How to Select A Builder

Planning on Building a Mountain Dream Home?

Summit County is a fabulous place to vacation and is known as ‘Colorado's Playground'. Many visitors are choosing to live here permanently or are retiring here, contributing to the population growth of the area. Some are deciding to build their own custom home in the mountains. Building your dream home can be a wonderful and rewarding experience or it can turn into a nightmare. Doing some homework up front is often the key to the quality of the experience.

There are many fine builders in Summit County that can build you a wonderful home and make the whole experience pleasant. Due to the growth in the area, there are also many builders whose priorities are their own short term gain and not customer satisfaction. The intent of this article is to help you choose a builder wisely.

Check references!

After you have seen examples of a builder's work and like the quality, and you think this is a builder you can work with, you need to check references. This is one of the most important things you can do to insure the project will go smoothly. It is surprising how seldom this is really done.

In particular, check with previous clients of the builder that their's was a reasonable experience.
Are they happy with the home?
Was the price reasonable and what they expected?
Was the whole process and timing reasonable?
Were the inevitable problems that come up handled well?

You should also check other references, if available, such as possibly architects, banking, and major subcontractor or supplier references. You want to get a really good picture of how the builder does business.

Here are qualities to look for in any builder that you are considering:

Integrity - It goes without saying that since you entrusting your builder with hundreds of thousands of dollars of your money, that it is extremely important that the builder be worthy of your trust.

Competence in building - This includes what you can see (finish work) as well as structural integrity. It also includes knowledge of mountain building and local subcontractors and suppliers. In a mountain resort community, this is more important than it might be elsewhere.

Business expertise - Even with the best of intentions and a reasonable level of competence in building, the builder still needs to take care of business! The builder needs to be able to handle money, and keep employees and subcontractors paid, track expenses for the bank and client as well as track many hundreds of factors related to the building process itself. Estimating and scheduling are very important to a successful building business.

Customer service - The builder needs to be working with the client to get what the client wants. There are many decisions to be made by the client. The builder should be helping the client, directly and by putting the client together with specific experts to aid in choices. Also, after the home is built there will be minor items and there should be a warranty period. The builder needs to remain available to support his product.

Preparing for Building

One of the first things you need to build a home is a place to built it! Your real estate agent can help you with this, if you don't already have a home site.

The next step is to put together the team that will design and build your home: the architect, the builder and you - the owner. Everyone will have to work together towards the successful project.

An architect specializes in translating the wishes of the future home owner into a set of plans that the builder can build from. As the architect designs, the builder can provide input on cost and feasibility. By the time the design is complete, the builder should be able to give a preliminary estimate of the cost of the home and the schedule.

When the final building plans are engineered and ready, the builder should be able to give a detailed cost estimate and budget for the home. The home owner and builder should enter into a contract that spells out terms:

Cost - (from the budget) which may include a Guaranteed Maximum Price, also how any cost savings are handled

Schedule - when the home is expected to be finished, and any penalties if it is not finished on time

Disbursements - how money is paid to the contractor both for expenses and contractor fee (either by a bank through a construction loan or by the home owner)

Change orders - it is very important to have a process to handle the inevitable changes, which can cost a significant amount of money and/or time

Just having this all discussed and understood up front goes a long way towards a smooth building process and reduces the chances of serious disagreements (or legal actions) later.

Now have fun building your new mountain home!

Phylecia Platte is Broker/Owner of Century 21 Mountain Specialists in Silverthorne as well as a partner of Apex Mountain Homes LLC in Frisco.