By, Jeffrey F. Chouinard, Director of New Home Sales, Howard Hanna Division Street, Saratoga Springs

Choosing the right homebuilder or building firm is the most important decision you’ll make in your new home buying process.

There are four major components or must-haves in selecting a builder.  As you follow the outline below, continuously ask yourself if he or she gets a check mark or yes in these areas:

  1. Integrity: Do people speak of them as being honest and having strong moral principles?
  2. Reliable: Delivers as represented consistent quality as promised and on time?
  3. Meticulous: Demonstrates meticulous attention to detail throughout the entire process?
  4. Accessible: Ensures the entire team is of like mind and attentive to your wants and needs?

Some proven ways to speed up the research and selection process to find a quality builder who’s a good match to construct your new home.

Choosing the Right Home Builder:

1. Define your needs. What size, type and price range of home do you need?

While some builders construct a broad range of homes, many builders also specialize in a specific type of home, price range, or style. For example, not many firms build starter homes for first-time buyers and also multi-million dollar homes for affluent custom home buyers. The building materials, trade contractors and even the building process itself can differ greatly by type and price of home. Be ready to make sacrifices, as it isn’t always easy finding a home that meets all the criteria to be your dream home. In fact, a report recently found that 95 percent of first-time buyers are already willing to make sacrifices in order to make homeownership a reality.

  1. Experience.While every builder was once a new builder, experience matters.

Every home building firm (including the most experienced and well-regarded companies today) once built their first home. And many new home building firms were started by experienced veterans of other builders. Don’t be quick to discount a new firm – especially if their team includes seasoned pros – but do look for strong experience overall and in the type of home you seek.

  1. Past customer satisfaction?Ask for – and check – references from past home buyers.

Many builders offer customer references and referrals. If not, ask. And in either case, follow up. A few great questions to ask: Would you buy another home from this builder? Or recommend them to close friends or family? And don’t forget to ask for the key reasons why a past home buyer would or would not recommend a builder.

  1. Verify the builder is licensed(where required) and adequately insured.

Not every state or municipality requires builders to be licensed, but make sure that you work with a licensed builder in such areas. Ask about the insurance that the builder and his or her trade contractors carry. Make sure that they and you are covered during the building process.

  1. Is there a design fit?Does this builder have expertise in the style of home you seek?

A builder whose entire portfolio consists of contemporary homes may not be the best fit for that highly traditional home you seek – and vice-versa. While many builders have expertise in a variety of design styles and architectural details, in general, look for a builder whose work includes at least some examples of the style of home you want.

6. Warranty and service.How does this builder stack up for each?

One of the top advantages of new construction is that your home itself and most of the products, systems and components it contains are brand-new and under warranty. The peace of mind that comes with knowing that major repairs or a new roof are likely years away is important. In addition, look for a structural warranty, ideally transferable to a new owner should you sell.

  1. Resale value.Have past homes from this builder maintained or increased value?

Good reputations follow good builders, among homeowners and Realtors. Look for builders whose homes tend to hold or maintain their value. Look for Realtor ads that specifically mention the name of a builder for a home for sale that’s now five or seven years old. That Realtor clearly sees the builder’s brand name as a big plus.

  1. Industry involvement.Is the builder a member of the local Home Builder’s Association?

Not every good builder chooses to join their local Home Builder Association, so don’t place too much emphasis on this. However, such membership does tend to show that a builder is committed for the long-term to the area. It’s also a sign of commitment to new home community developers, building product suppliers and trade contractors that work in your city or town.

  1. Tour model homes or customer homes.

Once you’ve narrowed down a list of prospective builders using the criteria above, this is a very important step. Nothing substitutes for touring a home built by a builder on your short list. It can be a furnished and decorated model home that’s open to the public. Or, it can be a home the builder constructed for a past buyer that you visit by appointment. In either case, pay careful attention to the look, feel and quality of the home.

  1. Look for signs of quality.

Look for signs of quality construction and attention to detail when you visit the homes above. Also consider the building products that a builder uses. Are they brands with well-earned reputations for quality? What about the homes under construction you passed on the way to the completed model home? Were there signs of care and attention there, for example, are weeds overgrown, are dumpsters over flowing, are home easily accessible?

Last, look for the quality of people who work for the builder: Did the builder’s employees show sincere interest in you and your needs? Did they listen carefully? Did they provide good answers to your questions? Were they courteous, prompt and professional in your interactions with them in the model home, sales center or builder’s office? The builder’s employee’s attitude speaks volumes to their feelings regarding the pride invested to the home you may buy.

Once you’ve followed the steps above, you’ll be well on your way to selecting a good builder who’s a good fit for you, your needs, and the new home you’ll build together.

Happy house hunting!