Start Your Search
Once you have thought about the type of house you want, where should you look for a builder? First, make a list of builders who build the type of home you're looking for in your price range. The real estate section of your newspaper is a good place to start. Looking through the ads and reading the articles can help you find out which builders are active in your area, the types of homes they are building, and the prices you can expect to pay.
In addition, the Home Builders Association of Greater Charleston has a list of builders who construct homes in your area. Local real estate agents may also be able to help you in your search. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Ask about builders they have dealt with directly, or ask them for names of acquaintances who have recently had good experience with a builder.
Take A Look Around
Once you have a list of builders, how can you find out about their reputations and the quality of their work? The best way to learn about builders is to visit homes they have built and talk with the owners.
Ask builders on your list for the addresses of their recently built houses, subdivisions, townhouses, or condos. Builders may even be able to provide names of some new homeowners who would be willing to talk with you. Drive by on a Saturday morning when homeowners may be outside doing chores or errands. Just introduce yourself and say you are considering buying a home from the builder who built their home. Visit several owners, and try to get a random collection of opinions. The more people you talk with, the more accurate impression of a builder you are likely to get. At the very least, drive by and see if the homes are visually appealing. Look at homes that are like the style you plan to buy. For example, if you are interested in a two-story home, look at two-story homes rather that split levels.
When you talk to builders and homeowners, take along a notebook to record the information you find and your personal impressions about specific builders and homes. Doing so will help you to make comparisons later. Some questions you can ask people are:
- Are you happy with your home?
- Did the builder do what was promised in a timely manner?
- Would you buy another home from this builder?
Shop for Quality and Value
Look at new homes whenever you can. Home shows and open houses sponsored by builders are good opportunities to look at homes. Model homes displayed in these shows are often furnished to give you ideas for using the space. You may also ask a builder to see unfurnished homes.
When examining a home, look at the quality of the construction features. Inspect the quality of the cabinetry, carpeting, trimwork, and paint. Ask the builder or the builder's representative a lot of questions. Get as many specifics as possible. If you receive the answers verbally rather than in writing, take notes. Never hesitate to ask a question. What seems like an insignificant question might yield an important answer.
Always keep value in mind when shopping. Just because a home is less expensive than another does not mean it is a better value. Likewise, a more expensive home does not automatically assure higher quality.
A home is primarily a place to live, but it is an important investment. Consider the appreciable potential of any home and the possible future influences that location, housing supply and demand, and other market factors will have on the value of your new home.
Another important aspect of value is design quality. When you look at a home, determine whether it will suit your lifestyle. Is there enough living space? Are there enough bedrooms and bathrooms? What about storage space? Will you have room to accommodate special interests or hobbies - for example, a large kitchen for casual entertaining, or about the amount of upkeep required indoors and out. Consider also the location of the property. Is it convenient to transportation, shopping, schools or other places of interest to you?
Ask Questions About Service
One important criteria for selecting a builder is the warranty provided on the home. Most builders offer some form of written warranty. Many builders back their own warranties on workmanship and materials, typically for one year. Other builders offer warranties backed by an insurance company. Ask to see a copy of the builder's warranty. Although reading legal documents is tedious, read the warranty to understand what protection you would have. Don't wait to read it until after you move in and a problem arises. If you have any questions about the coverage, ask the builder.
Also, find out from each builder what kind of service you can expect after the sale. Some questions you might ask the builder are:
- How long has the company been in business?
- Whom do you contact for customer service after the sale? Should requests be in writing?
- What responsibility does the builder assume for the work of subcontractors? Who will be responsible for correcting problems with major appliances?
- Does the builder belong to the local builders association (affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders)
- Does the builder use state-of-the-art energy features? Equipment, insulation, design and landscaping can all affect a home's energy efficiency.
Buying a new home is one of the biggest and most important purchases you will make in your lifetime. By doing your homework, you will be able to shop for a home with sense of confidence and the knowledge that will help you make the right decision.