What questions should I ask a builder before hiring?
Building and remodeling are big undertakings. These types of projects are exciting, and we want you to feel that excitement as the experience should be a fun one. We enjoy what we do and it’s important to us that the experience for our clients is equally enjoyable. There are so many decisions to make with a new build or remodel. Take a deep breath. The number one thing you’ll want to do in the pre-planning stages is to do some in-depth research before hiring a contractor by asking the right questions. Knowing which questions to ask a potential contractor can help you to feel much more secure in the decision-making process, helping you to make a confident decision in who to ultimately work with.
Are you insured and can you provide validity of this?
This one might seem an obvious question to ask a contractor before working with them, but you’d be surprised how many people skip this simple yet all-important question…and often end up suffering for it. A good, reputable contractor will be happy to show and proof of insurance. They will often showcase this on their website, marketing materials, and even offer it up in conversation, which only adds to their credibility. Do yourself a huge favor and ask them if they’re insured, regardless of whether or not they were referred to you by even your best friend.
Will you provide me with a full list of references?
A good builder will happily provide you with a list of solid references. This is not an unrealistic expectation. Ask for a list of recent references (clients they’ve worked with within the past 2-3 years), as this would be the most relevant and up-to-date. In addition, create a list of specific questions you’d like to ask these individuals to help guide the conversation and keep it productive. Ask questions regarding timelines, communication, and quality of the work they received. Keep in mind that some delays are unpredictable, but previous clients can offer insight into how their timelines were affected and more importantly, how well the builder communicated the details throughout the process.
Are you a licenced builder?
This is the first question you need to ask. Only ever work with licenced tradesmen. It may seem like an obvious point to reinforce but people either don’t ask or go with an unlicensed builder to save money. The results can be disastrous. Each state allows you to run a search on builders to check their licence, a simple Google search for ‘check a builder’s licence’ will get you started, please do it.
How long will the building maintenance period last?
A builder agrees to perform building maintenance for a period of time after the property is handed over to you. Most experts recommend a six month maintenance period for residential units and 12 to 18 months for commercial properties.
What’s included in your price?
What are the standard finishes and items, and what are upgrade items? More importantly, throughout the entire process, what isn’t included and may come up?
Most of this should be outlined for you in the contract details, but knowing what’s not included will help a lot with budget planning. Does the builder include the design drawings, permits, landscaping, appliances? Do they include hazardous material removal? Avoiding the dreaded hidden/unknown charges will be dictated by how well they’re able to answer this question.
How do you ensure that I will not exceed my budget?
Yet another question that past customers will help you confirm, but here’s where you want to know how the builder’s communication style works. It’s critical to feel confident that your builder will work with you to keep you within your budget and communicate how changes impact the budget.
Can I show your construction contract to my lawyer prior to signing?
Does this builder have a contract which clearly outlines all the details of what’s included throughout the process, and do you have sufficient protection? Asking this simply question will help filter out those who do not like to bother with details and will be the people who you’d like to stay away from.
Can you give me references from prior home buyers? Do you have any completed homes I can view?
Checking references are extremely important as it will help you make a much more informed decision based off of their prior experiences with the builder. Also, as quality is very subjective, seeing a completed home for yourself will help align your expectations.
Etiquette Tips For Working With A Custom Home Builder
There are tons of horror stories out there that people have from working with contractors and home builders. Sometimes it’s because of poor research, misaligned expectations, or someone just lying, most of the time though it comes down to communication. With communication comes its own set of problems. Building a custom home is a stressful and personal undertaking. Having a good relationship with your home builder will help ease the process and will likely result in better quality work. Here are a few etiquette tips on how to deal with and communicate with your custom home builder.
Respect work hours
The normal 9-5 hours might not completely apply but don’t call or text your home builder at 2 am. Ask them for their work hours and if you have any questions or concerns after those times you should email them. While your custom home builder is committed to your project, they’re also a human being with a life outside of their job. This project might be all you can think about but respect the work/life balance they have.
At a certain point, you will need to stop yourself from going on Pinterest and Instagram. These sites are full of great ideas but after a certain stage changing things around really isn’t feasible. Continuing to look will just make you wish you could continue to add and change.
Get everything in writing
Get everything that you want your home builder to complete in writing. In the end, this will save both of you from arguing about price and jobs completed. Make sure everything little thing is included too. Having a firm understanding of expectations, design choices, and job lists will help with communication and expected end results.
Communicate with visits
Any good custom home builder will encourage you to come see the project during its construction phases. You’ll read a lot of people telling you to randomly drop by to make sure work is getting done. While you can drive by and do this, don’t expect a full tour at random. Your home builder will be busy working. Call ahead and set up pre-arranged times. This way they can go through everything with you in details. Stopping by unannounced also poses safety and time issues.
Even if the most researched and well planned out projects by the most experienced builders will encounter delays. Whether or material deliveries are a few of the most common causes for delays. Letting a delay unravel you and send you into a panic is never helpful. Don’t blame your contract unless they made a blatant error. Expect delays and learn to cope with them. Most home builders will work hard to compensate for them but if you throw a fit they’ll probably be less inclined.
Don’t take your stress out on them
Custom home builders are used to absorbing some of the stress people are under during a build. Try to keep this at a minimum though. A slight tone is one thing, but a complete blowout is unacceptable. A home build is extremely stressful, but having a good working attitude with your home builder will make things go smoother. Taking your stress and frustration out on them will only make things worse.
Be on the same page
If you’re building a home with a significant other, make sure you two are on the same page. It even helps if you select one person as the designated contact person. Preferably pick the person who is available the most. Miscommunication and mistakes get made when you and your partner are telling your home builder different things.
Set reasonable response expectations
There are a lot of times during a project where you or your home builder will need a response quickly. Many aspects have strict deadlines. Before you begin, set up an ideal timeline and means of communication for these types of situations. But also set up a time frame for non-time sensitive questions or concerns. A day or two is normal. Both you and your builder will be busy. Don’t expect them to respond within an hour to a general question.
Tipping and gifts are nice but not necessary
People often stress about tipping or gift giving as a project begins to wrap up. Here’s the thing about tipping, it’s always nice but it isn’t necessary for a custom home project. There’s no set percentage so figuring out can be complicated. Some people like to give money, other’s gifts, some just throw a party for their builder and contractors at the end. If you feel they did excellent work and have a good relationship with them some gesture to show your appreciation is always great.