How to Research Builders Before Buying
Your New Home in the West Valley
In part 1 of this series, I touched on some things to consider before you buy a new home. One of the first things I mention is to research home builders. In the Phoenix area’s West Valley, there are dozens of builders to choose from – and they are all competing for your business.
- Where do you want to live? (city, school district, subdivision, close to work)
- What type of home are you looking for? (single family, townhome, 1 or 2 story, etc.)
- What is your price range?
- When you do want to move in?
- What are your “must have’s” and “deal breakers”?
Your answers to these questions will make your research easier by eliminating builders that do not fit your needs. Keep in mind, a good buyer agent will have a more detailed list of questions to ask you, which will narrow your search even further.
So, let’s get started…
- What is the builder’s reputation with past clients? Ask the builder for a list of references.
- Talk to current residents and ask about their experience (especially if they have needed warranty repairs or touch ups). How did the builder respond? Was the warranty honored?
- What is the builder’s reputation with subcontractors and suppliers? Ask for a list of subcontractors and contact them. Does the builder pay on time?
- Contact the Better Business Bureau to find out if any complaints have been filed against them.
- Check the Arizona Registrar of Contractors to see if their license is current.
Obviously, the answers to these questions will help you decide whether you want to continue researching a particular builder.
- Does the builder specialize in constructing a particular architectural style, concept, price range, or size of home?
- Does the builder work in a particular subdivision, or anywhere?
- Does the builder target a particular market?
You can find the answers to these questions on builder websites. Your agent should have a builder database with this information readily available.
- Ask about the builder’s membership in professional organizations.
- Check online consumer resources like Angie’s List or Yelp.
- Does the builder use licensed subcontractors?
- Are the workers skilled professionals?
Customer reviews will reveal an overall impression of how the builder treats clients and can give you some insight into their business practices.
- How long has the builder been in business?
- Does the builder have a reputation for adhering to budgets and schedules?
- What are the builder’s marketing and selling strategies?
- Is the builder willing to negotiate sales terms?
- What are the builder’s listing and commission policies? Does the builder cooperate with real estate agents?
Again, most of these questions can be answered by visiting builder websites and by reviewing their marketing materials.
Buyer Beware: I would be suspicious of builders who do not cooperate with buyer agents. Why? Builder agents represent the builder and they conduct business under that premise. It is in your best interest to have buyer representation – find a good agent that is experienced in new home sales.
- How long has the builder done business in the West Valley or Phoenix area?
- Is the builder knowledgeable about local conditions and tastes?
- Here today, gone tomorrow?
Business is booming in the Phoenix area’s West Valley and new home sales are expected to continue to rise over the next few years. We may find an influx of builder’s looking to get in on the action. Although there are no guarantees, wouldn’t it be nice to know if they plan to stick around for a while?
- Ask builders about insurance coverage relating to their business.
- Are there any pending legal actions against the builders?
- Will the builder protect the home buyer against subcontractor claims?
Again, check the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. Ask questions. Check with current residents. Ask your real estate agent.
Quality of work
- What types and quality of materials does the builder use?
- How often does the builder inspect the home during construction? Who conducts the inspections?
- Are details finished in a timely manner?
In some cases, you may want to hire an independent inspector to walk your home with you during critical phases of construction. It will be less expensive to pay an inspector that may find issues the builder missed, for instance, before drywall is hung.
- Does it seem like the builder has a long-term commitment to the profession and the community?
- A builder who has a long-term commitment to the industry and the local community will not tarnish a good reputation by carelessness or mistreatment of clients, suppliers and subcontractors.
All of this research may seem like a lot of work – and it is. Still, I am surprised at how often buyers are disappointed with their new home – perhaps the biggest purchase in their lifetime – because they failed to do their homework.
Stay tuned for Part 3: Location, location, location. You found a builder, now, which plot of land (lot) should you choose to have your fabulous new home built upon?