How to choose your builder

We have all likely heard the saying “Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick Two” or “Quality, Service, Price: Pick Two.” Of course we have all experienced the good and the bad side of “You get what you pay for.” I really like the saying “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of a low price has faded from memory.”

There is an element of truth to each of these sayings. We all make our purchase decisions differently. Your decision making process for where to buy groceries is different than where to buy a car. The process that you use when deciding where to buy a car is different than your process for choosing a builder. A decision about a grocery store, while important, has short term ramifications. (What you buy and eat, however, could have long term results!) When you are looking for a new car, the product is the same at any dealership. The difference will be in the service and price.

When you are looking for a builder, your choice will determine the success of your home construction project for “life”. Builders will have many dissimilarities; in values, service, quality, pricing… this list can go on and on. That decision must be carefully considered. The wrong decision regarding your builder can have devastating effects; unmet schedules, cost overruns, low quality, unmet expectations, increased long term costs, incomplete projects and one very unhappy customer! However, the right choice in a builder will result in a successful project, client expectations met and one very happy customer!


Every builder will use this term to describe their work regardless of how their quality “measures up” to the competition. Many people define quality simply as incorporating finishes such as crown molding, granite counter tops and hardwood floors. They often misinterpret great curb appeal as quality. These things alone, however, are not a good measurement of quality.

True quality should be measured by long term performance, energy efficiency, maintenance costs and craftsmanship. With this said, curb appeal is very important.  Most quality built homes incorporate finishes such as granite counter tops and hardwood floors. The true measure of quality, however, is in the things that you can not see; the foundation, framing, flashing, insulation, HVAC system for example.

If you do not believe me, just watch a few episodes of “Holmes on Homes”! A quality builder will make sure that every home has great curb appeal, good products and performs at a high level for life.


Every builder offers a different level of service. In today’s culture, we have all become accustomed to receiving poor service. Returning phone calls and emails promptly should be the rule, not the exception. When you are making a one-time purchase on a product that has a short life, service may not be a high priority to you. When you are building a home or remodeling your existing home, the service that you receive should be of much greater importance.

The relationship with your builder can last for years. You must be certain that their level of service will meet your expectations. 


There is a fair price for every product. Products of greater quality typically cost more than products of lesser quality. Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. While price may be the most important factor on some selections, it may not be as important on others.

When considering a construction project, there are not only “first” costs, but also long term costs. While a low initial cost may look appealing, it is not a true measure of value.  Utility bills, maintenance expenses, quality of mechanical systems, efficiency, etc. will all impact the long term cost and need to be considered. If you save $10,000 on the construction costs, but spend $200 per month more in utility bills, did you really save money?

When considering costs, it is imperative that the buyer clearly understands the scope of work that is included in a builder’s quote. Unwritten exclusions, low allowances, incomplete scope of work and vague specifications will make a builder’s price appear much lower than it actually is. This typically results in in higher costs, allowance overages, additional work, lower quality products, unmet schedules… I will stop there.  I am sure that you have heard the stories!

Every builder has strengths and weaknesses.  Every builder has different standards.  Every builder has their “niche.” So, how do you choose the right builder? 

  • Interview the builder. Don’t just ask for a price quote. Learn to know them. Find out about their history, their experience, their strengths and their weaknesses. Call on several of their references. Ask for references from current and active clients as well as past clients. Ask these references detailed questions regarding the builder’s personality, employees, trade contractors, schedules, prices, quality, organization, service, call-backs, etc. Ask to see projects – both completed and in progress. You can also request references from their vendors. This will help you learn how they treat their suppliers and trade contractors. Check with the BBB and local trade associations. The best way to learn about a builder is to ask your friends and relatives!
  • Determine the level of quality that you expect and select a builder who can meet those expectations. If you have high quality expectations and you select a builder who has a lower standard, you will be very disappointed. If you have modest expectations and you select a builder who has higher standards, then you may be paying more than necessary to meet your expectations.  
  • Select a builder who consistently demonstrates the level of service that you expect. Remember, service typically does not get better after a contract is signed!
  • When you have determined a design and scope of work that meets your needs and have found a builder who has proven to meet your expectations, have the builder prepare a detailed, thorough and accurate quote.

If you enter into an agreement for a construction on project, you will develop a long term relationship with your builder. Your selection of a builder will determine the success of your project. Make sure that you are completely satisfied with your builder before signing on the dotted line. If you have any “red flags”, there is probably a good reason for that!

In the end, no builder is right for every customer. Match up your expectations with a builder who has proven to consistently meet those expectations and your project will be a success!

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