You’ve made the decision: You’re going to build a home from the ground up. Finally, you’ll have the house that you and your family have dreamed about! Just one issue remains… which custom home builder should you pick?
Don’t flip a coin for a choice that’s so important; engage in some serious interview planning. Choosing a home builder that fits your style, budget and philosophy takes time and thoughtfulness. It also requires you to prepare solid questions beforehand.
Below are 10 inquiries you should consider asking before narrowing your list down to a few custom home builders and making your final decisions.
1. Have you ever handled a project like ours before?
Many home builders will say that they can do “anything”, but that’s not a good enough response. You deserve concrete evidence that your project scope, cost and other expectations can be met by the builder.
Ask the prospective home builder to tell you more about projects like yours. What were the challenges that the builder overcame during the process? What did the result look like? Get as much information (and images, if available) as you can.
2. What is your typical construction sequence?
If you get a deer-in-the-headlights look, you don’t have to ask anything else.
All reputable custom home builders have a standard work flow that they follow depending upon clients’ desired outcomes. The person you interview should be able to confidently explain the process from start to finish. This helps you visualize the actual experience of having a home custom built for your family, and how it’s likely to play out.
3. Who are some of your client references I can call?
Yes, the client references you receive from prospective builders are going to say nice things, but don’t let that stop you from making phone calls.
Ask satisfied clients what they liked best about working with the home builder, as well as what they didn’t expect. Talk about challenges they encountered, and how those challenges were handled. Did the home builder keep the lines of communication open? Was it easy to get straightforward answers? Did the budget vary from the original prediction? Was the home worth it, and why?
4. How will you determine the exact costs necessary to build our home?
This is a biggie, primarily because it involves finances.
Custom home builders with a longstanding reputation will have no problem sharing their methods of determining cost. They can list out the factors they take into consideration, and help you understand if you’re dreaming too big, or can have everything you want without going over budget.
5. How will our project’s supervision be handled?
Will there be a direct supervisor on your project? How often will that supervisor, or a team leader, be on site?
These are all great questions. Supervisors maintain the integrity of every home building project. They also keep everything flowing. You’ll be in contact with the supervisor on a regular basis, so know the facts before you sign any contracts.
6. How long will our project take?
Yes, this is a loaded question. We all recognize that it can be difficult to plan for the uncertainties in life. However, you should be able to get at least a narrow timeframe range.
Beware of custom home builders who give you definite dates without any hesitation. They’re not acknowledging the possibility of unexpected events.
7. What kind of warranties or guarantees do we get if we choose your company?
Let’s say that something goes awry and you end up with problems. What types of protection will you have from a custom home builder?
Obviously, guarantees and warranties are going to vary from place to place. Be certain to get information in writing so you can evaluate in an apples-to-apples fashion which builders give you the most peace of mind.
8. Do you use subcontractors to construct the home?
Custom builders regularly use contractors and subcontractors to finish elements of a home building project. It’s important for you to know who those professionals are, how long they’ve worked with the custom home builder and what their reputation is.
9. What happens if there are cost-related discrepancies during the building of our home?
Again, it’s impossible to plan for every contingency. That doesn’t make it right for a home builder to leave you in the dark when discrepancies occur.
Ideally, you should be informed immediately about any problems. When you’re interviewing your prospective builders, ask them to describe a recent occurrence that illustrates how they solved this kind of problem with clients.
10. How many homes you can build in a year?
This question helps you figure out if the custom home builder is biting off too much. A “red flag” response would be any home builder that says the company can handle “as many homes as people want.” You’re seeking a more transparent answer that shows the builder cares about quality and value enough to set limits.