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10 Steps How To Work With A Builder

The NAHB National Building Publications

by Steve Butkin

Now is a great time to work with builders, as the market is dictating some great deals. Building your own home has many advantages: you pick the lot you want to build on, the style of house you want to build, and you decide much of the decor including carpeting, tile, and countertops. Plus, with everything built new, you have many years of use ahead of you before needing to do the usual homeowner repairs.

Many people don't realize that a good realtor can represent them during the building process. There is no addition cost to the buyer because the realtor's commission is paid by the builder) and the realtor will look out for your interests. Here are ten tips for working with builders:

1. Check the builder's reputation in the community


 

 

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Have they built many houses in the area you want to live? Do they provide references or can you speak with homeowners who have built with the company you are considering? Don't just look at the marketing brochures - ask around and get a feel for the builder's track record.

2. Look at a wide range of plans from different builders

There are an amazing number of floor plans out there, so shop around to find one that fits your style. Even floor plans for houses that don't meet your immediate needs can provide a source for new ideas. As you narrow things down, look at similar plans with different builders to compare    "apples-to-apples."

3. Visit models similar to the plan you are considering

Architectural renderings look great on paper - but how do they stack up in real life? When you find the plan you're interested in, visit a model with your realtor to get a feel for the house. Walk around, take your time. Don't be afraid to return another time to confirm your feelings.

4. Think about reasonable customizations

Unless you're hiring your own architect, you'll generally be working with a pre-designed floor plan. But pre-designed does not mean pre-drawn: every house must have plans drawn before construction that are specific to that house. Most builders will allow you to make reasonable customizations before the plans are drawn: need an extra window in a bedroom? Want to add an access door to the garage? Just ask. Windows are easy and inexpensive way to add light and beauty.

5. Ask about mundane - but important - details

Work with your realtor and builder representative to discuss things like placement of electrical outlets, gas or electrical connections, and the use of concrete or asphalt for the driveway. Ceiling fans require supports that are easy to build while the house is under construction. Consider adding outlets for future use - for example, an outlet in a kitchen cabinet above the oven alcove that can be used later to add an over-the-range microwave. In short, think ahead and don't presume anything.

6. Before you sign, understand the full financial picture

Building a new house has many advantages, not least of which are the significant financial sweeteners available to encourage new house building and the jobs it provides. It is important, however, to understand the full picture to avoid future trouble - many needless foreclosures occur due to overly optimistic projections. Work with your realtor and mortgage loan officer to build a sensible package tailored to your situation. You'll sleep better at night and your home will grow into the long-term investment it was meant to be.
 

7. Negotiate the extras

With most large builders, there is not much room to negotiate building contracts, which have been carefully pre-packaged by their legal teams. That doesn't mean, however, that you can't negotiate: as well as things like selling price and mortgage rate locks, you may be able to negotiate extras inside like a fireplace, cabinet upgrade, carpet upgrade, and appliances, or extras outside like sod instead of grass seed. Your realtor can suggest options for you.
 

8. Ask what happens if something goes wrong

Builders work hard to build houses well and on time - builders who don't satisfy their customers won't stay in business long. Nevertheless, building a house is a complex project involving hundreds of people and thousands of components and periodically things do go wrong, so it's wise to ask ahead of time the process for resolving these things. Find out who your project manager is and make sure you, your realtor, and the builder are coordinated in what to expect from each party.

9. Check your homesite regularly

As your new home is being constructed, make trips out to the site to monitor progress. Some realtors offer to visit the home site each month to take photos and create an album. It's typical for construction to move in spurts, with a lot of activity followed by a lull. Work such as plumbing or wiring is literally done "behind the scenes" so don't worry if you don't see visible changes every week. The construction of your home will be checked by building inspectors but keep an eye on your castle and enjoy the satisfaction of a well-built home.

10. Communicate - and enjoy

Sometimes building a home can seem like a task - but it doesn't have to be. Building a home should be a happy, engaging, and enjoyable experience. If things go differently that you expect, talk with your realtor and the builder to iron everything out as soon as possible. A good builder, like a good realtor, will always make client service and satisfaction their number one priority. Goodwill, clear expectations, and teamwork are the best way to make building your home a rewarding experience. Your home, your personality, your style - enjoy!

 

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