Selecting Your Home Builder – Part 3

In the previous two posts I discussed how to carefully narrow the field of available home builders down to a short list of 3-5, then down to two final candidates. This final post in the “Selecting Your Home Builder” series will cover how to interview your top two choices for your home builder in order to make your final selection.

You are probably thinking, ‘Wow, this is a long process!’ And you are right. If you really do your homework, this will take some time up front. However, do keep in mind that a carefully chosen home builder will reward you with an enjoyable home building experience and a beautiful, well built home to enjoy forever – while a poor choice will result in nothing but a stressful process and headaches for many years to come.

Why Should I Interview My Top Two Home Builders?

The reasons to personally interview a builder can be thought of in two basic categories.

  1. The first is to ask technical and logistical questions to understand how a builder approaches a home building project.
  2. The second is to gain a sense of your trust in the builder and their ability to work with you and not just for you.

Home Builder Interview Sheet

For your convenience I have provided another interview sheet to help you organize the home builder interview process. Download this form to help guide you through each builder interview.

Schedule the Interviews

When you call each builder to set up your meetings, take note of how responsive they are to your call.

  • Was their office staff friendly and helpful?
  • Did the home builder personally call you back to arrange the meeting?
  • How flexible were they about when and where you would like to meet?
    • Remember, you will have many meetings during construction of your new home and the builder should be flexible to try and accommodate your schedule, not theirs.

Getting Started

Begin the interview by introducing yourself and describing the general needs of your new home. There is no need to go into specifics here, something simple such as:

  • “We are looking to build a four bedroom/3 bathroom home around (some general area of your town) and I would like to ask you a few questions.”

Then, explain the process you have already taken of narrowing your builder candidates and researching their past clients.

  • Be sure to note their reaction to this process. A quality home builder will applauded your efforts and should show no sign of irritation that they are being scrutinized.

What to Ask

Begin your questioning by asking the builder about their past training and experience.

  • How did they learn to build homes?
  • How long have they been building?
  • Have they worked for/with other home builders? In other industry related fields?
  • Have they ever had any other careers – past or present?
  • Are they a full-time home builder? Or do they have another job?

Next, ask about their philosophy of home building and their process with new clients. Ask specifically:

  • What is their home building philosophy?
  • How much personal supervision of the project does the home builder perform?
  • Do they use superintendents?
    • (A superintendent is someone responsible for running the day-to-day operations on the construction site and controlling the short-term schedule. The role of the superintendent also includes important quality control and subcontractor coordination responsibilities. Some home builders use superintendents while others personally serve this role for each project.)
  • If so, how are they used?
  • How much experience and training do they (the superintendents) have?
  • How long has the superintendent been with the home builder?
  • How are they paid? Salary only? Or do they get a bonus percentage of dollars saved off the original project budget?
    • Important Tip: This is a common arrangement for a home builder to have with their superintendent on contract jobs. The problem with this is often times the superintendent will take short cuts during construction to increase his bonus. This is clearly not in the client’s best interest, so it is something to be aware of.

Ask about their productivity. This will give you some insight into the level of personal attention your builder will be able to give your home.

  • How many houses do they typically build in a year?
  • How many projects (new homes and/or remodeling projects) are underway now?
  • Are there any projects already planned for that would coincide with yours?

Then, inquire about current and past client relationships. Since the builder-client relationship is SO important, be sure to take some time with these questions. (Note, you will also be able to compare to the reference lists you gathered previously and your past client interview sheets.)

  • Do you feel you build strong relationships with your clients?
  • Have you received referral business from past clients? If so, how many?
  • Are there any previous clients you don’t want me to speak with? Why?
  • Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit? Why and what was the resolution?”

These may be difficult questions to ask and answer, but an honest builder’s candor will shine through here. Be upfront and direct and carefully watch their body language and response.

Do keep in mind that home builders are human and everyone makes mistakes. Your goal is to learn as much as possible while trying to gauge your level of trust with each home builder. The fact that they may have had a past lawsuit or a previous client relationship that wasn’t perfect isn’t the most important thing to you; it’s how they handled the situation that’s important. An honest and respected home builder will feel comfortable explaining the situation, and how he resolved it. If this topic is avoided, it may be cause for concern.

Finally, ask about what type of warranty they provide and have them give examples of repairs that have come up from previous clients.

  • Building a home is a complex process, be wary of the answer “we never had any warranty problems”.

Selecting Your Home Builder

At the end of the interviews, you will hopefully have a sense of chemistry or rapport with the builders. The importance of this chemistry can’t be emphasized enough. You will be working very closely with this person as a team throughout the home building process. So, if you are having difficulty connecting personally with the home builder, it may be a warning sign. Your ultimate decision of who will build your new home comes down to trust – something that you can not put a price on.

Having completed your research, review all your reference interview sheets and your notes from your in-person home builder interviews. Consider the chemistry you had with each builder and weigh your options.

Congratulations! You should now be able to confidently select the right home builder for your new home. Let the excitement of creating your new home begin!

I sincerely hope these past few blog posts have provided you with lots of helpful information that will assist you with this important step in the process. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. – Carl

(NOTE: If after interviewing your original top two candidates you are still undecided, you should then take the time to interview the next one or two on your short list. Don’t be afraid to “be picky” with your selection. Remember, this is THE most important step of the entire home building process.)