Choosing A Builder

Look For A Professional

Are you in the market for a new home or remodel?  Finding just the right house and making it into a home can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have.  But equally important is choosing a builder/remodeler who is a professional.

Only you can decide which builder/remodeler is right for you.  Finding someone whose work you can trust can make a difference between a happy and an unhappy homeowner.

Here are some guidelines to help you in your search:

1.     Talk to others who have purchased a home or had remodeling done by your builder.  Find out from them what they think of the builder’s service and post-sale performance.

2.     Ask your builder how he stands behind his work.  If he offers a warranty, ask what it covers and does not cover.  If the warranty is limited to corrections of structural faults and material failures, understand that routine maintenance is not covered.

3.     A guarantee that the contractor carries liability insurance and Worker’s Compensation coverage, in case of accidents on the job.  Be sure your contractor has a permanent business location and a phone number.

4.     Find out how long your builder/remodeler has been in business.  Your bank may also be a source of information to you.  Contact your local home builders association to ask if your builder/remodeler is a member in good standing. 

5.     GET ESTIMATES:

Get estimates from different contractors to compare prices.  Remember the cost of materials and quality will affect the bid.  A low bid based on inferior materials may not be a bargain, so consider more than the price alone.

Be sure all contractors have the same exact specifications and are all bidding on the same things.

6.     GET IT IN WRITING:

When you have selected a contractor, get all agreements in writing.  A written agreement will make sure there are no misunderstandings about the work or the terms of the contract.

Make sure that you read all documents carefully.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you do not understand.  Ask for any changes or modifications before you sign the contract.

7.     GET A CONTRACT:

The written contract should include: 

The company name, address, phone number and the full name and license number of the builder/remodeler and salesperson.

Detailed job specifications which include a description (brand names, colors, grades, model numbers) of material, a list of all costs spelled out clearly, and any architect’s or engineers drawings which are required.

Start and completion dates.  These should allow for any reasonable delays.

 A statement that all required building permits and variances will be obtained by the contractor, before work is begun.  The building permit is for your protection.  An inspector will make sure the finished job meets all codes and safety standards, and makes the contractor responsible for corrections.

A statement of warranty on the work.  Be sure it tells if labor and materials are guaranteed, and for how long.  A statement that cleanup will be done by the contractor be included.

A provision for credits if there are large amounts of material left over.  On the other hand, you should be prepared to pay for extra materials if the project takes more than anticipated.  Your builder should provide you with a description of these extra costs in writing, so that there are no surprises on your final bill.

The terms of the payment should be clearly stated in the contract.

A right to cancel clause.  If you are solicited and you signed the contract in your home, you have three days in which you can cancel if you change your mind.  You must send the contractor a registered letter stating you wish to cancel.

If everything in the agreement is satisfactory, both the contractor and the homeowners must sign and date the contract.  Any later changes or revisions must be dated and initialed by both parties.

Be sure that the contractor gives you a copy of the contract, with any changes noted.

8.     RESOLVING PROBLEMS:

Ask your builder to explain what you should do if you discover a problem in your home.  He should provide the telephone number of a person to contact if you have a problem.  Ask what will be covered and for how long.  Get tips on routine and preventive maintenance from your builder.

If you have problems, you should first try to resolve them with the contractor before making the final payment.  You may contact the local building inspector for assistance in resolving workmanship and code violations.

Alternatives are:  Mid Michigan Dispute Resolution Center (for mediation), Small Claims Court or the Dept. of Consumer & Industry Services (to file a complaint.)

9.     OTHER TIPS:

Never pay for the entire job in advance.

Make a deposit when work begins to cover materials and startup costs.  Pay by check to the company name and always get a receipt.

Make scheduled payments as work progresses.

Be sure that any work which requires a permit, such as plumbing, electrical, heating, or structural has been approved by the state or local building inspector.