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Building A Home? Want To Ask A Builder The Right Questions - Not The Dumb Ones!

These are real builder questions that I got from readers of my e-book, "Residential Development Made Easy" with answers from a major USA Master Builder operating in 48 States.

Question 1.

My wife and I are planning a new home. We intend approaching a builder or two in this area, and I plan on asking them these questions.

My wife is very adept at planning and researching. Under what circumstances do you recommend we hire an architect? And Why or why not? (This is not a loaded question. I am not an architect and neither is my brother-in-law. We would prefer to construct without hiring an architect.)


It would depend on your budget. Some architects in the US charge as much as 10% of the budget of a home to do the plans. Master Builders, as opposed to "Local Builder Bob," don't like to place their clients in a position of hiring an architect until they really need one.

The best advice our clients get is to prioritize their actions as follows:

First: Get the loan;

Second: Get the land;

Third: Get the Interior Designer;

Forth: Get the architect.

In our case, we have in-house architects and structural engineers.

It is best to hire an Interior Designer (ASID) and have them work with you to design the floor plan, which is uniquely suited for how you and your family use space and the style you like.

Armed with this floor plan you would then send it to us and we would create your architect blueprints from it.

Blueprints are part of the quote we provide our clients. This way they don't have 'Sticker Shock' from a local architect.

Question 2.

How much price and quality research re materials can we expect our builder to do or to have done?


This depends on the builder you hire. For the most part, you can't expect too much. Most builders work in their comfort zone.

They use materials they're used to working with. They usually won't try something else unless insisted upon by the home buyer or developer. And, then they usually hire an outside source to do this.

As Master Builders, we use current technology and one of the reasons why we are both profitable and successful is that we keep abreast to new technology and want our buyers and developers to have this benefit in their homes.

Question 3.

Is it reasonable for us to ask our builder to identify his subcontractors and allow us to talk with the primary subs before we enter into a contract with him (and after)?


It may appear to be reasonable from your point of view, but, not very realistic. Subs come in and out of a job site. If one is not available another one is called in.

Once you have signed a Contract with a builder, he is your 'one point of contact.' The subcontractors are his subs - not yours. Remember you have engaged him for his building management expertise to complete the job on time and on cost.

That means he must have full control and so by you talking to the subs directly you are creating confusion. You can't have two bosses on a job.

Confusion costs you more money. When you or your wife talk to a sub, you are not engaged in a social conversation. Let's say you made an innocent comment about some aspect of the subs work - like you regret picking those tiles in the bathroom and have seen some nicer ones. That is all you said!

Can you see how a sub could use this against the builder when asked why he hasn't finished the bathroom yet. "Well the client told me two days ago that they were changing the tiles to another type." It doesn't matter that you did not say that - but it caused confusion and delayed the job by at least two days or more.

Instead of wanting access to the subs, with whom you have no expertise, you should concentrate on ensuring the builder has the proper permits and insurance for building. Especially for workman's comp and for liability.

Few clients realize that they can be held accountable, if the builder doesn't have the correct insurance.

Let's say that a child comes on to the site after the builder has left for the day. Decides to climb to the roof and jump. Guess who's liable? Check the references of others clients he's built for.

A Final point on access to subcontractors.

Many house building clients have very poor spatial ability and cannot imagine an overview of the space being designed for them - they just cannot imagine the finished house, never mind what the finished colors and tiles look like.

Because of this, they feel the need to be able to make changes at any stage of the project. This is what is behind this question of being able to speak to the subs. You can make changes to your house design at any time as long as you realize that each change will cost you heaps and blow your budget sky high.

To make these changes you ask the architect to request a cost estimate from the builder for each change. You then can decide if you can afford it or not. If your request is made at the worst possible (most expensive) time, you will be told that as well.

What's the answer to all this? Make all the decisions about what you want and have them included in your plans and specifications.

Question 4.

What does a builder, expect the homeowner to do (other than to pay you as and when agreed).


A builder expects the home buyer to be reasonable and realistic in their expectations. The time you spend in planning and thinking about what you want in you home is worth real money to you. If you are not good at planning, an Interior Designer will be critical to your final happiness.

If you can't make up your mind on the important aspects of the design, go and inspect examples of what you do like and get the Interior Designer to incorporate what you want in the plan.

The biggest problems that most builders run into is home buyer who change what has been agreed to or is unrealistic in what they want. This is why we have our home buyers sit down with an Interior Designer.

The ASID can sit down with you and help you visualize exactly what you want and help you make any compromises you may have to make.

It is very expensive to make changes during a project. Let's say that you wanted a 17x20 kitchen. Sounds like a big kitchen. Probably too big. However, once the cabinets and appliances start coming in you realize that it's too small and want the kitchen to be bigger.

This may cost you an extra $50k to make those changes. You can save yourself a small fortune by first working with ASID on floor space, storage, placement, design, and style.

Author & $1.2 Billion Developer, Colm Dillon, Has Written The Best Selling 'How-To' E-book, "Residential Development Made Easy," With Readers In All States Of The USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland and 79 Other Countries. His Independent Web Site is:

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