“Psstt! Hey Buddy got a spare 2 or 3 hundred thousand dollars ya wanna spend?”
That’s the sort of character you may end up dealing with if you don’t due your homework prior to choosing your next Florida home builder. Buying a new home is likely the most expensive purchase you will ever make. Make the right choice! Over the years I’ve bought a few new houses and I thought others might benefit from my experience.
When you’re interviewing Florida home builders, ask yourself how you feel about that person. Are they knowledgeable? Are they pleasant to deal with? Do they seem trustworthy? Do you think they will do a good job AND stand behind their work after completion?
There are dozens of Florida home builders in almost every market; some good, some bad. You want the most pleasant experience possible, not to mention a safe and beautiful to enjoy. The problem is how do you separate the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? Hopefully the list below will help you in your search.
Of course, one of the first things to look for is a good reputation. Ask your friends and neighbors who they recommend. People are always quick to offer a comment and they will usually be quite frank in their opinions-good or bad. Check with the BBB in your area and look for complaints. If there were complaints, find out how they were handled and if the customer was satisfied. Don’t settle for a tailgate warranty. That’s when a shady builder’s warranty is good until you can no longer see the tailgate of his truck as he’s driving away.
Find out how long they’ve been in business. A new company may offer what seems like a good deal at the time, but they may not yet have the resources or experience to finish the job in a timely manner and with quality workmanship. If a builder has been around a while, they know who the good sub-contractors are and whom to avoid. Quality builders flourish and lesser ones perish.
Are they knowledgeable enough to help you choose a lot? There is way more to a lot than just location. Is it in a flood zone or wetlands area? Is the lot at the proper elevation to provide good drainage? Is the soil itself suitable for building your home, or does it need heavy raking and more soil brought in? All these things can create an extra expense for you if there is more preparation needed. Ask the builder if they do a soil bore test. Find out if they give you an allowance for fill dirt if needed. A good builder will often provide a fixed amount of fill, beyond that you are responsible.
Ask how many houses their superintendents are responsible for. If a super has too many houses going up at once, they are less likely to catch mistakes before they’re covered up. Some large production home builders have so many houses in progress that their supers are overloaded and more prone to make mistakes.
What do they do for you after the walk-through and punch list is complete? What if you discover a mistake 6 months from now? Will they be attentive and fix it promptly?
Ask the builder how they build the foundation or slab. Do they prep the ground for insect protection? Do they install a vapor barrier before pouring the concrete? Do they use a strong concrete mix and use reinforcing steel in the concrete? Same questions apply to the driveways. Do they use a strong mix? Do they install steel mesh? Cars create quite a load on driveways.
Ask about how they build their walls. Do they use wood frame, concrete block, or what I consider the best--solid concrete walls? If you’re in an area that gets strong storms or hurricanes, are the walls able to stand up against the forces of nature?
Ask about the roof system. Are the trusses strong and firmly attached to the walls? Do they use a strong plywood sheathing system? Do they use a cheap, thinner underlayment felt, or do they use a heavy duty 30 pound felt? Is the shingles high quality, attractive, and come with a 30 year warranty?
How about the water drainage? Do they provide enough slope to take the water to the storm water system? Do they provide a good sod to help absorb and control water runoff?
Speaking of sod, do they even provide sod, or do they just throw down some seed and a little hay?
Do they offer a sprinkler system? A few builders include the sprinklers in each home they build. Irrigation is essential if you want a fine lawn.
How about energy saving measures? How well will your Florida home builder insulate the attic? Do they provide a high SEER AC system? Do they use insulated ductwork if placed in the attic? Failure to do so in humid areas will cause condensation that can fall onto the framing and drywall ceilings. Is the attic vented to allow hot air to escape? Do they install double-glazed glass windows? Windows are a major source of heat gain and loss. Insist in two panes of glass keep you comfortable. Do they offer optional Low E glass to further reduce energy loss?
Ask about their lighting allowance. That’s the amount they spend on fixtures in a standard home. From a good builder, expect $1000 on a home that’s 1800sq. ft. or larger. Anything spent after that is up to you.
Ask if they pre-wire for ceiling fans, cable TV, and telephones. Some builders just provide one of each. Adding them later can be costly after the walls are up.
Does the Florida home come with attractive features? Small things like plant shelves with a lighting receptacle, special little niches, and rounded edges on the drywall can make an ordinary house into a special home.
What’s the shower like? Just a fiberglass shell, or real ceramic tile?
Do they give you the basics, like a garbage disposal and garage door opener? Do they install attic stairs? Or will they nickel and dime you for every little thing?
How about a microwave, range, and dishwasher? Are they included or extra?
Ask how much does the home builder require for a deposit. An established builder will usually only require 5%-10% to get you started. The deposit will be less if you get a construction perm loan to fund the building of your Florida home. Ask yourself what would be the outcome if your builder went under financially?
Sound like a lot of work? It can be. Searching for a reputable Florida builder doesn’t have to be a major chore, but the result of your efforts will be worth it. Take the time to educate your self on the basics of construction. Visit the model homes and ask questions-lots of questions. Selecting the right Florida home builder is worth the effort.
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Conrad Allen is a Palm Coast, Florida article writer and new home consultant. For free information on Florida home builders visit me at: Florida
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