Building Your Dream Home? Here’s What to Look for In a Home Builder

Having a home built from the ground up can be a dream come true or your biggest nightmare. In most cases, the difference comes down to the home builder.

There are a lot of scams out there that builders pull to separate you from your money. There are also many contractors who aren’t qualified to grab a dirt compactor and start building.

How do you know how to find the right builder for your dream home? We’ve put together a list of 10 things you should consider when looking for a home builder.

Finding a Home Builder

In the U.S., 1.2 million new homes get built every year. The NAHB has 140,000 members, which represent 80% of the new housing construction market.

That means you have a lot of options when it comes to a house builder. Finding one is easy, it’s finding the best quality home builders for your dream house that gets tricky.

The 10 tips below will not only get you started but give you insight on what to do after you sign a contract.

1. Know What You Want First

Before you get recommendations from friends and family or start looking online, you have to decide exactly what you want. You may want a laundry room next to the master suite or a heated driveway.

If you haven’t thought past “I’d like four bedrooms and three baths,” it’s time to sit down and go over everything. Think about what flooring you want and if you want it throughout the house or in parts. Go over the pros and cons to all the different countertop materials.

It’s helpful to walk around your current house and note what you like and dislike. You’ll have a jumping off point for when you’re ready to find a home builder.

Why do this before you speak to a professional? Because a reputable builder needs to know what they’re working with. If they don’t know, they can’t give you an estimate.

2. Specialty Vs. General Builder

This is where many homeowners make their first mistake. They don’t look into the strengths and weaknesses of builders and base their decisions off of reviews and recommendations. Of course, you have to do your due diligence and exhaust all research options.

But first, you need to make sure you’re looking for the right builder!

Don’t misunderstand, there is nothing wrong with a general builder. In fact, most homes get built by them. But if you want something unique or completely custom, a specialty builder is the way to go.

3. Check Licenses and Insurance

When you start your search, it’s imperative that you find a home builder who’s licensed and insured. Some starts require a license, some only require a contractor get registered.

The difference is that licensing means they’ve passed tests and meet certain criteria. They’re found competent to perform the work in their specific trade.

Registering means there is a written record of that company. It doesn’t guarantee competency or knowledge of a trade.

Find out which one your state requires. Then, make sure the company is insured for what they say they are. Most reliable and established companies will share their licensing and insurance info with you.

4. Don’t Feel You Need a One-Stop-Shop

Despite what you’ve heard, you don’t need to have one builder do everything. In other words, you can contract a builder to build the structure and a paint contractor to handle the interior and exterior painting duties.

The same goes for floorings, cabinets, etc. You can hire whomever you feel most comfortable with. Some builders can handle all these duties and their workmanship is beautiful. It all comes down to what you feel is best for your home.

5. Shop Around

Once you get estimates from a builder, go to a different one. Compare the work and cost of what will get done. One builder may handle everything while another subcontracts the work.

You can even start a bidding war if you think it will be to your benefit.

6. Use the Referrals

Home builders with experience and a proven track record will include referrals with their estimate. Use them!

These are clients who’ve used the builder in the past and recommend their work. You’re not bothering them, they agreed to allow potential customers to contact them.

7. Understand Your Contract

Once you have everything worked out, go over the contract with a fine-toothed comb before signing it. Make sure you understand what the builder will do and won’t do. You can even have a lawyer look over it first.

Understanding your contract before you sign it could be the difference between you renting a storage unit for your belongings and moving them into your brand new home.

8. Be Specific and Get Everything in Writing

If anything in the contract raises a red flag, make sure you’re specific about what you want it changed to. Always get it in writing.

If there is a dispute later, a court will be more on your side if you have written proof the builder didn’t do something they should have.

9. Speak Up

No one wants to be a thorn in their contractor’s side but if you don’t like something or it’s not what you agreed to, speak up as soon as you notice it. When you delay bringing up an issue in construction, you’re only hurting yourself in the long run.

This goes the same for asking questions. If something seems off but you’re not sure, ask! The worker may have missed something by accident or had to change something out of necessity.

Don’t rely on the builder to bring up every little hiccup. Be proactive in your communication.

10. Have One Comprehensive Checklist

Whether you use one builder for your whole project or several specialty contractors, make one comprehensive list. Detail everything that you’ve contracted to have done and check off when the task gets completed.

It may sound like nitpicking, but your home is your biggest investment. If you’re having it built from the ground up, you have every right to be picky.

Your Peace of Mind Comes First

Building your dream home should be exactly that – a dream. Following our tips for finding the best home builder for your wants and needs will help ensure it doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

Find a Business That… focuses on making sure you’ve exercised all your options. We want you to be as informed as possible about every step of the home owning process.

If you need more tips and advice on building your home or maintaining it, check out our consumers’ resources page.