Oct. 5, 2015
The purchase of a custom-built home can be an exciting and enjoyable experience. Often this type of home is a once-in-a-lifetime dream home that the buyer has anticipated and worked to achieve for many years. From the choice of that perfect floor plan to decisions about appliances, countertops and other details – it all can be a labor of love.
But that much anticipated labor of love could come with unexpected problems like shoddy construction, building delays or even the sudden halting of construction because the builder has run out of money.
Here are a few tips to use when choosing a custom builder that will help avoid these problems.
· Ask how long the builder has been in business. It can take up to three to five years to establish a financially sound business. You not only want the builder to be around to complete your home but also for years afterward to service warranties and provide other support as you use your home. Make sure your builder has that commitment.
· A good custom homebuilder will be an active member of industry associations such as the North Carolina Home Builders Association and the National Association of Home Builders. These groups often hold their members to a higher standard therefore they tend to be more experienced, qualified and dependable. They keep members updated on the most recent building industry requirements and offer continuing education programs and certifications.
o One program is the Accredited Builder program. Graduates have learned about key areas in home construction such as design, building technology, project management, business management, customer service, sales and marketing, computer technology, and leadership. Look for the initials “AB” after the builder’s name.
· Don’t even consider a builder that doesn’t have the required insurance coverage and licenses. Insurance should include workers comp as well as liability insurance coverage so you are covered if someone gets hurt while working on your property.
· Reputable builders will have a process in place for finding and evaluating subcontractors to make sure the quality of their work meets the builder’s standards. Builders who have been in business for years may have developed relationships with trusted contractors over time and they are more likely to be committed to customer satisfaction.
· Choose a builder that has plenty of experience building the type of home you want. For example, if it’s important to you to have an energy efficient home, find a builder who has built several.
· There are various organizations that certify green homes or energy efficient homes. This is a growing trend in the industry and builders should have committed to in-depth study of energy efficient, high performance housing. Look for that certification from your builder.
o One such certification is CGP or Certified Green Professional. Based on the National Green Building Standard, the course includes information on site design; resource, energy and water efficiency; and indoor air quality.
· Get references from the builder, preferably customers who have built a home similar to yours. Ask them about the pros and cons of working with the builder and if they would use him again. Get the names of recent clients from the builder as well as those from several years ago. Check to see if problems have come up as the home has aged. Also contact any subcontractors to see if the builder pays his bills on time.
· Find clients who live in the same development you’re interested in. If the development is run by a homeowner’s association (HOA), talk to the members of the association and the board. If nothing has been built yet, try to speak with owners in a recently finished development by the same builder.
· Check with county planning or building employees that deal with builders.
· Talk with real estate agents who are experienced in the area where you will be building. They may have sold homes built by the builder and may know their reputation.
· Call the state or local licensing or consumer protection agency that oversees builders and contractors. See if there are any complaints have been made against the builder.
· Look up ratings and reviews on the Internet. There are two consumer organizations - Home Owners Against Deficit Dwellings (www.hadd.com) and Homeowners for Better Building (www.hobb.com) - that follow the building industry and act as consumer watchdogs.
· Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the builder.
· See if the builder will show you his work himself, both completed and in progress. Or go see it on your own or even with a building inspector. Check for quality of work and materials. A building inspector may also be familiar with the builder and at least tell you if they pull the proper permits.
· Communication is the #1 reason for delays in construction. Make sure you feel you can easily and clearly communicate with the builder. You will be in very close contact during possibly stressful situations so make sure you have confidence you are both able to communicate with each other well.
· Have a complete and clearly written contract. Review it with a real estate attorney and with other real estate professionals to compare to the standard contract for your state. Discuss the differences. Make sure your contract provides a detailed list of what you get for the price you are paying.
· Get a copy of the new home warranty and homeowners manual and read it thoroughly. If the builder has a guarantee, discuss what it includes and get it in writing.
As you can see, there is a great deal to consider when choosing a custom homebuilder and it can be a little overwhelming. The key is to do your research. Take the time that’s necessary to answer the questions on this list. The end result will be a better relationship with your builder, an easier construction process and a very satisfying final product – the home of your dreams.