How to Choose a Home Builder for My New Custom Home – Part 5: 5 Questions To Ask

In our last blog we discussed how custom home builders provide pre-construction services, initial budgeting and a project plan. Now we’ll delve into specific questions that will stimulate interesting and informative discussion with potential candidates for your new custom home.

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1) Will my home have a full-time supervisor and if not, how often will the supervisor be there to inspect and guide the progress?

Early in the design phase your builder will most likely be unable to tell you for sure who will be assigned to your project when construction finally begins in a few months. However, you’ll understand two things from the discussion:

  • How are their teams arranged? (Construction manager and site super only/ Construction manager and project manager / What kind of in-office support does each project team get?)
  • How many projects is each team responsible for?  For a high-end custom home, you need to be satisfied that your project will get the attention it needs. Two projects would be maximum workload for a Site Super and perhaps 3 or 4 for the construction manager
  • One qualification to the above is that builders with a long track record and good testimonials have proven that they know how to deliver the results you need so with strong customer testimonials you can rest easy that they have an intimate understanding of what it takes to deliver a great result!

2) How do we communicate during the build, bring concerns, discuss issues, get updates to home builder?

If the builder has established a regular meeting schedule with you, the design team and other team players when needed, this is a good indication they value organization, transparency, communication, and efficiency. Further, they should have a detailed reporting system that provides timely transparent reports on an ongoing basis, so you have a snap-shot of the project at regular intervals. When the inevitable curve balls come, you want to know that there are well established open channels to reach out and be heard. You want to feel the builder will take your concerns seriously and value your opinions throughout the construction process.

3) How do you qualify the subcontractors that will work on my home?

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In the discussion and as you visit their sites you will be able to see if they have built lasting relationships with local high-quality trades. Ask how many new trades can you expect on your home? It is very important that the critical suppliers are tried, tested and true and a minimal amount of new trades are working on your home. Ask: Does the builder thoroughly pre-qualify new trades before using them on one of their projects? What does that process look like? When the questions get specific, you will find out good information!

4) For the inevitable extra costs, what does the builder’s process look like? How are approvals for extra costs handled? How are the dripping tap extra costs controlled?

In a high-end custom build, it is very likely that you will encounter changes throughout the build. These can result from simple design changes when you get into the space and decide you want to change /adjust something, or they can be deviations from allowances or simply missed items in a scope of work. The builder should confirm that when you want to make a change, there is a system in place for documenting changes, presenting costs and options to you, getting your approval, and efficiently incorporating the changes into the build. Ask for the builder’s approval process, specifically. How well did the builder track to budget in previous projects? Extra costs, if not handled carefully can be a big problem. Learn the details of the builder’s budgeting and costing and where you can expect extra costs.

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5) How long will my build take? How do you handle possible delays and stay on schedule?

Depending on complexity, a typical custom home can take anywhere between 12 months to over 24 months. The builder should have systems and processes in place to track schedule and work around threats to the schedule. This can vary depending on the experience of their team and how diligent they are about updating the project schedule and how proactive they are in solving problems, preferably before or at the latest, as they arise. A good builder with a professional team will have a track record of delivering projects on time. Ask the builder for specifics on how the team does scheduling and “stick handles” around threats to the schedule. A low-bid builder may need to cut corners to keep your build profitable but in the process your new home doesn’t get the attention it deserves! A good builder will have a well honed system to keep the project on track and bring clarity to the process with an actionable plan!

Don’t miss our upcoming newsletter featuring the final questions and thoughts on selecting the perfect builder for your custom home. Read more by clicking here (coming soon).