The builder has the biggest, most direct impact on your home build being successful or not. A good builder can get you through your home build with less stress and lowers costs. They can get you the home that you expect.
On the other hand, a bad builder can make your life a living nightmare. For these reasons, the importance of having a good builder is paramount.
Questioning a Home Builder Takes Effort
Now, to get that good builder, just doesn’t happen by chance. It takes some effort. You have to interview the builder properly. And, in that interview, you need to ask a long list of probing questions.
The questions you ask a builder are not something you want go through haphazardly. They are too important in determining if the builder is qualified for your home build, and whether you feel like you are compatible and can work with them.
We will discuss how to question a builder and the types of questions you should ask them. You can also check out our in-depth guide entitled How to Find, Interview, and Vet a Home Builder, which shows you how to get a good builder. It includes over 100 questions to ask a builder during the interview.
How to Question a Home Builder
The questions you ask a builder should be used to start a topic of conversation. Before questioning them, think of all the possible questions that correspond to a certain topic. Start each topic with a broad question and see how the home builder answers. Note what is said. After asking the broad question, determine if more related questions need to be asked concerning that topic. Then, go on to the next topical question and continue in the same manner.
Ask the Home Builder a lot of Questions
Don’t be afraid of asking a lot of questions during the main interview. Remember this is one of the biggest purchases you will ever make. You want to make sure the person/company you are putting in charge of it will build your home according to your expectations. Here is a list of questions to ask a home builder, along with an explanation of them.
1. What is your experience in building homes?
One topic of conversation you want to ask about is their experience. If they are a newer builder, then you want to know if they are experienced in general contracting, as construction foreman, or as a superintendent. The point is to feel assured that they have the experience and knowledge that is required to build your home.
2. Are you a licensed home builder?
Some counties and states require builders to have a license to operate, but this doesn’t mean they have fulfilled that requirement. If they are required to have a license, check to make sure they have it and when it was obtained.
To know what quality of work a builder puts out, you need to see their current projects. Ask the builder where you can see their current home builds. Go to these builds and inspect them. You can even bring someone with you who is knowledgeable about new home construction, if you’re not.
3. Can I contact your previous customers that you built homes for?
References are another important aspect to consider when interviewing a home builder. Ask them for at least 2 customers from their previous builds that you can contact. Find out from these customers as many details as possible about the builder, their process, the final result of the home, and how callbacks (repairs) were handled.
4. Can you give me a ballpark price to build my home?
Typically, during the interview, you won’t be able to get an exact price on the house. But the home builder can often give an average price per square foot to build a home, based on his typical builds and what you want in a home. After discussing with the builder what you are looking for in a home, ask him to give you a ballpark price to build it.
5. What are your floor plans and options that are available?
If you’re interviewing a production builder, they often have preset floor plans and options. You should find out the models, floor plans, and options that are available to you. Each option or upgrade comes at an increase, so make sure to request pricing on these.
6. What are the terms of the contract to build a home with you?
The contract spells out the terms of your agreement. Some contracts are vague, and some are very detailed. You want to find out what type of agreement your builder uses and how detailed it will be. From this information, you can determine if you like it and will accept it. Using an attorney in this matter can help protect your interest in the deal.
7. How long will it take to build my home?
Building a home takes many months, if not even years. You should ask the home builder how long the build will take and what delays could hold up the build. Some delays in a build can be totally out of your builder’s hands, while others could be self-induced. Ask the builder how they mitigate delays.
8. How will we communicate throughout the home build?
Good communication is key from a home builder. You want to stay up to date on the progress and on any problems that arise. So ask the builder what form of communication you will use and how often you will have it.
9. What walk-throughs will we have during the construction of my home?
Construction meetings should be scheduled periodically throughout the build. Meetings can be scheduled for pre-construction, post framing/pre-drywall, post drywall finish (this walk-thru is not common but is important because you want smooth, flat walls before work continues), pre-closing/home orientation, and the final with warranty review. Ask the home builder what walk-throughs you will have in the home build.
10. What building methods and materials will you use on my new home build?
Builders have quite a bit of flexibility in choosing building methods and materials. Yes, they need to follow building codes and the architect’s specifications, but there is flexibility within those guidelines. Some builders go above and beyond, and some do the bare minimum. Depending on the building methods and materials you want, you will need to discuss this with the builder. For example, there are options and ranges of control for energy efficiency, quality of lumber, and water/moisture control. So, add this topic of conversation to your list when asking the home builder questions.
11. What is your change order process?
Sometimes you just can’t think of everything you want in your new home or, maybe, you don’t like your original choice. Change orders allow you to make necessary modifications to your home build. You need to know the specifics about the builder’s change order process because they can be expensive, and there may be cut off times when they are not allowed past a certain point in the construction process. Make sure you raise the question of change orders with the home builder or you may be in for a big surprise when you find out how much they cost.
These are just some of the important topics you want to discuss with a home builder. If you would like an in-depth list of detailed questions to ask, which includes an explanation of each question, my guide entitled How to Find, Interview, and Vet Home Builder is a great resource tool.