Real Estate Intelligence
The new home dating game: Picking the right production builder for you
Looking for a new home in the suburbs?
Residential construction in Houston's outer sphere is dominated by themed master planned communities with pretty lakes, family amenities and green spaces promising a picture perfect family life. That means fashionable people drinking wine around a fab kitchen while the kids play mischievously outside with the dog.
Model home "amusement parks" are becoming the norm, where homes of all sizes and price ranges appear one after the other in a row. It's a one-stop-shop for home seekers. But synthesizing the information and differentiating between builders can be daunting and overwhelming, if not outright impossible.
The scene is mainly dominated by production builders. That means they have a set of plans with included features and also offer optional add ons with set pricing. You pick what you like and they build it for you.
Below are five of the top Houston builders, ones you will encounter again and again in your suburban adventures. And we've offered some intel to help you tell them apart.
What is each good at? We have the scoop.
David Weekley Homes
David Weekley Homes is the largest privately-held home builder in the United States and it earned a spot on Fortune's100 Best Companies to Work For list. Happy workers usually translates to happy clients.
The builder's designs excel in soft features as part of its LifeDesign program, maximizing bright open areas with smart room placement while taking into account traffic patterns. David Weekley's kitchens are always stunning and open with oversized islands for entertaining.
Expect to find plenty of flexible space in their existing floor plans — a bedroom could easily turn into a media room or children's retreat. Though the company's website is atrocious, don't get discouraged during the investigative stage. It's much better to see the homes in person. When it comes to green features, David Weekley promises robust eco-conscious inclusions and low maintenance bills.
Previously one of the big kahunas of the production building world, private home builder Newmark Homes returned to a local model following the restructuring of its parent company in 2009. The operations are managed by veterans of the industry, including 1983 original founder Lonnie Fedrick.
What's to love? Flexible floor plans with plenty of options to enlarge, change and optimize space. The cost for some of these may seem high, but when you take into consideration added square footage, the value is worth it if the space is desired. The elevation (facade) choices are great, almost always including one of those delicious Mediterranean designs, stucco and chateau roofs included.
Newmark will customize structure and move walls to a point — expect to pay a redraw fee though.
When it comes to interior selections, its design center offers plenty of materials usually only offered in custom homes. The upgrades are reasonably priced and able to cater traditionalists and modernists.
Perry's building aesthetic is as Texas as it gets: Big and traditional. You'll recognize its look quite easily. If it's big and has red brick, it's most likely a Perry.
Why Perry Homes? You'll find more floor plans than any other builder and the homes often feel larger than their stated square footage, partly due to soaring ceilings and oversized windows. The selection ranges from large one-story homes to huge colonial mansions at upwards of 7,000 square feet. Perry offers some of the largest square footage values, but slightly less standard features, making it a perfect builder for those with big families.
Don't expect to customize too much. The company's model allows the building of a great number of speculative homes, and deals are ready to be made on completed inventory.
Celebrating 40 years, Trendmaker Homes has earned a great reputation for being an innovator in the real estate world. The look of a Trendmaker is recognizable, though the company's expansion into the custom home market with its brand of Avanti Custom Homes allows for more artistic license. There is also the Texas Casual Cottages, which designs catering country and front porch living.
What's fabulous? The included features are arguably unbeatable, but that doesn't mean you'll get them for free. You'll find a higher dollar per square foot price here, and justifiably so, especially if you love a bunch of everyday conveniences.
The SmartDifferences program includes raised dishwashers — a God-send for those with back issues — trash can cabinets, built-in spice racks, dual shower heads in the master bath, built-in work counters in the garage, laundry chutes, backpack racks, keyless entry systems, hidden storage behind a bookcase and computer centers.
Village Builders is part of the Lennar empire, a Fortune 500 company with headquarters in Miami. It is one of the largest home builders in the country and ranks as the fifth most admired home builder, according to CNN Money. The Village brand is exclusive to Texas, with a presence in Austin, San Antonio and Houston.
The powers that be at Village have not been shy to use their enormous purchasing power to give a lot of additional goodies to homebuyers. Features like refrigerators, washer, dryers and blinds — typically not included in new construction — find their way into every home Village builds. Its efficient, volume model doesn't allow for much customization, but the small number of floor plans are very well thought out, especially in the higher price ranges.
Like Perry, Village Builders likes inventory. You'll be able to walk through completed homes and determine if building or buying ready-to-move-in fits your needs. Do keep in mind that the deals are made on ready-to-move-in specs.
If you like a home, make a ridiculous offer. The management has been caught pulling their pants down to move a sitting duck.