How to Choose a Home Builder

July 15, 2021

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So you’ve decided you want to build a new home – congratulations! Now you have a lot of decisions to make, including who you’re going to trust to bring your dream home to life. But how do you actually choose a home builder?

As you think about building your dream home, you start to become captivated with the details: how big you want the home to be; what special features you want to include; where you want to build the home; and so on. All of these things are incredibly important, but perhaps the most vital piece of the puzzle is the company that will be building it!

The home builder you choose is going to impact every single facet of the home you want to build, from the look and feel of the design to the quality of the materials and craftsmanship – and how those things hold up for years to come. Clearly, this is a decision that requires thoughtful consideration and plenty of research.

Where do you start finding the right home builder for your family? Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to ensure you’re making the right decision.

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Consider The Scope Of Your Build

A quick look around shows that different home builders have different specialties. For instance, one builder might focus on building condos and townhomes in retirement communities. If you’re looking for a large home with a big backyard for your growing family or a luxury home, that wouldn’t be the right builder for you.

While you don’t need to know all of the details from the start, you do need to have a basic idea of the type of home you want to build.

Are you looking for the affordability and low-maintenance appeal of a townhome? Do you want something with a lot of space for your family to spread out? Maybe even something that has an in-law apartment in the basement for your ageing parents? These are all design ideas that need to match the builder you choose. We give some examples of things you might want to focus on here

Picking a Floor Plan

You should also think about what you really need from the home builder. Most builders have a predesigned set of floor plans and some won’t allow changes to those floor plans. Others have a couple of different options within their floor plans, such as having a choice between an open den area or a closed-off home office. Then there are others who will take their plans back to the drawing board to create what you need. And some builders will create a home design completely from scratch.

Generally, the more customizations you require in your home build, the more you can expect to pay. 

Don’t Break the Budget

This brings us to your budget. You should have a general budget in mind as you start to shop around. This will allow you to think more carefully about what type of home you can get for your budget with each builder.

When you’re building a brand-new home, keep in mind that you are not just budgeting for the cost of building your new home. For example: if you currently own a house, you’ll need to also plan for paying for your new home while keeping your existing one. If you’re a first time home buyer, you’ll need to budget for all those things you don’t currently have like a shovel/snowblower and lawn mower – household items for basic maintenance.

In addition, don’t forget to budget for closing costs you’ll encounter once you’ve finalized the sale. As a general rule, try to set aside at least 1-2% of the cost of the home to cover these fees. 

Free Resource: Monthly Budget Worksheet

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Make A List Of Potential Candidates

It’s now time to make a list of potential builders. But how exactly are you supposed to go about doing that?

An easy first step is to get recommendations from family and friends. If you know someone who’s recently had a home built, ask them who they used and if they were happy with the experience. If so, add that builder to your list. You’ll feel even more confident about adding this builder to your list if you’re able to visit the friend’s house to see what it looks like. Personal recommendations are great because you feel like you’re getting insider information, like whether the home cost more than your friend originally thought due to upgrades.

If you don’t personally know anyone to ask, look at your local home builder’s association. They will list out local builders who are experienced and professional. When looking at builders through this, you should make sure the companies you’re putting on your list are home builders. It might seem silly to mention, but there are companies that focus on renovations or a single product like roofing that can also be members of the association. You can also get some names from our article that lists some of the best builders in Edmonton

Another thing you can do is spend some time driving around looking at new home communities. When you see homes you like, put those builders on your list.

Double-check that the home builders on your list have the home style you’re looking for. You don’t want to waste time researching a builder only to later find that they don’t design the style you want.

Free Resource: Home Builder Comparison Checklist

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Researching Potential Home Builders

Once you have your list of candidates, it’s time to start narrowing it down to a shortlist of the ones that are the most suitable. The best way to do this is to head online and start finding out some details about your chosen builders. 

Start by checking what kind of floor plans they build, to ensure they meet your needs. If none of them are what you’re looking for, do they offer completely custom designs? You should also check which neighbourhoods they build in – if you already own the land or you’re building an infill this won’t be an issue, but otherwise you’ll want to make sure you can actually build in an area that’s right for you.

Questions to Ask a When Researching Home Builders

A few other questions that can help you narrow down your shortlist include:

  • How long has the company been in business? Longer is usually better, though there may be exceptions to that rule.
  • If they’re a well-established company, how do the older home models hold up? Are the resale prices comparable to others in that market?
  • Seeing a larger-than-average number of their older homes on the market could be a warning sign the quality is not good.
  • What do customer reviews say about them? Look at the ones on third-party sites as well because those reviews are often more candid.
  • What’s the quality of their construction like? This might be hard to tell online, but you may find hints about this in the customer reviews or from talking to Realtors®.
  • Can you find information on the materials they use in their builds? You want high-quality materials.
  • What kind of warranties do they offer? All brand-new homes are covered by the Alberta New Home Warranty, but you may want to see if they offer additional warranties on top of this. That could be a big plus.

Once you’ve finished researching your shortlist, it’s time to make some harsh cuts and narrow it down to your final candidates. Try to get it down to a final three if you can. Once you’ve done this, you can reach out to them directly to refine your search even further.

Free Guide: 7 Reasons Why Sterling Homes is Not Your Average Home Builder

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Interview Your Top Three Choices

You should now have a list of your top three builders, and it’s time to head out to see them before making your final decision. Touring showhomes allows you to see first-hand the quality of their work. Plus, when you speak with the builder, you’ll be able to ask any questions you may have and get a sense of their customer service skills.

Questions to Ask Your Top Choices

Some questions you might want to ask a potential builder are:

  • How many homes have you built? This can give you a good sense of their level of experience.
  • What are the standard features in your homes and what are upgrades? Depending on the features you want in your home, this will play a big role in the cost.
  • At which stages in the building process can I make alterations? Does everything need to be finalized before construction begins? In most new home builds, you have to make decisions about every single little detail. This can take a long time. If you’re under a time crunch, you want them to start breaking ground before you’ve decided on things like paint colours and cabinets.
  • Who will be overseeing the construction? Can I reach out to them if I have any questions? Transparency is key and you want to know who you’ll be working with
  • What is your process for inspections and walk-throughs? Of course, you want to know when and how you can see the progress of your home!
  • How long does the construction process take? This helps you plan your move and the sale of your current home.
  • Can I view one of your current in-progress homes? You probably won’t be able to take a tour, but you could observe from afar.
  • What energy-saving features can I add to my home? Small upfront costs can equal big savings in the long run.
  • Can you provide me references and testimonials from previous customers? A good builder should have no problem doing this.

When asking these questions, pay attention to whether the builder is answering your questions and treating you with respect. Take a lot of notes so that you can refer to them later when making your decision.

Finding the right home builder for your new home is one of the most important stages of the journey. The right one can save you a lot of hassle and money. While it’s tempting to just choose the first one you meet so that you can get started right away, it’s better to take your time and make a careful decision.

If you’re still not sure where to start, one of our Area Managers can help put you on the right track. We’re one of the best home builders in Edmonton, and we can create the new home you’ve always wanted.

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