First off, good on you for doing your due diligence. Checking references is a very important step when choosing a custom home builder. Our past clients have spent a year or more building their dream home and will be ecstatic to talk to you about their build. They will know the answers to all the questions you may have.
Treat this like a little investigation. A new home build won’t come to life without a challenge here and there. So you want to find out how the builder communicated and resolved any issues. Get informed about your potential builder because, after all, you are going into a year or more long relationship, and you want to ensure you’re getting the best experience.
Like you, many of our past clients are successful people who lead busy and productive lives. They may not answer on the first call and may need to schedule an appointment, but from our experience, they will certainly be excited to talk to you. Be organized and know what you want from the reference check.
Let’s look at a few pointers you should touch on.
1. Budget and Change Orders
A professional builder will know the cost of your home to the penny. So if there was a variance in the budget this is what you need to know:
– Did they go over budget and how did it vary from the contract?
– Was it due to a selection choice? If so, did they have a detailed budget in place, including drawings and specs? For example, at the contract stage, we provide cabinet drawings and details along with a quotation. We use maple wood as our default selection for quoting purposes. However, during the design process, you may choose walnut for all the cabinetry, which would exceed the budget, requiring a change order.
– Was it due to a plan or site discrepancy? When something in the plans or on the site differs from the reality of what is feasible or physically located onsite, it’s considered a discrepancy. For example, in a past job, we encountered discrepancies with soils despite thorough testing before excavation. We discovered subpar soils below the surface, which had to be remediated before pouring footings. We communicated this to the client from the moment we knew and provided timely updates until we had a solution and resolution. However, it’s important to note that this resolution was not free.
– If there was an overage, was it handled in a timely manner with accurate information and pricing? Finding out that you owe money long after a selection is made is not a level of service you should expect from a professional builder. Overages should be communicated before any work begins.
2. Punctuality and Schedule
Every house has thousands of pieces that need to be ordered and installed. Building without a schedule would be a disaster. Consider the following:
– Was a schedule used for the build, and how closely was it followed? This will reveal the builder’s commitment and organizational skills. If the answer is “no,” it may be worth digging deeper into why. Was a change made that caused a delay, or did mother nature play a factor?
– Were meetings scheduled, and did the builder show up on time? Your time is valuable, and you don’t need to be chasing down your builder.
3. Client Care & Service
This is a very important part of a build. You want to be well looked after during the warranty period and ongoing service and maintenance.
– The availability of the home builder to answer questions and respond to reasonable warranty issues is an important indicator of their company’s long-term commitment to quality homes and customer satisfaction. Is the builder available, and how do they respond to requests for warranty and service?
These are the three main points I would bring up in an interview.
Additional points to consider include:
– Is the quality up to the standard you are looking for?
– Can changes be made along the way?
– Does this builder maintain a clean site?
– How was your overall experience?
No build or builder is going to be 100% perfect. You are searching for a Professional Builder to partner with, someone you can trust to build a quality home and offer you the best experience. Choose the builder that will work the hardest for you.