How to Choose a Home Builder
My last two posts have been all about selling your home – Paint Colours for Home Staging and Sell your Home by Staging the Front Door. Now that our youngest is about to leave the nest, we are moving on. After years and years of waffling (decision-making) and flip-flopping (more decision-making) we are really really selling our old house and building a (little) house of our own. Going from (constantly) renovating a very old heritage home to building a brand new custom home is exciting and I feel very fortunate to do so but there are many challenges and decisions along the way. My very first post about this process is all about how to choose a home builder.
We decided we needed a small bungalow as our last home (hopefully) and looked at brand new homes in new neighbourhoods and older homes (aka fixer-uppers) in mature neighbourhoods, but we ultimately decided that we will build our own – how hard can it be?
We had two simple considerations for land to build our new home:
- It had to be fairly close to our small city, and
- It needed to be flat, since we did not want a basement walk-out with a big deck and lots of stairs.
Eventually we ended up with this lovely treed 1.5 acre lot on a quiet street of new custom homes about 7 km from downtown.
After careful consideration, we chose the building company that owned the land we bought – Donald Hill Homes. Now in its third generation and after 70 years of growth, this builder is slowly (and carefully) developing the land they have owned for decades just north of our city.
Trent Hill is the youngest generation to continue the company founded by his grandfather. He has been extremely patient about answering our (many oh so many) questions and impressively he and his dad, Graham are deep in the trenches (literally) working alongside their employees.
The weather for this normally cruel month (April) has cooperated and they have been able to start the foundation.
I typed up the following list of questions, with spaces for answers when I interviewed the builders we were considering:
- How long have you been in business?
- What are your professional qualifications and credentials?
- Do you have all required licenses and are you insured? (Get details)
- Can you provide a list of references and past clients who I can contact. (When speaking with references ask about the quality of work, if the agreed-upon timeline was followed and if they would use them again)
- Have they worked in the area before – what is their relationship with the city inspections department? (Check this department for feedback on their relationship with the builder)
- How many projects, other than yours will they be working on – will they commit to finishing your project to meet your deadline?
- Will they be using established subcontractors with excellent reputations and if so are the subcontractors insured?
- What is their estimated fee? How do they establish fees? Although the fee is a factor in your decision it should not be the most important one. An estimate that seems low could indicate shoddy work.
- Are estimates usually on target? How will cost overruns be handled?
- Will they provide a contract? What is their warranty? How will you be assured that payments to subcontractors/suppliers will be made?
What is interesting is that Trent told us that we were the first people to ask many of the above questions, but he relished answering them because he was able to discuss the values and commitment he brings to the building process.
Other Considerations for how to Choose a Home Builder
References are very Important
Trent gave us several names of former clients to call and we also got the opportunity to tour a couple of houses he built so we could see the quality first-hand. He had no difficulties calling his former client and arranging for a time for us to view the house! Everyone we spoke to and I mean everyone was very happy and would use this builder again. In a small community like ours, word of mouth is very important so we made sure to use an established builder with a great reputation.
Good Communication = Great Relationship
As with any relationship I cannot stress how important it is to have open and respectful communication with your builder/contractor. There are no “stupid” questions (trust me!) and if something is bothering you discuss it openly.
How are your Builder’s “other” Relationships?
Since we are a small city, it is rather easy to get a handle on how local suppliers feel about the builder you have chosen. Make sure your builder has active trade accounts in good standing with all the main suppliers, including plumbing, building supplies, flooring, windows etc. and furthermore that they are considered a valued and good customer. This will be a key consideration when you are getting pricing from these suppliers!
If you would like to contact Trent Hill of Donald Hill Homes (for renovations, excavating and new builds in the Greater Fredericton Area of New Brunswick) his phone number is (506) 260-3818. His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell him Jo sent you!
My next post is all about choosing a home design.