Selecting a builder is probably the most important decision that you'll make when building a custom home. I won't get into a lot of boring details about the process of interviewing builders, but here are some important points when it comes to picking one:
- What is your gut feeling? In our case, I had a pretty strong gut feeling about our builder. I appreciated his confidence, trusted his judgement and was impressed with his honesty. As with all things in life, I think it's always good to trust your gut.
- Is your builder on time? Our builder is consistently on time, and this tells me that not only does he respect my time, but he also respects his business and reputation.
- Can you have an honest discussion about finances? Building a home is a huge financial undertaking, for both you and your builder. Both parties have to come to the table knowing that there will be some pretty frank discussions about finances. What can you afford? What is your budget? Is your builder pushing you to go above and beyond what you're comfortable with? (Big red flag!) Has your builder fallen upon hard times during the subprime lending crisis and subsequent economic slump? All of these questions need to be answered before applying for a construction loan, because the answers will come out in that process (more on that in another post!)
- Will your builder provide you with a few references? Ideally, your builder will have past clients who are very pleased with his/her work. Word of mouth seems to be everything in the construction business, so it's important to get connected with people who have worked with your builder. These references can come from subcontractors, lenders, and ideally past clients. In our case, we were able to tour a recently completed home, and the quality of work spoke volumes about our builder's work ethic and capabilities.
- Do you like your builder? If your builder is a major jackwad, you might want to look elsewhere! I'm a woman, and I also happen to be the "project manager," because I work odd hours and my husband spends most of his week at work. Believe it or not, even in 2012, I've been stereotyped and talked down to by some of the "ol' boys" in the business. Obviously those men didn't get my business and never will. Bottom line: I like our builder. He's on time, has a pretty good sense of humor, doesn't talk down to me despite a gap in gender and generation and he's easily accessible by phone/text/e-mail. You have to like your builder, because you'll be communicating with them several times a day, every day.
- Does your builder respect your vision? This one is pretty simple. If your builder thinks that you're an idiot because you want to put cork floors in your man cave, it's probably not going to be a good match. Obviously your builder will have different taste than you do, but part of the builder's job is to be an objective party in creating your dreams. A good builder will tell you if you're making a huge mistake, but they'll also allow you, the client, to make decisions based on your needs and wants.
Up next: Securing a construction loan