How To Choose a Home Builder: List of Questions to Ask Builder

Dawn KruegerHome Construction

checklist of questions to choose a home builder

Building a custom luxury home has its demands. This is true, also for home renovation in the Bethesda, and greater Washington DC area, where historic homes require exquisite attention to detail. The process is often fraught with issues, particularly concerning communication. However, the top builders in Bethesda and the greater DC area know that communication is key to meeting every expectation from a client. Often clients interview several builders before choosing one that understands individual criteria. However, customer may not know the questions to ask. So here is a comprehensive list of construction questions to help choose a home builder.

Take emotion out of the equation when hiring a home construction company. Clients are excited, hopeful and ready to see the culmination of a lifetime of work in a luxury dream home. This is an interview process, similar to employment, and should be treated with objectivity, and high detail. And as happy as we are that you are on our website – Buyers should not rely on the internet alone for accurate information. Google can be helpful, but remember, Google is like writing on a bathroom wall. Anyone can post information, good or bad, with little oversight. Check multiple sources and reviews about your potential builder.

It’s necessary to do preliminary research online, but then, conduct face-to-face meetings with builders. Not everyone is compatible. Personalities can clash, so it’s integral to find a builder that “gels” with unique family personalities. Buyers should formulate a spreadsheet or list of expectations with specific design elements prior to meeting with any builder. Also, if the buyer does not yet own a lot, they will need to choose a location or purchase a tear down home or lot that meets their needs.

Buyers should make a spreadsheet or list of expectations prior to meeting with a builder. Click To Tweet

Initial contact questions for home contractor:

  • Ask the obvious general resume information. How long in business, licenses, BBB ratings, styles and design aspects. Does the builder do construction on personal lots aside from their own pre-purchased land?
  • List of vendors used. Those wishing for more opulence in their design may opt to use alternate vendors. Does the builder offer a credit if they are not providing these options? Is there an option for individual customer selection of lighting, flooring, cabinetry and counter top contractors?
  • Clients may wish for a more “clean-energy” build. Does the builder work with these elements and/or provide vendor information for such. How much experience do they have in this area?
  • Does the builder have any “spec” homes or homes currently in build progress to visit? This helps a buyer see, not only the materials and quality of the “guts” of a home, but also to speak with vendors, sub-contractors and site supervisors. The level of team-work and job satisfaction for the “subs” cannot be overstated.
  • Does the builder have experience providing a customer’s desired amenities? For example, have they built pools, workshops or in-law quarters, in-home spas, wine cellars or fitness areas?
  • List of references with phone numbers. Call prior clients or visit their homes if they will allow. Ask about the ease of the process, satisfaction, budget accuracy and any issues that may have arisen during the course of a build.

Next Questions to Ask Home Contractor

Once a preliminary builder is considered, here are further questions to ask. Only after all of these are answered thoroughly should a buyer consider a contract situation.

  • Must a client choose from a builder list of renderings or styles? Or can the builder create a completely custom build from client ideals, drawings or designs? What is the cost difference on these options?
  • Is there an on-site architect to re-draw any changes. What is the cost?
  • What is the time frame? This question becomes a major issue in construction. Builders must factor in the time for building permits, coding and any local governmental issues that are typical for the Bethesda and DC areas. Weather also plays a huge role. Be prepared to add up to 3 months on any time frame to account for possible delays such as these. If a builder CAN complete a build in the desired time-frame, he will. Better to under promise and over deliver instead of being caught off guard with delays that, even the builder, cannot control.
  • Can the buyer oversee the progress. This element is, without a doubt, the most complex. The buyer should have access to all elements of the process AFTER the work of the day is completed, unless specifically accompanied by a superintendent or the builder himself. Many buyers become “miffed” thinking that if they don’t watch every aspect, that things will be overlooked. While that is a possibility with anything in life, this element is more to do with safety. With nail-guns, equipment, elevation concerns and liability. This is a construction site, and must be treated like any other safety-hazard zone.
  • What financing options does the builder suggest. Will the lot need to be purchased prior to contract or can it be rolled into a “construction loan?” Which financial institutions does the builder suggest and are they reputable? Do your research.
  • If the buyer chooses luxury items outside of the builders preferred vendors, will the builder install them?

Dig into the Details & Inclusions

This next question is truly the most comprehensive and deserves more than a bullet point. The topic of standards is the most common reason for a breakdown in communication or frustration during a build.  The issue of standards. This one factor is absolutely individual to each builder. A comprehensive list of standards and costs associated with each element, will go miles above to prevent confusion about what is, or not, included in the final price of a luxury home. Buyers MUST not walk into a “spec” home and assume that each upgrade will be automatically included at no cost in their new home. Begin with the absolute basics the builder provides in a home and then build in expectations and luxury items as it fits an individual budget.

Most homes in the Bethesda area begin in the low $700K range. Custom builds can grow into the multi-millions, so establishing the budget and understanding the complete list of standard inclusions, helps determine the final product and cost. Remember to discuss details extensively prior to construction. This prevents frustration on sometimes-overlooked details that ultimately become key areas in a home. So, some of the items most overlooked include:

  • Moldings – How tall are molding sizes? Is there crown throughout the home? Are trey or coffered ceilings offered as a standard?
  • Decks & Patios – does the builder offer a specific size of a deck or patio included with the build? Will this size be sufficient or will additional space be required? What materials are used and what is included in the design?
  • How many outlets are provided? Are smart electronic ports included?
  • Is a sink included in the laundry room? If so, what type of sink?
  • What flooring, tile, fixtures are standard and what upgrades are available. If these upgrades are not to the desire of the client, will a credit for them be given in order for the buyer to purchase these items outside of the contract.
  • What exterior elevation items are included. Many builder renderings feature facade dormers, t-braces, or stone-work that is not included in the base price of the home. Make sure to inquire about the cost as luxury cedar elements, extensive stone or brick-work can add to the price very quickly.
  • Another feature often overlooked are spindles. Yes, they are minor, but can drastically alter the impression of a gorgeous stairwell or balcony. Are there upgrades for different materials (wrought iron, modern cable styles, metallic finishes)?
  • What brand/style/colors are standard for appliances. Some people are highly sensitive about brands and want the top of the line for luxury kitchen spaces. Most custom builds opt for a builder credit for basic appliances and purchase chosen styles outside of contract. What does your builder include?
  • Cabinetry again, is one area that must be discussed at length. Luxury kitchens are incredibly unique to each client. Features such as back-splashes, granite or solid stone counter-tops, quiet close drawers, pot fillers, are not items considered by some people. So speak your mind when it comes to the kitchen of your dreams. Ask what the standards are and go from there.
  • These same questions apply to standards in doors, colors or styles of windows, hardware, plumbing fixtures and patina throughout a home. Consider every element including color options. Discover the common standards all the way down to the outlet covers.

Bethesda, Washington DC, Baltimore, and the surrounding suburbs, are filled with eclectic, elegant, and luxurious homes. Historical classics, modern contemporary designs, and craftsman cottages, dot the landscape from Rockville to Silver Springs. Medical, political, and high-dollar professionals demand only the best, in their construction and attention to detail. There are many builders, but only one is a stand out in this high-end area.

Rasevic Construction Company continues to be a forward-thinking and progressive builder, with emphasis on client expectations, quality workmanship, and an extreme focus on complete client satisfaction. When considering building, bring this list, and meet with these detailed professionals, to design a luxury dream home. Contact us for more information.

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