Finding the Right Custom Home Builder for You
Finding a custom home builder can be as simple as asking around. If there are some good prospects in your locality, you will likely hear about them from different people. 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 Prospects
It’s good to talk to a number of prospective home builders before making your final choice. Aim for three things during the interview process.
First, make sure the builder understands the type of custom home you want, and that he has experience building similar homes or building homes in your desired area.
Second, ask for more information regarding his professional experience. The NAHB says these are the most important things you’d like to know about your prospects:
> Permanent physical office location (this is usually a sign of stabiilty)
> Reputation among suppliers and banks in the area
> Breadth and length of industry experience
According to the NAHB, it often takes 3 to 5 years before home builders can establish themselves and their business; therefore, the longer they’ve been in the trade, the greater their ability to finance a home and remain after a home is built.
> Better Business Bureau record
> Level of workers compensation and general liability insurance (always ask for proof of insurance)
> Feedback from former customers (ask 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. Working with a builder you dislike can be very frustrating.
Asking for Quotes
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 these builders that you’re actually 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 have to be sure that your budget is just enough – not too small that results will be compromised, and not too big that you’ll be wasting money on unnecessary things.
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.