5 Questions No One Tells You to Ask Your Builder Before Signing
Building a new home is a process full of details, roadblocks and, at times, unfortunate surprises. As window treatment specialists, we’ve seen a pattern of “after” problems in new homes, many of which could have been avoided if the right questions were asked early.
But don’t worry — we’ve got you covered! (Get it?)
Below, you’ll find a checklist of standard questions for interviewing home builders, plus FIVE questions most people don’t know they should ask. We hope this list will be a good resource for you as you enter into tough (but exciting!) conversations.
Pro Tip: Don’t settle for the first builder you find. Shop around to compare answers and builders’ work styles. The extra time spent will be worth having your home built by someone you trust.
STANDARD QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR BUILDER BEFORE SIGNING
- Are you licensed and insured in the state in which I’m building? Same with your subcontractors?
- How many years have you been in business? Number of homes completed to date?
- How many projects are you currently constructing?
- What are the standard features of the homes you build?
- May I speak with referrals and walk through one of your models or completed homes?
- What are your personal strengths and weaknesses as a home builder?
- Do I have flexibility in choosing subcontractors? If not, who are your current subcontractors?
- What warranty do you offer? What is and isn’t covered? (Always get this in writing.)
- Do you finance construction or do I need a construction loan?
- What is your estimated time frame for completion? How might weather affect this?
- What is your process for inspection checkpoints and the final walkthrough?
- When will you need my specific decisions? (Re: flooring, paint, etc.)
- How do you handle any issues with subcontractors or their work?
- What is the process for fixes needed after move-in?
- What is your fee structure? When do mortgage payments start? (E.g. Before, during, or after construction.)
- Can you work within my budget?
- How likely are cost increases to happen? Will I be notified immediately?
- What is your cancellation and refund policy?
- Once the project begins, should I communicate with the builder or superintendent?
- How often can I expect project updates?
- How should I best communicate any change orders?
- How quickly will my calls or emails be returned?
- What is your policy regarding my presence on-site?
LESS COMMON QUESTIONS (BUT ONES YOU SHOULD ASK TO AVOID SURPRISES)
1. Do I have any control over the orientation of the floor plan on the lot?
If you’re building a custom home on your own plot of land, you’ll very likely be able to determine the orientation of your floor plan (ie. have the front door face east, etc.). If you’re building a new home within a development community, you may be restricted to how the builder grades the lot.
This might force you to prioritize privacy over style — for example, if your most private windows (bedroom, bathroom) suddenly become aligned with your neighbor’s.
2. What type of HVAC and insulation do you install? May I upgrade?
During construction, many builders will install non-design products without discussing or specifying their quality. While lower quality HVAC and insulation may cut initial costs, the long-term financing of your home’s heating and cooling (especially in a climate-diverse place like Dallas/Fort Worth!) may not be worth it.
You may also have to compromise on style and opt for more energy efficient window treatments. While the design options are still extensive, you may be disappointed to forgo your first choice.
3. What type of windows do you install?
This question follows the same line of reasoning as the one above. Oftentimes, the home builder will mark where windows will be placed, but they don’t specify the type or direction each will open. This information could also affect the window treatments you choose.
4. Is an interior design service available with my home building contract? May I bring my own designer?
Some builders may offer design services as part of your contract and fees, especially in a development community where design choices are more restricted. Know that even if they allow you to involve an external designer, their own design fees may not be waived. However, if you have your heart set on working with someone you know, early is the time.
5. At what point may I bring other specialists into the home building process?
There is a large advantage to involving window treatment specialists and other professionals early. For example, if you want to install motorized treatments throughout your home, you’ll need to make sure the builder routes electricity to the right places. The difference between routing electrical wires and going through 60 batteries per year for motorized treatments is well worth an early conversation.