How to Choose a Home Builder
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 that you are buying a good quality home from a reputable builder. Here are some tips to help you choose a builder.
Make a List of Possible Builders
Once you have thought about the type of house you want, you can create a list of potential builders.
- Contact your local home builders' association to obtain a list of builders who construct homes in your area. You can find your local HBA at www.pabuilders.org/find-a-local.
- Look in the real estate section of your local newspaper for builders and projects. Looking through the ads and reading the 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. Make a list of builders who build the type of home you're looking for in your price range.
- 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 them for names of acquaintances who have recently 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 — of both the potential builders and the owners of their homes.
- Interview potential home builders to get the answers to all the questions you have. Here is a list of questions to ask builders.
- Then, visit a builder's recently built homes and subdivisions. Drive by on a Saturday morning when home owners may be outside doing chores or errands. 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 impression of a builder you are likely to get.
- Some questions to ask home owners include: Are you happy with your home? If you had any 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.
- At the very least, drive by and see if the homes are visually appealing.
- When you talk to builders and home owners, take along a notebook to record the information you find and your personal impressions about specific builders and homes. Doing so will help you to make comparisons later.
Shop for Quality and Value
Look at new homes whenever you can. Home shows and open houses sponsored by builders are good opportunities to look at homes. 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 features. Inspect the quality of the cabinetry, carpeting, trimwork 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.
Questions to Ask Your Home Builder
When you're thinking about buying a new home, selecting the right home builder is a key step in creating the home of your dreams. You should feel comfortable asking a potential home builder every question that you think is important. And, a professional builder or sales representative will want to make you a happy and satisfied home owner.
Besides the questions of "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 home owners’ 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 day care 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?