Critical Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home Builder
New construction has been a great option for many homebuyers in the St. Louis area who are looking for their perfect property. Buyers turn to new construction for a myriad of reasons. Nevertheless, once you decide you want to build new, choosing your builder is one of the most important decisions that you will make in the process. We recommend that you interview multiple builders with homes in your ideal areas so that you can find the right match for you. However, unless you know the business, or have built a home before, it can be difficult to know just what to expect and therefore what to even ask these builders during these interviews. To help with this, we have put together a list of some critical questions you should ask when choosing a home builder.
1. How many years have you been in business?
You want to ensure you are using a skilled and experienced builder for the best quality home. After all, this is probably your biggest investment. Ask the home builders you are considering about their years in business, number of homes they have built, etc.
When you work with a company that is stable, reputable and has been in business for a while, you can have confidence that they will still be around to stand by their work and honor any warranties they may have issued years down the road.
2. Are you willing to provide testimonials or past client references?
Reviews and testimonials are a great way to get a feel for the quality of work that a builder does and what sort of reputation they have within the community. Just like when you check reviews on any other product you consider purchasing, it is a great idea to do the same when it comes to home builders. Do not be afraid to ask for references from past clients of the builder who you can contact to ask about their experience. This is a good way to get an opinion that is as unbiased as possible. Check the builder’s reviews online, including the BBB if they are a part of it.
Keep in mind that, like anything, not all reviews are going to be glowing. Don’t be scared off by a couple of negative reviews, as it is common that all businesses have some. If you see major evidence of happy customers through both online reviews, conversations with past clients, and around the new communities themselves, trust that their experience will be a positive one. It is also a great idea to check with any family, friends, or acquaintances who have used the builder before to hear about their experiences.
3. Are you fully licensed (if required) and insured?
Some states require home builders to be licensed and some do not. At the time of this article’s writing, Missouri does not require a license. So, if you are looking for home builders in the St. Louis area, do not be surprised if the builder answers no to this question. It is best, however, to look for a builder who is fully insured, as this ensures that you will be covered if certain situations arise.
4. Where are your display homes located? If you don't have any, can I tour a home you built for another customer?
When builders develop a new neighborhood, they will often have a display home in that neighborhood that potential buyers can tour. If not, ask the builder if you might be able to view a similar display home in another neighborhood or one that they built for another customer.
5. How long will the building take?
The builder should be able to give you an idea of how long the building process will take. This will allow you to plan for lending and sale of your current home if needed.
Keep in mind that this can, and often does, change as the building process goes on. Things like supply chain delays and weather can often affect the project timeline. In these instances, you will want a builder who will keep you in the loop if any delays arise.
6. What warranties are provided with the house?
Find out exactly what warranties will be provided with the home, and how long they are good for. Once you build, make sure you keep any paperwork pertaining to these warranties and that you understand the process for making a claim if needed.
7. Is the lot cost included?
If you are building on the builder’s land or lot, you should ask if the lot cost is included in any pricing they give you. Lots can get expensive and you don’t want any surprises down the road.
8. What are the standard finishes?
You should have a good understanding of what comes standard with the home you choose. Now this question can be tricky since it often varies from home to home. This includes things like walls, insulation, roofing, windows, garage doors, etc. Understanding what comes in the base prices will allow you to consider in your budget any upgrades you may want to make.
Additional costs can often catch buyers by surprise, especially if they haven’t built a new home before. Things like light fixtures, landscaping, blinds, appliances, and more can all come with additional fees. Make sure you ask plenty of questions and clarify with your builder exactly what is included and what is not so you can account for everything in your final budget.
9. What options and upgrades can I choose from?
Typically, the base price of a new home will include the basic finishes, with options to make certain upgrades for an additional fee. Ask the builder what upgrades may be available ahead of time so you will know what to be prepared for. One of the big reasons people choose new construction is for the ability to customize their home to their liking, so it is best to ensure the builder will allow you to choose the options you are hoping for.
10. Are you open to customizations?
Some builders will allow for customizations to their floor plans and some will not. Make sure you know ahead of time so you can factor this into your decision.
11. Can I bring my own materials or appliances, and if so, will I get credits or discounts?
While builders will typically have many options for materials and appliances to choose from, you may feel like you want to bring or supply something of your own. Not all builders allow this, so ask this question ahead of time. If they do allow it, find out if you will be provided with any credits or discounts for doing so.
12. Is landscaping included?
You should have a good understanding of exactly what is included in the price you are given. Don’t forget about landscaping and your lawn. It is easy to focus on the house itself, but the outside is just as important. Will the builder put down grass seed and straw? Is laying sod an option and how much more will it cost? Does this include the entire yard or only part of it? As we have mentioned many times, make sure you are clear on what is being included in your build and what additional items may need to be added so you do not miss anything.
13. What are your home's energy-saving features?
A great benefit to building a new home is being able to get the latest in energy-saving technology. Ask your builder to share specific energy-saving features that are included in the base prices, as well as what the upgrade options may be.
14. Does the contract include a cost escalation clause?
A cost escalation clause is a part of a contract that allows for adjustments in the cost of the build to account for fluctuations in the cost of raw materials and labor. It is common for the price of materials to change over time, and sometimes within the timeline of the build. Some builders may write into the contract the ability to adjust their fees based on those fluctuating costs. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what the contract says, so you don’t have any surprises when it comes to the final price of the home.
15. Are there any homeowners rules or regulations (HOA)?
It is important to know, especially if you are building in a neighborhood, if there is an HOA or similar authority. These authorities often have their own set of rules that dictate anything from the type of fence you can have to how many cars can be parked outside your home. While there is definitely value in having an HOA, not everyone prefers them, so knowing ahead of time and making sure the neighborhood fits your preferences is best.
16. Are there any financial incentives for using the builder's preferred lender?
Some builders may provide financial incentives if you use their preferred lender. Ask ahead of time, so you can cash in on these incentives if possible.
17. How often will I have access to the home during the building process?
One of the exciting things about building a new home is seeing the process. Most people who build new want to visit the home and see the progress as construction moves along. You should ask your builder how often you will be able to access the home while it is being built.
18. How will you stay in contact with me during the construction process?
You will want to know how the builder will communicate with you throughout the process, especially when delays and complications arise. Ask your builder how they will keep you up to date throughout the process and make sure they have a good communication plan.
19. What will be the process when complications arise?
Complications and delays are common in new construction, so don’t be too concerned when something pops up. You want a builder who will handle any problems or delays promptly and be open and clear with you about what is going on. You should ask the builder ahead of time how they handle any complications and how they will communicate these to you throughout the process.
20. What is your inspection/quality assurance process?
You want to know that a builder is overseeing the construction of your home every step of the way to ensure all steps are completed properly and thoroughly since it is common for contractors and subcontractors to be used. Ask the builder how often and when the home will be inspected throughout the build process and what quality assurance steps are taken.
You may also consider hiring your own Inspector to give a 3rd party evaluation. Find out if the builder allows this.
Choosing new construction for your next home is an exciting, but often overwhelming process. The more you are empowered with information and understanding from the beginning, the better you will feel.
Because of the large volume of business that The Chad Wilson Group does each year and the solid working relationships we have with area builders, the team is superbly equipped to advocate and represent you in the home-building process. From picking your subdivision and lot to which floorplan, structural options, and cosmetic upgrades you choose, we have the experience and market knowledge to help you make wise decisions. We can help you weigh options to determine which are vital for future resale, and which options are current trends. The best part? We do not charge a fee to represent you, as the sales commission is paid for by the builder.
Do you have questions about the new construction process, or are you ready to get started on your custom dream home? Contact us today or fill out the form below!