10 Tips to Working with a Home Builder

By Luster Custom Homes Posted Monday, December 19th, 2016

Builders can sometimes seem like mysterious, enigmatic creatures. Not sure how to collaborate with one? Follow these 10 tips to demystify the ins and outs of working with a home builder.

  1. Be clear on what you want. Telling your builder “I want a vanity over there” is a lot less specific then “please see page A-3 on the plans dated 12/4/16 for details on the vanity cabinet in the southeast corner of the master bathroom”. Builders can’t read your mind (or at least I’ve yet to find one that can) – have a set of plans or a detailed scope of work to ensure you’re both on the same page (literally!).
  2. Test your assumptions. For example: guessing that your builder plans on handling the landscaping for you is a whole lot different than knowing they will. All it takes is a simple question to confirm your guess, and it saves you the panic if you find out later that you need to find a landscaper – stat!
  3. Take a step back. This is a hard one, especially for Type A micromanagers like myself. But, in the end, you hired your builder to handle the project for you. Take a leap of faith and, well, let them do their job. If you see something go terribly wrong, step in, but otherwise, trust that your contractor knows what he or she is doing.
  4. Understand their contract. A builder’s contract should answer all the hard-hitting questions like: how long is the warranty? Is there a warranty? How will change orders be handled? How will I be billed? Is a deposit required? Reading and comprehending your builder’s contract is crucial. Read through it and still have questions? Don’t hesitate to ask!
  5. Be flexible. No, we’re not looking for you to be able to do the splits by the end of your project – rather, come to terms with the fact that building can have ­­­­unexpected events crop up that could mess with the schedule or scope of work. Your builder understands these risks and is ready to handle them. Being on this same wave length is important to ensure your sanity and establish a level of trust in your builder’s problem-solving abilities.
  6. Get to know how they prefer to communicate. Ever sent a slew of emails to someone and never received a response?  Yet, when you picked up the phone and called, they were immediately available to assist me. Some builders prefer calls, while some will never pick up the phone but will instantly respond to texts. Others might respond to emails 24/7. Everyone is different, but knowing how your builder prefers to communicate might save you a headache or two along the way.
  7. Get everything in writing. Example: your builder says that they are going to throw in some shutters for free (score!). Skip ahead three months later, they have no idea what you’re talking about, and you’re expected to pay for the shutters. A brief, written agreement would make sure misunderstandings like this never happen.
  8. Ask about their process. If your builder doesn’t already give you a brief run down about how their building process will go, take some time to meet with them and ask. Understanding their order of operations will give you peace of mind as you see it all unfold, which then allows you to let them take the driver’s seat (see step 3).
  9. Stop by the job site. Whether you schedule a regular meeting to meet with your builder or project manager on site or just pop in when you’re free (although a set meeting is better, so any questions you have can be answered immediately), seeing the job site allows you to track progress and make sure that everything is going according to plan. Side note – stopping by with the intent to micromanage the job is a lot different than stopping by to have a meeting or do a quality check (again, refer to step 3).
  10. Communication is key. If we had to sum up everything we’ve stated here into one, concise word it would be this: COMMUNICATE! No matter what the question, comment, or concern, it is valid and should be talked about with your builder. We cannot stress enough how vastly important it is to have an open line of communication with your builder (and with whoever else is working with you on the project, whether it be a designer, or even your spouse).

So, there you have it. Follow these tips and you, too, can have a great builder-homeowner relationship. To receive our monthly e-newsletter sign up here.