Many of our clients spend between 1 and 3 years thinking about and dreaming about and making plans for building their custom home. They report that they spent a considerable amount of time exploring builders’ websites, touring the Parade of Homes, speaking with friends about their experiences, pinning images and information from Pinterest and Houzz, among other things.
They also interview builders, which we think is a really good idea.
Website and online searches can provide you with a tremendous amount of information, but it’s sitting down and talking with a builder face-to-face that will prove to be the most valuable part of your decision-making process. Whether you’re building a brand-new home or selecting a renovation contractor, make sure you schedule face time with potential builders before entrusting one with one of the most important and significant investments you’ll make.
If you’re considering building a custom home and are looking to select a builder just right for you, here’s 10 questions to consider:
1. What’s their philosophy and does it match mine? If you want a really cheap home, find a really cheap builder. Energy efficient home? Find one who specializes in that. Is universal design important to you? Select someone with that experience. If you’re not sure what your philosophy is, interview three builders. You’ll start to get a feel for the process and the people and what’s important to you.
2. What are the costs?. Cost differences between builders should be minimal, because most builders use many of the same contractors and suppliers. As long as you’ve provided builders you interview with the same information, cost differences should be minimal. If there’s a large cost difference, you’ll want to investigate the reason for those differences.
3. Can I check references? Ask for them, contact them, and ask them questions such as are you happy with your home? Would you recommend this builder? Was your home completed on time? On budget? Was the builder easy to work with? Was the final selections process pleasant and easy to navigate? We recommend reviewing Guild Quality scores, an industry scorecard used by many builders that allows you to read and compare reviews from a number of different builders.
4. What is the home design process? Do they include in-house architectural design services as part of their services or are you responsible for bringing your own plans to the builder? The advantages of in-house architectural design services are numerous. Builders who include architectural design as part of their process are best suited to produce a design that’s appropriate for your budget. These go hand in hand, and a beautiful design will not benefit you if you take it to your builder and it’s not buildable within your budget. Heartland’s architectural design consultants work closely with the rest of the team to ensure that the house we design for you is both beautiful and affordable.
6. What’s the construction process? Ask the builder how the process is handled. Require a schedule of construction from your builder; that demonstrates they know how to manage the process and communicate it to you. When your home is built on schedule, you can be confident it’s proceeding as planned and will be ready on time. Inquire also about on-site construction meetings, which should provide direction on what you want and to ensure and understand that your home is being built according to your contract. We recommend 4: 1) pre-construction plan review; 2) rough-in walkthrough after framing but before plumbing, heating, and electrical begin ; 4) trim stage to review built-ins and other custom cabinetry features; and 5) final inspection. In all of these, you get to see first-hand the progress of your home!
7. How is the final selections process (paint, flooring, cabinets, countertops, etc.) handled? You should receive a decision checklist detailing what needs to be decided and by when, and we strongly encourage you to make your selections early to ensure your finished home fits both your vision and your budget. An interior designer is both affordable and worth every penny! Even better is an in-house designer. Heartland’s designer, Lisa, guides each client through every decision in the process, giving you confidence that you will love the look and feel of your home (and fit in your budget)! Our onsite design center makes final selections easy and fun!
8. Are they members of a Home Builders Association? We strongly recommend using a builder who’s a member of this organization, which demonstrates that they’re concerned about supporting the industry that supports them, and has access to wonderful educational opportunities offered through the HBA. Also, HBA’s support our community through charitable efforts!
9. How is money and financing handled? What is the required deposit? How and when do they bill the bank? Overages? Change orders? What items in the contract are fixed and what ones might change? Get all of this in writing.
10. What about license, insurance, & warranty? Confirm that your builder is licensed — your bank will also require this and also that they maintain general liability insurance. Review your builder’s warranty; though many provide one, it is not required via state of Michigan law. As part of their warranty, the builder should state that they are willing to come back to your home during the warranty period and address any issues. This should be in writing.
Last piece of advice: you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your builder and trusting them with one of the biggest investments you’ll make. Be sure you like them!
As you’re considering your options, know that we would LOVE to be your builder! Only quality materials will go in your home. Our contractors are some of the finest professionals in the business. Our interior designer works with the architectural designer to produce a beautiful home that’s within your budget. And our onsite design center made it easy and convenient for you to select finishing elements you love and can also afford. And as an added bonus, we’re a pretty fun group to work with and we believe that building a house should be easy and FUN!
Finding the right builder for you makes building a home a great experience!
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