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When you are ready to buy a new home, you have a few options.

Most people in the St. Louis area buy an existing home. These homes can be anywhere from 1 year old to over 100 years old, depending on the part of town you are considering.

 

How to Choose a New Home Builder - 5 Important Questions to Ask

New Construction Home Options:

People who want a brand new home usually look for a new construction subdivision. The builder will have a half dozen floor plans available and a variety of choices for cabinets, flooring and lighting. Buyers pick either a recently completed home (in St. Louis these homes are called inventory, spec or showcase homes) or choose one of the empty lots, pick a floor plan and all of the updates and then wait 4-6 months for their home to be completed.

IMPORTANT! No builder will build a home to your specifications with a home sale or financing contingency. You need to be in a position to get a mortgage without selling your current home before they will start any work on the home. 

Occasionally you can find a builder who has built a single home or a few homes on some land that they bought, and the home is finished and waiting for someone to buy it.

You can also hire a custom home builder to build you the home of your dreams. While most custom home builders are working in the luxury price range, many custom home builders will build affordable homes too.

Home buyers who want input on the floor plan and architectural details will be happiest with a custom home. Other buyers go with a custom home builder because they want to live in a part of town where there aren’t any new construction subdivisions available.

5 Important Questions to Ask a Custom Home Builder:

Kim Hibbs owns Hibbs Homes, a custom home builder in the St. Louis area. I asked Kim to answer some questions How to Choose a New Home Builder - 5 Important Questions to Askabout building custom homes and how to select a custom home builder.

1) What issues should a buyer consider when deciding between building in new subdivision development vs building a custom home on a single lot?

Building with a “Production” builder in a new subdivision usually costs less and can be a bit less cumbersome. Production builders offer fewer options when it comes to floor plans and exterior elevations, they offer fewer interior finish options and they can negotiate full subdivision work with their trade partners. All of that leads to lower construction costs.

However, there are many benefits to those wanting to build in a single lot. It’s called “in-fill” building and it’s being done throughout the St. Louis area with great success. The benefits are – mature established neighborhoods, true custom plans including exterior and interior design/finishes and not being limited to basic selection choices. In-fill building is a bit more complicated because you have to find the lot first and then design the home. Many times you have to demolish a home that is on the property. You then work with an architect/builder to design the home you want. So, the process tends to take a bit longer and is a little more complicated. But, from my perspective, the extra time and possible costs are well worth it to get just the home you want, in the neighborhood you want!

2) What comes first, finding the lot or finding the builder? 

You can do either. I prefer getting the builder involved up front because they can help with the lot selection and make sure the infrastructure is in place to build. The builder can also help with the design phase and make sure you stay on budget.

Architects are great at designing the home, but many don’t have a good sense of construction costs so the final design may push construction costs too high. I believe in putting your team together up front, being honest about your budget, and then trusting your architect and builder to design a home that meets that budget.

3) What questions should buyers ask when choosing a custom builder? 

The obvious questions – how long have you been in business, what is the estimated budget and build time. Ask them about a “bad” experience with a client and what they learned from it. I can tell you that not all relationships workout. I’m no exception, but I try to learn from each and every experience. If you have a builder who says they have had no bad experiences, that’s simply not true!

Ask about how the project will be financed – will the owner fund or the builder? How will the funds be disbursed? Does the builder use trade partners or self-perform the work. Either answer is fine, just make sure you understand the difference. Make sure you visit homes they’ve built and talk with past clients. Ask the builder what they think makes a good client.  Ask about continuing education or accreditations they may hold. How do they handle problems that arise in the field? How do they handle change orders? Do they oversee the site or do they have superintendents? Who is the main contact?

4) What is the building process once you select a custom builder and how long does it take? 

I usually tell everyone that on average it will take 3 months for the architectural and permitting process and 6-10 months for construction depending upon the size of the home. The architectural process can be shortened if the client is decisive and doesn’t request lots of changes to the plans.

5) What are some energy saving features that buyers should consider when building a new home? 

The most important decisions a buyer can make when building is insulation and the HVAC (heating and cooling) systems. Those two decisions alone can greatly affect the efficiency of the home. My suggestion is to spend a little more in these areas to say a lot of money over time.

Additionally, windows/doors, lights, plumbing fixtures and appliances will also have a big impact on the efficiency of a home. Definitely look for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Energy Star and Water Sense labels when possible. Make sure you also talk with the builder and architect about how to properly site the home on the lot (if you can choose), location and number of windows, overhangs and exterior material as they also affect a home’s performance.

More information on building a green home in St. Louis

Are You Thinking About Moving?

I specialize in selling St. Louis homes regardless of whether they will be the hot listing to hit the market or if they have a challenge that makes it much harder to sell.

I also work with buyers who want to find the home of their dreams, but don’t want to overpay.

If you are thinking of buying or selling a home in the St Louis area, give me a call at 314-265-8073 and let’s talk about your options.

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Karen Goodman leads the Arch City Homes Team with Circa Properties, assisting home sellers and buyers in St. Louis, MO. In order to provide the best possible service to her clients, Karen works with a limited number of clients at a time.