by Jeff Hensley, President, North Coast Building Industry Association

When you’ve made the decision to build a new home, selecting the right builder is an important part of the process. You want to find a builder who business approach aligns well with your personal preferences. And staying within your budget will be a key part of positive home-building experience.

Being an educated consumer, and asking your home builder the right questions, will help you build the home of your dreams without blowing your budget. Kimberly Mackey, founder of New Homes Solutions Consulting in Tampa, Fla., shares some issues to discuss with your builder to help you stay on budget.

Included features and custom options – It’s important to set your expectations in the beginning. A builder’s model home is often designed to highlight how a buyer can personalize the home, but most of the time, what you see in the model is either upgraded or perhaps even a designer option that may or may not be available. It’s important to know the difference between what features are included and what items have been upgraded to avoid being surprised when you go to contract or even during the building process.

Also, if you like a custom upgrade but not its higher cost, there is often a less expensive way to achieve the same look. For example, the custom cabinets shown in a model home may be offered in the same color and size with a lower-priced option.  And if designer knobs or pulls are added, you can achieve a very similar look for far less. The same is true of granite counters and flooring. It pays to ask the builder’s representative or design center consultant how to achieve the look you want and stay within your budget.

Closing cost contributions or incentives – In many areas throughout the United States, a builder’s contract will stipulate that they do not pay any closing costs. That means they also don’t pay the traditional closing costs that are typically paid by the sellers when purchasing a used or resale home. However, builders will often offer some sort of closing incentive that can be applied toward closing costs or options. The incentive may be tied to the use of preferred lender or title company.  Buyers should carefully run the numbers with their real estate professional or lender to see if those incentives make sense for their particular situation.

Some buyers may find it better to use an outside lender because of rates and fees. Other buyers may do better asking to have the builder’s incentive applied toward options they will need to move into the home and have it become immediately livable, like adding a refrigerator, blinds, or a washer and dryer, which are often not included in new homes.

The key is to understand what incentives are available and apply those to your particular situation in the way that best benefits you.

Warranty and regular maintenance – Most consumers understand that when you purchase a new car that is covered by a warranty, the buyer is still responsible for some maintenance and other costs. The same is true when you buy a newly built home. Before you go to settlement on the purchase of your new home, you and your builder will do a walk-through to conduct a final inspection. This walk-through provides an opportunity to spot items which may need to be corrected or adjusted, learn about the way your new home works and ask questions about anything you don’t understand.

Often, a builder will use the walk-through to educate buyers about the operation of the home’s components; the buyer’s responsibilities for maintenance and upkeep; and the warranty coverage and procedures. Be sure to read and understand the warranty documents. It is important that you learn about the way your new home works and ask questions about anything you don’t understand.

For more information about how to find the right builder to create your dream home, contact the NCBIA.  We have the list of trusted professionals to help you with building your dream, home repair and remodeling needs.

Visit our website – for a list of our reputable and dependable members, as well as our new For Consumer section and job posting (under the About Us tab).  Be sure to check our Virtual Parade of Homes which updates regularly.  Or, give us a call Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 440-934-1090.  We have the ONLY LIST YOU WILL EVER NEED.   Come build with us!