With popular shows like Fixer Upper and Flip or Flop gracing our TVs it seems like everyone wants a custom built or renovated home. Who wouldn’t want one, really? Beautiful new gleaming counters and expanded, open floor plans mixed with old school charm of homes from previous decades make many people swoon. Is what you see on TV really what you get though? Is working with a local builder going to be the same as the Chip and Joanna experience we all idolize?
I’ve worked with multiple clients who have chosen to build and customize their homes. Some have run as smooth as glass and others have been less than favorable experiences. The builder you choose is a big factor in the success of your home. There are a few steps you can take to insure that you are getting the quality home you want in the timeframe you want. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way from working with builders and clients.
Get an Agent
You may think that you don’t need an agent when you choose to build because there is a client liaison from the builder. Having your own agent helps protect your interest though. Your agent works for you, not the builder. They help keep track of any changes you make to the plans, follow up on timelines set by the builder, and can guide you on any additional questions or processes that need to happen as you work through the build.
Thoroughly Read Your Builder’s Contract
When working with a builder you often sign two contracts; one for the sale of the home and one for working with the builder. Be sure to read your builder contract in full. Often builders have clauses that state they can use “like or similar materials” to what they show you on a design sheet. They also tend to hold the ability to not hit exact timelines for move-in and to spend your Earnest Money Deposit before closing, aka it doesn’t sit in escrow with a broker like it might if you were buying a resale home. These clauses aren’t in every builder’s contract but it is best to know what the possible “negatives” are while working with your builder.
With all the technology and review sites on the web there are likely reviews of your builder somewhere. You may find them on Google, in a forum thread, or speaking with your local real estate board’s office. Be sure to do your research and talk with people who have actually had homes built by the builder you are looking into.
Ask Questions and Keep Records
Ever walked down an aisle at Target and just thrown an extra item into your cart without really thinking about how much the total was going to be when you checked out? Who are we kidding, we all have. You may find yourself walking through your home with your builder asking if you can add extra can lights or put in a built-in bookcase in the corner and in the moment the builder says yes and may forget to write it down, tell you it will be an overage (additional cost) or tell you that it will push back your timeline. Closing on your new home should be exciting but those unexpected overages can put a damper on the mood. Be sure to write down and confirm in an email with your builder (and your agent) what has been agreed to and what the final costs are.
Know Their Business Partners
When you choose to work with a builder you are choosing to work with their subcontractors and business partners as well. They have cabinet suppliers, counter suppliers, painters, appliance representatives, and so-on that they work with to get everything they need for your home. Ask for a list of their suppliers and subcontractors at your first meeting. Take the time to research them the way you researched the builder. These partners are who help or hinder you moving in on time.
Builders are great at building homes. That’s their passion! Not every builder is great at client management and relations though and that is where I have found most of the problems creep in. It’s always somewhere between the average buyer doesn’t understand all the elements of construction (because why would you?) and that the builder isn’t great at communicating along the way. Keep this in mind and if you ever have a question, want an update, or want to double-check a cost do it or ask your REALTOR® to do so. Remember, you’re buying the house and should know exactly what you’re paying for.