Finding the Right Builder: 10 Questions To Ask When Evaluation a Home Builder
When evaluating a home builder, it is important to consider your needs and ask questions during the consultation phase to help ensure a positive building experience.
1.) How involved is your builder with consultation throughout your evaluation period?
The evaluation period is time spent interacting with a builder prior to signing an agreement. By gauging their responses, behaviors, and actions you can determine how engaged and responsive they will be if you select them as your builder. This allows you to get familiar with the team, building process, and customer expectations before signing an agreement.
During the evaluation period, the builder should be providing you with upfront value to help you save money, make smart decisions, and better understand the building process. This includes: helping with lot selection to find the perfect location to build, offering a complimentary site evaluation to get an accurate estimate for improvement costs, providing you with conceptual drawings/plans for your home, and doing pre-selections to help give you an accurate price estimation before signing a contract.
2.) Have you met your Home Builders job manager in person prior to signing your agreement?
Understand clearly the level of experience this individual has building residential homes. This person’s overall building experience, along with their ability to communicate on a daily or weekly time frame, are extremely important to your satisfaction with the overall building experience. How long has this individual worked for that builder? If less than 5 years, clearly investigate the background of this individual. Don’t just evaluate the builder’s owner, designer, and salesperson. Evaluate the person with whom you will be communicating on a daily basis. Even ask to speak with current customers for that job manager.
3.) Have you searched online for any reviews (Google, Houzz, Facebook)?
Browse major business review sites and social media to view the amount, frequency, and rating of customer reviews. See what previous customers have said (look for detailed comments), if the builder responds to reviews in a professional matter, and if the reviews are current. No company can ever please every customer. However, ask to speak to those customers that have posted negative comments on social media. Also please keep in mind not all unhappy customers post their feelings online.
4.) Will you allow me to see invoices upon my request during the building process?
Each home builder prices out projects differently. Some charge a percentage of the overall cost to build the home, some make their money off of the mark-up costs of products, and others have a flat fee. Make sure you understand their fee structure so that when you see invoices for products and labor, you can be aware of whether or not a mark-up is fair or not. Additionally, make sure viewing invoices is written in your agreement with your builder.
5.) How and when can I make changes or upgrades before and during construction?
Changes can be made anytime during your build. However, to avoid surprise cost overages you should make important selections prior to contract. Many builders want you to sign their contract prior to making selections for large ticket items such as cabinets, flooring, and countertops. Rather than limiting your options after contract, each client should have access to a variety of high end finishes that tailor to their individual style beforehand.
6.) Will you allow me to have a copy of my build schedule along with each subcontractor listed? Is this schedule delivered and tracked through a builder’s software program?
Using a software program is an essential tool to communicate directly with a client. Combined with direct communication, a client should be fully aware of their process, schedule, and project as much or as little as they desire. If your builder isn’t using the best tools for communication and scheduling, how can you trust they are using the best tools for any other aspect of your project?
7.) During construction, how often should I expect updates from you?
This process varies for each individual. What DOESN’T vary is the expectation that you should have regarding access to the people you’re paying to get the job done. This includes the salesperson, selections coordinator, job manager, and even the owner him/herself. Ask yourself what YOU expect as a client – to be updated daily? Weekly? Every two weeks? Have a conversation with the builder about the process of receiving updates and how you two can come up with a communication plan that satisfies both of you. Ask the owner of the building company for their personal contact information so that you can have a direct line to them if something is not being resolved.
8.) Can I choose any or all of my subcontractors?
This is a tricky question. Most successful builders have spent years vetting subcontractors to build a team of skilled laborers they know will do a quality job. If you do have a specific sub-contractor that you want to use, make sure you tell your builder up front, before any contracts are signed, as that may affect pricing and the finish deadline.
9.) What is your process for fixing things after the project is complete and I have moved in?
Chances are, once you move into the home you will notice a few things here and there that need to be fixed; nail pops, paint that was scratched on moving day, a crack in the crown molding, etc. While these are mostly minor things, it is still important to have a clause in your contract that states the builder will come back after you have moved in to fix problems that arise due to building/move in. This needs to be reported to the builder within a certain number of days as to protect the builder from having to pay for natural wear and tear from you living in the home.
10.) What kind of warranty do you offer and what IS and IS NOT covered?
This question is very important, and most people don’t think about it until something goes wrong. Get the answer to this question in writing and make sure it is included in your contract with the builder.