Buying a home is a big investment. Building a custom home is an even bigger undertaking filled with excitement and fun. There are many decisions to be made before and during the building process, but the most important decision you’ll make is choosing a home builder. You want to get that choice right; otherwise, there may be problems throughout the entire project, and possibly even after the house is built.
Because whichever builder you hire will be in charge of constructing your dream home, the company you select must have all the attributes you’re looking for. But be aware that choosing a home builder is also a process. It starts with doing some research, meeting with several potential contractors, asking lots of questions, and more. Don’t worry if you don’t find the perfect builder on your first try.
Finding the Right Home Builder
So, how do you know when you’ve picked the right builder? Before you begin looking at flooring samples, choosing paint colors, or deciding on cabinetry styles, you need to look for a builder who understands your lifestyle needs and budget. Here are ten steps for choosing a home builder.
Step One: Decide How Much You Can Spend
Building a new home is much more affordable than you might think. However, talk with a mortgage lender or banker before you even begin the process of hiring a builder. Find out what you can afford to spend and confirm a budget. Knowing your finances ahead of time will help you avoid meeting with a builder out of your price range and wasting everyone’s time. When you see what you can financially afford, you can talk to a contractor with confidence. Additionally, you’ll know if someone is trying to push you beyond what you’re comfortable with.
Step Two: Determine What You Need
Many custom builders specialize in a certain style of architecture, size of the home, or price range. Knowing what you want will narrow down your list of potential builders. Is this your first custom home? Are you an “empty-nester” looking to downsize? Do you have a growing family and need a house that can expand along with you? Do you want a convenient one-story ranch or a larger two-story home? Do you love to entertain and need an expansive great room?
Make a list of everything you want. As you look at various builders’ websites, you’ll see if they have what you’re looking for. Additionally, the more details you can determine before meeting with a builder, the more likely you’ll know immediately if they’re the right one for your project.
Step Three: Talk to Experts and Get Recommendations
Do you know anyone – a friend, co-worker, family member – who has built a house within the past five years? Ask them about their experience and get suggestions for a builder. Real estate agents, loan officers, building inspectors, and tradespeople also know the “inside scoop” about who is a good and less-than-good builder. Ask them for their recommendations and why this particular builder is the one to hire.
You’ll quickly see a pattern as to who the top builders are. That’s your perfect starting list for choosing a home builder for your project.
Step Four: Be Clear When Talking With a Builder
It would be best if you can compare apples to apples when choosing a home builder. You’ve spent time with your family determining what you want in your dream home, so let the contractor know.
Be as clear as you can with what you want in your new home. If you want a large deck on the back of your house, or all hardwood floors, or a gourmet kitchen, tell them! If you don’t know at least a few details, the builder will not be able to give you a detailed cost list, timeline, or provide you with all the information you need to make a good decision.
But remember, sometimes a wish list also comes with a big price tag. Stick to your budget. The right home builder will work with you and be honest in their cost estimate. They will be able to suggest changes to save you money. For example, they may recommend putting carpeting in the bedrooms for now instead of hardwood. In the kitchen, maybe you should install laminate countertops now and upgrade to granite at a later date. Or leave the basement unfinished if your budget is getting tight.
Step Five: Ask About the Builder’s Experience
Although hiring a brand-new builder isn’t a terrible idea (everyone has to start somewhere!), you want to find a builder who knows the area and has some experience. Ask them how long they’ve been in the construction business. Ask how long their tradespeople (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.) have worked for them. Ask questions about recent homes they’ve built and try to find out if you can talk to the homeowners.
Make a list of questions for every builder you talk to and make notes. Compare their answers. Do they know if any commercial construction projects will be built in the area within the next four or five years? What is the school system like? Are there hospitals and fire stations nearby? Are grocery stores conveniently located? Do they use poured concrete or concrete block for their foundations? What brand of windows do they use? Do they “build green” and look for ways to be energy efficient? Do they have someone on staff to help you make decisions regarding paint colors, tile, flooring choices, etc.?
Before signing a contract, check with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and check their rating or whether there have been any complaints against them. See if this builder belongs to a professional home builder association. Look at Google and other sites that have reviews for them.
If you are thinking of building in a new subdivision, talk to neighbors who already live there. Would they hire this builder again? How quickly did the builder respond to their questions? Are they happy with the final product and the neighborhood?
Step Six: They Talk, But Do They Also Listen?
One of the most important attributes a great home builder has is their ability to communicate. Does this builder communicate well with their team? With you? Ask them how they prefer to exchange information: by phone call, text, or email? Can you stop by the job site whenever you want to see how things are going? Or do you have to make an appointment first?
The right home builder will let you know if there are delays or problems with your project as they happen. They’ll tell you why there is an issue (i.e., bad weather, back order delays, etc.) and how they’re going to rectify the situation.
Before breaking ground, the builder should meet with you several times to discuss your expectations for your house project. They will walk you through the process, answer all your questions, offer you good advice, and let you know what’s possible to accomplish within your budget.
However, take note if the builder spends more time talking and telling you what you want versus listening to your explanation of what you want.
Step Seven: Check for Insurance and Licensing
This step is very simple. In Wisconsin, anyone who performs residential construction or remodeling projects must possess a contractor’s license. Wisconsin builders are also required to have risk insurance for their properties during the construction period. It’s simple to go online to check if they have both, but you can also ask to see their paperwork to verify. If they won’t show you the paperwork, or you can’t find anything online, walk away – no matter how great the builder seems.
Step Eight: Ask About Warranties
Whether it’s a car, a television, or a computer, just about everything you buy offers a warranty. Your home builder should do the same! Most importantly, you should receive a long-term written policy, not just a handshake and a smile with a promise to do good work.
The builder’s warranty should guarantee that if there is a problem with the house, the issue will be repaired or resolved in some way – even if the builder is no longer in business. Many builders offer warranties from two to five years after the client takes occupancy. If the contractor you’re talking to does not provide any warranties, walk away.
No builder is perfect; things can sometimes go wrong. But a good builder will stay in touch even after the project is complete and you’ve moved into the house. They make sure you are satisfied, will stand behind their work, and won’t disappear, never to be heard from again.
Step Nine: Look Closely at Their Quality of Craftsmanship
So, you’ve met with several builders, asked lots of questions, and narrowed down the list. Now is the time to visit their model homes and, if possible, tour a home that is currently under construction. Look closely at their workmanship and the quality of materials used. Are they using off-brands to save on costs and cutting corners? Are they paying attention to detail? What does the job site look like – are there any safety issues?
Listen to your gut. If something feels off, it probably is. On the other hand, as you walk through the job site or model home and see good quality finishes, attractive design features, and meet happy customers, that’s a great sign!
Step Ten: Take Your Time
Of course, once you decide to build a brand new house for your family, you want it done right now! But it would be best if you took as much time to choose a home builder as it will build your house. This is a big decision. Gather all the information you need, compare the information each builder has given you, and take your time to make your choice. You’ll be living with your decisions for many years, so choose wisely, not quickly.
More than likely, as you have gathered information about choosing a home builder in southeastern Wisconsin, you have heard the name Cobblestone Builders. That’s because their reputation, based on honesty and trust, has made them one of the top home builders in the area.
Husband and wife Dirk and Stevie Wildt founded their construction business in 1990 in Menomonee Falls, WI. For more than thirty years, their entire team has remained proud of the work they do building energy-efficient, high-quality homes and condos throughout Washington, Waukesha, Racine, Dodge, Walworth, and Milwaukee counties.
Through various awards, Cobblestone Builders has been recognized as one of the premier builders and home designers in southeastern Wisconsin. The BBB (Better Business Bureau) has bestowed the Torch Award for Ethics because of Cobblestone’s integrity, honesty, high ethics, and transparent business practices. You know you can trust Cobblestone Builders to build an ideal home for you and your family.
Best of all, Cobblestone Builders creates quality homes using superior materials both inside and out. Their houses have a characteristic look and unique curb appeal that welcomes you in before you even get to the front door. Once inside, you’ll feel the warmth and comfort of their open floor plans with high-quality finishes and lots of natural sunlight.
Make an Appointment Today!
When you’re ready, the professionals with Cobblestone Builders are happy to answer all your questions and help you design the home of your dreams. They will stay conscious of your budget and family’s needs and work with you to also give you the value you deserve.
The Cobblestone staff can accomplish all of this by hiring the most skilled tradespeople and using name brand materials. They listen carefully to what you want and incorporate your ideas into the final floorplan and architectural design. The professional staff openly communicates with their clients and offers an extraordinary level of service. You will never have any unhappy surprises when you work with Cobblestone Builders. Schedule your first appointment today.