As American consumers most of us pride ourselves on being able to find the right item at the right price. We know how to shop for quality, negotiate, and read the fine print on everything from automobiles to umbrellas. But, many of us are at a disadvantage when it comes to building a new home, probably because it’s something we just don’t do every day. So, how do you go about it?
In this article you’ll learn valuable information regarding a primary piece of the puzzle: selecting your general contractor. Here is a list to consider.
1) Determine your home type: Are you building a typical 3/2 for a young family? Or are you looking for a multi-million dollar estate for retirement? While some builders might offer the entire spectrum, chances are more likely that a contractor builds homes within a particular niche. Define yours and look at the builders aligned with your home type.
2) Seek experience: Of course, this goes without saying. A good contractor should have a proven track record. On the other hand, we’d like to point out that some new construction companies have been started by seasoned veterans from established companies. Don’t discount them. It might be worth it to find a new contractor with a history of quality experience who isn’t backlogged with a ton of work.
3) Ask for references: Can the candidate point you to satisfied customers you can call or visit? A worthy contractor is likely to have a long list. And, they won’t be reluctant to share those past customers with you. Visit their homes if you can and meet them face to face. A key question to ask is if they would recommend the builder to close family and friends.
4) Are they licensed and insured? In the state of Florida, a general contractor must have a state license by law, and they must hire sub-contractors that are also licensed. Don’t be shy. Ask for their license number and look it up. You can start here:http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/ Also inquire about their subs. Another important area is insurance. How much do they carry? What does it cover? And, while you’re at it, have a discussion on how their subs get paid. The last thing you want is to have an unscrupulous contractor keep your deposits for themselves and the sub-contractors coming to you for money.
5) Warranties and repairs: Why are you building a new home in the first place? A big part of the answer is probably so your home, components, and systems are in perfect working order and under warranty. So, check into those warranties and service guarantees. Ask your contractor who is liable for repairs in hypothetical situations a year, five years, or ten years down the road. Past customers can also attest to whether or not things have been handled in a prompt, courteous manner. Make sure your builder takes the time to explain the proper maintenance and care your new home requires to learn what is expected of you.
6) Realtors: If a builder’s homes maintain or increase in value it’s a very good sign. A realtor can help you take a look at the market and see how your candidates rate. And, if a contractor has a good or bad reputation it will follow them and it’s likely the realtor will know. Sometimes, realtors will even include the name of the builder in ads if that contractor’s reputation for quality construction will help them sell a home.
7) Building Industry Associations: A local builder committed to their long term presence in the community will usually join one or more area building associations. A quick web search will help you find these associations. Then you can take a look at their member listings and see if your company shows up. Here’s one for Charlotte County: http://www.cdbia.com/ Check our homepage for more.
8) Model homes: These are open to the public during regular business hours, usually with no appointment necessary. Model homes are wonderful tools to assess the look and feel of a particular floor plan. And, they are equally valuable to help you rate a contractor’s level of quality, or lack thereof. Poke around. Check out the details, the craftsmanship. Do the doors close with a solid feel? Are the windows hung properly? How to the appliances fit into the counter tops and cabinetry? What you see in the open can tell you an awful lot about what you can’t see in other places.
9) Construction materials: What your home is made of and where that material comes from matters. Ask a potential general contractor to list his brands of materials and suppliers then hop online or make a few calls and ask for reviews. Who else uses these materials? Do they have a track record? The goal, of course, is to build a home with quality materials that last for decades and don’t come back to haunt you.
10) Personnel: Finally, put those shopping instincts to use as you do in other situations and assess the company’s staff. Did they seem to be there for you when you visited the model home? Or, were you rushed? Were they knowledgeable and courteous? Would you have hired them? If a builder fills their sales roster with competent, quality employees, then it’s more likely the guys pouring your foundation and swinging the hammers are cut from the same cloth.
These are just a few of the things to consider when selecting a general contractor. Drop us a line any time to give us more or to ask any questions on this topic.
The most important thing is to take your time. Interview several possible choices. Talk to friends as well. Most people only build a handful of homes in their lifetime. Make sure your new home is built to last the rest of yours.