Starting Your Search
The selection of a builder is a critical step when building a new home. Membership in the HBA shows that a builder cares about their company’s history and integrity and adheres to professional standards that every home buyer should seek.
Once you have thought about the type of house you want, where should you look for a builder? First, the real estate section of your newspaper is a good starting point to learn which builders are active in your area, the types of homes they are building and the prices you can expect to pay.
The Home Builders Association of Greater Cleveland has a list of member builders who construct well-built single and multifamily homes. Members of our association subscribe to a code of ethics, and offer an exclusive one-year limited home warranty. Everyone building a new home should make sure the builder is a member of the HBA.
Ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Search for builder references that they have dealt with directly, or ask them for the names of acquaintances who have recently built a new home.
Making the Right Choice
Once you develop a list of builders, find out about their reputations and the quality of their work. Recording all such information – as well as your own impressions – about specific builders and homes in a notebook will help you make later comparisons.
Ask builders on your list for the addresses of their recently built houses, subdivisions or multifamily complexes. Drive by and see if the homes are visually appealing. Look at the homes that are the same style as you plan to buy.
The best way to learn about builders is to visit homes they have built and talk to the homeowners. Visit on a Saturday morning when people are outside doing chores. Just introduce yourself and say you are considering buying a home from their builder. Ask people if they are happy with their homes and if the builder did what was promised in a timely manner. Ask if they would buy another home from this builder. Usually, people will tell you if they are pleased or not with their homes. Consult more than one home buyer for each builder; the more people you talk to, the better the cross-section of opinion you’ll receive.
Shop Quality and Value
When examining a home, look at the quality of the construction features. You may wish to inspect the quality of the cabinetry, carpeting, trim work, paint and items that are important to you. If you feel incapable of judging such things, take a knowledgeable person along with you.
Always keep value in mind when shopping. Just because a home is less expensive than another does not mean it is a better value. Likewise, a more expensive home does not assure a higher quality.
A home is primarily a place to live, but it is also an important investment. Consider the appreciation potential of any home. Be concerned with the value you are getting for your money regarding location, housing supply and demand and other market factors.
Another important aspect of value is design quality. In viewing each home, determine whether it lends itself to the type of lifestyle you want to lead. Look at the amount of interior living space and how efficiently the space is used: are there enough bedrooms and bathrooms? Is space sufficient to accommodate special interests or hobbies? Find out if the builder is using state-of-the-art energy features, both in equipment and insulation. Consider the location of the property: is it convenient to schools, shopping and transportation? Think about what is most important to you.
Warranties and Service
An important criterion for selecting a builder is the warranty provided on the home. Ask to see a copy of the builder’s warranty. Although reading legal documents is tedious, you should read the warranty to understand what protection you will have. Don’t wait to read it until after you move in. If you have any questions about the coverage, ask the builder.
Most builders offer some form of written warranty. Many builders back their own warranties on workmanship and materials, typically for one year. Other builders offer warranties backed by an insurance company. To get an insured warranty, you must buy a home from a builder who belongs to a warranty program — you cannot simply select a home and then ask a builder who does not belong to a program for an insured warranty. Builders who are registered members of the HBA offer an exclusive one-year limited home warranty.
Also, find out from each builder what kind of service you can expect after the sale. Typically, a builder makes two service calls during the first year after you move in to repair non-emergency problems covered by your warranty. The first call is usually 30 to 120 days after move-in, and the second is around the eleventh month right before any one-year warranties on workmanship and materials would expire. For emergencies, the builder should send someone to your home right away.
When choosing a builder, be thorough and ask a lot of questions. Get as many specifics as possible. If you receive the answers verbally rather than in writing, take notes. Never hesitate to ask a question for fear of not sounding knowledgeable. What seems like an uninformed question might yield an enlightened answer.
Buying a new home is the biggest and most important purchase you will make in your lifetime. By doing your homework, you will be able to shop for a home with a sense of confidence and knowledge that will help you make the right decision.
Take Care of Your New Home
A new house isn’t a home until it’s warmed by your personal items: Family photos on the wall, towels in the bathroom in your favorite hue and a joyful cacophony of pots and pans, plates and flatware for serving the foods you love. It's easy to forget that a home is also a house made up of thousands of parts, many of which require a maintenance regimen and regular inspection to ensure they are at peak performance, just like your car.
Devoting regular attention to maintenance means:
- Preventing damage such as scratches, chips, cuts, burns, stains, gouges and scrapes to the cosmetic surfaces of your home
- Regular cleaning using manufacturer-recommended products and techniques
- Adjusting and lubricating the house’s many parts
- Replacing consumable parts, such as light bulbs, filters and batteries in smoke detectors
- Understanding and adhering to the manufacturers recommended maintenance routine for appliances and other mechanical components
Your new home likely has mechanical systems that are different from those of your last home. Take advantage of builders’ homeowner orientation programs to make sure that you are familiar with the systems in your home and understand how to maximize their efficiency for your family’s comfort. Know where the main safety shut-offs are for water, electricity and gas.
Building materials expand and contract over time because of changes in temperature and humidity, necessitating ongoing maintenance. Caulk, for example, dries, shrinks and cracks, diminishing its effectiveness until it no longer provides a seal against moisture and air infiltration. Maintaining caulking will be a routine task throughout the life of your home.
Likewise, you can expect some minor cracking in concrete flatwork, including driveways and patios. Concrete cracks can result from shrinkage during curing, temperature changes or even soil movement. While cracking cannot be prevented entirely, you can minimize cracking by following these steps:
- Maintain good drainage away from concrete slabs
- Fill low spots or settled areas near concrete slabs
- Seal cracks with concrete caulking
- Remove ice and snow as soon as possible
- Protect concrete from de-icing agents
- Keep heavy vehicles (such as a moving van or dump truck) off concrete slabs
Beautiful yards are the result of years of caring and work and require consistent attention to flourish. But whether gardening is a passion or a chore for you, consider planting native plants rather than exotics for best results. Cover soil as soon as possible to prevent erosion and always maintain proper slope away from your home to ensure good drainage.
Finally, familiarize yourself with the warranties you receive with your new home, and be sure to activate manufacturer warranties by completing and mailing any registration cards. Besides activating your warranty, this step allows the manufacturer to contact you in the event of a product recall. Retain all warranty documents and make sure recommended maintenance is up to date.
Few products combine science, technology, art and skill the way a new home does. Make preventative maintenance the hallmark of your home care plan, and you’ll enjoy the full satisfaction that owning a home can provide.