How do I Select a Builder?

How do I Select a Builder?

The question we often hear.  It is complicated and it really needs a road map to navigate all the issues that you need to address to ensure that you find the right partner.

Here is a guideline to help you navigate the complexities of the dating game with a builder.

I have broken down the selection criteria into three fundamental questions:

1. What is it that the builder does?
2. How does the builder do it?
3. Why does the builder do it?

The first question seems the most obvious but someone new to the process, may not recognize the different approaches a builder make take to actually building a house.

What does the builder do?

Is the builder strictly a project manager?

  • Manager of external resources?
  • Manger of internal resources?

Is the builder a full service provider?

  • Does the Builder have design services?
  • Does the Builder have drafting services?
  • Manager of permitting and regulatory issues?
  • Does the builder have internal construction resources?
  • How extensive does the Builder utilize sub trades?
  • What is the geographic area served?
  • Does the Builder have budget management services?
  • Does the Builder offer interior design services?
  • Can the Builder offer a selection of services or is it a complete package of services or nothing?
  • What kind of houses do you build?

It is important to understand what each builder offers in terms of services.  Each offering has a pro and con and it is important to understand the implications of each type of offering.

How does the Builder execute their plan?

The building of a home or cottage is a complex endeavour. It spans many months, and in some cases it can take years.  The process requires multiple material inputs, a broad array of skills and a level of co ordination that must deal with weather, human frailty and a series of decisions that can be confounding and relentless. 

How a builder tackles this environment is critical to the success of any project.

The “How” is important.

  • Does the builder have a clearly articulated plan?
  • Does the builder provide detail or broad “concepts”?
  • Does the builder offer a clearly articulate financial roadmap?
  • What is the builder’s approach to project management?

How does the builder price his services?

  • Fixed price?
  • Cost plus?
  • Service contract?

How does the builder deal with change?

  • Change in project scope?
  • Change in weather?
  • Change in costs?
  • Change in timing?

 How does the builder deal with communications?

  • Financial reporting
  • Project timing
  • Project selection
  • Project grievances
  • How does the builder deal with quality control?
  • How does the builder deal with stress?
  • How does the builder make money?
  • Why does the builder do, what he does?

The “Why” question may be the most important.

To over simplify the question to “make money” is missing the point.  The “why” question gives insight into the values and motives of your future builder. On this point, there is no right answer but rather an understanding of the kind of builder you are going to pick.


  • Do you have internal resources?
  • Do you sub out all your labour?
  • Is your payment schedule structured this way?
  • Can you work in multiple geographies?
  • Do you offer the services you do?
  • Did you pick your compensation model?
  • Do you build houses? Cottages?
  • Do you structure your communications program this way?

Probing on the “why” will give you a clear insight into the values of your prospective partner. At the end of the day the “why” really is the most important question to finding the right builder for you.


Ed FreibauerComment