When gathering estimates on a contractor building a home for you, it is important to consider much more than price. The estimate collecting process should be the culmination of about a year’s worth of research. During the research period you should collect information on construction methods, materials and techniques. Be sure to learn all you can about home building. Consider all types of construction. You should also research all the local contractors in your area to select the very best and most highly recommended contractors and home builders.
Collecting Estimates on a Contractor Building a Home: Make it Clear What You Want
By the time you visit your selected contractors you should have a very clear and solid vision of what you want. You should also illustrate your ideas in both pictures and words so that your home builder understands exactly what you expect him to create for you. Your home building journal is a vital part of defining what you want. Solidify your plan and present it exactly the same way to all the contractors. Try to keep each version of your home as close to your original idea as possible and take note of any differences.
Some home builders want to use one of their plans and adapt it, while others will take a stock plan you order on line. You should take a copy of a plan from a website or your own drawing to a builder. Do not actually order the blueprint until you talk to a builder. If you wish an architect to draw up a custom plan for you, based on your design it will cost significantly more, but it may be worth it, if you want something unique. In most cases, unless it is a luxury home, you will want to talk to the builder, before seeing an architect.
Most builders can easily come up with very accurate estimates, thanks to new estimate software. It’s not a problem for them to create a quote, so it is best for you to get between three and six estimates from different builders. If the first bid is significantly higher than you anticipated, ask the builder if there is anything that can be done to the design to make it cost less, without compromising the structure. Plans that cost more per square foot, due to design, can often be simplified, saving thousands of dollars and increasing their energy efficiency at the same time. Listen to the first builder, and adopt his ideas. For this reason your first builder should be the most skilled builder in your estimation. Be open to any adaptations he recommends, and become less flexible with subsequent builders to keep the bids the same or similar. It’s not fair to compare the cost of three or six entirely different homes.
In addition to cost you should consider the ease of communication with the builder. Also consider if you are dealing with the people who are actually going to be responsible for building your home. Many of the larger building corporations hire a staff in each major city in the country. Responsibility for your home is divided between the local staff and a huge corporation. These companies hire salesmen who know a lot more about selling than they do building your home. Ask to speak to someone responsible for actually building your home, and find out how long it takes to discuss your plans with a real builder. This gives you an idea of how long it will take for a response on any issues that arise once your home is under construction.
Consider your ability to communicate with each home builder. Are they easy to talk to? Do they understand what you really want? How do they feel about you visiting the site during the construction? Are they trying to force you to take their high interest loan in order to get upgrades? Do their contracts routinely include an arbitration clause? Is the salesman continually trying to get the upper hand in the conversation, or being condescending? Does he seem to be pushing things on you that you aren’t interested in?
You really shouldn’t have to deal with any of the above, and if too many of these red flags come up, just walk out. There is no reason to get stressed out with a builder’s salesman. There are plenty of builders out there who are not hard to deal with and do not employ high pressure salesmen. If you decide to continue talking to the salesman, make it clear that you will not sign an arbitration contract, even if it means going elsewhere. Make it clear that you will be visiting your construction site twice a week for a half hour visit. Make it clear that you intend to get the best interest rate and your decision on the loan should not be connected to free upgrades. Make it clear that you are quite aware there are dozens if not hundreds of builders in the area and if their company doesn’t suit you, you will move on.
Good builders do not have a lot of flashy sales gimmicks and they don’t push lenders with high interest rates. They do not try to force their clients into signing arbitration contracts, or forbid them to visit the jobsite. Good builders build quality homes and have a great reputation and many satisfied customers. Avoid the gimmicks and the hard sell. Go with quality and common sense in your choice even if it costs a little bit more.
When choosing between bids, consider quality of construction, ease of communication, builder integrity and being able to speak to the responsible party easily. Price should be considered, but it should not be the greatest factor in choosing a builder. For more information on collecting estimates on a contractor building a home, download our 98 page free guide, and read the many articles about selecting builders on this site.