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How To Find A Builder That Is Best For Your Home

Unlike hiring contractors for small home improvement jobs, how to find a builder for your new home is a more complicated effort. You may have even thought about being your own contractor. The relationship with your builder is often described as a marriage given the timeframe you’ll be working together and how often you’ll be interacting. Finding the right match can make the project go smoother and provide you with better quality. So how to find a builder of a home? Pay attention to these simple steps.

how to find a builder for a home

Design Build vs Design Bid Build

The approach you plan to take for the Design and Construction is the first decision you should make when evaluating builders. You may even want some assistance from an Owner's Representative to work though this part. Some builders are focused on the Design Build approach and do not Bid on Designs completed by others. Similarly, some builders do not have design capabilities and only work with homeowners who bring them their designs that they have done with others. Once the Design Build vs Design Bid Build decision is made, you can move on to the next step.

Make a List of Possible Builders

For this next step, you can use a variety of sources. You are simply trying to create a long list of possible builders. One source might simply be a Google search of “home builders in my area”. This will bring up pages and pages of builders, so our recommendation is confirming they really build in your area by reviewing their websites. Yet another approach would be going online to your local builder association website. These sites typically have a directory of local builders. Finally, another approach would be getting referrals by asking family and friends. Often people in the real estate industry like realtors can provide you with many names. Whether they have built with a builder or know of someone that has, these referrals will be additional names to add to your list. If you use these sources, we are confident that you’ll have a pretty sizeable list, so time to move onto the next step.

Evaluate and Narrow Down the List

So now it’s time to narrow down this long list of builder names. We’ve already mentioned some important criteria, but here’s what we suggest that you consider. As you apply criteria that are important to you, we expect you’ll eliminate many of the builder names.

  • Design Build vs Design Bid Build: As discussed above, depending on which approach you select, some builders will naturally fall off your list.

  • Home Style: You may notice on their website that they build a style that is not to your liking. Eliminate that builder and move on.

  • Experience: If having decades of experience is important to you, then apply that by eliminating newer builders.

  • Referrals: If you hear a consistent theme from your referrals regarding a builder that is negative or inconsistent with your values, use that information to eliminate builders you feel aren’t a fit for you.

  • Home Visit/Drive By: You may know past homeowners of a builder that will allow you to view their home. Or you may have seen them being built in your neighborhood. Use this information and experience during this stage.

That long list should get much shorter during this research stage. Ultimately, we believe you should have no more than 5 builders for the next step.

home builder interview

Meet Builders for Initial Consultations

Now that you have reduced that long list down to a manageable less than 5 builders, it’s time to schedule a meeting with them for an initial consultation. Typically, this will be a 60-90 minute meeting at their office, but occasionally they will meet with you at your home or at one of their homes. This meeting has two objectives, first it is for you to share the needs, wants and wishes for your home and to get feedback from the builder. The second objective is to ask questions about the builder, their process, timeframes, cost ranges, etc. Here is a list of potential questions that you can ask.

Are you licensed & insured? This should be a quick question with a no hesitation answer, but you may be surprised. If you are using a lender to finance the construction, they’ll require the builder to provide proof of their licensing and insurance, but if you’re not financing, make sure you receive proof. On insurance, it’s important to confirm the builder is not only carrying General Liability and Worker’s Compensation coverage, but is also providing Builders Risk, which is equivalent to Property Insurance during construction. Lastly, if you are in a flood zone, confirm who will be providing the Flood Insurance during construction.

Can you provide me the names and phone numbers of several past customers? What’s important here is getting a lot of contacts. It’s just too easy for a builder to cherry-pick a couple of positive references. You’re looking for about 5 to 10 (or more) past customers. You could contact them all or randomly select 3 or 4. That way you should be getting more reliable feedback, rather than the builder’s brother-in-law or best man. Just as important as the contacts are the questions you’ll want to ask them. Here is what we would recommend that you ask each builder’s references:

  • Did your home finish on budget? If not, why?

  • Was there ever a time that you felt your builder was being untruthful?

  • Did your builder communicate to you clearly throughout the process?

  • What are your builder’s best qualities?

  • What are some of your builder’s weaknesses?

  • Lastly & Most Important – Would you have your builder build for you again next time?

What’s your warranty and how do you handle issues? Any reputable builder will have a 1-year warranty, and some will even have longer. What you want to understand with this question is how does the builder handle borderline warranty items? What happens if an issue comes up in month 14? Is it, sorry, your time is up, or will he help you out? This is a great question to ask past customers as well.

What’s your experience and how is it relevant to my home? Experience matters, right? Sure, it does. Is the builder experienced with the type or style of home you’re planning? Do they have experience building in the city or county you intend to build?

Have you ever had any lawsuits or filed for bankruptcy? With the highs and lows of the housing market, some builders are opportunistic, short timers. Still others have declared bankruptcy during the lows. This leaves many homeowners without warranty support. With such a big commitment, this is a question that should help you get a better understanding of how financially stable a builder is.

How do you ensure quality construction? Unless you are a builder or really know the construction trade, it’s tough to tell good from poor quality. Sure, you can see cosmetic things like flooring, cabinets and other items in a home, but it’s hard to know what’s going on behind the walls. The important thing here is to get a sense of how a builder manages construction. Building a home is a complex effort. It’s one of the last few products not produced in an automated factory. Does the builder have detailed quality assurance checklists? Who checks quality and how often? What happens if you’re not satisfied with the quality?

How do you communicate and provide service during the design, build and warranty? Lack of communication is one of the most common complaints from homeowners about their builder. So how do you avoid it? This is another area where your conversations with past customers will reveal the real story. You’ll want to know if the builder responds to your requests in a timely manner and how accessible he is. Does he communicate in a way that works for you? Given the prevalence of technology in our communications, find out how your builder utilizes technology to improve communication with you.

How do you ensure that I will not exceed my budget? Yet another question that past customers will help you confirm, but here’s where you want to know how the builder does his purchasing. Does he obtain multiple quotes? When does he provide quotes to you? How are changes estimated? It’s critical to feel confident that your builder will work with you to keep you within your budget and communicate how changes impact the budget.

What’s the timeframe to build a home and how do we make sure we don’t exceed it? The experience of past customers will once again give you an indication of reality, but it’s important to get an honest estimate of the timeframe prior to any agreement. This isn’t the time for your builder to be a hero, so be wary of a timeline that seems overly optimistic. Additionally, ask what tools the builder utilizes to track their schedule and progress. Like any complicated project, a custom home has 40+ suppliers and sub-contractors that need to be coordinated. A builder of a custom home without a detailed written schedule is similar to the waiter that doesn’t write down your order – you can bet it won’t be right!

Can you provide me with detail specifications and cost? The devil is ALWAYS in the details, and this is certainly true when building a new home. You must get clear, detailed specifications and costs from your builder. If anything is unclear, get it clarified. If items important to you are not spelled out, make sure that they are. If you are trying to compare 2 proposals, you have to make sure the details match to be able to compare apples to apples.

What’s included and what’s NOT included? This goes hand in hand with detailed pricing. There are many items that go into the full cost of building a home. The land cost is clear, but there are some grey areas when it comes to the home construction. Ask about surveying, construction plans, existing home demolition, insurance, permit fees, impact fees, tree trimming/removal, fencing, etc. These items need to be considered to determine the full cost.

What makes you different from all the other builders? It’s helpful to toss in one softball question to allow your builder to get on their soapbox. It will allow them to communicate some items that they feel are important and can give you a feel for their personality and style.

Can I trust you? Not really a question that you might ask a builder directly, but more of something that you need to observe and make a decision for yourself. Bottom line, you can’t underestimate how important it is to like, trust and respect your builder. Building a custom home is a long-term relationship that continues beyond the home’s construction for at least the 1-year warranty period. Regardless of how great their reputation is in the area, if there is any reason you are uncomfortable, why would you trust that builder with one of your most important investments?

signing a construction agreement

Final Review and Builder Selection

At this point, you should have the builders narrowed down to 1 or 2. It’s possible a visit to one of their homes that is comparable to the home you are considering will be helpful here. Additionally, we’d encourage you to get their Design and/or Construction Agreements. If you’re comfortable reviewing agreements like this, you can do it yourself, but a few hours from a construction attorney may reveal some important changes you’d like to make to the agreement. It’s best to make sure you understand and are comfortable with the terms now. Finally, make your builder selection. Congrats!

Summary & Wrap Up

Finding that builder for your new home takes patience. Now that you know how to find a builder, take your time, do the research, and ask the right questions. If you do, you’ll most certainly find a reputable builder that you can trust. All the best with your new home!

Additional Resources


“I have known Jon for many years. He and his team at Owners’ Ace are an invaluable resource to anyone looking to design and build a custom home. Having their assistance makes a complex process so much easier and successful. I recommend Owners’ Ace to my clients and to anyone looking to build their dream home.”

BG Holmberg, Top Custom Home Realtor in Tampa Bay Area

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