10 Questions to Ask Your Potential Home Builder
Make sure you’re choosing the best custom home builder for you and your project.
Your decision to build a custom home is possibly one of the most critical investments you’ll ever make, and you need to be 100% sure that you’re working with not just any professional, but the right one for you and your job.
This is a business I know well. So while I can’t speak to specifics without talking to you, I can give you some advice for the kinds of questions you should be asking any builder that you’re considering.
Question #1: Are you licensed and insured in the state I want to build in?
Also, this may seem obvious, but make sure the builder you end up choosing is licensed and insured in the state where you’re building your home. Licenses don’t transfer from state to state. It’s also important to talk about the insurance the builder is carrying and what specifically will be covered throughout the process.
Question #2: Who chooses the subcontractors? Will they be insured?
A builder typically has experience working with a certain team of subcontractors, which makes for a smoother process and a better working relationship overall. If there’s a specific subcontractor you want to use, tell your builder up front and get their thoughts on the matter.
All of our subcontractors are all licensed and insured, which is something you don’t find with every builder, believe it or not. And we’ve been working with the same trusted team for many years.
Question #3: How long have you worked in this area and are you familiar with local building codes?
I’m not saying anything that can go wrong will go wrong, but the best laid plans can and do sometimes go awry. Obstacles may appear and the important thing to consider is how the builder will deal with these challenges. Having experience working in the community where you’re building and being familiar with the folks who manage building codes and permit applications makes all the difference in expediting the process.
Question #4: Can you build what I want within my budget?
Even without specific house plans, you should be able to take your ideas and requirements to a builder and get a rough estimate on how much they would charge you. In general, it’s wise to avoid the lowest bid and the highest bid. There’s always a reason for that.
Question #5: Do you have a model I can walk through and previous clients I can contact?
This is perhaps one of the most important questions to ask a custom builder. If a builder is proud of their work and has a good reputation, they should have no problem arranging for you to see a completed project.
Not all custom home builders have vacant model homes for potential clients to see, but they may have current or previous customers who are willing to let you walk through to check out the builder’s craftsmanship and finish work and speak with their past clients to find out about their experiences with the builder.
Question #6: How much customizing can be done? Can features and finishes be upgraded?
This question could have any number of answers, depending on the builder, and it all comes down to your preferences. But with us, the sky is the limit on a custom build. We’ll essentially be building your house on paper first, working through all of the details and making every selection that you and your family want, and from there we can pinpoint an exact cost for your home. Most of our clients don’t request “upgrades”, because we always work with top of the line materials. We call “standard” what other builders call “add-ons.”
Question #7: Do you offer any sort of warranty, and if so, what does it include?
This question is very important, and you should make sure to get the answer to this question in writing and included in your contract with the builder. One of the biggest advantages of new construction is that your house and pretty much everything inside of it is brand new and under warranty.
You just can’t beat knowing that major repairs like a new furnace or a new roof are likely decades away.
Question #8: How do you monitor the construction of my home?
It’s definitely not uncommon for home builders to have multiple projects happening at the same time. While this isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself, you should be sure to ask if they have a plan in place to manage everything.
How will you be kept informed on progress? Will you be speaking with the builder or a project manager? Who is on site—the builder or a supervisor? You’ll want to know what to expect in terms of communication and updates, which actually leads us to the next question.
Question #9: How often should I expect updates? How quickly do you respond to emails and voicemails?
The key to any successful relationship is open communication, and it’s no different with your builder. Can you expect an update daily, weekly, or bi-monthly? If you call and leave a message, how soon will your message be returned? How often are emails returned?
One of the things that sets us apart is that we’re on site every day, communicating constantly. We are known for being responsive. We also use simple online project management software that allows the home owner to stay in the know on every detail through every phase of development. You will never be left in the dark as to what is going on with your project’s status or any questions you may have.
Question #10: What’s your process for fixing things after my home has been built?
It’s not uncommon after move-in day to notice a few blemishes, scratches or dents that need to be fixed. You’ll want to be sure there’s a clause in your contract that states the builder will come back and fix these types of things after you’ve moved in.
Typically, this has to happen within a certain number of days to protect the builder from having to pay for natural wear and tear. But you can count on us to be available when you need us—even years after move-in day.
These are just some of the basic questions you need to be ask a potential builder.
Every family is unique and every situation has its own set of requirements, so definitely don’t limit yourself. You should feel free to ask anything and even come back days or weeks later with more.
To those who’ve built custom homes before, are there questions you wish you’d asked your builder before you started your project? I’d be curious to see what those questions might be.
“ I can’t say enough good things about what a great experience this has been…”