"Custom Builder"! Just the mention of these two words in a crowded room is usually enough to elicit a string of horror stories laced with phrases typically categorized by "expletive deleted". Rarely during such stories are the words integrity, service, value and quality heard. What has become of the home-building professionals who consider product quality and reputation to be every bit as important as profit? Well, the answer to that question is a good news/bad new response. The good news is that quality conscious builders who embody these higher characteristics can still be found in the St. Louis marketplace. The bad news is that consumers must educate themselves and do just a little homework to find them. The purpose of this article and the series of articles to follow is to provide some help to consumers entering the "true" custom home building market.
How does a consumer manage to find, much less select, a builder who meets these standards? The answer to that question comes in the form of the following 5 criteria:
Personally interview 2 or 3 builders whose expertise is in the price range in which you are building. There is no advantage in hiring someone who specialty lies elsewhere. You wouldn't hire a Yugo mechanic to work on you Mercedes. During the interview ask such questions as what is the time to complete this house? If it happens too quickly, be suspicious! Who is your daily point-of-contact, the builder or a construction superintendent? A true custom builder should work with the client one-on-one. How many custom homes do you build each year? If the number exceeds four homes per year, be concerned.
Examine the builder's reputation. Speak with realtors who are familiar with the builder's product, talk with sub-contractors and vendors whose products are evident in some of the builder's current work, and talk to residents who live adjacent to sites where the builder has done some work.
Visit a current job site to get a sense of the builder's method of construction. Look at the quality of the material, examine the cleanliness of the work site, determine if building material is organized and protected from the elements, and observe if the people working on the site are organized and busy. These characteristics are a direct reflection of how the builder operates. A clean, organized, busy work site says much about the builder.
Personal compatibility with a custom builder is a must. You will spend a significant amount of time during the course of the project with this individual, so pick someone you like and can relate to easily.
Finally, and this is the most important of the five, get some references and talk with these people. These references will give the most accurate picture of the true nature of a builder. It goes without saying that all builders will put their best foot forward with their references, but surprisingly (or maybe not!) some builders may have not "good" references.
Of course none of these criteria can be applied until you have a "short list" of possible builders. A comprehensive list of certified custom homebuilders is available from the "Certified Builders Guild" of St. Louis. This list encompasses only those builders who meet a stringent criteria which includes an express written warranty, a continuous written record of positive client references, appropriate levels of insurance coverage, active participation in industry specific continuing education programs, and positive references from vendors, sub-contractors, and banks.
For further information contact The Certified Builders Guild at 314-514-0200 or refer to the pages on this web site