Contracting the right builder is a critical first step in the construction process of your dream home.
Some homeowners liken it to hiring an employee -- while others compare the experience to a marriage – you have to spend a lot of time together, make a lot of big decisions and ultimately trust each other to build something that lasts.
“This is the biggest purchase you make – period,” new homeowner Amy Greene says.
Don Ghiz also has recent experience in hiring a contractor. He is in the middle of a construction project and said he spoke to several candidates before making his selection.
Before picking a contractor, Ghiz evaluated a number of builders based on their level of experience, competency, style of house they were comfortable building, method of accounting, communication skills and willingness to stay positive.
“In a city like Houston, we are fortunate to have many good quality builders that meet those basic requirements,” he says.
Both homeowners and builders offer the following advice on what to look for when choosing a builder:
1. Ask for recommendations. Greene said she found her builder, Brandon Lynch, by asking her friends. Having a recommendation helps. “I’d definitely do my homework and look at a lot of custom builders,” she said. “Then go look at their houses and spend time talking with them.”
Lynch agreed. “Get to know the builder,” he suggested. “Get to know who they are and what they stand for – are they passionate about building homes or are they all about the money.”
2. Get lost in the details.
Greene said that Lynch’s detailed bid sealed the deal for her. She explained that costs can go up if builders do not give all the information up front.
“Without details, prices can skyrocket,” Greene said. “You want a builder who has a really good idea of what things will cost.”
Ghiz noted that customers need to assess the builders’ choice of quality materials and be assured that contractors will not cut corners to save expenses without discussing the options.
“In my case, I looked for a builder with genuine concern that I get what I want at a fair price,” he said. “I looked for a person who would say, with honesty, ‘I don’t think you’ll like that, and here’s my reason for saying it.’”
3. Talk it out. As in any good relationship, communication is key.
Greene and Lynch spent hours talking before they began to work together.
“We discussed every detail of the project in full before we started construction," Lynch said.
4. Trust your instincts – and back it up.
For Ghiz, it all came down to trust.
“When all is said and done, your builder will spend many months on what you may live in for the rest of your life, so consider the choices carefully and don’t ignore your gut,” he said.
Hann was the builder who fit the bill for Ghiz.
“We have barely started construction, but I already like the choice I made,” Ghiz said.
“I feel fortunate to have a professional builder like Stephen Hann.”
Ghiz' builder, Stephen Hann, agreed that trust is essential, adding that his years of experience in the business help his clients believe in him as a builder. He also has several certifications in construction, as well as several examples of other homes he has built to show.
“I come with a confidence level that clients appreciate,” Hann said. "The whole decision boils down to comfort level and proficiency.”
5. Use your resources. Building groups, like the Custom Builders Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association, can be great resources for homeowners.