Find the Right Homebuilder-Questions–Part 4 of 5

find the right homebuilder-questions To find the right homebuilder-questions need to be answered

When it comes to getting useful information from prospective homebuilders, answers to the following questions should prove useful. Some of the answers might even be found on the builder’s website.  If you forget to ask the builder important questions when you meet him/her, email is also an effective way to ask.  Email Q & A will give you a different perspective of the builder’s communication skills.

Does the homebuilder build homes in your price range?

It would probably be a waste of time to consider this homebuilder if they are beyond your budget area.

What is the new construction time frame? And is there started or completed inventory available?

These two questions go hand in hand. You need to find our how long it will be from the date you sign a contract to the date you can move in. Sometimes your situation is such that you can't wait for a build from start to finish. Don't think you can't get "new" from a builder just because the construction time would be too long. Homebuilders often have inventory completed or under construction.  Some Homebuilders can also work out alternate arrangements, such as a rental.  In addition, homebuilders will sometimes consider selling their model home even if they aren't listing it for sale.

How long has the builder been in the building business?

It can take more than five years to establish a financially sound business. You want to know if they will be around to complete construction and service the warranty. In a down economy, however, even the number of years in business is not a true indicator of a builder’s viability.

What does the local Better Business Bureau have to say?

Remember a complaint  or two is not always a reason to cross a builder off your list.  But it does require you to dig deeper.  If other qualifications draw you to this builder, use the information from the BBB to ask more related questions of others such as your realtor, the builder, trade contractors, etc.

Who will you communicate with during the construction process?

A good building experience is based largely good communication. In addition to learning about a builder, you will want to learn about their support team. Chances are you will work more directly with various team members than the company owner.  Ask your realtor and others (anyone you would ask a question about the builder) what they know about the builder’s support staff. You will want to be as comfortable with the abilities of the staff as you are with the builder.

Will the builder customize plans?

Almost all builders will have a number of stock floor plans and many of those plans will have some options available that allow to you to modify the plan to suite your taste more closely. There is no such thing as a perfect house design, so the new home design and building process will likely necessitate some compromise on your part. If a builder is willing to modify their plans, you will come closer to getting the design you want.

If the builder is willing to customize plans, you’ll want to find out up front if there is a cost.

What are the builder’s standard specifications?

It seems like it should be easy to compare the building specifications from one builder to the next, but the truth is, it is quite near impossible because every builder uses their own unique method of presenting them. All builders have to meet the building codes set in place for the jurisdiction where you plan to build.  Minimum building code standards are, for the most part, pretty darn good and they are constantly changing in an effort to make new homes  safer, more durable and energy efficient (all good reasons to build a new home vs. buying an existing one).

Every builder will tout the benefits of the products they use. And they should. It’s up to the buyer to determine whether the benefit will be a benefit to them or not.

Elsewhere on this site we will review new home specifications in greater detail.

Does the builder require ALL subcontractors and vendors to carry sufficient worker’s compensation and general liability insurance?

Some builders are willing to let insurance requirements slide in order to get better pricing.  This like playing Russian roulette, sooner or later it will cause some hurt.  If a claim is made against the builder, at the very least it will distract attention from your home construction and/or warranty service.  At the worst, it could put the builder out of business and leave you in a predicament.

Does the builder have signed contracts with his subcontractors?

Signed subcontracts are a sign a builder is serious about the performance of his subs. This is good for the homebuyer. In addition to contracts, detailed scopes of work for each trade along with job checklists are more signs of a builder communicating effectively with their subs and vendors. Ask to see a sample contractor agreement.

Does the builder use a construction schedule? 

Homebuilders large and small use construction schedules. Whether hand written or computer generated, a builder who regularly uses a construction schedule is planning to succeed.  It doesn’t even matter if they aren’t willing to share it with you on a regular basis. Be wary of a builder who says they react to changes and schedule only on the fly. Every builder must react to changes and reschedule accordingly. The benefit of a formal schedule is in the exercise of preparing it and, more importantly, in the communication it provides to staff, contractors and vendors.  If a builder communicates well with his contractors and vendors, chances are they will communicate well with you. Ask to see a copy of the schedule they use and how often they update it.

What warranty is provided?

You will want to see a copy of the builder’s new home warranty.  In many cases, if the builders you are looking into are all part of the same Home Builders Association, they will have the same or similar warranty documents.

Homebuilders usually provide general one year coverage, two year coverage on the main systems for plumbing, heating & electric, and six to ten years (sometimes more) coverage in the event of a major structural defect.

On the surface, more would seem to be better, but on closer inspection of the details, more is often about the same;

  • Statistics indicate many buyers sell before the structural warranty expires. You’ll need to know if the warranty is transferable, most are not.
  • Major structural defect is often defined as something that, in the eyes of codes officials, renders the home unfit for habitation. It happens, but it is pretty rare.

When selecting a builder, give weight accordingly to the terms and time frames of the warranty.

Is warranty handled in house or by a third party?

Like most things in life, there are benefits and drawbacks to each method of handling the builder warranty.  Find out how the process works with each builder you’re interested in.  The main thing here is that you are comfortable with the system they have put in place.

Does the builder develop their own lots?

Sometimes, not always, if a builder has developed their own lots, they have a little more room to work when it comes to negotiating the price of the house.

Will the builder build on a lot you own?

There is no sense falling in love with a builder if they won’t build on the site you already own.

Can the builder build in another builder’s subdivision?

Often, homebuilders can negotiate buying a building lot from another builder or developer.  This will vary on many factors, including peer relationships and the economic times. If you like a lot that Builder C has and your preferred builder is Builder A, ask.

Summary of part 4

You need to ask questions to get information that will help you pick the right homebuilder

In Part 5: Check out the product and choose your homebuilder!

About Editor

I believe that by providing quality information we can to raise the bar of excellence within the homebuilding industry.

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