Approach the process of selecting a builder as you would a girl or boyfriend as you will essentially be committed to this person for the next few months to a year. Too many people look at selecting a builder strictly as a business transaction, however, building a new home can be an emotional process and you want a partner that will make you feel that they have your best interest at heart. Begin by preparing a list of attributes that your new builder should have. Here is a great list to start with along with some things to consider based upon what might be important to you.
- Select a builder/general contractor that is licensed in the city/municipality or county for which you intent to build.
- Ensure that your builder is insured. This means that they have both General Liability Insurance and, if they have employees, employees are covered under Workman’s Compensation Insurance.
- Decide how much experience you want your builder to have; I would recommend at least five years building single family homes.
- Is your builder willing to look at lots with you to explain pros and cons of each before you make an offer?
- Are they familiar with the area and have experience with the local building department and the permitting process?
- City and county offices are on different levels of the IRC (International Residential Code). Be sure your builder knows what version of the IRC the local building department is on.
- Are they financially stable? Ask your builder how the draw process works to ensure they have the funds to bridge between when expenses are incurred and when they are reimbursed as part of the draw process.
- Watch out for builders that request too high of a percent of the project upfront as earnest money. Alternatively, if you buy land from the builder be sure it is not disproportionately high compared to the entire project price as this may be their way of getting their cash out of the project up front. Even if you can build the home for cash, using a bank and title company is a good way to protect your interest.
- Does your General Contractor have the carpentry experience to supervise subcontractors and ensure good quality? Do they know good quality work when they see it?
- How important is it to you to have a General Contractor that is on the project day to day?
- Is it important that your General Contractor is a craftsman? Is he/she someone who can step in and build that special bench, nook, gate, shelves or any other special touches that you want to make your home unique?
- Ask your builder how situations are handled when a subcontractor varies from the plans. Do they step in and ensure the work redone or leave that to you?
- Does your builder take the time to explain the construction process with you, your role and how you can be involved? If your builder does not want you on the property during the construction process at any time; that’s probably a red flag. This is different from your builder asking you not to instruct his employees or the subcontractors during the project as builders like all questions, requests, changes to be funneled through the General Contractor or Project Manager as a single point of contact.
- Do you like this person? Are they approachable? Can you engage in a productive conversation? Do they treat you with respect and respond to your questions?
Some of these attributes should be mandatory, while others are preferences. Decide what is most important to you and interview builders until you find one that matches your personality and style.