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How to Choose a Builder

“The Search”

If you’re in the market for a new home, you should shop for your builder as carefully as you shop for your home. You want to know that you are buying a good quality home from a reputable builder. The real estate section of your newspaper is a good place to start. Which builders are active in your area, what types of homes are they building and how much can you expect to pay?

Your local builders association has a list of builders in your area who are members of their organization. Members subscribe to a code of ethics.

Ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Ask about builders they have dealt with directly, or ask them for names of acquaintances who have recently had a good experience with a builder.

“Take a Look Around”

The best way to learn about a builders reputation and the quality of their work is to visit homes they have built and talk with the owners. The more people you talk with, the more accurate impression of a builder you are likely to get. Look at homes that are like the style you plan to buy.

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.

Some questions to ask people are: Are you happy with your home? Did the Builder do what they promised in a timely manner? Would you buy another home from this builder?

“Shop for Quality and Value”

Look at new homes whenever you can. Home shows and open houses are good opportunities to look at homes. Model homes and homes displayed in these shows are often furnished to give you ideas for using space.

When examining a home, look at the quality of the construction. Inspect the quality of 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. What seems like an insignificant question might yield an important answer.

“Ask Questions About Service”

One important criteria for selecting a builder is the warranty provided on the home. Most builders offer some form of written warranty. Many builders back their own warranties on workmanship and materials, typically for one year. Other builders offer warranties backed by an insurance company.

Ask to see a copy of the builder’s warranty. Read the warranty to understand what protection you would have. Don’t wait to read it until after you move in and a problem arises. If you have any questions about the coverage ask the builder.

Also, find out what kind of service you can expect after the sale. Typically, a builder makes two service calls during the first year after you move in to repair non-emergency problems covered by your warranty.

The first call is usually 30-120 days after the move-in, and the second is around the eleventh month, right before any one-year warranties on workmanship and materials expire. For emergencies, the builder should be able to send someone to your home right away.

“Other Questions to Ask”

How long has the company been in business? Whom do you contact for customer service after the sale? Should requests be in writing? What responsibility does the builder assume for the work of subcontractors? Who will be responsible for correcting problems with major appliances? Does the builder belong to their local builders association (affiliated with the National Association of Homebuilders, NAHB)? Does the builder use state-of-the-art energy features?