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How long has your builder been a builder?

Here's one of the secrets of the home building industry in Oklahoma: the barriers to entry are very low.

It's not very difficult to get into the home building business here. Just about all you need is a pickup and a tape measure—and I don't even have a pickup!

When you're talking with builders about building a home on your land, how do you know if you're talking to a reputable, experienced builder, or someone who's only been building for a few years (or months)?

Now, you might think it's an obvious choice to choose a builder with significant industry experience to build the home you're actually going to live in. But a lot of potential homeowners wonder—if the price is right, how important is experience?

And does experience really matter? If all they're doing is calling contractors and hiring them to do the work, one builder is as good as the next, right?

Obviously I'm somewhat biased. But the way I see it, home building is really a relationship business. When you hire a builder, you're not just hiring that builder's experience or lack thereof.

You're also hiring that builder's contractors. In fact, you're hiring his relationships with contractors, suppliers, and even city inspectors. The experience you're hiring him for includes the knowledge he's gained from previous mistakes, and the goodwill of contractors who will make good on their promises—and fix their own mistakes, months or years after the fact.

If you hire a builder without first investigating his longevity and reputation as a builder, you're playing a dangerous game with a lot of money. If you're building on your own land, you're also gambling with a piece of ground that cannot be replaced.

Ask the builders you're talking to about their longevity. It doesn't have to be a confrontational question—but then again, if they're reluctant to answer that question, they may not be someone you should trust to build your family's forever home.

Find out how long a builder has been building houses. How many homes has he built? How many homes were built on land like yours?

If a builder was a framer, trim carpenter, or insurance agent just last year, there's no way to gauge whether he'll be around to fix warranty problems that may crop up in another year or so. There's also no way to know if his contractor base is loyal, with built-in incentives to do excellent work and respond to warranty calls.

How can you know if a builder has a trustworthy contractor base and will keep his promises? Look at his reputation. Make sure your builder has been around for a while, at least ten years.

Otherwise, you’ll be taking a pretty big risk with the largest asset you may ever own.

2 minute read