You’ve made the decision to build your dream custom-built home in Southeastern Wisconsin. You may have a lot or a lake property you would like to build on or a home that needs to be torn
down in order to do so. The big decision now is who will build your home, when do you begin interviewing builders, and what questions should you have prepared to ask them.
Many custom home builders will be able to connect you with the right architect for your project if you do not have one in mind. If you are already working with an architect, you want to find your builder early on, either before you begin the design phase with an architect or very soon after. Bringing a builder on board early will ensure that your home’s design and your desired budget stay
aligned throughout the process, and so much more. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of builder candidates to your top 2 or 3, the following questions can help you decide the very best
partner is for you and your family. You will want a builder who is aligned with you, your ideas, and most importantly, the end result. Here’s 10 questions to ask a builder when building a custom home.
10 Questions to Ask a Builder When Building a Custom Home
1.How closely will you work with my architect and interior designer and/or will you help me select one?
When selecting a builder, you want someone who will have a collaborative partnership with your architect and interior designer. If your builder and architect work together and are in sync, it will
prevent miscommunications that could lead to delays and extra costs. More importantly, listening to how they approach relationships with your design team will also give you a clue as
to how they will approach communication with you. If you have not selected an architect or a designer, you want a builder who can lead to the right partner for the project.
2. Do you have experience building the style and quality of the home that I want? Are you truly a custom home builder?
What kind of home you are building directly affects the builder you will select. If you are building a lake home, you will want a builder who specializes in this, as there are many laws and
restrictions that have to be followed. You want to feel confident that your builder isn’t trying something they have never attempted before and have the ability to resolve any issues that
come up on your project. The term “custom home builder” is thrown around loosely, are you truly a custom home builder?
3. Can you tell me a bit about your estimating process? How do you make sure your budgets are accurate?
You want to be sure the builder’s estimating process is extremely thorough. The preliminary estimate should be based on historical hard costs and current market pricing. If you want a true
custom home, you will want a builder familiar with the cost of building that type of home. A detailed budget estimate (completed after plans and specs are finalized) is largely based on the
bids from vendors and subcontractors in the builder’s network. A quality builder will have relationships with many high-end subcontractors and they will work to get the best price and
best fit for your project. You should come away knowing that the builder’s team works to keep you in the exact budget you have set and that they will work to make that happen.
4. Who will be managing my project, and how often will that person be on my job?
Working with a small custom builder will give you the advantage of knowing who your project manager is right from the beginning. You will want to know how hands on that manager will be
and what involvement they will have. The more involved they are, the more likely things will stay on task, including the budget and the timeline. You will also want to know what support you will
have from the office. Who do you contact with questions and concerns? You will also want to know how many projects your manager and team are working on at the same time and how
much attention they will give your project. Does the builder have portal you can log into to see the updates, changes, and progress to the project?
5. How will questions and concerns be addressed during construction?
Inevitably there will be something unexpected that will happen in the construction process. You want to make sure you understand and are compatible with the builder’s communication style
and that you trust the builder will value your opinions and concerns throughout construction. You may also want to inquire if the builder and your project manager will have a regular meeting
scheduled with you, your design team, and their subcontractors. This is a huge benefit to keeping everyone on schedule and moving forward in the same direction.
6. In the event there are changes to the design or unforeseen conditions that result in extra cost, how is that handled?
When building a high-end custom home, you may encounter a change order during construction due to the complexity of the project. Find out what the builder’s process is when
you want to make a change. Do they have a system in place for documenting changes, presenting costs and options to you? Will they get your approval, and efficiently implement the
changes? With a custom lake home, in particular, it is common for changes, so find out how the builder handles it.
8. How long will the construction of my home take? How do you handle challenges to stay on schedule during construction?
Of course, this is going to depend on the size and how complex your project is, but be leery of a builder who promises a completion time that seems unrealistic. At the same time, if you are
given an estimate that seems extremely long, you will want to question if they have too many projects going or do not have the relations with subcontractors to handle the job.
9. Do you guide me to select specific building methods or materials and products you prefer to use and why?
This is an important question: you want to know if the builder has the deep knowledge and expertise necessary to build a high-end home, and what level of quality represents their
minimum standard. Ask if they will be joining you on appointments to make selections that will ensure you are choosing the best material or product for your new home and are still staying
within your budget.
10. Can you provide me with a few references, preferably a few past clients and one current client?
This should be easy for a high-end custom home builder. They should be able to connect you with past clients who will happily allow you to walk through their own homes or give an
outstanding review. If a builder hesitates on this, it may be a red flag.
At Colby Construction, we believe in these questions, because we have the experience and expertise to answer these questions as you would want your builder to. We follow our simple
philosophy of “the client always comes first,” and we go above and beyond to help our clients fulfill their custom design dreams. We take pride in providing every Colby Construction client with a
professional and individual experience; every Colby home is unique, and we never build the same one twice. That’s just the beginning of what sets us apart from other Milwaukee custom home
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