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I am looking for a reputable local builder. What can I do?
If you are in the market for a new home, you should shop for a builder as thoroughly as your shop for your home. Whether you are buying a condominium, a townhouse, a house in a subdivision, or a custom-built house, the quality of your home will be determined by the quality of the builder.
Starting Your Search
Once you have thought about the type of house you want, where should you look for a builder? First, the real estate of your newspaper is a good starting point to learn which builders are active in your area, the type of homes they are building, and the prices you can expect to pay. In addition, your local homebuilders association has a list of reputable builders, who construct well built products. Members of the Volusia Home Builders Association have shown a commitment to professionalism and their industry. In fact, the Home Builders Association sponsors a Parade of Homes each year. Ask the association staff if they can send you a copy of the Parade Guidebook.
Local real estate agents that specialize in new homes may also be able to aid in your search. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Ask about builders they have dealt with directly, or ask them for the names of acquaintances that have recently had good experiences with a builder.
Making the Right Choice
Once you develop a list of builders, find out about their reputations and the quality of their work. Recording all such information—as well as your own impressions—about specific builders and homes in a notebook helps to make comparisons later. Also, call the Construction Industry Licensing Board at (850) 487-1395 and the Better Business Bureau at (800) 275-6614 to check out if the builder has any complaints against their license.
The best way to learn about builders is to visit homes they have built and talk to the owners. Ask builders on your list for the addresses of their recently built houses, subdivision, or townhouses or condominium complexes. At the very least, drive by and see if the homes are visually appealing.
Look at homes that are the same style that you plan to buy—if you are interested in a two story home look at two story houses rather than split-levels. Visit on a Saturday morning when people are outside doing chores or errands. Just introduce yourself and say you are considering buying a home from the builder who built their home. Consult more than one homebuyer for each builder: the more people you talk to, the better the cross-section of opinion you’ll get.
Ask people if they’re happy with their homes and if the builder did what was promised and did it in a timely manner. Ask if they would buy another home from this builder. Usually, people tell you if they are please with their homes. And, if they are not, they’ll probably want to talk about it.
Shop for Quality and Value
When examining a home, look at the quality of the construction features. Inspect the quality of the cabinetry, carpeting, trim work and paint. If you feel incapable of judging such things, take a knowledgeable person along with you.
Always keep value in mind when shopping. Just because a home is less expensive than another does not mean it is a better value. Likewise, a more expensive house does not insure higher quality. A home is primarily a place to live, but it is also an important investment. Consider the appreciation potential of any home. Be concerned with the value you are getting for your money regarding location, housing supply and demand, and other market factors.
Another important aspect of value is design quality. In viewing each home, determine whether it lends itself to the type of lifestyle you want to lead. Look at the amount of interior living space and how efficiently the space is used: Are there enough bedrooms and bathrooms? Is space sufficient to accommodate special interests or hobbies? Find out if the builder is using state-of-the-art energy features—both in equipment and insulation. Think about the amount of upkeep required both indoors and out.
Consider the location of the property: Is it convenient to schools, shopping and transportation?
When choosing a builder, be thorough and ask a lot of questions. Get as many specifics as possible. If you receive the answers verbally rather than in writing, take notes. Never hesitate to ask a question for fear of sounding stupid or uninformed. What seems like a stupid question might yield an informative answer.
Buying a new home is one of the biggest and most important purchases you will make in your lifetime. By doing your homework, you will be able to shop for a home with a sense of confidence and knowledge that will help you make the right decision.
If you have any additional questions about selecting a builder, call the Volusia Building Industry Association at (386) 226-1414.