When you are preparing to work with a custom home builder, you should arm yourself with knowledge. We’ve compiled a list of 11 questions to ask a home builder to get a good feel for who they are, how they work, and if they are the right builder for you.
These are not all the questions, by the way, but we feel these are the most important questions to ask when you are selecting your builder. Building a home is one of the biggest and most rewarding investments you will make in your life time, and we want you to enjoy the process.
Keep in mind, you may already know all the answers to these questions, but hearing it from the builder’s mouth will help you read him (or her) as your potential builder.
You can also add as many questions as you like, but here are:
11 Questions to ask a home builder.
- How long have you been in the business, and how many homes have you built? Ask them this as well as how they got started in the business. This can be a fun ice breaker conversation. This will help you know how much hands on experience they have had, including how much experience they have had actually swinging a hammer, if you know what I mean.
- How do you compare yourself to other builders in our area? What can you offer me that other builders can’t? You might get a generic answer on this question, however, if they are truly a custom home builder that you are looking for, their answer to this question will be a red flag on the type of home builder they are. Be aware that there are 3 main types of home builders: custom home builders, spec home builders and tract home builders. We’ll be posting a blog on this topic, but until we do, you might want to google those three types of builders to educate yourself. A true custom home builder will not be bothered by completely unique home designs, and crazy ideas.
- What type of warranty do you offer? You will want to know the details of your home warranty. Most builders offer the same warranty on every home they build so they should be able to give you a quick run down of the details.
- Do you prefer to build from plans that you supply? This is an important question and goes back to having knowledge of the 3 basic types of home builders: spec, custom, and tract builders. If a builder prefers to build from their own plans with minor changes, this is a red flag that they prefer not to venture off the path of convenience for them as a home builder. Most builders who have a collection of their own plans have them because they like to build many homes at a time and this makes it easier for them. If you’re wanting a truly unique custom home and they are pushing you to choose from their plans, run in the other direction.
- Who will oversee the construction of my home, you or a member of your crew? Who will I call if I have questions? Most home builders have a foreman, one of their crew members who is present at the job site to keep watch over subcontractors, and the progress of the construction. However, your actual builder needs to be popping in regularly and communicating with you about the progress.
- What is the process I need to go through if I want to make changes? This is an important question, because it can eliminate frustration and surprises down the road if you are clear on the builders policies about changes. If you say, could we do x, y, and z instead, and your builders says, “Sure! That’s not a problem!” You need to be fully aware of the financial ramifications and any extra charges. On paper is better. Get things in writing because “not written, not said!” Plus, your home builder is a busy person. They can easily forget something you said in passing. Write it down or email it for some kind of record of request on your part, and ask for details on the effects of the change.
- Are you a member of the local home builders association or the BBB (Better Business Bureau)? If your in Abilene, Texas it’s the Big Country Home Builders Association. Your local association can not only give you a list of builders in your area, but they can let you know of any complaints filed on any of the builders. The Better Business Bureau also keeps records of complaints filed on any business in your area. Once I had a problem with a stucco contractor and I didn’t find out that he had a complaint filed against him until after the fact. A quick search on the local BBB would have revealed that he abandoned a stucco job, took the customers money, and never followed through with complaints against him. If I would have done my research before hand, it would have eliminated some headache. We had to let this stucco guy go because he was seriously dragging his feet on the job and not showing up.
- How is the final price of my home determined? You will definitely want to know exactly how the cost of the home will be determined as there are a few different ways that it is done. Some builders offer a turn-key price meaning they guarantee that the cost of the home will be set at $x amount of dollars, as long as no changes are made. Others have a cost + method, etc. Simply ask so you will know.
- Can you provide me a list of references? Get references, and call them to chat about the builder. Period. You must do this, never take the builders word for it. Did they like them? Did the builder follow through? Did the builder communicate well? Have you had any problems with the home since it was built? Etc.
- How many homes do you have going at one time? This was an important question for me when I was building my home. I wanted to know how wrapped up the builder would be with other projects.
- Is it OK for me to do some of the work myself? You might not want anything to do with hands on work in your home construction. On the other hand, some of you DIY’ers might have in mind just the opposite. Some builders are OK with this and some won’t be. So, if you have it in the back of your mind that “Oh, I’ll just do x, y, and z, to save a little money. You and your builder need to be on the same page. I built all the cabinets and counter tops in my house, the fireplace mantel, and took care of the bathroom mirrors, with some help from my husband and my dad. If you have the skill set to do this, great! But understand that you are on a time schedule, just like any of the other subcontractors, and you will NOT want to hold up the project. If you have any doubts in yourself, then DON’T do it. Leave it up to the professionals. I did not doubt myself one bit, and I got the job done.
Hopefully these 11 questions to ask a home builder will help you with your decision. It’s probably the most important decision that you will make other than, can you afford the home you’re building in the first place.