What to look for in a builder
We even care about customers who don’t choose Belanger Builders! That’s just how we roll. After all, it’s your dream we’re talking about here. The thing is, realizing any dream inevitably takes a little work. We believe it makes all the sense in the world for folks looking for a builder to put a little time and energy into being certain about their decision before they chose a builder.
Here is a list of issues worthy of your consideration as you’re making your choice.
First and foremost, check your builder’s license. Here in Michigan, all
contractors offering to do work that totals $600 or more in labor and
materials are required be licensed by the Department of Energy,
Labor & Economic Growth. Their state license must be displayed in
their place of business, and all contractors and their salespersons
are required to carry a pocket card. Ask to see it. If they can’t (or
won’t) show you a license, check the department's License
Information database or call the Builders Licensing Unit at (517)
It also makes sense to check a builder’s license, to determine if
any complaints have been filed against them. A License Lookup
service is available online at www.michigan.gov and also available
directly at http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/verify.htm. If you need
personal assistance in looking up a license, call the Builders
Licensing Unit at 517-241-9254.
CERTIFIED MASTER BUILDER
Find a builder who guarantees their work. This often means finding a
registered Certified Master Builder. We have this certification. No
one who has worked to earn it wants to lose it. Industry certification
and a written guarantee are a must! The guarantee should cover a
percentage of such things as loss of deposit or non completion due
to unexpected conditions, as well as materials cover and limited
structural coverage well after the project is completed. Having such
a guarantee in place will provide you peace of mind. Ask to see ours.
Your builder/remodeler should have quality check systems in place,
with people assigned specifically to carry them out at every critical
stage of the building process. Insist on this, and on knowing who is
accountable for what at any given moment.
Three words: Reputation, Reputation, Reputation. Look at the work –
arrange a site visit of a completed project, or even one your builder
is working on (we’ll gladly provide an opportunity for you). Ask
around, and get word-of-mouth referrals from residents and
business owners. Talk to local building suppliers (ask your builder for
a list of suppliers they use) and make sure the builder pays their
bills on time. Look at customer testimonials, but don’t entirely trust
them – ask for contact information and use it! And a Better Business
Bureau check is always a good idea, too.
That “first step” is critical. If you’ve asked for an estimate and
a builder doesn’t get back to you in the requested time, look
elsewhere. Professional builders operate in a professional way. They
respect your schedule, show up on time, present themselves in an
organized fashion and deal with your questions and concerns
openly, honestly and directly. How a builder deals with you before
that contract is signed gives you a good indication of what can
expect once the job begins.
Make certain your builder will provide you with a contract that
references the plans, specifications, allowances, and scope of work,
schedule, work stoppage, payment terms, and complete contract
sum. Beware of “cost plus fee” basis contracts if the costs are yet
unknown. You typically shouldn’t have to pay more than 30% down,
and you might want to pay it by check. Make the final payment
ONLY when the work is completed to your satisfaction.
When you’re asking for bids, be sure to ask all of the builders to bid
apples-to-apples. Each one should bid on exactly the same thing in
order for you to have an accurate comparison. We offer a design
service that you might find helpful.We’ll draw your blueprints and
prepare your specifications, so you can be sure everyone bids on the
same project parameters. It is also a good idea to ask for an
itemized bid, so you can more easily compare them to one another.
Remember: You get what you pay for. The cheapest bid may not
always be the best bid. You must decide how much quality that you
are willing to pay for. If fine craftsmanship is important to you, don’t
look to the cheapest bidder.
Ask for copies of the contractor’s insurance coverage and make
sure the coverage is current. Contractors should have personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage.
INTEGRITY IS A MUST
Integrity is a must. You’re trusting your home, your dream, your
security to a builder. Keep in mind that good builders are good
listeners, good communicators – good people. Check their
affiliations. See how they show up in community. And pay particular
attention to how they communicate with you. If you don’t establish
a good rapport going into your project, don’t expect it to appear
suddenly once the project gets rolling. That seldom happens.
The state also offers a great brochure about what to look for in a
buider, available online at