Y’all, our house is going to be AMAZING. Amazingly stressful, amazingly beautiful, amazingly perfect. I literally tear up when I think about just how perfect it’s going to be for our family and for what we want to do in the next couple of decades. It’s going to allow us to grow our family, both biologically and hopefully through the foster system, host our friends and family, and spend a ton of time outside. We looked for a while for a pre-built house, whether that be new or older, but just couldn’t find one that had the layout we wanted with the finishes we wanted at the price point we needed. When we walked into a model home, though, it was like the heavens opened up. If I could have drawn a floor plan, this would have been it. The catch was, we’d have to build the house ourselves. I had ZERO desire to build, but if it meant getting our dream home, it was worth the research in how to choose a builder, as well as ensuring we aren’t going to end up way over our heads.
Ultimately, it comes down to their having a floor plan you love (assuming you’re not going completely custom), but you definitely want to make sure that the builder is going to do what you want and need them to do in order to have a home you won’t regret paying for, especially since there’s going to be a lot of blood, sweat, and tears going into it when you’re responsible for choosing every little design and functional piece for your future home. There are a few things that you want to check on before signing on the dotted (why do they even call them dotted? I’ve never seen a dotted.) line.
This post is part of a series I’m writing called “Built with Love.” For the first part, where I explain why we chose to build a home, rather than buying one that might have been the easier path, check out this post!
How to Choose a Builder for Your Dream Home
If you can’t afford it, there’s no point in going into the building process, whether you find a great builder or not. There are houses available at virtually every price point, but the base cost isn’t necessarily what you’ll end up spending. When you’re wandering through the model home with a rep and thinking about how to choose a builder, point out every single feature you like, no matter how big or small, and ask whether it’s an upgrade or standard. Keep notes about the items you would want in your home and how much of an upgrade it is. There may be a standard option you like just as well, or at the very least, could live with, but you won’t know how much on top of the base cost your house is going to be unless you do a little math. This varies GREATLY from builder to builder, too. The builder we ended up going with, we only needed about $8500 in upgrades to have our literal dream home (AND that was included in the package, so we spent very, very little out of pocket). If we’d gone with the one across the street, we were looking at more like $75,000 in upgrades to have it just mostly the way we wanted.
Willingness to Customize
The floor plan may be close to want you want, but maybe you need an extra room, bathroom, or want to change something up in the layout of the kitchen. Ask about those things! If they aren’t willing to change major pieces of the floor plan, you’ll have to decide whether that’s something you can live with. Adding on rooms after the fact is a lot more expensive after you’re done building, but expanding a patio is a lot cheaper. Switching out a tub for a full shower, making a pocket desk into a counter, moving something like a fireplace, etc. aren’t inexpensive changes, but might be more doable. For example, we’re adding on a bedroom and bathroom because we want enough bedrooms to have our kids and eventually foster kids (who need their own room according to gender). They were happy to add it on, but it would cost us a fair sum (one we were willing to pay). We also wanted to change the built-in desk in the kitchen to more counter space, with no upper cabinets and bookshelves below instead of lower cabinets. That’s something we could have more than lived with if they’d said no, whereas the bedroom was not. You won’t know until you ask, though, so make sure if there’s something about the floor plan you aren’t in love with, you ask about whether it can be changed. Then, once you have their answer, you can make the decision about whether that’s a deal breaker on your “how to choose a builder” list for your family.
There are SO many things that can go wrong when you’re building. Whether it’s putting a wall in the wrong place, not enough outlets, tile looking wrong, appliances breaking, walls getting beat up, you name it, there are a thousand and one things that can go awry. What safeguards do they have in place for catching (and then fixing) those things? After the closing date, what will they be willing to change, fix, or replace should it need it? Make sure that you have a TON of opportunities to catch things– I’m talking multiple chances in each of the the floor plan, design, build, and post-build stages– and find out what they’ll do to fix it should something get messed up. Most builders have a one year warranty for after the closing date, so definitely put that date in your planner for about 10 months after your closing so you can do an extremely thorough walk-through of your home (preferably when there aren’t little people around) so you can catch everything– big and small– before that clock clicks up and you’re out of time to have THEM pay for the fixes.
This one is far from a science, but important nonetheless when it comes to how to choose a builder. Ask your friends who might have a house built by them (either that they worked with or who bought one already built). Check the Better Business Bureau. Look at any local Facebook pages, websites, Next Door, etc. for reviews or even post on those, asking for opinions. People LOVE to talk about what they think, so you’re likely to get both good and bad responses that you’ll have to weigh yourself, but at least it gives you SOME idea of what the builder will be like to work with, the quality of their work, etc.
There are so many things to take into account when it comes to figuring out how to choose a builder for your dream home, but the truth is, as overwhelming as it may be, they’re all important. You need to feel comfortable with the people who will be building potentially the biggest investment of your life, but more than that, you need to feel comfortable with the people who will be building the place you’ll turn into home for your family. I know it can be scary, but it’s also exciting and, hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll have the home you want to live in for a long, long time.