If you’ve made the decision to buy a newly built home, your next choice could be the most important one of all: choosing a builder. If you plan to build a custom home, using plans from an architect or working with a design-build firm, you’ll need to carefully vet the builders who work in your area and who build the type of home you want. If you want a semi-custom home or a production home (one that is built from a set of floor plans that allow you to choose a few options), you’ll also need to learn all you can about the reputation of the builder, the quality of the homes the company builds and the price range and style of the homes.
Visiting numerous model homes can be one place to start to get a feel for the type of home you want and an understanding of different features and design elements. You can train yourself to recognize quality building materials and consult a real estate agent with experience selling new construction to help you.
Once you’ve identified a handful of builders that you think could meet your needs, it’s a good idea to do some online research to check for customer reviews or complaints. You should also talk to the builder’s sales representatives or the owner of the company if it’s a smaller builder to increase your knowledge. Not only will the answers themselves help you make a decision, but the responsiveness of the builder and communication style will help you narrow your choice to a builder you feel is trustworthy.
Interview questions for builders
As with any contractor you hire, your first questions should be the basic ones about whether the builder is licensed and insured – and whether any subcontractors are as well. You should also ask for references you can contact and examples of the builder’s work such as a model home or previously built homes that you can visit.
After the basics are answered, your initial questions are meant to find out about the builder’s experience and the quality you should expect:
- Tell me about your experience. How long have you been building homes? How did you get started as a builder?
- About how many homes do you build each year?
- Do you specialize in a particular style of home or a particular price range?
- What makes the homes you build different from homes built by other builders?
- Can you tell me about the energy-efficiency of the homes you build?
- Can you explain your construction technique?
- What kind of warranty do you provide?
- Do you work with preferred lenders and a preferred title company? Or can you recommend a lender familiar with buying and financing new construction?
- What should I expect after my home is built – will you be available if anything needs fixing in the first year?
Other questions you should ask are specific to the community where you intend to buy a home:
- How much personalization and customization do you offer? Do I have to use only your floor plans? Can those floor plans be modified?
- Do you have a list of your standard features?
- What is the selection process for optional features? When do I need to make those choices? Do I have unlimited options or do I need to select from a set of choices?
- When will I know the final price for the house?
- Are any changes possible after construction starts?
- Who will be my contact during construction? Can I see my house as it is being built? How often will I get updates on the progress?
- Can I hire my own home inspector? When can that person do an inspection?
- How long should I expect it to take before I can move in?
- Is there a homeowner’s association? Can you tell me about the rules I need to follow and fees I need to pay?
Interviewing a few builders before making a final decision is an essential step, particularly if you’ve never purchased a newly built home before. The more knowledge you gain, the wiser your decisions will be.