Six Shortcuts to Selecting a Builder

A young couple discussing with a builder on some homes sketches.

Finding someone who can take your vision and make it a reality is an exciting challenge. The result is well worth it — a new home that will give you many years of enjoyment.

Since choosing the right builder is an important first step, here are six smart ways to assemble a list of finalists and speed your search.

Search online: More than 90 percent of buyers start their home search online. It’s the best way to zero in on homes in your desired area and price range with features and amenities important to you. While searching online is an ideal way to narrow down your shopping list, it’s not a substitute for visiting the new home community in person. More on that below.

Join the parade: Many cities offer an annual Parade of Homes that showcases several state-of-the-art new homes from leading builders, each beautifully furnished and landscaped.

Typically, Parade homes are built side by side in a single new home community. You can simply stroll from home to home and spend as much time in each as you wish. Most Parades occur annually and are open one to two weekends per year. A good way to find your local Parade of Homes is to Google the phrase “(Your city name) Parade of Homes.”

Take the tour: A Tour of Homes is much like a single-site Parade of Homes (see above) but it typically consists of model homes from many builders in several different new home communities around town. It’s a good opportunity to see some of the best builders in your area. The homes on a multi-site Tour are often decorated, furnished and landscaped, as well.

Your local Parade and Tour of Homes are ideal ways to see several great new homes and builders quickly and to get a feel for architectural and design trends, price ranges, hot interior design trends, and the latest options and amenities available in new homes. Many Parade and Tour events also recognize top homes with awards, which leads us to…..

Consider industry awards and recognition: If a builder has won design awards (such as Best in Show or Best Kitchen) in the local Parade of Homes, that’s another way to add good builders to your short list. Keep in mind that many quality builders may not take part in the local Parade (especially if that event caters to custom homes with well above average prices) so don’t overly weight this, but awards can be a plus.

Drive through areas and neighborhoods that most interest you: OK, this sounds low-tech, but it’s not. Especially if you first used the steps above to narrow your focus to specific new home communities, with builders that offer homes in the style and price range you want.

Screened this way, driving around neighborhoods you’ve named as your finalists is a great tool. Stop and ask homeowners about their builder, how he or she performed, and the level of service before, during and after the home was built. You may learn of a builder you hadn’t considered yet who could be a perfect match.

Master the models – homes, that is: You shopped online. You made a short-list of homes in your part of town and price range. You’ve driven through your targeted communities and talked to home owners. Now it’s time to visit the model homes from builders on your short list.

There’s no better way to see so many important things, so quickly, first-hand and unfiltered: How do rooms flow from one to another? What signs do you see of craftsmanship and quality? What's the builder’s unique approach to design, construction and energy efficiency? How well did they listen to your needs? If the sales team listened carefully to your needs, odds are good this builder’s design and construction team will be focused on you, as well.

Ask questions. Jot notes. Take photos on your cell phone. Gather brochures and floor plans. Add notes to them as well. For more tips from the pros on maximizing your visit to the model home (and keeping all of them straight in your memory) see the recommended article below.

Mastering the models and the other five shortcuts above are good ways to identify a shortlist of great builders and to help you decide which builder is the best fit to build your new home.

Jay McKenzie heads up content and social media for and Builders Digital Experience. You can find him on Google+.

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