Building Series Part 2 : The Right Home Builder

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In part 1 of our building series, we talked about where to start when you are thinking of building a home. Didn’t catch that post? You can check out Building Series Part 1: Where to Start to catch up to speed.

At this point, you know where you are building, your plans are in the work. Now it’s time to really dive deep & learn more about the builders, the right questions to ask, questions not to ask & things to consider when you are hiring a home builder. I feel like this could take 6 blog posts but I’ve tried to condense this as best as possible.

Let’s say you have your list of 5-8 builders that you are considering. Or maybe you only have one who you think you want to work with 100%. You’ve stalked their website, Houzz, Facebook, Instagram to see what their work looks like, read reviews, etc. Hopefully you have called their office to ask some questions & feel them out. If you haven’t called them yet, get them on the phone. Let them know that you are starting the research process of finding a builder & that you have a few questions you’d like to ask. Not sure what to ask? Here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. How many years have you been in business? How many homes have you built?

  2. How many homes do you build a year?

  3. Do you do fully custom homes or semi custom?

  4. Can you give me references from prior home buyers?

  5. Do you have finished homes that I can tour?

  6. Can we tour a job site?

One question you absolutely DO NOT ASK is what their price per square foot (PPSF) is to build. Why? Why would I tell you not to ask the one question that everyone wants to know when they call a builder? I mean, it’s a common question that builders get asked a lot & builders hate this question but why? Because they can take a 2,500 square foot house & build it for $200,000 or build it for $2,000,000. When you are building a home, the selections you make for the home—tile, flooring, countertops material, along with a million other different components—all play into the final cost of your home. You could have a modest size home with the nicest & most expensive finishes & it will easily take you over the $200,000 budget.

Does that make sense? Clear as mud? Keep reading!

One of our client’s went around asking all the builders she was looking at the PPSF question. She chose the builder who offered her one of the lowest PPSF & now she is understanding why I always advise clients to never ask this question. This topic could be a whole blog post in and of itself. Maybe I’ll do that soon. ;) Almost every single one of her selections was an ‘upgrade', the quality & craftsmanship not up to par, the jobsite is always a disaster & the customer service less than desirable. While she thought she was getting the bang for her buck, she ultimately should’ve gone with a quality custom home builder who would get the job done correctly & ultimately come in at a lower price because our client’s wouldn’t have to pay to upgrade in order to get what they wanted.

Once you get the answer to those 5 starter questions we listed above, then go visit the jobs sites, go see a completed home. Call the references & ask all the questions about the builder’s processes, communication, project management. Doing these things will help you narrow down your list to a top 3. Or it might make you realize you need to look at other builders because that one you were dead set on isn’t a fit.

I know you are thinking that this seems like an obnoxious list of to do’s, but your builder is going to be working with you for at least the next year & you’re going to enter a genuine relationship with them.

Once your plans are complete & you have them in hand, now is the time to take your top 3 builders sit down with each of them & ask the hard questions, let them see your plans, visit the build site, then have them give you a bid on the project.

The Hard Questions:

What sets you apart from other builders?

Who are your clients main point of contact with during the project?

How do you communicate with your clients throughout the building process?

Do you have general liability insurance & Workmen’s Compensation?

How do you qualify & vet the trade contractors who work on your client’s home?

What are your expectations of the job site & the trades when they are on site?

What are my options for customizing my home? Do you have preferred vendors you prefer us to select our materials with?

Will you give us a schedule of when the selections are needed?

Do you offer a warranty of your work & for how long?

How are change orders handled?

What is the process for the final walk throughs & addressing matters that need attention?

Once you get these questions answered the next part of the process is about getting the builder to bid your plans. You will want to let him know up front if you’d rather go with marble or quartz/quartzite countertops rather than granite, wood windows or aluminum, hardwoods or tile throughout, where will carpet be (if any), do you plan on having real or faux beams in the home, solid wood doors? All of these things will come into play & can drastically change your final number of the home. If you know these things are non-negotiables when it comes to your new home, then let them know so they can price things accordingly.

Another thing to keep in mind is that every builder that you are going to have bid your home needs to see the build site before they give you a number. Your land my need to be cleared before construction begins & you also may need to have dirt brought in before the construction starts. These things too will play into the price of building your home.

Yall it’s a lot. There are a lot of things to consider before hiring a builder. This relationship is important, so don’t just go with the builder who is the cheapest. Do the homework. It will be so worth it in the end.

Up next in our Building Series, we will be discussing if you & why you’d want to bring in a designer or a decorator on your project & things to look for to hire the right before for the job.