Building a Home? Remember These 3 Rules When Choosing a Builder

Monday, September 17, 2018

a couple examining a blue print with a builder wearing a purple shirt

There’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re investing tens of thousands of dollars in a total stranger—a stranger tasked with turning a pile of wood, stone, and cement into a safe, comfortable dwelling for you and your family.

How can you tell that a builder is right for you, and for your construction project? How do you determine if this person is trustworthy, and a suitable partner in this venture?

Vet Your Candidate Thoroughly

Signing a contract with a prospective builder is like proposing marriage. It isn’t the kind of partnership you enter into all willy-nilly.

With that in mind, it’s important to vet your candidates as thoroughly as possible, to ask all the difficult questions and demand concrete answers (see what we did there?) upfront, questions like:

  • Can you supply me with a list of professional references?
  • Is there a warranty program associated with your services?
  • Walk me through your pricing structure. Does your fee include landscaping, appliance installation, and more?
  • Where are some of your recent construction projects located? Can we visit these properties?

When you’re just starting to assess a candidate, a list of professional references and visits to recently constructed properties are perhaps the most important topics to explore. If they’re in any way cagey or dismissive of your request for this information, high-tail it out of there: you’ve got a stinker on your hands.

Clarify Who Your Primary Contact Is

Here’s a nightmare scenario for you: let’s assume you vetted your candidate, and you’ve made your choice. Your initial conversations about this construction project were with an excellent builder with a solid reputation, a nice guy who was easy to communicate with.

You signed a contract, but now, on the first day of construction, a completely different person is there. It turns out, this new guy is your primary contact, this total stranger—your original contact was just responsible for closing the sale. You won’t see him again during this process.

Moral of the story?

Clarify who your primary contact is as soon as humanly possible. You don’t want to get blindsided and be stuck with an uncommunicative blockhead with whom you have no real rapport, especially in a process as tricky as construction, which lives and dies by the strength of your communication skills.

Get a Comprehensive Quote

Drawings and floorplans are only so helpful in drafting a quote. If all your builder has had to go on is a drawing, be sure to go over the quote with them to fill in any missing pieces before you sign on the dotted line.

Oh, and never, never assume that the cheapest quote you’re provided is going to be the price you pay at the end of the process. There will almost always be unexpected twists, turns, and costs along the way.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of rules. If you’re planning to build a home in the future, one of the best things you can do is get a head start on your homework: talk to your parents, your friends, and to friends of friends who have taken the leap and worked with a builder.

What do they wish they’d done differently? What do they wish they’d known heading into the process? Is there anyone they’d recommend that you reach out to?

These questions can set you on a path toward a safe and (relatively) stress-free homebuilding experience. And if you’re looking for financing to support your construction project, look no further than SAFE—with Construction to Permanent loan packages requiring as little as 5% down on new building projects.