The builder that you choose is the coordinator who is charged with the responsibility of bringing your dream together; on time and within budget. The builder's ability to coordinate the hundreds of details that have to be addressed during the process of building your new dream home is essential to having a great building experience and ending up with the home you want. First, and probably foremost, in the process of selecting a builder, is feeling comfortable with the builder. You have to be able to communicate with the builder since the process of building a home is an intimate one. In order to do their job the builder has to understand your needs and wants. Therefore, you have to feel comfortable enough to share some details of your life with the builder in order to get the desired results.
Now to the big question: "How do I select a builder?" First, you may want to contact the VBIA at (386) 226-1414, and have a list of the builders who are members of this professional organization emailed or mailed to you. The VBIA is an organization dedicated to supporting the building industry by providing education, keeping members informed about and lobbying for or against regulations affecting the industry, and promoting professionalism. After contacting the VBIA you should visit model homes, talk to friends and relatives, and, finally, interview a short list of builders resulting from your research.
Interviewing a builder is definitely a two-way street. You both have to feel comfortable or the relationship will not work. The interview process in selecting a builder should be a series of questions and answers; with both parties being the one who gives and receives. There is no such thing as stupid questions when you are building a new home. If you feel afraid to ask a question you may have the wrong builder; it is your money and your dream home, so ask questions. On the other hand builders are professionals and they make a living building other people's dreams, so don't think that their time is unlimited. Have your interview questions organized and takes notes during the interview.
Most builders are administrators, schedulers, and quality control experts and do not do any actual building (nailing shingles, laying tile, finishing concrete, etc.) themselves but good administrative, scheduling, and quality control abilities are what your are looking for in a builder. Builders have to know enough about every trade involved in the home building process to know what is acceptable or standard, the amount of time required to properly finish a task, and the going rate for every trade. While some builders do perform some tasks it shouldn't be expected that they will also be a laborer on the job, you should, however, expect that they, or a site superintendent, will be onsite regularly to inspect the ongoing construction process. In addition to the interview go see some examples of the builder's work to get a sense of the builder's expertise and creativity. Calling and/or visiting some of the builder's past clients will also give you insight into their accountability, and trustworthiness.
Problem solving and conflict resolution skills are imperative in a building professional. Everyone involved in building has been faced with problems and conflicts and their ability to effectively deal with issues as they arise can impact the building process. Ask about when they have experienced difficulties and how they resolved those difficulties. Ask how and why they selected certain subcontractors. Find out how Change Orders are handled and the fees that will be charged for them. Determine whether or not the builder will be meeting with you on a regular basis during the construction to keep you updated on the progress. Get an estimate on the amount of time needed to construct the home you want. Ask how the builder schedules subcontractors. Does the builder use a computer time line or critical path program to track the progress of homes under construction? Talk about the builder's warranty and whether or not a third party warranty is provided. Ask how the builder handles warranty repairs. Determine what the builder expects in terms of progress payments or money draws against the total contract. Find out how lien waivers will be handled. If you are paying cash you must pay particular attention to obtaining lien waivers for all payments made to the builder or any suppliers. You may want to seek the advice of an attorney in the matter of lien waivers.
If you are getting bids from more than one builder make sure that you have specified the details. In order to get bids that make sense everyone bidding must be bidding the same house so specify the type of countertops, insulation desired, type of windows, lighting, plumbing fixtures, amount and type of tile, etc. If you need help with the specifications your design professional may be able to help you draw up a construction specification form. Some builders will give you a flat price based on the project's estimated cost and others will bid the job on a cost plus basis. Cost plus is simply that the builder marks up the actual cost of materials and labor by a specified percentage. Be wary of a drastically low bid. Either the builder made a math error, is planning to use lesser-quality materials, or has misunderstood the specifications. If you get a bid that is drastically lower than the others talk to that builder and find out why there is such a big difference. Remember, if the bid is too good to be true then it's probably not true.
Finally, select a builder that you feel comfortable with and respect.