The building of a custom home can be a daunting process. Here are 10 questions to ask a potential custom home builder to get you started on finding the right one for you.

1. How long have you and your team been building homes in this area? (A deep understanding of the local area can make a big difference in moving your project forward. It’s important for your custom home builder to have an intimate understanding of local permitting and codes in order to complete your home without any red tape.)

2. How are your projects managed during construction? (Does the builder have a work crew or a whole series of subcontractors? How long have the subcontractors worked with the builder? How often will the builder be onsite and who will supervise when they are not there? A trustworthy and accountable presence should be on hand at all times.)

3. What sets you apart from other custom home builders? (Why choose one over another? Each home builder has a philosophy when it comes to building homes – make sure you are in alignment with the company you hire.)

4. How do you maintain a high level of communication so I know what is coming up in each phase of the build? (Communication is crucial and is key to keeping the site on track. There are a myriad of details and areas that require homeowner input in a timely manner. Your builder must have excellent communication skills be a good listener, and be able to work co-operatively with you.)

5. How do you handle change orders? (There should be written confirmation on change orders, which should also include the time and/or cost implications.)

6. Do I have access to the job site throughout construction? (It’s one thing to want regular site visits to check on progress and quite another to want to “help out” during demolition or drywalling. Check with your builder on what is permitted. In most cases, liability doesn’t permit homeowners to participate in the build process.)

7. Can you provide references? (There should be no hesitation in providing written references, or phone numbers of recent clients.)

8. What are completed projects I can visit? (The builder should be more than willing to arrange a visit to completed homes in the same price range so you can get a feel for their work, and chat with the homeowner about their experience.)

9. What type of warranty do you provide on your work? (Anyone in Ontario who plans to build a new home must be registered with Tarion Warranty Corporation and enroll the home as required by the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Your builder should also offer their own warranty.)

10. What is your schedule for this type of job? (The builder may not have an opening for a few months, it’s important to know where you would fit in with other work. How do they juggle their jobs? How long would you have to wait to get yours started?)

11. Are your workers covered under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) & do you have liability insurance? (Ensure your potential builder has WSIB for their employees and liability insurance.)

A Site Visit
If you’re satisfied with the responses, the builder should be willing to visit your site to evaluate the land. They should be looking for contractor access, utility availability and checking for other criteria which could impact budget and timelines (if it’s heavily treed, steep or in a flood plain for example).

Written Quote
Once your potential builder has seen the land and drawings (if you have them), they can prepare a written quote. This should be comprehensive in its detail and fully itemized.

From site preparation, to foundation, shell and interior finishing you need a very clear understanding of what is included, what you are responsible for and what items are “to be determined” based on permitting, environmental reports, or other variables.

Finally, when choosing your custom home builder it’s also important to have a good working relationship with this person. Do your research, and trust your instincts.

What would you add to the list?

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