For most people, finding a custom home builder is not something they have a lot of experience in. So, we decided to put together the 6 most useful questions to ask any builder you meet with. Are there more questions? Sure. But, this is to help you get started and pertains to almost anyone. Even though we are primarily located in Canton Ga (and work in the surrounding counties), we think these are universal topics. Also, be sure to check out our post on Custom Homes: 4 Tips to Finding the Perfect Property.
6 Questions to Ask Your Custom Home Builder
- How long have you been in business?
- Are you licensed to build in Georgia? (Your Local Jurisdiction)
- Do you have any references I can call?
- Are you a cost-plus builder or a fixed-fee builder?
- How long will it take to build my home?
- Do you have both Workers’ Comp and General Liability?
Are You licensed to Build in Georgia? (Your Local Jurisdiction)
Up until 2008, there was no license available in the state of Georgia when it came to new home construction. If you could convince a bank that you were capable of building a home, then you had what you needed. However, a licensing board was formed in 2007 and regulated by the secretary of state’s office. The very first question that should always be asked of any contractor is: Are you licensed to work? Often times you will hear contractors say things like “licensed and insured”, but what they really mean is that they spent about 10 minutes down at the local government office and got a business license. While business licenses are important, it’s much more important to verify a contractor is able to properly pull the permits you will need for your project. It’s rare that a builder will try to skirt these laws when it comes to custom homes, but it does happen sometimes, so make sure to always ask for and receive a copy of the builder’s license. You can find your own copy by searching for it on the secretary of state’s site, but the search function is often confusing and hard to use.
How Long Have You Been in Business?
Just because a contractor has been in business for 20 years, doesn’t necessarily make him a great contractor, nor does being in business since last week, make him a terrible contractor. This question is important because you will want to be able to establish some sort of track record. Building a new home requires months of time and you want to make sure your builder has the stability to see the project through. As a general rule of thumb, if a contractor made it through the last recession without closing his doors, he most likely did something correctly. If your contractor sidesteps this question, you should dig a little deeper to see what’s going on. Fowler Homes has been incorporated since 2000.
Do You Have Both Workers’ Comp and General Liability?
Don’t just ask if a contractor is insured. Often times I come across contractors who tell me they are insured, but when it comes down to it, they have either Workers’ Comp or General Liability. To better understand why it’s important to ensure everyone working on your personal home has both General Liability and Workers’ Comp, I am going to tell you a fictional story. One day Johnny is working on some copper pipes in your basement. It’s hot outside and all of that heat has Johnny fatigued. Eventually, Johnny falls off the later and breaks his leg, but on the way down he also drops the torch he is using and manages to catch your home on fire. If the contractor has General Liability, you won’t have to worry about replacing your property, because the insurance company will cover the cost. However, if the contractor didn’t have Workers’ Comp, you are still in danger of being sued for Johnny’s personal injuries – which could get costly. So instead of asking your builder if he is insured, make sure to confirm he has both General Liability and Workers’ Comp.
How Long Will it Take to Build My New Home?
If you are going through the experience of building a custom home, you are most likely excited about the experience. But, being excited without realistic expectations of deadlines can be a disaster. This could be a difficult question for even the most experienced builder to answer without first seeing your plans and knowing the time of year you want to start your project. North Georgia doesn’t usually get cold enough during Winter to halt construction altogether, but the Winter of 2014 has set us back many days as we work around rain and unusual Winter storms. Make sure you get a general guideline from your builder. Typically, Fowler Homes suggests you plan on 4 to 6 months from grading to move-in.
How Do You Charge to Build a Custom Home?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but we will very briefly discuss the three most common methods builders use to price a home. Read our article that compares each method here.
- Cost Plus a Flat Free
- Cost Plus a Percentage
- Fixed Cost
You should ask this question to better understand what you are getting. At Fowler Homes we believe “Cost Plus a Flat Fee” offers the greatest transparency and flexibility when it comes to building a Custom Home, but over the years some customers prefer a “Fixed Cost” so they know the exact amount they will be paying. “Cost Plus a Percentage” is a third option, but not one we often use.
Do You Have Any References I Can Call?
Most homeowners might ask if a builder has references, but be sure to dig a little deeper and ask for references you can call and preferably references that are at least a few years old. Older references means that any potential problems have had plenty of time to be discovered and the honeymoon period that might come with a brand new home will have passed. If you have already picked out a plan, you might also ask for homes similar to the one you want to build. If you are looking to build a craftsman style or traditional ranch style home, but your builder has only dealt with modern homes found in Dwell Magazine, you might want to reconsider. For a few examples of homes we have built at Fowler Homes, be sure to check out our gallery or ask for examples that might match the home you are looking to build.
I realize this isn’t an exhaustive list of questions, but it should get you going on the right track. You might notice the trend of delving deeper with your questions, so don’t be afraid to ask for any relevant documentation. A reputable builder will never hesitate to give you all the required paperwork and references. Building a custom home is most likely going to be one of the biggest investments you’ve ever made, so make sure to thoroughly qualify your builder. If you are looking to build a home anywhere in North Georgia, Fowler Homes would be happy to answer any of your questions and to provide you with any information you may need. If you have any questions we haven’t covered here, give me a call at 770-744-5992 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also be sure to check out our other articles related to Custom Homes