Comparing Builders: How to Find the Best Fit for You

A group of business people analyzing building plans along with an engineer. The building plans are on the table along with a blue helmet

Comparing builders based on these key principles is a great way to help you make the right choice.

Shopping for a new construction home can be fun and exciting, but challenges may arise when you find yourself drawn to two or three different homes or communities. How do you decide which new home builder best fits your needs?

Budget obviously plays a huge role, as well as location and whether to be near your job or in a particular school district. But building a home is more than just getting the best deal, it’s more about finding the best relationship. After all, building a home is a long-term process.

“For me, the best analogy is that building a home is a lot like dating,” said Damon Bradley, sales manager for Maryland-based Williamsburg Homes. “You should make several visits and have a number of conversations with builders you are interested in first.”

Given basically the same amenities, price points and geography between your top choices, Bradley highlighted three key things you should consider when choosing a builder: builder experience, customization and intangibles.

Builder Experience

When comparing Builder A and Builder B, it’s important to look at each builder’s level of experience and qualifications, Bradley said. You should ask how long a builder has been in business or how long they have been building a particular model home. You should also inquire about a builder’s financing options.

“Every builder is a little different,” Bradley said. “Some offer their own closing agents, while others offer more flexibility to negotiate the type of mortgage options.”

While having these conversations with a builder is important, there are other ways you can do some homework on particular builders. Bradley suggested looking online to see what previous clients have to say or call real estate agents in the area and ask how Builder A or Builder B’s homes hold up over time. This is not just about resale value, although that is an important consideration, but how is the quality of the construction?

You can also visit other communities by the same builder to talk with residents about their building experience, or, if the community you are interested in already has residents, stop in there and see if you can talk to them. Consider it checking references.

Customization

The next question you should consider is the amount of customization that you want versus the amount a builder offers. Some builders may offer only standard customization with no option to change the floor plan, while others may allow much greater flexibility.

“Many buyers want customizations that reflect their lifestyle,” Bradley said, adding that buyers shouldn’t be afraid to ask what flexibility the builder has regarding options. “Little things can lead to bigger conversations. A builder could say, ‘Yes, I’ll work with you on that.’”

You want to look for a builder that is willing to listen to your concerns and questions and give you appropriate feedback, rather than just take down your order.

Intangibles

Sometimes you just know. It’s just the feeling you get when you drive into a particular community or walk through a particular model that this is the one.

But beyond that, it’s the feeling you get interacting with the builder or builder’s sales representatives. Are they on top of your questions or even anticipate your questions about the community, the floor plans, the lots and so on? Are they asking you questions — what you want in a home, about your family and lifestyle? And are they truly listening to what you have to say?

“It comes down to the quality of the build and the quality of the relationship,” Bradley said. “You’re not just shopping for a lot, floor plan or community. You’re really shopping for a partner, for personal connectivity.”

Judy L. Marchman is a freelance writer and editor, with 20 years of magazine and book publishing experience. She covers a variety of subjects, including home-related topics. Her work has appeared in Kentucky Monthly, Keeneland Magazine and the Official Kentucky Derby Souvenir Magazine, among other publications.

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