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How To Choose Your Home Builder

Aug 17, 2007
As a buyer in today's Florida real estate market, your careful attention to detail and determination to explore all of your options will serve you well. The following checklist will assist you in deciding whether you have completed all preliminary home buying steps and are ready to choose your home builder.

You have made a careful assessment of your financial situation and have determined an appropriate price range for your new Florida home.

You have found your target neighborhood and have taken note of all existing homes for sale and new homes being built or scheduled for construction.

You have researched your neighborhood's proximity to shopping, parks, schools, libraries and recreational activities.

You have at least a general plan of action for obtaining financing and insurance.

You have decided to avoid the risk of buying an existing home and have instead decided to purchase a newly constructed home.

If you have completed all of these steps, you are ready to find your home builder.

What to look for in a home builder

There are many different types of home builders in Florida, just as there are many types of home buyers. For the buyer who is looking for a high-quality, customized home built above Florida hurricane code, tract home builders can immediately be eliminated from the list of potential builders.

Tract homes are most often the cheapest of newly constructed home, and in this case, you definitely get what you pay for. Most often, tract home builders use the cheapest materials they can purchase in mass quantities. There is no individuality amongst these homes; they are cookie-cutter, mirror images of one another. These homes will never satisfy the discerning home buyer who has quality and safety in mind.

Custom home builders

In most cases, custom home builders use the highest quality materials and give their customers the most options when it comes to style and design choices. The homes built by custom builders are usually much more luxurious in scale, often including vaulted ceilings and bright, airy floor plan choices. Top of the line paint, appliances, flooring and fixtures complete the package of interior choices.

But there are also different levels of custom home builders, especially when it comes to hurricane safety. Since hurricanes are a fact of life for all Florida residents (even those in interior counties are vulnerable, as hurricanes Charley and Frances clearly illustrated), hurricane safety should be a very important factor when you are deciding amongst custom home builders.

Above code construction

Today's Florida hurricane building codes do provide buyers of all new homes more protection from hurricanes than many homes built before the building code reforms of the early 1990's. However, these new codes do not provide as much protection as some consumers have been led to believe.

Only a few Florida counties have adopted the strict standards that are currently in place in Dade county (areas of which were devastated by Hurricane Andrew in 1992). In fact, the current building code in most counties only requires that new homes be built to withstand a Category 2 hurricane.

That is why a handful of builders in Florida have begun giving their customers an added level of protection. Above code construction is a term used by these builders to convey that their home construction standards exceed what is required by Florida building code.

Levels of above code construction

Here is another situation where there are different levels of builders. Now you are looking for how far above code you want your home to be, and choosing the builder whose homes best meets your desired level of protection.

If you think of the hurricanes that have made headlines over the last two seasons, the name Katrina will be at the forefront of most of our minds. Katrina was at Category 4 strength when it made landfall, and it was certainly not the first Category 4 storm to make landfall in the 2004-2005 hurricane seasons. Homes built at or slightly above code will not withstand this level of storm. That is why if hurricane safety is important to you, finding a home builder who builds their homes to withstand at least a Category 4 storm.

If price is a consideration, these above code custom homes may seem out of reach. But if you purchase your home at the right time of year, have your financing in place, and have a solid idea of what you are looking for in a home, you will be in an excellent position to negotiate a price you can afford. And if you take into consideration remodeling and repair costs that often come with an existing home, a high-quality custom home may be more affordable than you think.

Finally, take your time and find the right builder who can build the best house for your budget but don't necessarily rule out high-quality homes if you are on a budget. Doing your research and staying informed will help you find the best home for the best price. Happy hunting!
About the Author
Tom Beaty a Florida home builder and Florida real estate broker. Specialize in new homes in Palm Coast, Flagler and Volusia County. Visit me at: Florida real estate or Florida home builder
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