Finding the right builder to work with can feel as daunting as building the home itself. You want to trust not only their building expertise but also their project management skills and finish quality.
In this article, we’re going to share our fifteen most important questions to ask a builder before you hire them and why you should ask. Choosing to go the custom home route is an investment – this article will give you the resources to help make sure you’re choosing the right builder.
As a bonus, we included a free worksheet download at the end of this article so you can organize your custom home builder research and compare your options to make the best choice.
Questions to Ask a Builder About Their Pricing
1. What does your pricing include?
While you may not be able to get a final cost of your custom home right off the bat, you should still understand what your builder’s costs do and do not include. Aside from building the actual home, costs you should consider – even if they’re not included in the builder’s pricing – are:
- Lot purchase and development
- Site engineering
- Architectural plans
Not all builders include the above expenses in their pricing, which can not only increase your budget but also increase the level of involvement and coordination on your end.
2. How can I control the budget for my project?
Managing the budget is a common pain point in any type of building, from custom homes to remodeling. The builder you choose should regularly keep you in the loop about the costs of your project, from the footprint to the floorplans, to the finishes and fixtures. We recommend working with a builder who uses a construction project management app so you can keep track of and manage your custom home’s budget.
Questions to Ask a Builder About Designing A Custom Home
3. Will I need to hire an architect separately to design my home?
Many home building firms do not have their own in-house architect, which can add additional expense and time to your project. Using external architecture services isn’t necessarily a bad choice, but using these services in-house works to your benefit for a couple of reasons:
- Architect-builder collaboration for a more efficient build
- Centralized accountability – no pointing fingers between the architect and build firm
- Better communication on your home’s design
Take these three main advantages into consideration when researching and interviewing builders.
4. How do I pick all my finishes and fixtures?
True to their name, builders build and in most cases, aren’t professional interior designers. If they don’t offer in-house design services, you’ll need to either hire a pricey interior designer or pick and manage all your finishes and fixtures independently. Sounds a little overwhelming, right?
We recommend working with a builder who offers design services in-house to make your process easier and low-stress. Design professionals can offer expert guidance on finishing your entire home so it matches your lifestyle and aesthetic needs. Having this assistance also makes the process easier and much more enjoyable.
Questions to Ask a Builder About Managing a Schedule
5. How long will it take to build my home?
While it may be difficult to tell you a move-in date before a home’s design is complete, builders should be able to provide an estimate on how long the construction phase will take. Still, it’s important to also consider how long it will take to design and the permitting process of your custom home. The latter can be affected by the size and level of design of the home. Make sure to understand a typical timeline for the builders you’re interested in before signing a contract.
6. How do you manage the timeline and keep my project on track?
The second most common pain point associated with the building is blowing the timeline. An established home builder with strong project management experience will be vital to keeping your custom home’s schedule on track. A few factors that will contribute to your builder’s timeline management success include:
- Their trade partner relationships
- Internal team communication
- Dedicated construction project managers that are on-site every day
7. How do I stay “in-the-know” about the status of my project?
Building a custom home should be exciting! Your builder should include you in the home’s progress regularly so you can watch it come to life. Ask about site visits, receive photo updates, and general communication from the builder. You should be able to stay up to date on the status of your custom build on a regular basis.
Quality Control Questions to Ask a Builder
8. How do I know I’m getting an energy-efficient home?
Energy efficiency is not simply a phase in the home building world. Ask your builder about how they verify their home’s energy efficiency by asking about the materials and methods they use during construction. One specific question we recommend asking is their average HERS score per home – a home built to current code is around 100 but a truly energy-efficient home will have a score of half that.
9. What type of warranty comes with your homes?
This will vary from builder to builder which is why it’s important to ask before making a final decision. Some offer different warranties for each aspect of the home, while others offer one single warranty for the entire home. Aside from the appliances and fixtures, get a clear understanding of how long the home’s structure is covered, from the mechanicals to the exterior of the home.
10. Do your homes come with any certifications?
Just because a home is new, doesn’t mean it’s high quality. A builder whose homes come with these certifications will ensure your family is living in a comfortable, durable, and safe home for your family:
- Energy Star
- Zero Energy Ready
- EPA Indoor AirPlus
Achieving a high-quality home begins with the design and continues with a series of rigorous quality control checks throughout the build. Look for these certifications while completing your custom home builder research to ensure you’re getting just that.
11. Have you won any awards for your homes?
While this is not a determining factor when choosing a builder, it can show their commitment to building high-quality homes. Award-winning home builders can stand out from the rest and act as validation for their quality of work.
12. What sets you apart from other builders?
Each builder will answer this question differently, selling their firm and the benefits of working together. However they respond, their answers should include at least some of these important criteria:
- Their level of quality
- How they manage a project from start to finish
- How and why do they build their homes the way they do
- Their relationships with clients after they’ve moved in
13. How do we know we can trust you with building our dream home?
A custom home is a big investment, both in terms of time and financially. We recommend you request references so you can hear about past homeowners’ building experiences.
Questions You Might Not Have Considered But Are Important To Ask
14. Can you help me find a lot if I don’t have one?
Securing a lot to build on is a critical first step in custom home building for obvious reasons. Working with a builder who can directly help you find a lot to build on will make this step much easier since it’s important to understand what lots are suitable to build on.
15. What would I be expected to do on my own?
Builders might simply do what their name suggests: build. Managing your design, schedule, permitting, site development, and more may not be part of their services, which means you’ll either be handling it alone or need to hire additional help to take care of it all. Make sure you’ve set the right expectations of the builder (and yourself) before signing a contract.
Finding the Right Builder for Your Custom Home
We hope our list of the most important questions to ask a builder before you hire them helped you in your research.
To continue helping you make the best decision…
We created a worksheet with all the above questions to use while interviewing your top three potential builders. We added our responses so you can conveniently see how we compare to other builders.
Did we miss a question? Feel free to reach out to us directly so we can help you in your custom home builder research.