How to choose a home builder (and what to avoid)
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They say home is where the heart is, and nothing could be truer. From your baby’s first steps to their sweet-sixteen, the home you build will be one you and your family create memories in for years to come. Whether you’re ready for a custom home or you’re in serious need of a kitchen renovation, finding the right builder for the job is key. It’s the first (and maybe the most important) step towards making your dream home a reality. We like making things easier for you, so we’ve curated five essential tips to help you find the perfect builder, along with some red flags to watch out for.

Research them online

The easiest and quickest way to get the ball rolling is through an Internet search. Start by browsing through builder portfolios online or looking up builders you’ve been recommended. Pay close attention to examples of their previous work and customer testimonials. Make sure you’re looking at builders who are part of your local builders’ association to ensure they’re familiar with local building laws and codes.

Always interview your prospects

From your research, aim to compile a list of at least three potential builders and set up some time (in person is always best) to meet them. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions and clarifications — remember, this is your home. They should be willing and able to answer everything.

Here are some questions you can ask your potential builder:

  1. “Can you tell me some ideas and suggestions you envision for this project?”
  2. “What building materials (specific to this project) do you use and why?”
    • Tip: This is your forever-home. Swap short-term cost savings for long-term prevention; the building materials you choose will determine this! For example, if you’re renovating your basement, you want to think about flooring that prevents flood damage.
  3. “Are you able to provide a few references?”
    • Tip: Each builder you connect with should be able to offer you at least three references from customers who had projects like yours.
  4. “How do you deal with challenges and stay on schedule during the build?”
    • Tip: Ensure the contract includes a completion deadline, and a plan of action in the event that the project gets delayed.
  5. “Can you provide an example of a meeting schedule?”
  6. “What is the cost estimate and timeline?”
    • Tip: Good builders usually have many clients. They’ll charge for accurate, detailed quotes and estimates so they know you’re serious about doing business.

Pay attention to communication skills

Communication is the key to success for any relationship, even when it comes to your builder. To properly turn your visions into a reality, you and your builder will need to communicate effectively. Building a custom home or doing large renos is a complex, lengthy process that can be full of roadblocks and obstacles. You want a builder that can overcome these issues smoothly because they care about the project just as much as you do.

Remember, the way a builder treats you prior to signing a contract will tell you a lot about how you can expect to be treated during the project. There are several ways you can tell if the relationship will run smoothly from the start. Ask yourself:

  • Are they punctual to meetings, quick to respond, organized, and have good business sense?
  • Do you feel like you’re their only customer and number one priority? (You should!)
  • Are they willing to answer all your questions in detail and offer clarifications?
  • Do they clearly communicate any issues immediately and with transparency, while offering work-arounds?

Make sure you’re dealing with professionals

Home building and renovations require specialized skills, which is why you’re hiring a builder in the first place. In addition to work experience, there are other signs to note on whether you’re dealing with a professional builder:

  • They have no problem obtaining permits, and should be knowledgeable about which permits you need and why.
  • A professional will offer you a detailed estimate (that’s multiple pages, and describes everything – even the brands used) for a price.
  • Professionals don’t hesitate around contracts, and they’re willing to include important things like proof of insurance or GST/HST.
  • Make sure they’re covered with insurance in case anything happens to them or their team on the job. That way, you won’t be liable for damages, medical bills or lost wages.
  • Lastly, don’t forget to check their business number to be sure they’re registered

Red flags to watch out for when choosing a builder

You should cut ties with a builder if…

  1. They aren’t willing to, or can’t answer your questions
  2. It takes a lot of time for you to explain your vision to them
  3. They’re late to meetings and take long to respond to you – this is a tell-tale sign their priorities are elsewhere
  4. They tend to use cheaper materials for cost-savings
  5. They offer you free quotes and vague, single page estimates
  6. They ask for too much or too little money upfront (the quotes should be comparable to other builders)
  7. They ask for a deposit/retainer higher than 10%. This is a sign they might not have many clients or maybe aren’t doing that well; a deposit is only a security measure and should rarely exceed 10%
Protect your home and the things you love most. Mike Holmes Reveals the Red Flags to Watch for When Hiring a Contractor What to look for in a builder 5 Tips for Choosing Your Perfect Builder Find a Builder: Where to Start Your Search