21
QUESTIONS

21 Good Questions to Ask Your Potential Custom Home Builder Before Hiring

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This article provides you with 21 important questions to ask home builders before hiring one for building your new custom home.

We at Real Estate Bees reached out to construction professionals and asked them to advise our readers on how to choose a home builder by properly interviewing them.

Let’s start with the least obvious questions you might not have thought of yet.

1
QUESTION

Can you provide a Standard Features sheet?

Cody Hunter, Boise Hunter Homes

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Cody Hunter Home Builder

When building a home, a lot of times clients are hyper focused on the floor plan and elevation of their house, and rightfully so. Ultimately those are the most critical issues for them to choose when building a home.

But more often than not, when a buyer is choosing from different builders (whether custom or production builders), they should consider some of the included features that come standard with a respective builder and/or floor plan (usually it’s the builder, not the floorplan that dictates what features are included).

For example, if real hardwood flooring matters to you, you’d want to know which builder includes hardwood flooring as standard in their plans versus adding it as an upgrade, which can be costly, if it’s even an option they offer.

Does your builder include standard 6’8” doors and standard 8’ ceilings or do they standardized larger doors (8’) and taller ceilings (10’)?

Something that always makes homes look more luxurious is the height of ceilings and doors. Door and ceiling heights are a prime example of something that’s not easy to “upgrade” (even if you have the budget to do so) because it’s already been built into the design schematics and engineering of the floorplan.

There are also things you might assume are provided that are easy to miss, unless you ask your builder about their included features. For example:

  • Is the cost of landscaping both the front and backyards included?
  • How much insulation is put in the attic or walls?
  • Are hose bibs included?
  • Where are outlet placements?
  • Are lights included in every room?
  • Is there an outdoor gas stub for BBQ?
  • Does the home include gutters?

and the list goes on and on.

And of course we can’t forget the appliance package. Do you get an appliance budget included in your price or does the builder include certain appliances? How does that affect your all-in price? If your builder includes certain appliances, do the appliances match the price point of the home you are building/buying?

The point is, if something about the specifics of the home matters to you, you should inquire about what things come standard, what things you can pay to upgrade, and what things are not included or upgradable.

It’s the features of our homes that we enjoy and that people tend to notice and admire. Almost every builder should have an Included Features or Standard Features sheet/list that they can provide to you — just ask.

2
QUESTION

Do you handle architectural, interior design, permit processing, and project management?

Gregg A. Cantor, Murray Lampert

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Gregg A. Cantor Home Builder

The most efficient and cost effective way to execute construction or home improvement projects is design-build. There is one firm responsible for coordinating architectural, engineering, interior design, securing permits and managing the work at a fixed price.

With this method, the buyer has a complete budget including soft cost, labor and materials much faster than hiring out private consultants for each part. Also, field changes are much easier and the buyer does not have to worry about finger pointing with a reputable firm.

3
QUESTION

Are the principals actively involved with projects?

Gregg A. Cantor, Murray Lampert

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Gregg A. Cantor Home Builder

Contractors/builders come in many different sizes. The principals of many medium to large firms are not actively involved with projects unless there is a dispute. We believe in touching every project by meeting the clients and visiting job sites.

4
QUESTION

What does design development include?

Gregg A. Cantor, Murray Lampert

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Gregg A. Cantor Home Builder

Design development must include:

  • site walks
  • drafting as built plans
  • space planning
  • modeling
  • code research
  • discovery to check utilities
  • drafting a clear scope of work – specification document.
5
QUESTION

What is your asset to debt ratio?

Lucas Stensland, H-1 Construction, LLC

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Lucas Stensland Home Builder

Your General Contractor should be able to show a good standing credit to make sure their debt isn’t too great, where they are robbing Peter to pay Paul.

6
QUESTION

How many jobs do you run in conjunction with each other?

Lucas Stensland, H-1 Construction, LLC

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Lucas Stensland Home Builder

Every company should have a selected threshold of jobs they can handle at once. If the answer is unlimited or questionable, the client should be cautious.

7
QUESTION

How is a typical week structured and how is that conveyed to your client?

Lucas Stensland, H-1 Construction, LLC

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Lucas Stensland Home Builder

A work schedule for the contractor to adhere to and the client to refer to is a must. These typically change throughout the construction process, but a good GC will keep the work schedule and client updated with revisions.

8
QUESTION

Can you provide a detailed project cost estimate?

Zach McKendry, Sustainable Design Build

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Zach McKendry Home Builder

Most contractors intentionally bid low and use change orders to achieve the profit they want from a project. I would dig into the estimate and look for detail and specifics to assure your project can be completed for the agreed upon price.

9
QUESTION

How do you segregate funds by customer or project?

Paul Mueller, Jr., Mueller Homes

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Paul Mueller Jr. Home Builder

Segregated funds for each project are a must to ensure that your builder doesn’t use your funds to complete another client’s project.

10
QUESTION

What will you sub-contact out and what will you do in-house?

Lucas Stensland, H-1 Construction, LLC

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Lucas Stensland Home Builder

Some GC’s will completely sub out the entire build. Some have in-house employees. Two different approaches in hopes of the same result. But a general contractor with in-house employees has a lot more on the line than a GC who subs everything out.

11
QUESTION

What type of supervision do you provide throughout my project?

Paul Mueller, Jr., Mueller Homes

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Paul Mueller Jr. Home Builder

Ask if there is a person on the job site constantly overseeing all aspects of your project or is the project superintendent overwhelmed with multiple projects. This will have a direct impact on your overall experience.

 

Lucas Stensland, H-1 Construction, LLC

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Lucas Stensland Home Builder

Depending on the size of your project, it should have an onsite supervisor provided by the GC to help your project run as smoothly as possible.

12
QUESTION

Do you offer a client concierge?

Paul Mueller, Jr., Mueller Homes

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Paul Mueller Jr. Home Builder

A client concierge is invaluable to the custom home building experience. They serve as the client’s main point of contact, schedule showroom appointments, and assist in the entire selection process, which can be a little overwhelming.

If they do not offer a client concierge, you will likely need to hire an interior designer to assist with these tasks.

13
QUESTION

How will my payment schedule be structured?

Lucas Stensland, H-1 Construction, LLC

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Lucas Stensland Home Builder

Among the things to ask a home builder should be the payment schedule and what type of deliverables will be in conjunction with that particular payment schedule.

A payment schedule to hold your GC too is crucial in order to make sure they are staying on target with their deliverables. Otherwise the GC can ask for money anytime they’d like resulting in payments being ahead of the actual work being completed. This will directly affect how and when your project will be completed.

14
QUESTION

May I tour one of your previously built homes?

Paul Mueller, Jr., Mueller Homes

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Paul Mueller Jr. Home Builder

Ask to tour existing homes under construction to see the quality of the work and job site conditions. This will give you an idea of the level of quality, organization, cleanliness, and supervisory processes.

15
QUESTION

Are you licensed and properly insured?

Learn about licensing and insurance requirements for home builders defined by your state. Check if your potential contractor meets them. Lucas Stensland gives an example for requirements in Hawaii.

 

Lucas Stensland, H-1 Construction, LLC

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Lucas Stensland Home Builder

A general contractor in Hawaii is required by law to have the following insurance:

  • general liability ($1,000,000 or more)
  • workmen’s compensation
  • temporary disability insurance
  • commercial vehicle coverage and
  • have a BC license with the state of Hawaii.

 

Gregg A. Cantor, Murray Lampert

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Gregg A. Cantor Home Builder

Before considering any builder for your project, it’s very important to verify licensing, bonding and insurance. I recommend to only pick a home a builder whose principal you can identify, confirm the license is in good standing, with bonding, worker’s compensation, and general liability insurance with adequate coverages.

Also, make sure to ask for an additional insured certificate naming you the property owner.

 

Charlie Genin, The Gen Group Construction, L.L.C.

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Charlie Genin Home Builder

Make sure they are licensed: check the local state board for the contractor’s website.

16
QUESTION

What warranty do you offer?

Gregg A. Cantor, Murray Lampert

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Gregg A. Cantor Home Builder

California state law requires 10 years of warranty on structural elements which includes foundation, framing and waterproofing/roofing. Most contractors only offer a 1-year workmanship warranty covering cosmetic, non-structural work. Our standard workmanship warranty is 5 years.

Check your state laws regarding warranty and look at what is offered by the contractor you are considering.

 

Paul Mueller, Jr., Mueller Homes

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Paul Mueller Jr. Home Builder

Builders should not only offer manufacturer’s warranties, but should also provide a warranty for their work. After your home settles, there will likely be a few touch-up items that need to be addressed. How do they handle these issues? If there is a manufacturer’s defect, do they assist in getting the problem resolved and brought to a satisfactory conclusion?

17
QUESTION

What is an expected timeline for my project?

Lucas Stensland, H-1 Construction, LLC

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Lucas Stensland Home Builder

This has a wide range of answers depending on the size of the project. Holding a contractor’s feet to the fire to some sort of deadline is crucial. Otherwise the contractor could have the tendency to drag his feet while completing other projects.

18
QUESTION

How long have you been in business?

Gregg A. Cantor, Murray Lampert

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Gregg A. Cantor Home Builder

This is an important question because building and remodeling is a difficult business. I believe less established companies are higher risk. Firms that are more than 10 years old have weathered the economic ups and downs.

19
QUESTION

Can you provide your subcontractors’ contact details?

Ask this question to get in touch with the builder’s subcontractors and get less biased answers about the professionalism of your potential General Contractor.

 

Robert Bruckelmyer, Bruckelmyer Brothers

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Robert Bruckelmyer Home Builder

Rather than questions for the builder, I would recommend the potential client to call the local vendors that have worked with the builder such as title companies and subcontractors.

Here are the questions you should ask a new home builder and good answers you should expect:

  • Do they pay on a timely basis? — Yes, within days of submitting an invoice for payment.
  • Have there been any final draw issues with vendors not being paid? — No, all payments and lien waivers are made on time.
  • Are the jobsites ready when you are called in to do the work? — Yes, the sites are clean and ready for us every time.
  • Have you ever had to put a lien on a project? — No, all payments are always made.
  • What quality of a builder do you think they are? — Very high quality, they never cut a corner.
  • Would you recommend them to your family and friends? — Yes, anytime.

 

20
QUESTION

Do you have client references?

This question often comes first when soon-to-be homeowners make a list of what to ask a builder when hiring them for building a home. As it seems to be the most obvious question, we placed it at the end of the list.

 

Gregg A. Cantor, Murray Lampert

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Gregg A. Cantor Home Builder

Before hiring a builder to build your home, speaking to past and present clients is an important part of the vetting process. Checking online reviews is great, but it’s difficult to verify authenticity. Speaking to or meeting with past clients is a step that should not be skipped.

 

Lucas Stensland, H-1 Construction, LLC

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Lucas Stensland Home Builder

A list of 6-12 satisfied past clients is a must. Site walkthroughs of under construction and finished projects, even better.

21
QUESTION

How to Choose the Best Custom Home Builder?

By now, you should have learned much about choosing a custom home builder. Now, your question may be “where to find the best local companies to pick from?”.

For soon-to-be custom home owners at this stage, we at Real Estate Bees created a directory listing top-rated construction companies throughout the United States.

Having our experts’ advice on how to pick a home builder handy, use our directory to find a list of the best custom home builders in your area. The companies in our directory are rated according to their reputation and professionalism to help you make the best choice easier.

If you too want to contribute your expert advice on a topic of your expertise, feel free to apply to our Expert Contributor Program.

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