Essential Questions to Ask a Builder Before Hiring Them
Finding contractors to build custom homes in today’s hyper-competitive and extremely busy building contractor market can be difficult. Whether you’re looking to make some amazing upgrades to your existing structure or build a brand new home from scratch, we know that hiring a contractor can be daunting, and you don’t want to make a wrong decision and get burned with poor construction or unfinished work.
While doing things yourself may be the cheapest way to build a house, it isn’t necessarily always possible to do so. Not only will home insurance companies require that your work is, at the very least, signed off by a professional, but you may not be able to do certain things yourself, per home insurance and home construction regulations set by the Government.
For this reason, you’ll want to be careful and studious when selecting a contractor. Ensure they pass a “builder background check” and demonstrate their portfolio of successful builds. You’ll want to build a list of contractor evaluation criteria and a list of builder interview questions to ask each potential company that could work on your new home before you undertake the high cost of hiring a contractor to build a house.
You want to find the right contractor for your home the first time, rather than having to deal with a disaster and find a different contractor to fix the mistakes of the first contract and then carry on their unfinished building.
Here are a few questions to ask a home builder before hiring them to work on your new property.
While the adage says that “any idiot can build a bridge that stands,” building a durable, well-built home from sustainably sourced materials takes time, skill, training, education and a breadth of experience. This also requires contractors and subcontractors to be licensed to perform the tasks they’re hired and paid for.
In law, tradespeople are licensed by federal and state governments. While the exact legislation varies from state to state, New South Wales covers most contractor undertakings under the Home Building Act of 1989. When selecting a contractor, ask to see their license and other qualifications, including their educational degrees. You’re not being snoopy by asking. You ensure that the person tasked with building your home is qualified and licensed.
You must do your research when selecting a contractor. Don’t be afraid to shop around and get different quotes from contractors to design and build your custom home. Review their websites when hiring a home builder as part of your research. Ask questions directly to the people whose homes they’ve built in your local area. Check their written reviews on Google or their website’s testimonial page.
While many contractors aren’t so involved in social media, if the contractor has one, check and see how it looks. You are not obligated to hire any contractor that doesn’t cut the proverbial mustard. Suppose something feels off about the contractor during your home contractor background check. Either they don’t have their qualifications listed, or they are unverifiable, they don’t have an easily accessible portfolio or a website with zero customer testimonials, or you just have a bad feeling – run!
Usually, builders and architects get on like houses on fire and enjoy a mutually beneficial working relationship. Asking your builder if they are available to answer any questions your architect may have and can work with your chosen architect can save you money during your build.
When hiring a general contractor to build a house, ask if they would work with your chosen architect. Equally, ask the architect if they’re willing to consult with your builder team occasionally as the need arises.
Perhaps you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the funds to rebuild an entire home from scratch. Despite knockdown-rebuilds‘ popularity for older houses, sometimes this isn’t within your budget. Ask your chosen builder if they’re experienced in remodelling and knockdown rebuilds. If so, you may be able to utilise their skills and save money by remodelling a more environmentally friendly home in the shell of an older building. Remodelling rather than ‘knockdown rebuild’ is the cheapest way to buy a house.
As always, one of the most important questions is, ‘How much will this cost me?’ Your builder background check should include asking your builder to provide a detailed estimate of how much it will cost to build your new home.
These costs should be thorough and well laid out in an easy-to-understand spreadsheet or proposal document. They should align with the rough estimates for home-building costs in 2023. If these costs are exorbitantly higher than the national average, you may decide not to proceed. Alternatively, if these costs are much lower than the national average, it may mean that the builder’s suppliers aren’t giving them high-quality products. In any case, your builder’s quote for materials and costs should more-or-less align with the national average.
Some builders pride themselves on their use of sustainable building practices. These builders use sustainably sourced materials like native timbers or re-purposed and re-furbished framing timber. Sometimes, they employ specialty subcontractors like passive design specialists to design homes based on passive design principles. Additionally, these builders may offer solar panel installation and work with your architect to guarantee optimal energy efficiency once the home is completed.
Not only are you asking this question to get an idea of how long your proposed build will take, but you’re also asking this to gauge the builder’s honesty and integrity. Check which builds within the builder’s portfolio match your own and how long (roughly) it took to complete. If you have this information going into your conversation and they undercut that timeframe massively or state that it will take a good deal longer than similar builds, they’re likely not worth your time or money.
Sometimes, things happen, and a build goes well over it’s projected completion time. This is particularly true during the present-day material and labour shortages. So, be sure to allow for such events periodically, but it should not be a recurring theme throughout your builder’s portfolio.
While DIY’ing certain things in the home is normal and perfectly acceptable. It is the cheapest way to build a home, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you save tremendous amounts of money if you make mistakes during the build or can’t get insurance on the property because certain things weren’t done per the law or building codes.
Hiring a general contractor to build a house may be your best bet if you’re looking for a barebones, simple home. However, you’ll need to hire a remodelling contractor if you’re looking to refurbish an existing home.
Hiring a custom home builder with good reviews, a decent portfolio, an honest approach to their profession and a knack for sustainable building practices is your best bet to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences of DIY-done-wrong.
When getting a quote from your builder for selecting a contractor, you’ll need to look for several things as part of the quoting process.
● Good communication is a must. When getting a quote from your prospective builder, ensure that all communication is documented (emails, text messages, etc., should be saved and logged). This will give you a physical record of estimates in case of a later dispute about charges.
● The builder should align their project evaluation with the current costs of home building in 2023 on top of their profits. The quote should contain their letterhead, contact information and a detailed list of costs and materials used.
● If you have an issue with a material listed in the builder’s quote, they should suggest an alternative material that may perform the same function but lower your cost. They should make every effort to use good-quality but sustainable materials.
● Builders should be available for questions and amenable to price adjustments based on new materials you may have sourced for the build. For example, they should be amenable to changing the quote if you find a cheaper but reasonable alternative to their proposed lumber or roofing materials.
If you’ve been having trouble selecting a contractor for your home build, consider contacting Provincial Homes – New South Wales’ experts in building sustainable, beautiful family homes. An open and welcoming building company that is available for any of your questions.