Dear PoPville – How do I find the Name of the Builder?

Photo by PoPville flickr user NCinDC

“Dear PoPville,

My husband and I put in an offer on a townhouse and lost to higher bidder. The house next door (a shell) is now for sale. We would love to find out the name of the contractor or builder who did the renovation on the house we lost and hire them to renovate that property. We contacted the realtor and she did not know the name of the contractor. Is there any other way to track it down — building permits, etc.?”

4 Comment

  • If the property has settled the seller’s name will be in the transfer documents publicly available. That may take some time to show up online, though.

    I have to ask, was the house next door done by a professional renovator (*gasp* a flipper)? If so they may have no interest in being a contractor to a private party. These guys know going in what their margin on a house will be due in no small part to the fact that they control everything and answer only to themselves (and, theoretically, the DC inspectors). They may have no interest in answering to you. That’s just being honest. If they don’t have a self-contained crew it may be worth asking who they sub-contract out to, though.

  • You can search to track building permits. The name of the applicant (may be the contractor’s agent) usually appears on the search results. That would be a good start.

  • I’d second Anon. Not all builders who buy properties to renovate are particularly interested in working for someone else. But you can look at DCRAs website and look at the permits to find a name and discover if the builder does custom work and not just spec.
    If, and this is a big if, does custom, which is what you seem to want, check the references. Renovating a house for flipping and renovating for a homeowner are two very different skill sets. Think about it. When you’re flipping, you set your own time table, not someone else. Same thing with costs and where to cut corners.
    You’d be better off finding a contractor that does good work, who has references who still gush about what s/he did years after the work is done.

  • I will second Mari’s recommendation to find a good contractor with references that are happy with his or her work years after the fact. I say that as a friend to more than one purchaser of a flipped home who found not insignificant issues during inspection and/or had to do not insignificant repairs to “new” construction only a year or two after buying the property.

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