Key Questions To Ask Your Builder

Author: Kaitlyn Walsh

Overseeing the building process of an entire home involves thousands of individual choices and steps- and plenty of opportunity for Murphy’s Law to kick in (Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong). You have to have confidence in your builder- they are now playing a huge part in one of the biggest investments of your life. Conduct thorough interviews with multiple builders to find which is the best match for you. Ask questions and get answers.

1. How long have you been in business (and how many homes have you built)?

This is a necessary question when choosing any professional service, but especially true for home builders. You need someone who has the experience to know which subcontractors produce the best quality for the best price (when a builder knows how to be cost-effective, it translates to you), how to keep your project on a reasonable time schedule, and someone who can prove a track record of customer satisfaction.

2. Are you licensed and insured?

Make certain that your builder has required licenses and that their business is properly insured before going any further. Working with an unlicensed or uninsured builder is asking for trouble.

3. References, references, references.

What better way to find out a builder’s customer satisfaction history than by speaking to past customers? Written testimonials can inspire confidence, but ask your builder if they can provide you with the names and contact information of some of their past clients. Some people may not want their information passed on for privacy concerns. For the most part, though, if someone is happy with their new home and happy with their builder they will be happy to tell you!

4. How do you compare yourself to other builders in this area? What makes you different/better?

Especially in an area like ours (Fairfield County), there is no shortage of contractors and building professionals. Though competition may not be great for them, it does benefit you. The tougher competition, the harder they have to work to get your business. Standards are raised and prices become competitive. If a builder can’t set him/herself apart from the others, whether by their excellent value, use of quality materials, willingness to customize, et cetera, than they know you will be able to find a builder who can.

5. Do you have any current projects in progress?

Walking a property on which construction is either in progress or (even better) newly completed can be a big help in visualizing how your project will come together and the quality of the final product. (It is also a way to illustrate that there is a current demand for their services)

6. What kind of warranty do you offer?

An overwhelming majority of warranties are backed by the builder themselves. Connecticut law requires builders to provide a one-year warranty on new construction homes. Warranties for new construction homes generally offer limited coverage for materials, workmanship, and other aspects of the home. Ask your builder to detail the length of the warranty and what exactly it covers. Note: Most appliances and mechanicals are waranteed by the manufacturer

7. What are some of the plans you normally use? Do you allow buyers to provide their own plans?

You may encounter a builder that will only use the plans they provide. If you fall in love with some of the floorplans they show you, that makes the process that much easier. However, if you have a specific vision in mind or already have a plan you’d like to use, finding out the answer to this question in advance is of the utmost importance.

8. How “hands on” are you?

Find out if the builder you are interviewing will be the person overseeing construction and who will be your primary contact during the building process. You may find that you will be working closely with a partner/associate and should come to them with any questions you may have. If so, you should meet with them as well prior to starting the process.

9. How and when will the final price be determined?

This question is self-explanatory. This is a big investment, possibly one of the most important in your life, and everyone’s financial situation is different. Find out in advance what the projected price will be, and what factors may affect that bottom line further down the road.

10. What are some of the features/specifications your homes include? What are some of the allowances you give your buyers?

This issue is largely dependent on your price range, and if you are willing to spend the extra money for higher-end features. Based on your particular financial constraints, ask your builder to detail the appliances, fixtures, and other features he will include. He may provide you with a list of choices to pick from, or give you an allowance to select your own. Ask for ‘sample specs’ for your price range, or the specifications from a previously built home that matches your price range and style.

11. Do you incorporate “green building” into your homes?

If so, what energy saving features do you utilize? Some features, such as geothermal or active solar power, can add a noticeable price bump; other features, such as energy efficient windows and HVAC systems, are more common. This issue is dependent on your preferences and how highly you weigh green features in your wants & needs. However, the market is changing and shifting in a much “greener” direction. Not only can energy saving features also save you money over time, but it will appeal to buyers when you go to resell your home in the future.

12. Speaking of reselling your home…

Many fail to realize the importance of resale value when choosing a builder. A fantastic way to ascertain the quality of investment is how well the builder’s previously built homes have held their value. It does get complicated, as market conditions are a predominant factor in determining how much a home is worth, and it is very possible that some of your builder’s past clients ended up losing money in a faltering market. However, if a builder goes out of his way to prove to you that his/her homes have a history of retaining their value, it is definitely something to take into consideration.

13. What opportunities will I have to access the home during construction?

Depending on what stage of construction the home is in, your builder may want to accompany you. They may set up appointments in advance so you can view the home during different stages of the process, or may tell you to come and go as you please. This issue varies on the builder and your personal preference.

14. What is your inspection process?

Ask about quality control and inspection during key checkpoints in the building process, as well as the final walk-through. What is their method of addressing issues that need to be corrected or finalized?

And Finally…

15. When can I move in?!

For a variety of reasons, it is important for you to find out how long the building process will take. A hallmark of a good builder is that they are organized and plan their timeframes reasonably to finish their projects at or ahead of schedule. However, unforeseen circumstances may impact progress; ask your builder what these are (commonly) and if he accounted for them. Don’t expect your builder to give you a date and time down to the minute of completion during your first meeting, but expect a tentative timeframe so you can plan your own process accordingly.

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© 2018 Denise Walsh, Realtor licensed in the state of Connecticut · Last modified: 22 September 2013 · Log in · IDX · real estate web: darrylo