How to Choose a Builder

Here is a great article on how to select a home builder.  However, we feel like we can take that information a bit further.  Belman Homes has given several informative seminars in the Milwaukee area at the Metropolitan Builder Association regarding choosing your builder.  The topics include selecting the right lot, what questions to ask your builder, and how to choose your builder.  We have over 30 years experience building new homes for our clients in Wisconsin.  If you would like more advice on how to go about the building process please contact us.  Otherwise enjoy our tips on How to Choose a Builder.

Where should I start The Building Process?

1.  Determine Where you want to live.

  • Consider Taxes
  • School Districts
  • Commute to Work
  • Shopping
  • Affordability
  • Subdivision vs.. Out lot

2.  Determine Budget

  • Talk with your Lender
  • You will need pay-stubs, copies of tax returns, information on savings & investments.
  • Get Pre-Approved
  • Determine what you are comfortable spending

3.  Consider your current Living arrangements

  • Do you have to sell first?
  • Or are you going to do interim financing?
  • When are you going to market your home?
  • Do you plan on moving twice if you home sells?
  • If you do sell where might you go?

Choosing Your Builder

Types of Builder

  • Production (Limited or No Changes)
  • Semi Custom   (Allow changes off base plan)
  • Full Custom  (Design from scratch)
  • Spec Builder  (Only Do house/lot packages no scattered site)

How to Check out your builder:

1.  Ways to Check out a Builder

  • Ask your Banker
  • Check with your Lawyer Liens/Judgements
  • Better Business Bureau
  • MBA
  • Realtors
  • Home shows
  • Internet
  • Previous customers experiences
  • Talk to some of their contractors

2.  Previous Customers

  • Ask them about adherence to schedules
  • Ask about adherence to budget
  • Ask how the home is holding up
  • See if they would do things differently
  • Ask if they encountered any problems
  • See if they had any communication issues

3.  Talk to a few of the Builders Contractors on site

Be a detective.  Visit a job site of the builders during the day and ask a few questions of the contractors.

  • Do they enjoy working for their builder
  • Are they getting paid in a timely fashion
  • How long have they been with the builder
  • How many jobs have they done for him

4.  Model Homes

Models are a great way to see a builders work…..But……Find out if they build their models the same way they build your home.  Check with their previous customers or ask to see a home that they are building for a client.

Tips when viewing a model home:

  • Try to ignore and look past decorating
  • Look beneath the window treatments because that is how your home is really built
  • Furniture can distort a room size (giant crayon)
  • Try not to look at the decorations, but focus on the core features such as casings, cabinets, faucets, fireplaces, etc.
  • Look at the framing in exposed areas such as in garages, basements, attics.  Does the lumber look straight, is it wet or knotty?
  • Open and close a window, try the patio door
  • Look inside the cabinets, check the hardware
  • Open and close doors
  • Try out a faucet/flush a toilet
  • Walk all over the home
  • Does it feel solid?  Check the spacing of joists, walls studs.
  • Listen to the home.  What sounds does it make.
  • On a cold day put your hands near the walls.  Do you feel drafts.
  • How many windows does it have, is the size and placement okay
  • Look at the furnace and air conditioner
  • What brand is it, see the label for the efficiency rating?
  • Check out the electrical panel, is the wiring done neatly and marked?
  • Look at the plumbing is it put together well and placed well.

5.  Questions to ask your builder:

  • How long will it take to build?
  • Do I get a warranty? How does it work? How long is it covered?
  • How do they handle changes & change orders?
  • Allowances what items are allowances and how much do they mark them up?
  • Experience of the builder, how long has the builder been around?
  • Quality & type of materials used
  • Pricing and how long is it guaranteed?

6.  Contracts

Reduce all agreements to writing and Ask the builder for copies of their paperwork before coming to an agreement.

  • Contracts
  • Change orders
  • Warranty
  • Selection sheet
  • Specifications

7.  What to watch out for with your potential builder

  • Conflicts between Documents
  • Are the Allowances realistic?
  • Base Price, have a good feel for the standard features
  • Verbal Agreements
  • Vague/Incomplete Documents
  • Contractor bait and switch

8.  Ask a lot of questions

  • If you don’t know something don’t be afraid to ask
  • Even builders have questions and don’t know everything.
  • There are always new products, techniques, codes, etc.

9.  Consider Energy Efficiency / Enviornment

  • Does the builder offer ENERGY STAR® Homes
  • Can they build a “Green Home
  • Does the builder know and understand the registration process
  • Has the builder worked with some of the “green” products and technologies

Remember:  These things are great but you have to pay for that certification.  Is it worth it to you?  Does it enhance the value in the long run.

10.  Final Tips

Shop for Quality and Value.

  • The home is an important investment.
  • Consider  appreciation
  • Remember:   Just because the home is expensive doesn’t mean it is quality.


  • Don’t just select a home based on price
  • Consider value and resale
  • Consider how long the components will last
  • Consider how the equipment and design will effect your heating and cooling bills

©2010 Belman Homes Inc.  Do not copy this article in full or part without expressed written permission of Belman Homes Inc.  All rights reserved.

Belman Homes

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