How to Hire a Builder for Your Dream Home

Barbara Bellesi Zito
Updated November 8, 2021
Homeowners talk over their new houses' plans with builder
Jetta Productions Inc/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Finding a builder you can trust and rely on can make constructing your dream home run so much more smoothly

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Hiring a home builder is a big undertaking. Unlike hiring contractors for small home improvement jobs, you will be working with a home builder for quite some time. Finding the right home builder can make the project go smoothly, not only giving you outstanding results in the end but providing you with expert advice as you navigate the world of building your dream home.

So how do you find the home builder to make your fairytale home a reality? Just follow a few simple steps.

How to Find a Home Builder

It will take some research on your part to find a vetted local home builder, one whose work you love and who has a sterling reputation. Start your search online and even pick your family and friends’ brains for recommendations. Your local home builders association may also be able to give you some referrals. 

Ideally, you will want to find builders who have been in the business for at least a few years with several completed projects in their portfolio of work.

Before Hiring a Home Builder

It’s no secret that building a home can be expensive and time-consuming, but hiring a builder should help take some of that work off of your plate. It’s important to go into the process with an organized and positive mindset. Here is how to do just that:

Plan Your Home Building Project for Accurate Quotes

You should determine your style preferences before you talk to a professional builder. If you are unsure what you want in a home, it can take even more time—not to mention money—to get you the results you want. For example, if you know you want a traditional, Colonial-style home, it could be a waste of time talking with a builder known for more sleek and modern builds.

Even if you feel good about the first builder you speak with, it’s important to talk to others. Get at least three quotes from different contractors that include the construction timeline and when payment will be due from you along the way.

Check Your Home Builder’s Qualifications and References

It’s essential for you to understand the builder’s experience and how they will work with you. Part of the vetting process will be to visit (or view online) completed structures and talk to former clients. While it’s always good to hear that clients are happy with the final results, you also want to know about how they felt during the process. Did the builder communicate well? Were the customers informed of progress along the way? Even with the assumption that there will be some bumps along the road, it’s helpful to see a builder’s track record. 

Aside from recommendations from online resources and friends and family, the Better Business Bureau is also an excellent resource for you to see contractors’ ratings and reviews, including any complaints that people might have lodged against a contractor you are considering. Take each with a grain of salt and bring up any specific concerns with your contractor before choosing to hire them. Another way to fully vet a home builder is to check out their current standing with the contractor board of your state.

Hiring Your Home Builder

New home construction in peaceful woods setting
Dan Reynolds Photography/Moment via Getty Images

When hiring a home builder, you are playing the role of a hiring manager in addition to the homeowner. The home builder is interviewing for a job, and you should treat it as such.

Interview with Your Home Builder

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are some questions based on recommendations by the National Association of Home Builders that will provide you with a good deal of information before you commit to working with a professional:

  • Can you get references from recent customers?

  • What kind of financing plan does the builder offer?

  • What types of custom add-ons and upgrades can be included in your home?

  • Does the builder offer a warranty, and if so, for how long? 

  • What are the estimated property taxes?

  • Will there be a new development in the short/long-term in the area in which your home is being built?

Ask for a Background Check

A reputable home builder should be able to show you all the necessary licenses, insurance, and bonding—which will likely vary by state—so you can rest assured that everything in your new home will comply with local codes. This documentation includes worker’s compensation and general liability insurance, which helps to keep the job site and all the workers safe and secure. Even if you are nowhere near the house’s job site, you could still be held liable for any accidents or injuries incurred during the construction of your home, so this info is imperative.

Get a Contract and Arrange Payments With Your Home Builder

You should have everything in writing before proceeding with even a small project, but a written contract is vital when building a home. The contract will list the construction timeline, as well as payment terms. You will likely be required to pay an initial deposit to secure your spot on the builder’s schedule. Subsequent timely payments will help your builder keep your home’s construction timeline on track. 

Likewise, do not remit final payment until everything is complete and you are ready to move in. This step is not just to protect you, but the builder as well. There is a lot of money and work involved in building a home, and it pays for both parties to agree.

Keep Records of Your Home Building Project

Good communication is key to avoiding issues and keeping everyone on the same page during the construction of your home. If you email your builder or general contractor often, you should gather that correspondence in a separate folder for easy access. 

If you speak with your builder by phone, take notes and keep them in a single place, like a notebook or in a single document on your computer. While work schedules are subject to change, it will be helpful to keep track of when the job started and when it finished. Taking process photos along the way can also help.

Look for Red Flags and Prepare to Troubleshoot

An experienced builder will factor in extra time to account for if—and when—things don’t go according to plan. However, if things are taking much longer than anticipated, it might be time to investigate. Your builder should be open and honest with you if things get delayed and do their best to get back on track as soon as possible. 

Remember to keep a level head and go into these conversations with an open mind. Some things are truly out of their control, but if you find that tasks are constantly behind schedule, then it’s time to talk.

After Your Home Builder Has Finished

One day, the work will finally stop, and you’ll be able to move into your new home! The last contractor will leave with the last tool. You will have your final walkthrough with the builder to see that everything is to your satisfaction. Now is the time to make that final payment and give that final handshake. 

You might choose to leave a positive review on the builder’s website or with the Better Business Bureau. If you’re particularly happy with the work, you can agree to be a reference for future customers. Other than that, there’s nothing left to do now but get ready to move in.

The home-building process can be a long one, but in the end, you’ll get the prize of living in your dream home. When you do your due diligence, you can choose a builder who understands your vision for your dream home and can achieve it.

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