What to Ask a Potential Custom Home Builder
Many people have a desire to build their dream home – a custom-made home with all of the special items a dream home should have – from a pool and hot tub, to vaulted ceilings and high-end kitchen appliances. Most people, however, do not have the skills to create legal blueprints or build their perfect house. As a result, finding and hiring a custom-home builder that specializes in constructing custom homes becomes the goal.
How do you find the right builder for your new home? First, know that this process is going to take you time. You need to be very thorough in vetting potential builders. Rushing the process may result in spending a lot more money to fix issues with your dream home because you didn’t do your due diligence in selecting a quality custom home builder. However, going through this process carefully and thoughtfully should end in living in a home of your dreams!
The first step in looking for a builder to construct your custom home is to locate builders in your area by searching the Internet. In this digital age, almost all builders will have a website providing you with an online portfolio of current and completed projects. Some may even show a video including a 360-degree view of the inside of the home as well as a fly over of the property.
Once you have a list of custom homebuilders, search the Better Business Bureau’s website to see if any actions have been filed again them. It is best to discover this up front before you hire a contractor. You don’t want to hire an individual or company that has a bad business record.
Once you have a short list of potential custom homebuilders, visit their projects, both finished and unfinished. Finished projects will show you the quality of their work. Homes in process will give you an idea of how clean and safety conscious they keep the workspace. Typically, construction sites that are easy to walk around, where garbage and construction waste (e.g., clipped off wires, piping, etc.) has been cleaned up, and where potentially hazardous or dangerous areas, such as a staircase that is being built, is roped off. Messy construction sites do not engender confidence in the builder.
Ask Lots of Questions
When you are confident with your short list of custom homebuilders, it is time to meet with them and ask the following questions:
- How many homes like this (like the one you want build) have you built?
- What is the average time it takes for you to build this type of home?
- Are you insured (in case an accident occurs on-site)?
- Are you licensed to work in this state?
- Do you do the work yourself?
- How much (if any) of the work do you subcontract out?
- What happens if I make changes as the home is being built?
- What is the process if we are not happy with part or all of our custom home?
- In other words, do you offer a home warranty? If so, what are the specifics of the warranty?
- Why should I hire you to build my custom dream home? What makes you superior to other builders?
After you have met with potential homebuilders and have compared the answers to your questions, the next step is to talk to references that have had their home custom-built by the builder. Ask them what they liked about the builder and the building process, and what they did not like. See if you can visit their home and do a walk through.
Finally, before you sign on the dotted line, ask the contractor to give you a complete, detailed building plan that includes “milestones” in the project – those points in the project at which a specific amount of work should be completed. The contract should allow you to visit the home building site any time during the project and give you the ability to stop the project if it is not going as planned. In addition, get the costs and prices in writing. Know that almost all building projects do end up costing more than the estimated price. This is due to several factors such as an increase the cost of lumber or other products. Price increases can also be attributed to your requests to the builder to change elements of the project once the project has been started. Moving a bathroom, selecting different types of cabinetry, going with a more expensive paint all add to the originally quoted price.
Protect Your Investment
For most individuals and families, building a dream home is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It may be the largest investment of their lifetimes! As a result, taking the time to investigate all possible custom homebuilders is in order. Do a check of the builder with the Better Business Bureau. Ask to look at the custom homebuilders portfolio. Ask to visit/tour current and completed homes. Hopefully, by following these steps, you will save any headaches and heartaches (and loss of investment), and you will be able to live and enjoy your dream home for a lifetime.