Finding the Right Custom Home Builder for You
Finding a custom home builder is sometimes a matter of asking people for recommendations. If there are some good ones in your area, you will probably hear people talking about them. Otherwise, check the directory of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) or any other home builders’ association. Or do it the traditional way by looking up prospects in your yellow pages or asking your town office for referrals.
Narrowing Down Your List of Choices
Before choosing a custom home builder, it’s good to speak to several prospects. There are three things you want to accomplish during the interview process.
First of all, tell the builder what exact type of home you’d like him to make for you, and ask him how much experience he has with similar projects and in the area you want your home to be built.
Second, ask him about his general experience as a custom home builder. The NAHB says these are the most important things you’d like to know about your prospects:
> Permanent business location (having one is a sign of stability)
> Reputation among suppliers and banks in the area
> Length and depth of experience in business
The NAHB reports it takes 3-5 years for custom home builders to gain ground in the industry; thus, the longer their business experience, the more capable they are of financing a home construction and the more likely they will stay around after completing a project.
> Better Business Bureau ratings and record
> Coverage of workers compensation and general liability insurance (ask for proof that they are adequately insured)
> Feedback of former clients (request for client references)
The third thing you should try to accomplish during the interviews is building rapport with your prospects. This is obviously very important. It can be excruciating to be forced to work with a builder you dislike.
Asking for Estimates
As soon as you have all the above information, you should be able to zero in on two or three names. This is always better than having one prospect, if only to make comparisons and see who shines. You can even tell your prospects that you’re comparing their estimates. Usually, they will compete for your business and give you a cheaper estimate without changes in quality.
However, you really have to spend time collecting estimates. You must be sure that your budget is just right for your needs – not too much that you’ll be spending unnecessarily, but not too small that quality will be compromised.
Certainly, you should provide your chosen builder all the information they need to come up with a valid or accurate estimate. Lastly, do understand that no matter how good your builder is with estimates or which estimate you actually approved, there will always be at least a 10% overrun because of incidental expenses, such as change orders, can never be totally avoided.