There are many types of builders, and many types of discussions you will be drawn into as you collect estimates and start the new home construction process. Homebuilders and contractors are just like the members of any other profession, they are diverse, and have many different ways of selling their services. One thing is certain, because they are professionals they all know what they are going to say before you even walk in the door. They have their speech planned, and their presentation will be similar to all the other presentations they have done, unless you make it different.
Discussing the New Home Construction Process: Maintain Control of the Meeting
Each type of builder has advantages and disadvantages, but the most important thing to remember in dealing with all of them is that you are the home building customer, and it’s their job to answer your questions, not lead you into answering theirs. Stay in control of the meeting. If you think that might be a problem, bring your own Realtor with you to the meeting. By control, I mean that you express what you want, what you expect and present your agenda effectively. Never mind the way they normally do business. Be nice but be clear on your terms.
• Discuss R-Values and energy efficiency
• Discuss the sizes of all lumber
• Discuss types and thicknesses of all plywood
• If you are using SIPs or ICPs clarify the thickness of insulation, and the R-value
• Discuss closed cell insulation and radiant barrier attic insulation
• Insist on having the right to inspect the construction site at least weekly, and seeing the framing before it’s enclosed by walls. Explain that you will not interrupt work, but will only make 15 minute visits, but you will need to see the home regularly.
• Show him your home building journal, and the rough plans for your dream home.
• Discuss house plans and whether the home builder has a plan similar to the one you want.
• Explain that you plan to use your own lender, unless theirs offers a better interest rate.
• Explain that you wish to use your own independent appraiser
• Explain that you will not under any circumstances sign an arbitration clause.
• Explain that your attorney will need to look over the building contract before you sign.
• Explain that you are far more interested in quality construction than you are interior upgrade packages.
• Ask for a detailed materials list and an itemized estimate.
• If you are interested, ask about the possibility of getting a shell rather than a completed home. Ask about the difference in price, and exactly how far you would like the home builder to take the project before handing it over to you.
These types of builders have typically been in business for twenty or more years as family businesses, and sole proprietorships. You will not be met by a slick salesman, and will most likely talk to an extremely polite gentleman, who is your home builder. If he’s busy, you might talk to one of his sons. When visiting this type of home builder, you can relax a bit. Be personable, and enjoy this conversation with a knowledgeable builder. You can learn a lot from this fellow. Of course you will still follow the same agenda as above, but he won’t mind, and you will not have to push him to discuss construction. He will likely appreciate that you have done your homework.
These guys are normally a group of carpenters who build houses one at a time. Some do not even have an office, but many of them are very good builders. They normally work alongside their crew. With them you need to discuss insurance, because it is possible that you will need to provide a special home owner’s policy for construction. This is a minor expense compared to the savings, and peace of mind you will have if these guys are as good as most of their ilk.
Bring your own Realtor and pay close attention to everything. It may be harder to stay in control of this situation, because you will be dealing with a salesman, not a construction expert. You should at some point though, insist on talking to someone who is familiar with actual building procedures, such as the job supervisor, before you sign the contract. Do not sign anything on your first visit. State your agenda firmly and do not back off. Get a sample contract for your attorney to look over. Watch for red flags, such as the salesman insisting on an arbitration clause, describing shoddy lumber weights, pushing their lender, pushing their company policy and agenda. If the company cannot comply with your agenda, then walk out, and look for another builder. There are plenty of builders out there. Why deal with someone who won’t do it your way?
Of course there will be all sorts of situations that will vary somewhat from the above scenarios. Not all large builders are hard to deal with, and not all small local builders are wise old men with 40 years of building experience. Not every small time home builder is a capable master craftsman either. That’s where your previous research pays off. By investigating these contractors ahead of time you should have already seen at least one house they built, talked to at least one or two realtors, loan officers, home appraisers or building inspectors who recommended them, and talked to at least one person who owns one of their homes. You should have checked for any complaints against them or negative rumors as well. After researching and visiting at least three to six builders, asking for an estimate, and collecting a sample contract, you should be ready to make a decision. However if you are dissatisfied with all of those home builders or contractors, keep looking. Try a neighboring town if you’ve exhausted all the builders in your city, but keep on looking till you find the right home builder to start the new home construction process with.