How Should You Pick A Builder?

Advice from the experts: Ask the builder’s other customers, do your homework


You’ve decided to build your own home. It’s exciting, but where do you start?

How do you select a builder? Should you go with a local person or a larger company? What questions should you ask? What research should you do?

Boyd Buchanan, a Hamburg Township homebuilder, said there are some basic guidelines consumers should take when selecting a builder. Buchanan is the owner of Boyd H. Buchanan Builders, a building company he started in 1978.

Buchanan said residents should check to see if a builder is a member of the local homebuilders association. This, he said, is an indication of professionalism. He also suggested residents talk with local building officials and speak with customers who have purchased homes from the builder.

Jeff Doyle, owner of Doyle Homes Inc. in Howell, also suggests talking to the builder’s customers. Doyle designs and builds single family homes in Livingston County.

“Always go into the neighborhood where the builder has built and find some of there customers,” Doyle said. “Find out what kind of experience they had. Did (the builder) follow up on service, and did they do what they said they were going to do?”

Doyle also suggested people talk to real estate professionals. He said Livingston County is still a pretty small community, and many people have no shortage of opinions about various builders. It also helps to do as much homework as possible before going to the builder. Doyle said it’s helpful if the customers know what they want.

Another decision is whether to go with a local builder or a large national company. Buchanan believes local builders offer advantages over a larger company.

“A local builder is just that,” Buchanan said. “I live and work in the community. I’ve lived here 30 years, and I care about the community just like my neighbors.”

Buchanan said he has a stake in the community because he will continue to live here. He also said local builders are also more involved in the actual building process.

“Many of us are more hands on and closer to the product,” Buchanan said. “We’re actually on the job and do our own supervision.”

Local builders can construct a variety of homes, he said, as opposed to only four or five versions offered by a large builder. Doyle believes local builders offer more value and attention to detail. Before starting his own building company,he used to work for Centex, a national builder. “I think the advantage of working with a small builder is you get a lot more personalized service,” Doyle said. Buchanan said local builders can construct whatever the customer wants. Doyle said there are a lot of larger builders who do a really nice job, but it depends on the guys on the ground and who the superintendent is that day. He said there are some experienced superintendents who do good work, and then there are others.

“As a small builder, I’m only as good as my name,” Doyle said.

He said local builders don’t always have the lowest price, but they’re always trying to give the best value and quality.