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Questions to Ask a Builder When Building a Home

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Selecting the right professionals to work with you on your home building project is essential to the project's success. The following is a checklist of questions to ask and issues to keep in mind as you sift through the myriad choices of builders for your project.

Compile a List of Home Building Professionals

Gather names by asking friends for recommendations, calling the local builders' association for a list of licensed professionals, and attending home shows and model homes where new work is on display.

Set Up Interviews

Once you have a list of names, meet with each individual personally. Be sure to ask the same questions and take careful notes at every interview so that you have balanced information from each professional.

Interview Questions - What to Ask a Potential Builder

  • How long have they been in business?
  • What are their professional qualifications and credentials?
  • Do they belong to any professional organizations? Contact any organization of which they are a member for confirmation.
  • Do they have all required licenses and are they insured? Ask for copies of these documents for verification.
  • Will they give you a list of references from current and past clients whom you may contact? When speaking with the references, ask about the quality of the work, if the agreed-upon timeline was followed, and if they would use them again.
  • Have they worked in the area before? Are they familiar with local building codes?
  • Are they able to meet your deadline?
  • How many projects, other than yours, will they be working on? You want to hire someone who will be focused on your project, not someone who will only spend short bursts of time on it due to other commitments.
  • Will they be using subcontractors and, if so, are the subcontractors insured? Ask to see insurance verification.
  • Have they previously built projects of a style similar to yours?
  • Do they have enough staff to handle your project? You want to be sure that they are focused on your project, not on answering phones and ordering supplies.
  • What is their estimated fee? It is usual to ask three different builders to bid on the same set of house plans for a project so you can compare estimates. How do they establish fees? Although the fee is a factor in your decision, it should not be the most important one. An estimate that seems low may indicate a shoddy work style. If the estimate is high, ask if they are willing to work with you to make it more affordable and confirm that their estimate includes all aspects of the project from start to finish.
  • How do they handle it if costs above their estimate arise during the project? Ask for examples of how they have handled these situations in the past.
  • Are their estimates usually on target?
  • Have they ever been sued? If so, ask for details.
  • How detailed and clear are their contracts? Ask for a sample contract to review.
  • How organized are their worksites? Visit a current worksite or speak with past clients to confirm details.
  • What is their warranty? Ask for a sample copy.
  • How will you be assured that payments to subcontractors/suppliers will be made? Make sure they provide written verification of payment.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Are they knowledgeable? Did they seem well-versed in all aspects of their business? Do you have a good rapport with them? This is someone with whom you will be working closely for several months, so it is important that your personalities do not clash. Do you trust what they are telling you? Are you comfortable with them? Have you checked with your local Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce? Both agencies can provide you with information on any complaints filed against the home builder.

You can never be too prepared. You are making a large financial commitment, so get as much information as possible from the professionals and take your time comparing the pros and cons of each.