What to Ask a Home Builder
Are you wondering what questions to ask a home builder? The possibility of owning a brand new home has obvious appeal. Many new home buyers can get the home customized, making the property even more desirable.
Additionally, with a new home, you don’t have to worry about all the problems that come with older homes – right?
Not really. In reality, there are many things you need to be aware of when buying a new home, some of the issues that are unique to new construction.
For this reason, I will tackle the most important questions to ask a home builder when buying new construction!
First and foremost, it is important to have a real estate agent representing you when buying new construction to help you ensure that you ask all the right questions.
An excellent agent will be with you every step of the way from the first meeting to the closing. Buying a new construction home is much different than purchasing a resale.
As amazing as it can be to own a new home, it can be equally frustrating to discover that the home of your dreams doesn’t come close to meeting your expectations.
A Good Builder Makes a Huge Difference
Having been a real estate agent for the past thirty-five years helps with my perspective on guiding home buyers on purchasing new construction. Even more importantly, I grew up in a building family. My father, Ted Gassett, was a well-respected reputable builder for many years.
One of my passions has always been selling new homes. As such, I have represented numerous professional builders over the years.
From experience, I can say wholeheartedly that there is a broad range of builders in quality, performance, and communications skills. An experienced builder can make a significant difference in having the construction process go smoothly. You certainly want the right builder to increase your chances of being a happy camper.
Given the variation in home builders, it is imperative to ask all the key questions when buying a new home! Below you will see my suggestions on what to ask the builder before you sign a purchase contract. Use these tips for buying a new home to make sound decisions!
If you are a builder looking for a real estate agent who knows new construction inside and out in the Metrowest Massachusetts area or a buyer who needs a Realtor, please reach out.
21 Questions – What To Ask When Buying A New Home
1. Who is the Builder, and What is Their Reputation? How Long Have They Been Building?
When looking for a potential home builder, the first step will be doing some general reconnaissance. In order to ensure the home building process goes well, you’ll want to vet the potential builder. The chances of the construction process going off track can happen quickly when you don’t have a good home builder.
The abilities and experience of the builder will have a significant impact on the quality of the final product. You are spending a lot of money, so you deserve a well-built home. Ask around and talk to several different recent buyers, and maybe even a few other builders or related contractors in the area that will know the work of the home builder you are considering.
Understanding the builder’s reputation is one of the most important factors before committing to them.
An important tip when buying a new home:
Take a stab at using Google. Search both the builder’s name and their company name. It would be best if you were looking for any negative reviews or other news that may put into question your decision to build with them.
It might also be wise to ask the home builder for a list of references. Speaking with previous clients is never a bad idea. Researching the builder’s qualification is a crucial part of due diligence.
2. What Type of Homes Do They Typically Build?
Different builders specialize in various types of construction. It makes sense to choose a custom builder with a proven ability to build the kind of home you want.
For example, if the builder typically builds economy homes and all of a sudden jumps into selling luxury homes, this is something you may want to think twice about. There is so much that goes into building a luxury home.
If you are building a specific style of home, you’ll want a builder who is familiar with the type of home design you’re looking for. Building homes come with many variations. For the right home builder, it will be second nature.
Building an economy home vs. a luxury property is night and day!
3. Does The Builder Have Model Homes to Look At?
Another important question to ask a builder is whether they have properties you can look at right now.
It can be helpful to visit homes they are currently building to see the design process they use. At the very least, you should look at homes they have already completed to see what the final product looks like.
Checking out other existing projects allows you to explore the builder’s craftsmanship. Do they offer the floor plan you like?
What type of products do they use? What is the level of detail? How neat do they keep their worksites? Does pride show in their work? These are good questions to get answered when building a new home.
Model homes usually will showcase standard features, upgrades, and the builder’s best work.
If the builder does not have a model home at the moment, you should ask for some completed project addresses to visit.
4. Who Oversees The construction and Can Answer My Questions Once The Building Starts?
Just because the company owner is experienced and capable does not mean the employees working on your home will be equally capable. There is nothing wrong with asking a few questions about who will be in charge of the building of your home.
You also want to get their contact information so you can ask questions when you need to. Lots of builders, however, may not give you their phone number. Most will not take phone calls from a customer.
You will be required to direct all the questions and issues through their real estate agent, sales representative, or building supervisor.
If the building company you are hiring is a large one, it is almost a certainty they will have someone overseeing the day-to-day operation of their building projects. Many larger builders will have a project manager.
If this doesn’t sound appealing, you’ll probably need to look for a different builder. It might not be the right fit.
5. Are There Any Special Financing Incentives For The Project?
Many times new home builders will offer special financing to entice buyers. But if you don’t ask about the specials, you may not learn about them.
Some special financing packages are really worth looking into. For example, the builder might offer one of the following incentives:
- A lower interest rate than the going rate you will find at other lenders.
- An extended rate lock at no charge. It can often take months to finish the construction when doing a new build, especially if you are custom building. Lenders typically will only lock a rate for 6-8 weeks before they will charge you significant additional fees. Having an extended rate lock when building a new home is a nice perk.
Another important question to always ask right away is whether you will be required to get your own construction loan or if the builder will be doing the financing.
6. What Are The Standard Features in The homes, and What Are The Extras?
Another great question to ask a home builder is what will come standard with the home.
Every home builder includes standard features in each home built while offering extras that cost more. Much like buying a car, you want to find out what is standard and what is extra. The scope of what is included and what isn’t is one of the most important questions to ask when buying a new home. The base price may not include many of the things you really want in a home.
The builder should have a thorough “specifications” sheet detailing everything that comes standard with your new home. The builder will often have a pre-determined upgrades list that allows you to pick and choose what you would like added to the home and at what cost.
With new home construction, you can run up a significant bill pretty quickly.
7. Will I Have The Opportunity to Make Additional Upgrades Once The Construction Has Started?
You may think this is a strange question, but it isn’t. Of all the questions to ask a home builder, this could be one of the more critical. It is a big undertaking for some smaller builders to be making changes constantly.
There are a lot of decisions to be made and builders like them done upfront. Many custom home builders will have the selection process finished before construction starts.
Building a home takes time. There is a possibility that you will decide later that you want additional features. It can be helpful to know that you can request upgrades after the builder has started on the home. Some builders will not allow changes to be made after they start construction.
Having this information obviously will be very important. Builders that are flexible with upgrades are also an important consideration. Can you imagine building a custom home where you have decided to change the family room from carpet to hardwood, and the builder says sorry too late?
Finding out a builder’s flexibility is a critical question to ask them. The best builder will usually allow for changes in a new custom home.
8. How often and when will I be allowed to tour the home once construction has started?
You should be able to tour the home periodically during construction. However, you most likely won’t be able to wander the work site whenever you like. Talk with the builder to determine when and how often you can tour the home while being built.
Some builders will be very restrictive when it comes to site visits. It would be best if you asked the question upfront on how often you will be able to visit your home. After all, you are spending a lot of money and, of course, will be excited to watch the progress.
9. How Long Will My Home Take to Build and What Happens if You Don’t Make The Date?
Another key question to ask a builder is their expected time frame for completion from offer to closing.
The builder should have a good idea of how long it will take to build your home and be willing to explain what will happen if that date is not met.
As the buyer, you will need to be somewhat flexible – no one knows exactly what the weather will do in the months ahead – but you have the right to a clear estimate.
The builder’s policy on completion date is one of the most important questions you can ask when buying new construction. Some builders have a fantastic reputation for delivering their products on time, and others are downright awful!
You want to have a strong grasp of how closing date issues will work especially if you are buying and selling a home simultaneously. Missing delivery times is one of the biggest complaints against builders.
Trust me; if the builder doesn’t deliver on time, you will be able to find out. The builder’s reputation will already be suffering for it. The builder should be able to give you a general idea of how far off they will be.
10. Do You Offer Any Energy-Saving Features in Your Homes?
A well-built new home should include several different energy-saving features. The various technologies related to energy-saving materials and features in new homes have come a long way and continue to improve year by year.
Make sure you are getting features that will save you money and reduce your impact on the environment.
One of the hottest trends in building houses is making the home energy efficient. Look for energy star products supplied by the builder. More builders are building with 2×6 walls vs. 2×4 walls for the added benefit of additional insulation.
Having energy-saving features is a great way of increasing property values. The best way is to add them upfront.
11. Are There Any Differences in Cost For The Lots?
You will probably have several different lot options. Keep in mind that different lots may have different price tags. You may want to save money with a less desirable lot or get a lot that costs a little more and puts you where you want to be in the neighborhood.
The builder may have acre lots they charge more for than a half-acre lot.
Make sure, however, that you look over the lot premium carefully. The lot premiums builders often assign to their lots do not translate to the value when it comes time to sell. You want a good location but not at the expense of overpaying.
Some of the valid reasoning for charging a lot premium include:
- A lot with a walk-out basement which is more valuable given you can have a beautiful living space with natural light.
- A better location within the neighborhood or subdivision.
- A larger, flatter, or more usable lot.
12. Is There a List of Vendors I Will Need to Meet With?
The home builder will use different vendors for different aspects of the home. If you need to meet them, it will be helpful to know about it. You should find out up-front who the vendors are and where their businesses are located.
These are the locations where you will be picking out your selections unless the builder has them on site.
13. When Do Extras Have to be Paid? Upfront or at Closing?
Sometimes you have to pay for extras upfront. Avoid the unpleasant surprise of an expensive bill early on by asking ahead of time. Sound financial planning entails asking the builder how they collect their monies for extras.
Some will require all of it paid upfront. Some will allow you to pay at closing, and others may ask for half payment.
14. If Building in The Winter, How Will The Landscaping and The Completion of The Driveway be Handled?
Landscaping and pouring the driveway often require waiting until warmer weather. Get the schedule in writing so you know it will be taken care of. Your lender will often require a “hold-back” of funds, ensuring that the work gets completed.
If a holdback is needed because of winter weather, you need to find out if the builder will cover this or require you to front the funds in the event of a hold-back.
15. How Quickly Will Punch List Items Be Completed After The Final Walk-Through?
You may discover on the final walk-through that some things are missing from your home, either due to a mistake or other issues.
It will be essential to make sure that the builder will promptly take care of the problems so you can fully enjoy your new home as quickly as possible. You should make sure you get in writing the completion schedule of the builder.
If a major item hasn’t been completed or is on backorder, it makes sense to ask the builder for a holdback of funds to ensure these things will be finalized.
16. Does The Home Come With a Builder’s Warranty?
One of the most important questions you can ask when buying new construction is what type of warranty is included. The warranty offered can vary quite a bit from builder to builder. A builder’s warranty provides peace of mind, particularly when it comes from the builder.
The best builders will have a warranty program in place. If something breaks early on, you want to know it will be fixed. The typical length of many warranty contracts is a year for all the major components in the home.
Builders with a good reputation for building custom homes never have a problem with warranties for their work. It would be a major red flag if there was no warranty for a new home project.
17. Does The Home Builder Have Appropriate Insurance?
Having proof of insurance when building with a prospective home builder is important. You will want to make sure there is general liability insurance, as well as worker’s compensation coverage. Anyone working on the job site should have insurance as well.
18. Will I Be Able to Have a Home Inspection When The building is Completed?
You should be able to have the home inspected when it is completed. A builder, however, is not going to allow you to make your sale contingent on a home inspection. Doing so would be entirely unrealistic.
While it is a common contingency in resale homes, it is not in new construction.
The builder will not construct a custom-built home only to allow you an escape clause the week of closing. The home inspection should be for informational purposes only.
Picking a professional home inspector, unaffiliated with the builder, will verify that the home is built to current standards. Find your own inspector instead of using one recommended by the builder.
Your agent should be able to help you find a dependable independent home inspector. Remember that the home will need to be approved by all the various city inspectors in major cities and towns.
More often than not, a home inspection will be more for learning about the major components than anything else.
19. Are There Any Protective Covenants For The Neighborhood?
A neighborhood of new homes should have some protective covenants to preserve the value of the properties. You will need to know the covenants that will affect both you and your neighbors.
For example, some of the more common protective covenants will be things like:
- You can’t raise livestock on the property.
- Storing commercial vehicles like a camper in your front yard is prohibited.
- You will not be able to dramatically alter the appearance of the home without prior approval. This might include the paint color.
Keep in mind there can be a distinction between the words “protective” and “restrictive” You want to make sure you’re not buying into a neighborhood where you will not be able to do what you want to your home!
20. Will There Be Any Homeowner’s Association?
If you are part of a homeowner’s association, you certainly want to know about it. The HOA will be responsible for enforcing the rules that are supposed to protect the value of your property and the quality of life in the neighborhood. The quality of your HOA is important because a bad HOA experience can make life much more challenging than it has to be.
21. Can I Speak With Some of Your Past Customers?
The last of the questions to ask a home builder is whether you can get some references from past clients.
Talking with past clients is important so you can get a clear picture of what it’s like to be a customer. Make sure you talk with at least two or three past clients before you commit to buying from the builder.
Most people who have built a custom home with a particular builder will speak freely, good or bad, about their experience. You should be able to get a fairly open dialog on the builder’s quality of work.
Final Recap on Questions to Ask When Building a House
As you can see, there are many important questions to ask when buying a new house. Building a new home can be an exciting process or your worst nightmare, depending on the builder you choose.
Take it from someone who has represented over twenty-five builders over their career. Builders come with all types of skill sets. Do your homework in advance, and more than likely, you’ll avoid most of the hassles found in new construction.
The best-laid plans can quickly go awry with a new construction home. Hopefully, you have enjoyed these questions to ask a new home builder.
Additional Helpful Resources
- Should I have my own agent when buying a new home – see why having your own representative is key when buying from a builder.
- What to know about modular homes via Maximum Real Estate Exposure.
- How is buying a new home different – understand the differences between buying a new build vs. a resale home.
- What to think about when buying a new property – there are many considerations to think about when buying a new house. See what some of the more important ones.
- Do builders use special contracts – learn what you need to know about builder’s contracts.
Use these additional resources to make sound decisions when you are buying a new construction home!
About the Author: The above Real Estate information on the questions to ask a home builder was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 34+ Years.
Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and would love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate Sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton, and Uxbridge MA.