By far the most important factor when determining the quality of a builder is how happy the builder’s customers are with the builder. However, there are some other factors that a prospective home buyer should explore before choosing a builder. They are:
- What is the builder’s financial situation? Many builders have been hurt by the housing downturn and are having trouble meeting their financial obligations. Financial stress has caused builders to cut back on their staff and operate their business with a skeleton crew, which means it will be difficult for these builders to build a quality home and provide adequate customer service. In addition, some of these builders are close to bankruptcy and may not be able to finish your home. To determine a builder’s financial situation, you can ask questions like: How much debt does your company have? How many unsold Spec homes do you have? Are you currently in any form of “workout” with any bank? Can I see a copy of your most recent company bank statement? Good financially sound builders will gladly answer these questions and provide you with any documentation you request.
- Who specifically will be building my home? It is important that you meet the actual person or team of people that will be onsite as your home is being built. The quality of your home will be directly related to the skill and experience of the superintendent building your home. Many custom builders have owners who are experienced builders and good salesmen but these “owners” are usually not onsite as your home is being built. Make sure you interview the person who will actually be building your home before you contract with a builder.
- Does your company have a dedicated customer service department with separate staff and equipment? Most custom home builders do not have a customer service department and thus will provide minimal customer support after delivery of the home. In our research, this was a major source of frustration for custom home buyers. With custom homes, it is inevitable that issues will arise that need to be addressed by the builder. Without a customer service department, it will be very difficult for a builder to provide sufficient customer support. Unfortunately, most custom builders do not have much interest in allocating resources to customers who have already paid them in full.