How to Select a Builder?
While talking with my customers I say this all the time. The most important decision you will make when building your new house is….The Builder, The Builder and the The Builder.
Why?…….. The construction business is about a billion little tiny things. Every piece of the process impacts the next one, however, if corners are cut or done wrong you will not know until after your warranty is over.
Say for example the excavator is having a bad day, and in one corner of the house he digs a little to deep, he realizes his mistake while leveling the base for the concrete guy and throws some dirt back in to bring it up, he does not have a vibratory compactor with him so he uses the bucket of the machine to pack down the dirt. I have seen this many times. However, the building code says foundations must be built on virgin ground (it no longer is once he digs through it) or be compacted to 95%. As big as the excavator may be, he cannot get that with the bucket. High compaction requires vibration which is why those machines bounce very fast. It is the only way to get high compaction. So the construction continues and no one will know. However, this requirement is in the building code for a very good reason. The test of time has shown us that ground that is not properly compact WILL settle over time.
So the house is completed and looks great, everything is back filled around the foundation, the house was built very well and looks so good when you move in. Weather cycles will cause loose ground to settle. 2 years later your see some cracks in the corner of the house. You call the contractor and he tells you that is normal houses settle. (no they do not!!!!!) a years later the door in that room does not close and the window binds when you open it. They drywall cracks more and more every year. You don’t see it but the trusses are also separating, and the floor starts to creak. None of these make the house a disaster, but the guy who cuts that corner will cut some more. Little by little time exposes there issues. Perhaps he does not get enough pitch on your perimeter drains, well then you would also get water in your basement, and he comes up a half load short of the stone for the septic. Then you have to have your system pumped every couple of years. There are so many ways short cuts will impact your house even if the trim work is perfect and the cabinets are so nice. You get my point.
The other short coming we see with contractors is an inability to estimate the cost of the project and commit to an absolute number. Make sure the contract you sign is concrete and has no room for cost increases. Some of the best builders out there obsess over the details of the construction, however, they lack the business skills to anticipate the cost of construction and get half way through a project when they realize the under bid parts of it.
So what can you do? This is hard, because builders are regional you will not find a consumer reports review on your builder. You may know people they built for (that is the best way) but be sure to ask all the right questions.
Did they finish on time?
Did they finish on budget?
Did they follow up if you had issues after you moved in?
How is the house holding up to the test of time?
Also ask for reference both new and old. Most builders will give you the ones they know will say good things. Ask to see a customer list and to select for yourself who you talk to.
But the most important tool you have is your gut. Many people get so excited about their new dream home, and if they find someone who tells them what they want to hear they just move ahead. You really need to trust your instincts.