Whether you are planning to buy a ready-to-live condo or build a customized home, it is very important to choose the right home builder. A beginner to the real estate market might find himself overwhelmed by flashy brochures and aggressive marketing that promise you the moon – and the stars. So how does one separate the wheat from the chaff? We have put together a list of 5 things that you should look for when choosing a home builder.
1. Is there a match between your needs and the builder’s experience?
Does the builder’s overall experience match with what you are looking for? Many builders specialize in different categories such as luxury apartments for the upper class, compact modern apartments for the urban couple and so on. However, if you are planning to live in a traditional home with an old-world feel, you need a builder who has expertise in this area. This is hugely important because the building process and materials themselves may differ in each case. Find out if the builder has worked on similar designs in the past and ask to see previous constructions or model homes. If the firm is relatively new, find out if they have experienced professionals on their payroll.
2. What do their previous customers say?
Most builders these days are ready to provide references. Though you can always talk to them, it would be better if you can search for others on your own. Set a day aside to visit his previous projects and talk to a few customers. Plan your visit mostly on a weekend when people are relaxed and willing to talk.
Ask the home owners whether they are satisfied with the builder, whether he kept his promises, whether they faced any problems during construction and after they moved in and so on. Try to find out if they are willing to buy another home from the same builder or to recommend the builder to a close friend or a relative and most importantly – their reasons for the same.
Visiting an actual home provides a better feel of the quality of construction. A model home is usually displayed fully furnished and can tend to distract you from the actual construction.
The local home builders’ association and consumer complaint forums may be other good sources of information on the builder and his reputation in the market. You may be able to determine whether there are any pending complaints against the builder or whether any previous customer has filed a legal action suit against him.
3. Do they offer guarantees?
If you are buying a new property, find out if the builder is giving a long-term structural warranty or guarantee on the building. What is the standard response time that can be expected? Find out from previous customers whether the builder has been regular in his promised services, responses to complaints and maintenance. Are they ready to give it to you in writing?
If your builder’s warranty does not extend to even the minimum market standards, then I would recommend that you rethink your decision.
4. Is the builder insured?
Are the builder and his contractors covered by insurance for job site injuries, accidents, storm damage or other hazards? Make sure that his policy offers protection against property damage and includes employers and public liability insurance.
Public liability insurance covers injury to the general public and third parties during construction (for example, a passing pedestrian is hit by a falling metal sheet). Employer liability insurance provides protection to the employee who is injured while working on the construction of your building. Make sure that your builder has this coverage, or you may find yourself dragged into unnecessary litigation. A contractors’ all-risk coverage will protect the under construction building against accidental damage.
Also find out if the builder is licensed and if so, by whom. Some areas require that you work with a licensed builder.
5. Quality and resale value
A home is one of the biggest investments that you might make in your lifetime and hence it is important to do your homework carefully. The quality of the construction and products used will make a huge difference in its resale value down the years.
When you visit the builder’s previous or other ongoing projects, pay special attention to quality of construction and building materials. Are they signs of seepage or outward structural issues? Are his homes environment-friendly? Are the plumbing fixtures, electrical switches, woodwork etc. of good quality or is he trying to cut costs? Has he used the same products that he used in his model home? Some builders use well-reputed brands in their models and use substitutes in the actual construction. Read the fine print in their marketing brochures carefully. Don’t forget to ask what items displayed in the model home will be included in the standard pricing and what comes at an additional charge.
If you are venturing into real estate for the first time, read your contract carefully or have a real estate lawyer go through it. Never take a hasty decision while choosing a home builder or it may end up being a very costly mistake that you have to live with for the rest of your life. The cheapest may not always be the best option. You may end up spending more in the longer run on repairs and maintenance if the builder has tried to give you a cheaper quote by using substandard materials in his estimation.
You may also want to check with your builder at what stages before or during the building process you will be able to suggest additions and changes. Though some builders are not agreeable to changing their plans for a single owner, especially if you are buying into a condominium, there may be certain stages of the construction or before it when you can request for specific upgrades.