Finding Your Builder
Where Do I Start?
Selecting a builder for your new home is the single most important factor to your homebuilding experience. Not only must your builder have knowledge and skills, but personalities need to work well together. Your relationship with your builder starts from first meeting through your warranty period, so choosing someone you will be comfortable with for the long term is important. The number one question to any potential builder you may decide to work with should be if they are Licensed, Bonded and Insured WITH a Residential Endorsement issued from the State of Alaska.*
*Alaska Statute AS 08.18.025 requires new construction to be built by a General Contractor with a Residential Endorsement. A General Contractor that does not hold a Residential Endorsement in the State of Alaska has not passed the written exam related to arctic structural and thermal construction techniques and other matters determined by the State of Alaska in consultaion with representatives of the construction industry.
*HB 81, which went into effect on June 21, 2006, limits an owner-builder to build one structure every two years. If the builder builds more than one, they are subject to fines under the law. You can refer to the State of Alaska's website for more information pertaining to contractor licensing:
And just as important to the builders licensing, ask your potential builder about their subcontractors. Subcontractors need to be Licensed, Bonded and Insured with the State of Alaska as well. Builders fall into three broad categories: Production, Semi-Custom and Custom. The choice among these is a matter of which is appropriate for your needs, desires, schedule and budget. There are advantages/disadvantages to the type you choose:
Advantages of Production Builders is they own lots in several subdivisions, build all types of housing, (single-family, condos, town houses and rental properties) and generally build for all price points-entry level, move-up and Luxury. Disadvantages of a Production Builder is they may not have choices to create the combination right for you, tend not to alter floorplans, permit few structural changes and you may sometimes only work with their vendors/suppliers, (which tend to give better pricing for the builder).
Advantages of a Semi-Custom Builder include, flexibility in building location, faster and less costly than designing a new set of plans, and customers generally can change a builders existing plan to suit their needs.
Disadvantages include cost and time to fine-tune a plan, crews need more time when building from unfamiliar plans, semi-custom builders are less likely to accept changes once construction is underway.
Custom Builders create one of a kind homes, design operation around the client's active involvement, have experience with a variety of finishes, unusual treatments and design details and alterations of plans are possible. Disadvantages include, longer timeframe to build and unlimited options/alterations/finishes can get costly by the end of a project.
Begin by researching the homebuilding companies in the area where you want to live. Start by gathering a preliminary list of candidates from sources that may include:
- Local Chapters of the National Association of Homebuilders can provide names of companies with certified builders. www.matsuhomebuilders.com
- Ask friends, relatives, co-workers about who built their homes.
- Real Estate professionals can offer builder names and insights into quality and customer satisfaction
- Drive around newer subdivisions and local areas in which you would like to live.
- Ask the builder for previous client references. Ask questions like: how was the communication with the builder during the process, how were unforseen construction issues handled, what was the overall impression of the builder. How were warranty issues handled? Would you reccommend the builder to your friends or relatives.
- Also ask the builder for Subcontractor/Vendor references. You want to know that your builder is reliable with payments to their contractors/vendors, (you do not want any unforseen liens show on your home when it is time to close). Pay particular attention to the end stages of construction where finish subcontractors/vendors tend to have more difficulty getting paid by the builder.
Builders need to have the knowledge, skills and personality to construct your home, but they also need to be fiscally responsible to the construction of your home. Tougher economic times along with tougher lending standards can lead to builders getting overextended and one setback can put a builder out of business. You want to make sure your builder will be there from start to warranty.