So, you’re ready to start down the trail of building a new house. You probably have the perfect vision of your dream home, and you’re ready to move in. Stop there! Dreams rarely come true without some upfront work, and building a home is certainly no different.
Building the home of your dreams begins with research, and you can find a start right here.
First, know your options. Take your time, drive around, and educate yourself. What type of house you want: Cape Cod, prairie, craftsman, French country, contemporary, colonial, or Mediterranean? It’s important to have a clear decision about this issue before moving on, or the rest of the process will be more than unpleasant.
Learn about the Builder
Once you’ve decided on a style, research builders. Contact your home builders’ association. Your local newspaper can also be a good resource; check for advertisements and home listings to get an idea of which builders are the most popular.
You can take your research up a notch by checking to see if any builders in your area hold professional certifications. These certifications point to builders who have both significant experience and a history of professional business practices.
Once you’ve done your homework, narrow the list of builders to those who best fit your criteria. You can also engage a realtor to help with some of the legwork.
See What Your Builder Can Do
Now you’re ready to dig a little deeper. Make appointments with the builders on your list. Be prepared to ask some questions- and take notes that you can review later. If you like what you hear from a builder, add to your short list, but don’t act yet. Take a drive through the builders’ neighborhoods and get an objective view of their recently built homes. If you happen to find a resident out doing lawn work, great! Introduce yourself and ask a few questions.
Homeowners love to expound either one way or the other: “I’ve had nothing but problems since day one; I would never use that builder again.” Or you might get a positive response: “We loved our builder; he went the extra mile every time.” The more consistent the feedback, the more likely you can rely upon it.
Don’t limit your curb-appeal test to a particular builder. Attend home shows and open houses, and walk through a variety of developer show homes. Houses that are furnished can spark ideas about the types of spaces that will work best for you. Viewing unfurnished houses is a good idea as well; it’s always easier to identify shoddy workmanship when you don’t have the distractions of furniture and flower arrangements.
Decide How Green You Want to Go
We live in a “green” (or environmentally friendly) culture, and energy savings is a big part of the green movement. Even more importantly, energy-saving features can translate into an incredible cost-savings.
Find out what your builder includes as part of the original plan, and then learn about energy-saving options that will help save money over the life of a home.
If green is at the top of your list, talk to your custom builder about the basics, such as energy and water efficiency. Other factors to keep in mind include insulation, windows, landscaping, lighting, heating and cooling systems, in addition to appliances. Find out more by reading 9 Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient.
Doing It Your Way
You need to know up front whether your builder offers a limited number of options, or if you can bring your own plans to the table. This is the difference between custom and high volume construction, but it’s also – for some people – the difference between affordable and “no way!”
Production – or high volume – builders typically have a variety of house plans from which you can choose. They will also offer a “menu” of options to help you get the home you want. If you’re a first-time buyer or moving up one step, a production home might be exactly what you need.
Custom builders, on the other hand, offer much more freedom. You won’t be limited to menu options, and you can build your custom home wherever you want, rather than within the confines of a builder-developed neighborhood. If you don’t want to engage an architect, you can work with a design-builder
who will handle every aspect of your home construction, from design through move-in. Either way, you’ll be involved in every decision.
David Belman of Belman Homes, suggests that you identify something unique about a builder, something that is important to you. “At Belman Homes, our specialty is old world craftsmanship,” he notes. “A lot of builders say that, but we take the quality of our custom-milled woodwork seriously. We complete all of our finish work on site. Not many builders can say that.”
Stay tuned for Part II!