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15 Questions to Ask Your Builder before Hiring

Posted by admin on November 4, 2015
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The Builder & Your Peace of Mind

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Builder’s Hat on House Plans

A Builder has become the most misunderstood creature in the world.  It doesn’t have to be that way!

Making plans to build your home may seem like a daunting task for many. However, the knowledge that you’ve chosen a builder who is able to meet all your expectations can help set your mind at ease. So how do you identify the right home builder for your needs? How do you get some peace of mind before appending your signature to anything?

Below are important questions to guide you through the builder selection process and enable you to make an informed decision. This way, you get to have all the answers you are looking for such that you are not caught unawares by unpleasant surprises.

  1. Do you regularly utilize specific sub-contractors and can you provide me with a list of them?

Construction companies rarely undertake to build a home and then do the whole job on their own. Whenever you hire a builder, you are in fact also hiring people that you don’t know. While the construction company may have its employees making up the crews, a huge chunk of your work is typically carried out by the sub-contractors. The workmanship quality in your house will therefore largely depend on these sub-contractors. You need assurance that the builder has familiarized themselves with the sub-contractors, as well as their standards of quality work.

  1. Will you provide me with a specification sheet for the materials that will be used in my construction project, along with samples or at least show these in a model home?

Avoid any unpleasant surprises in your home’s quality by knowing in advance the type of materials that will be utilized in construction. The builder must be willing and able to provide you with specification sheets of all the materials they intend to use. Individual materials typically carry particular warranties. For example, a roof may have a warranty of 15-30 years that is dependent on the particular brand. It is not an unreasonable expectation to ask to view the actual samples. Keep in mind that small details such as hinges are just as important to your finished product. It is therefore important to prevent misunderstandings by being informed of exactly what you can expect before you start building.

  1. Can you work on an allowance system, instead of a package deal? If so, which are the specific parts you will include in such a system?

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Builder’s Contract

When you hire a home builder willing to work with allowances, this enables you to enjoy control of the supplies selection, as well as control of your budget. Other builders provide a package deal in which you are for instance allowed to select from two to three options in lighting fixtures or cabinets. Should you select the least expensive feature, the builder gets to retain the extra money.

Allowances set the cost for the project, for instance with regards to cabinets for your kitchen. You may choose to utilize the type your builder has supplied at the price they quoted, or your may go for the one you want. With this method, you enjoy control of both the materials and the budget. In the event that you choose a fixture that’s less expensive than that allowance, any difference will be credited back to you and not to your builder. Spending less on lighting fixtures could provide you with funds to upgrade your carpet. This way, you get to put your money where you wish it to be. Builders must be willing to provide you with an allowance that is based upon the expectations you have of your home.

  1. Can you provide a complete list of client references?

Asking to obtain a complete list of client references is not an unreasonable expectation for you to have. Home owners who have undergone the completed building process with your prospective builder will prove to be a great source of valuable information. Your best client reference list should feature clients from the last two to three years.

Have your questions ready when you make contact with the references. Some of the questions provided here should be appropriate to ask the home buyer as well. You may inquire on the timeliness of your builder’s work. While unforeseen delays are always possible, former clients can provide you with insights into how schedules had been met during their particular building project. Interviewing client references is an important tool for the evaluation of the prospective builder.

  1. Will you be involved in my home from groundbreaking onto completion and on through the construction labour warranty?

Some home builders are done once you have signed the contract. It is important to find a builder who can involve themselves in the whole process from design, construction, planning, and most importantly, follow up at the end. The warranty the builder provides should be able to cover all labor involved in constructing the home. Such an issue is separate from material warranties. Go for a builder who promises to remain involved with you and be accessible to you even long after your moving day.

  1. Will you work with me under a construction or permanent loan using my home loan specialist?

Look for financial options that will provide you with control over your finances. A construction/ permanent loan will allow you to control when your money is paid out. You will need to sign for every draw based on a schedule that is prearranged. This is an indicator that you agree that the work done to that particular point has been done satisfactorily.

Construction/ permanent financing eliminates the need for the builder to finance the home, while allowing you to avoid incurring processing fees due to the builder obtaining their own financing. Such processing fees will be added eventually to the overall price of your home. This will also reduce your final closing costs, thereby enabling you to lock in your interest rate.

  1. What warranty do you offer, and what is the time period of this warranty?

Every house is a very detailed piece of work set up by dozens of workers and comprising thousands of pieces. It is important for your builder to be able to anticipate any problems that are likely to occur and then put a plan in place to handle such eventualities. You will require assurance that the builder will be available during the warranty period to rectify any such problems.

  1. How long have you been building in this area?

Hiring a builder is the same as hiring a team of employees for the long term. It is important to know their resume, including their skills, work history and years of experience. Moreover, a deep understanding of the local area, permitting and codes can really boost your project.

  1. Will you provide me with a timeline of the project?

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Builder on Site

Ideally, your builder should be able to provide you with a fixed start date and completion date, including any major milestones along the way. The builder should be able to list all dates within an overall timetable of the project.

  1. How do you handle and process change orders?

Because change orders can add to the expense and time of building your house, it is important to communicate clearly and detail this out appropriately in your building contract. The change must also depend on the what is stipulated in the house plans vs what is desired later during construction.  The last thing you want is to experience the common friction that occurs when a builder decides to stop work until the homeowner agrees to additional costs on the change order.

  1. How will you manage my project during construction?

Learn how much time the builder intends to spend on your project every week in comparison to other jobs. How often do they intend to be on-site and who will be supervising during the periods when they are away.

  1. What sets you apart from other builders?

Ask the builder up front what makes their company unique and different. Why choose them? After all making such a large investment of your money and time is a big deal that requires such questions asked. Ensure that your goals are in perfect alignment with the building philosophy of the home builder.

  1. What is the schedule for my project?

A schedule takes up from where the project timeline leaves off. You need a schedule to outline the tasks and timing and provide you with a big picture of sequencing and deadlines for activities such as countertops and tiles.

  1. How will you communicate with me and how can I reach you?

Ensure that you clearly understand exactly how your contractor will contact you and how you will receive information and vice versa. Agree on a format and method such that you avoid ending up in construction limbo every other day.

  1. What type of documentation will you provide me once the project is complete?

End of project paperwork may include lien releases, copies of inspection reports, marked up plans with as-builts on plumbing and other utilities. In addition, you may find the following items valuable: operating manuals for installed equipment; a full set of mechanical photos before installing insulation; a list of subcontractors and their contact info; care for items such as tiles and countertops; and a well marked electrical panel. Confirm that you will receive such documentation once the project is completed.