We love the home building process – the excitement, the dreaming, the materials, and the adventure of building a new future. Don’t get us wrong, we understand the intimidation as well. Walking into the unknown and trusting a team you just met can be daunting, but there’s a lot you can do to help with that. Our goal is for you to set aside some of the worry and enjoy the adventure for all it’s worth!
Selecting the Best Home Builder
- Inspiration – I LOVE their work
- Reputation – They’ve done this before
- Specialty – They’re an expert in this area
- Values & Personality – They just get me
- Details & Past Clients – No red flags
Before you book meetings with the first 20 home builders you find, we highly recommend you start online. Most of the things you’re looking for should be easily found on a builder’s website, and you can approve or reject most Calgary builders without needing a 1-hour meeting for each one. A home builder’s website is also a good indication of their personality: someone who cares about their customer, the quality of their work, and their communication are going to reveal that online. Likewise, you’ll see a lot of builder websites which show you they’re only interested in the bare minimum effort. It’s like hiring a landscaper that doesn’t even mow their own lawn.
Your online search should help you narrow your meetings down to 2-4 builders (the favourites). But before you go too much further, let’s talk about what you’re looking for.
Inspiration – I LOVE their work
As you browse through Calgary builders online, we recommend the first place you look is at their past projects. Take a look at what they’ve done in the past, and see if it matches your standards.
- Do they care about finishing touches? Lighting, moulding and unique features?
- Do they cater to their clients? Can I tell they’re delivering on the client’s dream instead of a cookie-cutter “always the same” style?
- Have they built styles close to what I’m looking for?
- Do they focus on one style? Or are they able to create and build various styles of homes?
As you identify the builders that hit the mark, just put each builder into a new tab in your browser (maybe 8-10 builders). That way you can go back through your favourites as you find the diamonds in the rough.
Reputation – “They’ve done this before”
After you’ve selected a handful of your top Calgary builders based on their work, you’ll then want to hop back into Google and look each one up by name. Every home builder has a reputation online, and that’s exactly what you want to dig into. It’s really hard to completely hide a bad reputation (or fake a good reputation), so after Googling their name, take a look at:
- The star ratings on their various business profiles – Today a 4+ star rating is a MUST HAVE, and if there are only 3 reviews, you’re probably just seeing “friends and family” ratings.
- The reviews people have written – Make sure they’re from past clients, and that they tell you the story of their experience. Make sure you read about real challenges they helped fix.
- Their social media and secondary business profiles – You’ll likely see additional projects they’ve done and a second perspective on their work.
While you browse through this information, see if you can narrow your top builders down a little further (maybe 4-7 builders).
Specialty – “They’re an expert in this area”
By this time, you should have a good list of reliable builders with a good reputation and strong portfolio of work. The next question (their specialties) might be a little harder to find out. If you don’t find this information on their website, sending them an email or making a phone call may be worth it.
You want to find out what types of builds they specialize in. For reference, many builders either focus on custom builds or “production” builds (producing as many homes with the same layout as possible). You’ll want to know if they have experience in:
- Bungalow or two-story
- Infills, duplexes, fourplexes
- Specific urban or rural municipalities (navigating the permitting/utilities will be unique to each)
- Renovations on an existing home
- Basement renovations
- Additions to an existing home
Feel free to add categories to this list based on what you’re looking for, but I recommend you ask them what they’re really great at before telling them what you’re looking to build. This is all about making sure you feel comfortable with the team that is building your new home. You can also get some additional information by asking how many of that style they’ve built in the last two years.
After this research you’re probably down to your top 3-5 home builders.
Values & Personality – “They just get me”
You now have a list of builders who do beautiful work, have a great reputation, and specialize in what you’re looking to build.
The next step? Set up a meeting.
Give Us a Shout!
One of the most valuable things a builder can have is a personality and values which match your needs – that feeling that “these guys just get me”. It’s easy in a big project for you to hit challenges: materials get delayed, you have an unforeseen family crisis, or your workplace suddenly needs you working overtime. A strong, trusting relationship with your builder is what will get you through this. In your meeting, as you talk about what you’re looking for, listen to see:
- If they’re uncovering your vision, or if they’re just trying to push you into their default style
- If communicating your vision is easy and effortless, or if you keep having to correct them
- If they write things down and are willing to put your vision in writing, or is there a risk that three weeks from now they’ll forget, and have no record of your vision for the build?
- If they suggest new ideas that build on your vision and add to your excitement
- If you feel supported by the builder’s employees. Remember, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people, and you have to get along and respect each other.
- If you align in values. Do they value similar design ideas, have a clear building process, and open communication?
Another way to put this is “Do I feel heard?”, “Did they show me that they’ll protect and champion my cause?”. Once you start looking at pricing, you may find that the best portfolio, the best reputation and the best values/personality end up costing more than the other builders. This makes sense, because the best home builders are putting more work into your dream home than those who cut corners.
As you look at your builder’s values and personality, we HIGHLY recommend committing to the builder who understands and champions your vision (even if it costs a little more). While it looks like more money at the start, picking the cheaper builder almost always means you’re sacrificing your dream along the way.
Details & Past Clients – “No Red Flags”
The last checkboxes we recommend should feel like “dotting the i and crossing the t” in your decision. They’re just a few last checks to confirm your new builder.
Here’s what we recommend asking for:
- Proof of insurance – Never work with a builder who doesn’t have liability coverage
- Proof of warranty – An Alberta builder must always be covered under a third party warranty provider. (For example we work with the Alberta New Home Warranty)
- Two past clients from the last year – ask for permission to contact them and talk about how their project went
Likewise, never hire a builder that:
- Suggests they build for cash
- Suggests the homeowner pull their own permits
- Doesn’t provide a project schedule
- Has an unclear (or missing) build process for design, material selections and construction
After these final criteria, you can feel 100% confident in your decision to hire them. Regardless of price, you know this is the very best Calgary home builder to build your new home.
You’ll notice in all of this that we don’t really talk about price, and this is on purpose.
Ultimately, your builder will either be advising you on what your dream home will cost, or your builder will advise you on what you can fit in your budget. Whether you’re building based on budget, or based on your wish list (or both), it’s more important for you to know that your home builder is going to build the best possible home than risk your future on a home builder that makes big promises, but delivers a disaster.
When you can trust your home builder, the rest of the adventure just becomes easy!
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