In today’s marketplace, most things have been commoditized. We price shop everything from toilet paper to airline tickets. The internet has made it possible to be standing in an electronics store, looking at a computer, while pulling up price comparisons on your phone. What a wonderful world, right? In my opinion there are certainly areas that you can, and should save money. I don’t care where I buy my mustard or mouthwash, but allow me to give you some food for thought about my industry. Can we commoditize professionals? How do you choose the right builder?
- Price – builders charge many different ways. Some are cost plus a percentage, while others are a flat fee. Does that mean you choose the lowest price? Builders are not commodities – they vary by so many important factors. Financial stability, reputation, quality workmanship, service, personality and working relationships. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t look for the cheapest build. That scares me. This is not mustard. This is skill. And skill, my friend, does not come cheap. This may be the single, biggest financial investment you ever make. Don’t cheap out. Big mistake. Huge. The sad part is that I watch my builders who are extremely high quality, fighting to get jobs against builders that have no business being in the industry. It will cost you much more in the long run when you choose incorrectly. Trust me. I’ve seen it a thousand times. The builder is very important – and worth the price.
- Budgets – look for a builder that gives you a budget to follow – make sure it is reasonable. This might mean calling around to a few suppliers and asking their thoughts. Or ask your designer. I have seen many budgets that have flooring or lighting allocations that will make it impossible to finish the home properly. And the worst part is that it sets you up for failure. Sticking to an unreal budget is, well, unreasonable.
- Timelines – Beware of the over promise and underperform. If you interview three builders and one is notably promising a faster move-in, it may be a red flag. This is an issue if you have to sell another home or are renting and have given your landlord a date that you will move out by. I’ve had clients scrambling to find a place to live for two or three months as things drag on. Stuff happens in a build – things go wrong. And building a house is like lining up dominoes- if you are delayed in one area it impacts all of the rest. So look for someone who is realistic about your timeline.
- Teams – maybe I’m biased because I function with a team, however I have never met one person that could do everything at the same skill level. I think if you find a builder that has a good team you should experience a better process. It just makes sense. This goes back to the price comments. A builder that has a team is likely to be more expensive, but the quality of his product and the experience overall is also likely to be higher.
- References – it’s easy to say you are the best, but the proof is in the pudding. Previous clients will tell you their experiences. Take the time to do your research. Ask the right questions and don’t rush through this step. You will be spending a year or two working closely with your builder – and the last thing you want is to realize you’ve made the wrong choice. It can be difficult to change a builder due to New Home Warranty, not to mention the agony of getting him or her up to speed. I recommend builders to my clients based on my experiences as well. I get to see so many builds through many different builders. I have great insight as to who would be a good fit for whom. So use your designer as a resource here as well.
Ultimately all of these things are important, however the most basic of them all is that you need to like your builder. As I mentioned above, you will spend a lot of time with this person. So make the decision carefully. That is how you get the home you want. Build with intention.