Saturday, February 26, 2005

Online Tools Help With Builder Selection

Are all builders created equal? Thankfully, no.

Even though most metropolitan areas are loaded with production-line builders, there are some differences -- the type of homes they build, the quality level and pricing structure -- and that's good for the broad range of consumers who want a new home instead of a resale.

The consumer has two general types of builders available to them: custom home builders and production home builders., the web site of the National Association of Home Builders lays out the differences between these two types of builders.

Custom home builders generally:

Build on land you own. Some custom builders also build on land they own.

Build one-of-a-kind houses. A custom home is a site-specific home built from a unique set of plans for a specific client. Some custom builders may offer design/build services.

Build single-family homes.

Are generally small-volume builders (25 or fewer homes a year).

Tend to build high-end homes.
Production home builders generally:

Build on land they own.

Tend to use stock plans, but usually offer a variety of plan choices and options.

Build all types of housing -- single-family, condos, town houses, and rental properties.

Are large-volume builders (more than 25 homes a year).

Generally build for all price points -- entry level, move up, luxury, etc.
Most new home buyers go with the production home builder, but should still research the builders for capabilities, quality, and potential problems other buyers have faced with a particular builder. An online search of "selecting a builder" provides hundreds of sites that provide advice on the who, what, where, and why of choosing your builder. One of the best guides I found was actually on a mortgage web site: They point out several characteristics to investigate when selecting a builder.

1. Reputation. Look over the builder's reputation from it's client list.

2. Consider location. Make sure they actually build in your area regularly as some localities have intricate laws that a builder not from the area may miss, and cost you money.

3. Type of Home. Do they build what you're wanting? Go with a builder who has built the style and design you're desiring.

4. Compatibility. Frankly, do you "click" with the builder's personality? It's going to be a long, arduous process so make sure you actually like the people involved.

5. Warranties. Your builder should be willing and able, to offer standardized warranties on your home.

6. Financial stability. If it's going to take a year or more to build your house, will the builder still be in business?

7. Financial strength. Yes, they're stable, but can they weather the ups and downs of the local economy? Will they be around in a couple of years when you may have questions about the construction?

To begin your search, there are two primary web sites to start with: and is the site operated by the folks who created and other large real estate web sites. There's a search engine for locating builders, which provides ad-driven content. A challenge I had was searching for one in my Springfield, Virgina area, involved sorting through the results for builders in neighboring states (several miles away). Nevertheless, there's plenty of consumer-oriented content and connections with builders., is the official web site of the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, D.C. It contains both consumer and member-only content, however, it's list of builders is very extensive. Using NAHB requires a few extra steps however, the resulting data is well worth the trial of clicking a few more times. To find a builder in your area, follow some simple steps:


Click Home Building Process

Click Find Your Local Builders Association

Supply either the state or zip-code for the area you're interested in. Simply put, this is the easiest way to locate the names and contact information of builders in your area.

Published: February 18, 2005

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