materials.
✔ Do you feel you can easily communicate with the builder? Remember you will be in close contact with them throughout the construction process and afterward as you live in your new home.
✔ Make sure the builder provides you with a complete and clearly written contract. The contract will benefit both of you. Get and review a copy of the home warranty as well.
✔ Be cautious of unusually low-priced bids. If the builder is unable to pay for the materials and labor as the project proceeds, this may indicate a potential problem. Keep in mind that less expensive does not necessarily mean better!
Shop for quality and value
Look at new homes whenever you can. Home shows and open houses sponsored by builders are good opportunities. Model homes and houses displayed in home shows are often furnished to give you ideas for using the space. You may also ask a builder to see unfurnished homes.
When examining a home, look at the quality of the construction. Inspect the cabinetry, carpeting, trim work and paint. Ask the builder or the builder’s representative a lot of questions. Get as many specifics as possible. If you receive the answers verbally rather than in writing, take notes. Never hesitate to ask a question. See suggested questions above.
Article originally appeared in July 2022