How to Choose a Home Builder

When you’re ready to say goodbye to renting and proceed to property ownership, building a new home is one of your best options. You’ll get to make all the decisions about design and layout, and live in a space no one else has called home.

Choosing the ideal home builder is absolutely essential to realizing this dream, but how do you make such a critical decision?

Choose Between Specialist and General

Some general builders create cookie-cutter-style homes and specialists or custom builders will follow your exact specifications. You have to decide which will more likely make your home-building dream a reality.

“A really good general builder is suitable unless the work in question is unusual,” Hugo Tugman, an architect and designer writes in a Houzz article. He says you might need a specialist builder to handle very specific design projects.

Sometimes specialists will offer better prices than general builders, as well. Tugman continues: “With a clear design, a good builder will be able to coordinate the right people (cabinetmakers, electricians and so on) to build exactly what you want.”

That being said, a custom builder is usually more adept at carrying out unique requests, and may complete the project more efficiently, affordably, and accurately than a general builder could.

Go Online

A few oddball builders have not yet mastered the art of creating a solid online reputation, but most of the good ones will have online content to guide your choice. Most will have a gallery of homes you can look through, such as the custom home galleries on this website.

Another part of your online search will entail reading reviews. Once you’ve perused a few galleries and found a builder or two that looks promising, see what others have to say about them on Facebook, Google, Yelp, and other online listing sites. You can obtain in-depth insights into a company based on the experiences of others.

Ask Around

Ask a friend, family member, coworker, friend of a friend, and anyone else you can think of for recommendations for a reputable home builder. A few people in your networks will surely have experience with contractors in the region.

If you don’t know anyone who’s built a home recently, Anna Briseno of the National Association of Home Builders suggests finding a builder you’re interested in and visiting a neighborhood the company constructed. “Drive by on a Saturday morning when home owners may be outside doing chores or errands,” she writes in an article.

“Introduce yourself and say you are considering buying a home from the builder who built their home. Talk to several owners, and try to get a random sample of opinions.”

Briseno says it’s essential to speak with multiple owners, because that can give you a more realistic picture of the quality of builder you would be hiring.

Walk Through Model Homes

Many general builders maintain a few model homes to showcase their basic designs. These are ideal for folks who have difficulty visualizing a home based on a mere graphic rendering.

There’s usually no room for customization with these kinds of homes. General builders have honed the construction of cookie-cutter homes to a science, because they’re faster and more affordable to construct.

But if you like what you see, and the builder’s reputation checks out, you’ll have identified a builder who meets your needs.

Ask Lots of Questions

When you’ve narrowed your options to a couple of candidates, interview them. Most builders will offer a free consultation and/or quote. This is when you should ask all the questions you can think of.

Come prepared with a list. Here are a few questions you might pose:

  • How much room is there for customization?
  • What will you expect me to pay up front?
  • What features of the model homes are standard and what would be upgrades?
  • What is your typical timeline?
  • Can you give me a few references?
  • What if things aren’t working out and I’d like to cancel my contract?
  • What do your home warranties look like?

Go with Your Gut

You should do the homework and explore all the options for using a home builder. At the end of the process, the answer may be crystal clear.

But it’s possible you could still not be certain which builder to retain. At that point? Go with your gut. Don’t let your emotions take over, but give them a seat at the table.

Antonio Damasio, a University of Southern California neuroscientist, has studied the power of the gut feeling and believes it has some merit in the decision-making process. He argues that the gut feeling is nature’s way of helping your mind reach homeostasis.

Your brain can’t always make sense of all the information you’ve gathered when you’re trying to make a hard decision, so your metabolic and endocrine systems kick in to help. In other words, by the end of the research process, you’ll have a feeling deep down about which contractor can build the home of your dreams on a timeline and budget you can support!


Tags: builder, design, general, home, ownership, property, specialist, specifications

Author: Maja Markovski


A 35-year-old female architect with a passion for innovative, sustainable design. I blend creativity and functionality to transform spaces into beautiful, practical environments.


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