Questions To Ask Your Custom Home Builder

Building a new home is the largest investment most people will make in their lifetime, so it goes without saying that it’s important to get it right the first time. Choosing the best custom builder for you and your project is crucial to its success. You will want to meet with each custom builder to see if they are the right fit. Remember, you will invariably be working together for 6-12 months so this is a decision of the utmost importance.

To help you with your selection choice, we have crafted a list of questions to enable you to assess for yourself who is the right custom home builder for you. If you are reading this article and considering  building in another area, these questions are universally helpful. 

How many years have you been building in the area?

Ideally, you want a builder that has been custom home building in your area for at least 5 years. Familiarity in an area is important. You want a veteran that will have smooth sailing with building codes, inspections, and permits. You want a company with knowledge of terrain, landscaping, and property lines. Your custom home builder should be a valuable resource as to everything about the area.

How much experience do you have and how relevant is it to my project?

Experience matters. This is no time for someone just getting their feet wet. Does this builder work with a dependable, trustworthy, and skilled crew? You want them to already know (and have relationships with) the very best subcontractors. 

In the end, a builder is only as good as the team assembled for your project. You may trust the person you’re talking to but you must ask about the crew they are bringing to the job. How well does the builder know the laborers, tradesman, or subcontractors? How often has he worked with them?

Do you have examples of your work and past projects?

Any builder you choose should be able to present a portfolio of work they previously have done. By perusing photos you will better assess if the builder can meet your vision.

Can you provide me with three clients to contact for references?

Call each reference. This may seem like a lot of extra work but you should talk to people who have worked with the custom home builder you’re considering. Ask them very specific questions to make sure that you are not speaking to a relative or friend of the builder. In addition, you should also search the internet for any online reviews or testimonials.

Who will be managing the project?

Make sure the person you’re speaking with is actually the person that will be in charge of the project. If not, then make sure you meet the person who will be running the show to see if you are comfortable and confident of that person’s abilities.

Communication is key and in a situation like building a custom home overcommunication is perfectly acceptable. You want to be sure that your specific project manager will be a good match for you in the communication department.

Are you licensed and insured?

This is a given. Make sure the builder carries more than just general liability and workman’s comp. They should also have builder’s risk coverage which protects them (and you!) from any loss occurring during construction.

Can my lawyer review your construction contract before I sign it?

You should have an attorney review any construction contract before you sign it. A lawyer is best qualified to determine whether the contract offers clear guidelines for the building process and will be able to assess your rights and protections.

What are the terms and conditions of your warranty and how are issues that arise handled? 

Most reputable builders offer a 1 year warranty. Some offer a 10 year structural warranty. Ask the builder how he handles “borderline” warranty terms. Let’s say your warranty goes in effect in January 2021 but an issue doesn’t arise until March 2022.

That’s past the warranty…but barely. Will they help you? Also ask past clients if they had to utilize their warranty and how did the process work out.

What do you do to insure the project doesn’t exceed my budget?

Make sure you stress to the builder the importance of keeping your project within budget. Make it clear to the builder that any change with the potential to impact your budget will be clearly communicated to you.

Can you provide me with detailed specifications and a written quote?

You probably have heard an old saying that the devil is always in the details. Nothing could be more true when it comes to custom home building. Before any work begins, or before you even sign a contract, request a detailed, written estimate outlining exactly what you’re paying for and how much it will be. Things absolutely must be in writing if you want to keep costs down and ensure everything is completed to the specifications you’ve agreed to.

What’s the time frame to build my custom home and how do you ensure it’s met?

Before signing anything, you need assurances that the timeline you’ve been quoted is realistic and honest. Be leery of an overly optimistic timeline that a builder may promise simply with the intent to land the job.

Ask your builder for some specifics as to how they keep things on track. The best builders are usually the best schedulers.                

Can you ensure my home will be energy efficient? 

The cost of building is very important but you must also consider the costs once you move in. Your builder can’t help with things like homeowners insurance and property taxes, but he can definitely have an impact on your utility bill. Ask your builder how much they prioritize energy efficiency in their work.

What separates you from other custom home builders?

The best custom home builders are confident and passionate about their vision. They will tell you what they do best, their experience, and their ethics. You should get a sense of the personality and style they will bring to your home.

Why should I trust you?

This is probably not a question you are going to ask directly. But it’s something you’ll need to decide based on what you’ve seen and heard. Even if a builder has an impeccable reputation in the area, if for some reason you feel uncomfortable, then move on. If you’re not “all in” then look further to find the right fit for your dream home.