Questions to Ask Builders for Peace of Mind

Don’t you wish you knew what to ask before you made a huge investment? Well, building a home is a huge investment and we thought of some potential questions to ask your potential home builder. Your perceptions might change after you see the answers.

How can I pick the right builder?

You must have clear expectations of how your quality and finish needs will be met. The only clear way to know this is to talk to some of the builder’s current and past clients about how they were successfully able to interact with the builder.

Remember, the wrong builder for you may still have a good reputation and references. Personality of both the builder and the homeowner should be compatible. What kind of response do you get when talking with a builder about your dreams and expectations? If the builder is inquisitive and has helpful suggestions, this is a good sign that you may work well together. If the builder is disagreeable or seems frustrated, you may have the wrong person for the job.

Should I build a custom home or buy an already constructed home?

If building a home is the direction you want to go, it’s important to find a builder that, not only has a good reputation, but has an ability to understand what your expectations are, as well as guide you through the many stressful decisions that must be made. If a builder has a good reputation, good references, and homeowners willing to let you walk through their homes, this is usually a good sign.

If buying a home that is already constructed is a more comfortable choice, then tour homes and talk to buyers that live or have lived in the type of product you desire.

Do I need a lot before I start talking to a builder?

You don’t always need a lot before finding a builder, especially if you have a desired               location and are unwilling to compromise. However, a builder can be very helpful in             explaining reasons it may be more costly to build in certain areas and on certain                   properties. Some cities and incorporated areas can have requirements and guidelines           that can affect cost. Other properties can have features that impact cost like                             topography and unstable soils that can increase the cost of site work and                      foundations. Most of these types of costs add almost no value from the standpoint                 of appraised value, and cost can be hard or impossible to recoup. 

How long should we plan for obtaining funding, building permits and the actual construction?

These preliminary steps of seeking property, obtaining permits and                                        neighborhood/city approvals can be challenging and sometimes arduous. All of                      these steps can be very different depending on the buyer’s budget and financials, the               location of the home, and requirements of the banks and the entities that approve or             disapprove the proposed home

Once all approvals and agreements have been satisfied, the building process                              usually takes between four (4) and six (6) months for an average size home (1800-                  4500 sq. ft.), using common building materials and practices. Conditions, like                          weather and backorder of materials and supplies, can cause delays that neither the                 homeowner nor builder can control.

What do I need to consider when designing my new home?

You don’t need a design as much as you need a concept.

How many bedrooms and bathrooms?

What size garage and porch are desired? (This can greatly affect price, even though it’s not living area).

Where are you building, or hoping to build? You want to make sure you select a builder that is familiar with the area in which they’ll be working, and with the local subcontractors.

What square footage should I consider?

Square footage can be tricky. Some homeowners seem to think they need a specific number when it comes to square footage. It’s better to seek the rooms and sizes of rooms needed and to see if you can get what you need for less. Square footage is the most costly part of a home, and a creative designer or architect can usually keep wasted space to a minimum. Another consideration people overlook when considering square footage is non-A/C square footage. Porches and garages have a large effect on cost, even though they aren’t included in price per square foot when appraisals are done.

How does the builder charge? What considerations should I consider for budgeting?

This is one of the most precarious questions homebuyers ask, and it seems to be one that’s asked at the first meeting, or even before. Although, we understand people need a price, much like a compass needs a true north to be useful. If the answer is based on a guess made before specific expectations, desires and other possible challenges are explored, it can have a damaging and discouraging effect on the process and the buyer.

Be cautious of any contractor willing to give pricing without some plan review, and discussion with the homeowner, or a site visit in some cases.

A good estimate can give buyers a much more accurate idea of what the house they really expect will cost. This can be done in a relatively short time period and should start with a face-to-face meeting with the builder and a set of plans (which can be preliminary). This not only sets expectations, but it also gives each party a chance to get to know one another. This meeting is usually a synergistic atmosphere to ask questions and begin the relationship.

How can I reduce the stress of building a custom home?

Building a custom home is a rewarding process, but make no mistake, it can be stressful and it comes with challenges.

A custom home builder should be someone with whom you can build a relationship. Building a custom home is a commitment for both the builder and buyer, so personal service is a must and is what you should expect when working with a custom builder.

Building a custom home is, and should be, a creative process. Custom builders offer a chance to color outside the lines, and create a space you’re excited to live in.

A custom home builder can build where tract builders will not.

You have the opportunity to interact with, in most cases, a smaller company and usually directly with the company owner.

You can speak with past buyers and get an accurate expectation of how the builder handles, not only the construction process, but also warranty issues.

Where can I cut costs?

Cutting costs is a concern and effort that almost all homeowners encounter. Most                   homeowners work within a budget, which means deciding what is and isn’t a “must               have.”

The first place to look at when considering cutting cost is square footage. As mentioned before, square footage is the most costly component of building a home. Not just living square footage, but any covered concrete has a big impact on cost. These areas include garages, porches, porta cochere, etc. Remember, if your cost to build is $100 per square foot, and you take away 300 square feet, you cannot expect to reduce the cost by $100/sq. ft. Some of the contributing costs are appliances, plumbing, fixtures, water heaters, as well as some other items, and these costs do not change – even as square footage is reduced.

Be sure to consider the cost of the property on which you plan to build. This can have a big impact on costs, no matter what kind of home you build. Items like the quality of soil, topography, cost to bring infrastructure (water, power, sewer, etc.) to the land can add significant cost before you even break ground.

Other than the property and square footage, there aren’t many ways to significantly reduce costs. A buyer needs to consider, first, how much of a cost adjust needs to be made ($5,000 or $50,000 or more). Start by looking at allowances like appliances, floor covering, and how much trim and cabinet space will go in the home. A good builder can help and make recommendations to help a buyer stay on budget.

About Scott Gentry and S Gentry Homes,  Scott Gentry has been building homes since 1997. With the commitment he showed to his father’s business, with the grit it took to train as an athlete and with the creativity he harnesses as a musician, S. GENTRY Custom Homes are built with detailed design, strength and inspiration.


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