Choosing The Right Bluffton Home Builder

Congratulations! You’ve already taken the first step toward your dream home….you’ve finally decided it’s time to build. But maybe you aren’t sure how to go about finding builders in your area. Let’s face the facts: there are a lot of home builders out there, especially in a hot real estate market where anyone who has a hammer can call themselves a home builder. This puts a little more pressure on you to make sure you choose the right one.

Settle for a mediocre home builder and you may regret it, not just during the building process but for years to come. Select the best home builder and you’ll be able to bring your dream home to life.

For many owners, designing their custom home will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the process of hiring a builder should be approached with the utmost care and attention to detail. Most homeowners will work with the builder for anywhere from 12 to 24 months. Like any other working relationship, trust and communication are two of the most important elements involved.

In this post we hope to make it a little less daunting to make your incredibly important decision. Selecting the right custom home builder is absolutely the most impactful decision you will make along the road to your dream home. Choose well, and you will have a ture partner and advocate. With the right builder you will avoid the all-too-familiar construction horror story and instead end up with a high quality dream home as well as an enjoyable, smooth, and creatively fulfilling experience for you and your family. It’s very important to us to provide as many helpful resources as we can to enable you to find the right custom home builder.

Use Social Media

There is no shortage of social media sites today. But is a great Facebook page an indicator of a high quality builder? Not necessarily. There are better social media sites than Facebook for homebuyers. A high quality site you may not be familiar with is HOUZZ (houzz.com). If you are building a home, this might just become your favorite website. It’s full of design ideas, reviews, and recommendations for new technologies, builders, and designers. Pinterest is also a great place for home ideas. Many of the local builders and designers maintain active Pinterest pages. Additionally, Linkedin can be a great place to find builders and view mutual connections you may have so that you can solicit reviews from people you know.

Google Time

If you are like the rest of America, you will probably do some online research prior to reaching out to potential builders. You’ll learn quite a bit by visiting the builders’ websites. What can you learn or, better yet, what should you look for? Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Does the builder attempt to educate potential customers? How informative is the information?
  • Are there testimonials? Builders with a good reputation are eager to share quotes from customers.
  • The look of the site says a lot about the builder. Is the builder’s website professional? Is it up to date? Is it maintained? Some builders have been around a long time and receive most of their business through referrals, so their site may not be the most technologically advanced….however, it is certainly worth a look to get a feel of their style.
  • What does the portfolio look like? Is it aligned with your personal style?
  • Does their personal and/or company bio give you any information that helps you make a decision?

Start with Friends and Family

Custom home builders do a significant portion of their business from referrals. It’s not uncommon for high quality custom home builders to build several homes for the same client throughout the years as their customers’ needs change. Due to the nature of the home building process, a customer gets to know their builder at a very personal level. Chances are, you know someone that has built a custom home and has an experience that could be helpful. Start asking questions.

When to Begin Interviewing Builders

It’s important to connect with your custom home builder as soon as you are ready to start asking questions. They are experts in the complete building process. Site selection, design, architecture, and finance are all areas where most builders will be able to provide expert advice, support, and recommendations if you need them. Oftentimes, an early consultation can help you get started in the right direction, even if you aren’t sure what you want your custom home to look like. By sitting down with various home builders you can get a feel for what’s out there and begin to get ideas.

Keep in mind, the home builder will be the one coordinating and executing the entire process. Some people initially reach out to an architect or a real estate agent, but it’s time to change your mindset; talk to a custom builder first. The builder you select after the interview process can help you facilitate these relationships, or at least provide direction on how to use these services to maximize your budget. There’s nothing more disheartening than an architect or designer putting forth a design that, while beautiful, cannot be completed anywhere near your budget.

Ideally, you’ll want to spend some time interviewing the builders that you are serious about. It’s crucial that you select a home builder who will be a good fit for your needs. Builders have different specialties, different styles, and different price ranges. Hopefully, you’ll meet the perfect one in the first meeting, but you’ll want to have a couple back up options, just in case.

Here Are a Few Things to Think About Before You Begin Your Interview with Custom Home Builders

Do you want an eco-friendly home? Are you craving a particular style of architecture? Talk with your family about what they want for their next home before you go to a meeting.

On your end, who will be part of the daily decision making? Your spouse? Your mother? Just you? Deciding this in advance can help you understand who will need to be compatible with the builder you select. All required decision makers should attend the first meeting.

You don’t need a hard and fast number just yet, but you will definitely need a ballpark idea of how much you would like to spend. This will help your builder give you an idea of what your home could be like at your initial consultation. Also, think about your maximum price. If you do have a hard and fast number, be ready to communicate that at the initial meeting.

Even if you aren’t quite sure what style you want your home to be or how big you want to go, knowing what you do not want can also be helpful for a builder. The information can help the builder to get pointed in the right direction.

Think about your personal style. Start a pinterest board or clip photos from magazines. Think as big as you’d like. It’s important to show your ideas to potential builders when you sit down for your initial meeting so they understand the feel you are looking for in your new custom home. Also, this process may help you decide what you like and dislike, so choosing a builder who can suit those needs may become easier.

The First Meeting

At your first meeting, you will want to get a good feel for the builder. It’s important that you get along well with your builder because you’ll be working very closely with him or her in the months to come. If your personalities just aren’t working, the project will be an uphill battle.

Ask your builder for sample contracts, budgets, draw requests, warranties, etc. It’s good to have an idea of what these documents look like before you select your builder. These documents will help you discern that you are indeed working with a professional, well-qualified builder.

It’s important in your first meeting to discuss your needs and expectations with your builder. If you need your home built and ready to move in by the end of the year, say so. Let the builder know your must haves, your likes, and your dislikes. Also, take the time to show your builder your ideas for your new home. Show styles from websites you visited, even if they are not from their website. When working with a custom home builder, they can likely match styles even if they have never done the style in the past. This helps the builder get a feel for your style and tastes.

Questions TO Ask your new builder

  • How many years have you been in business?
  • Do you have appropriate licensing and insurance?
  • Are your original estimates accurate?
  • What type of warranties do you offer for your homes?
  • Can you give me a list of client and supplier references?
  • Could we visit a home under construction (to see how a worksite is maintained)?
  • Do you build energy efficient homes?
  • What if we have changes to the design during the building process?
  • Who will be the point person for our custom project?
  • What is your game plan for helping customers stick to their budgets?
  • How do you avoid unexpected changes mid project?
  • What is your process for selecting subcontractors for your projects?
  • How long will a home (with a scope similar to my custom home concept) take to complete?
  • Will I have home access during the process?
  • What is your relationship with customers after the home is completed?
  • Can you tell me about homes you are currently building?

After The First Meeting

You’ve met a builder that interests you. They answered the interview questions in ways you understand. Now, it’s time for some further vetting.

First, give their references a call. Here are some good questions to ask:

  • How do you like your new custom home?
  • Did you have any issues that were not resolved? (It’s unrealistic to think that no issues occurred during the home building process. Building custom homes is complicated and involves dozens of suppliers and hundreds of products. In fact, it is better to hear that the builder was readily available and willing to take steps to correct problems, rather than hearing nothing went wrong. The latter might be a clue you are talking to an uninformed buyer.)
  • Did the project get done on time and within budget?
  • Did the references have changes occur during the home building process? How were they handled?
  • How would you describe your ongoing relationship with them after the build was complete?
  • Would you recommend this builder?

If you are feeling extra bold, ask one of the builder’s references for a tour of their home. If you succeed in getting a personal tour, try to see if the style of the builder suits you, though bear in mind that design teams employed by custom home builders are often capable of designing many different styles proficiently. Also, the word “custom” in custom home builder is important. Just because the style doesn’t match your tastes, doesn’t mean it didn’t match the reference’s tastes.

Now that you researched the references the builder gave you, it’s time to research the list of references the builder did not give you. Check out Google reviews and sites like Houzz and Angie’s List to see what people are saying about your builder. One glowing review is wonderful, but not if there are 10 terrible reviews for every good one. A cautionary note on this process: many custom home builders, especially in the luxury price range, do not build many homes in a given year. Do not be alarmed if there aren’t dozens of reviews available.

Finally, if they are passing inspection on all points, it’s time to go visit a current construction site.

Items to Consider for Your First Meeting

Be certain the price makes sense

If the price seems too good to be true or is significantly lower than other estimates for the exact same project, be sure to ask why. If their price is extremely low one of two things could be at play. Either the builder may do poor work or use poor materials, or the builder will use good materials and do good work, but might hike up the price halfway through (when it would be difficult to hire another builder). They might only be throwing you a low bid to secure your business. Most quality custom home builders will be able to provide a number that makes sense.

Take time to ensure the estimate provides details

You want to be certain the estimate provided by your builder contains a lot of details about what you have discussed. Remember, a builder can only estimate a project based on the information given. If the information is incomplete, you should expect the estimate to be inaccurate. That said, if you’ve thoroughly discussed the details, you should expect an estimate that reflects what you’ve requested.

See if the builder has a long history of work

If they don’t, this is not necessarily a deal breaker. Everyone starts somewhere. Some of the best builders in the industry are new. They tend to be hungry and sometimes will go above and beyond to make sure you are satisfied. Nevertheless, established builders can show you their work and will have more references that you can connect with, which ultimately makes you a better informed buyer.

Ask for references and see if you can visit current work sites

Excellent builders will be excited to provide references and show you a current site. Great builders want you to speak to customers or see past work.

Items to Consider at a Home Builder’s Construction Site

Driving by the site to see what is going on is all fine and good, but you may want to schedule time to do a walk through with the builder. Unless you are an expert custom home builder, you will have questions about why something is being done the way you are seeing

We aren’t talking about a little dirt here and there. We’re talking about things like beer bottles or cigarette butts on site. You want to make sure the builder’s employees are doing their jobs properly.

Make sure workers on site are dressed properly and wearing appropriate footwear on site.

You may not be a home building expert, but if there are glaring issues on the current site, ask the builder about them. Watch the workers to see if they are doing their jobs carefully and safely.

You are unlikely to find everyone holding hands and skipping around gleefully, but it is certainly a cause for concern if workers seem overly angry, especially if they know you are a potential new client. A happy construction worker is a worker who is more likely to do his job well.

Items to Consider During the Hiring Process

A good custom home builder will be patient with you and understand that a contract is the backbone of any good home project. Getting this right is your first step on the road to success.

Be certain the contract is specific and includes the materials you discussed. Again, details mentioned in passing may have been forgotten in the contract. If you’ve interviewed a lot of builders, you may not have mentioned all things to all builders. And in the same way, if they have had many interviews with potential clients, they may not recall all the details of your specific requests. If you see something missing that you want to have in writing, now is the time to mention it. It’s important to make certain you and your builder both understand what you want.

Make sure the downpayment makes sense. 15% to 20% is a norm and anything above that should be a cause for concern. Reputable builders do not require an enormous down payment before you begin.

Hiring Your Builder

You’ve interviewed multiple builders, and you’ve found a builder that can build you the house of your dreams. Good work. The next step is hiring. It’s a lot of paperwork. You will want to read the contracts provided very closely. Make sure the paperwork reflects your needs exactly.

With so many moving parts, miscommunications are easy. Many changes mid-project could be avoided if both parties cautiously review the contract and the paperwork.

Get Started

Congratulations! You are ready to build! By following the steps outlined in this post you drastically reduce your chances of running into bumps during your custom home project. Be sure to make frequent visits to your site and touch base with your builder often. Before you know it, you’ll be packing up and moving into your beautiful dream home.