Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Home Builder

Construction crew building a home

New construction homes continue to gain traction in today’s real estate market. For one thing, buyers like the idea of being the first occupants of their residence. They don’t have to worry about taking on huge repair projects because everything is brand-new. 

But there’s still a great deal of thought that goes into buying this type of home. Your first order of business will be to find a builder for the job. You will trust this person to construct a property that aligns with your budget, lifestyle, and safety requirements.

Yet far too many homebuyers give much thought to finding a builder. They’re so excited about becoming homeowners that they overlook the importance of doing their research. In some cases, picking a less-than-reputable builder can lead to costly repairs, reduced property value, and a world of frustration.

Avoid the hassle altogether by interviewing multiple builders in your area. You would rather spend additional time coming to terms with a reputable builder than rushing into an agreement with someone who does shoddy work. 

Here are a few questions worth asking before deciding on your builder.

How long have you been building homes?

Experience is paramount in the residential construction industry. The highest regarded builders are typically the ones with years of experience. These folks understand building codes, soil conditions, the necessary inspections, and other critical facets of building a house.

You may want to steer clear of builders who have never built previous homes and subdivisions. Remember the financial responsibility that goes into buying a home. Is it in your best interest to go with a builder who has minimal experience?

Can you provide references from previous buyers?

Most builders have no problem giving interested buyers a list of recent occupants. If not, be sure to drive around the neighborhood and ask homeowners their opinions on the work. People tend to speak up regarding a poor experience with a home builder.

Use these interactions as an opportunity to obtain additional information about the builder and their reputation. Though it may not be reasonable to expect glowing reviews from everyone, you should note positive trends right away. For example, would they buy a second home from the same builder, and was the builder quick to fix any problems?

What’s the timeframe for the project?

Buyers interested in a new build will need to practice patience. Inclement weather and inspection delays are common reasons for builders to push back a new home’s completion date. Getting a permit also poses quite a challenge on occasion.

The good news is that a builder should provide an estimate for when they will finish your home. It could take upwards of a year or longer, especially if it’s a larger house with various upgrades. Some builders can finish a build in much less time.

Do any warranties come with the house?

Most new homes come with some protection in the event of an issue. Ask your builder to discuss what the warranty covers and how long it remains in effect. Perhaps they offer a short-term warranty that handles the entire house and a longer structural program.

Who’s in charge of the project?

The builder you choose likely oversees the development of the subdivision. They’re responsible for purchasing the materials, working with contractors, and solving problems as they arise. Builders rarely spend a lot of time in homes as they’re being built.

If you’re interested in a new build, plan on working directly with a sales representative in the beginning. They will then assign you a project manager whose role is to coordinate with you, your agent, contractors, and inspectors. Keep in mind that trusted builders are responsive to buyers even after construction is underway.

What are the standard finishes?

Moving.com suggests checking out the model unit with your sales representative and having them compare standard finishes and upgrades. Those on a tight budget might need to make some tough decisions regarding upgrades. Sticking with primarily standard finishes will keep your monthly payment more manageable.

Can I request upgrades?

It ultimately depends on your builder. There are times when a builder may only present you with ‘standard options.’ There’s always the chance of wanting to purchase fancier or cheaper appliances and not having that choice.

Is there a homeowners association (HOA)?

Homeowners associations are in place to protect and improve your subdivision. They could prevent you from installing a shed in your backyard or painting your house a certain color. Ask your builder about an HOA or covenant before signing a contractor and not knowing what is and isn’t acceptable with your property.

Do you have a preferred lender?

Using a builder’s preferred lender opens the door to lower closing costs and other financial incentives. That said, you must review other mortgage lenders as well. Similar to home builders, not all lenders are the same.

What sets you apart from other builders?

Maybe it’s a keen attention to detail or unmatched communication. What seems like little things could turn out to be difference makers your home buying journey. So don’t be afraid to be picky!

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