As I work on the house that I’m starting to build, I’m gathering advice I’ve pulled together and shared with others here in one place.
This is my list of questions for interviewing architects and builders.
I found it worthwhile to budget some time for initial phone conversations covering the major points (how do they structure their business, can they work within your budget/scope/timeframe) before interviewing at least three in person, preferably at your job site so you can get a sense of how they think and work. Visiting and comparing a couple project sites that are in-progress by your top two choices and calling references can tell a lot as well.
- How many years have you been in business? How many homes have you built?
- Are you licensed (where required) and insured? Will you be able to provide Workman’s Comp and & General Liability coverage certifications?
- Why do you do this and what defines success for your business? (dollars, homes completed, awards) Who do you consider peers (builder/architect/design build)? What associations are you a member of?
Service/How do you work?
- Team: How many employees do you have and what are their responsibilities? Where are you based? How often will you be at the house? Who are the people who will work on my home? Who should I contact with questions? Will you do final walkthrough?
- How many jobs do you typically work on? Right now? How many bids do you currently have out? How do you manage between them?
- Do you use subcontractors? How do you qualify them? What is the workflow like and how do you manage between them?
- How can I be involved? How and when can I make changes or upgrades before and during construction? At what points should I expect to be able to give input, tour, or otherwise be involved
- What’s your process for inspection at key points of construction, at final walk-through, and to address any matters that need to be corrected or finalized?
- How (using what methods) and when will the final price for my home be determined? How are you compensated for pre-construction services?
- Some factors I care about are architecturally interesting, quality homes with modern ambience – are you comfortable building in that style? Do you have examples?
- How do you deal with unforeseen contingencies?
- How long will my home take to complete?
- What type of warranty do you offer and how do you service it once construction is complete?
- What are your best/worst building experiences? How do you handle conflicts, mechanics liens? What situations would lead to conflict?
- Can you provide a complete and clearly written contract with start date, parties involved in each component, permits required, contract price, methods of compensation proposed, allowance pricing, payment schedule, selection schedule, key decisions to be made, and exclusions?
- Can you provide sample budget and explanation of monthly billing tracking/invoicing/paying?
- Can you provide a sample construction schedule with timeline, projected cash flow, milestones, key decisions to be made?
- Can you provide a sample draw request to my lender, lien release, warranty, operation and maintenance manual?
- How do you deal with change orders?
- What types of projects do you complete? How do you compare yourself to other builders? What are the most important benefits of the homes you build?
- What are my options for personalization and customization? Will you do custom-sizing of bathrooms, etc. to fit the home? Do you work with other companies who do custom kitchen and bathroom design like HenryBuilt and Bulthaup?
- Are there standard features and upgrades your homes include or do you identify features mostly case-by-case?
- How do you manage pests, moisture control, heating, ventilation, HVAC, energy? What other building systems should I be thinking about given the scope of my project?
- What kinds of building materials do you prefer and are you willing to work with low-toxicity/green materials?
- Does the flooring in my project need to be replaced? Sub-floors? What’s involved in getting the look that I want (provide pictures)?
- Does my roof need additional work?
- What kinds of structural work will my scope involve? Where are the supports for the home right now and do they need to be moved to accomplish the project? Will I need an engineer and do you have one you prefer to work with?
- What permits should I expect to need? How long will they take
- How/when do you order materials? Where do they wait? What about delays?
- Can you give me references from prior home buyers? Can you help me make an appointment to see a home you built for another customer?
- What trade magazines, building/remodeling websites/resources do you suggest or work with?
- What construction lenders have you worked with in the past? How do you typically handle payments, notarized affadavits and release of liens?
- Who are your material suppliers? Where do you get hardware, fixtures etc.?