Connectivity and Communication with your builder
It could take anywhere between three months to over a year to build your new home, depending on the size and scope of work. How will you communicate with your builder during this time? How accessible are they going to be? Do you expect the builder to return your phone calls and emails the same day? Do you expect your builder to give you updates on the building process daily? Weekly? Monthly? As the construction period continues, be sure to keep records of your communication with each other throughout the process? Be sure that you have met all of the builder’s key staff that may be working with you on various aspects of the build.
How involved do you want to be in the construction of your new home?
Do you want to know who’s working on your home every day? Do you want to have open communication with the project manager as well as the builder? Or perhaps you don’t want to stress about it at all and let them take care of everything. Either way, it’s important to have a builder that allows you to have these options. And it’s good to discuss this up front before you sign the contract.
Does your builder work out of an office or a truck?
Does your builder work out of their truck and not have a physical address to call their office? Does your builder work out of a model home? Where would you find your builder after they sell that home? Or does your builder have an office that’s staffed daily? This may not be a major issue, but if something went wrong and you had to find your builder, where would you go?
Regardless of their office type, builders typically have similar overhead expenses per project. While office overhead may be significantly higher than the builder working out of a pickup truck, the builder with a permanent office is able to spread that cost over many projects so the overhead cost per project is actually equal or less. Choose your builder based on your preference with this information in mind.
What’s in your home warranty?
It is the standard practice for builders to give a one-year written homeowners warranty. In our area, the two most common warranties are the BIA (Building Industries Association of Lexington Home Owners Warranty) and the 2-10 Builder Warranty. Some builders will provide their own written warranty. Regardless of the document, read it carefully before signing the contract.
It’s important to know that your builder – and no one else – is responsible to make repairs during the warranty period. This is another reason to make sure you trust your builder. It’s important as you review this warranty that you understand exactly how problems will be addressed, including the time frames. You will need to report problems with the home quickly, so they can be taken care of effectively. Does the warranty document spell out how problems are to be reported? Be sure to keep records of how and when you contacted them, including whom you communicated with and their response.
It’s important to know how your builder is going to build your home. Are they building it to minimum state building codes? Are they building it to the highest standard possible?
When you buy a car, a common question is how many miles per gallon will the car use. Did you know that a similar rating is available for new homes? This is called the HERS Score, or Home Energy Rating System. For a newly constructed home, the base standard is a HERS Score of 85. Every point below or above 85 is a 1% savings or increase in energy consumption of the operation of your home. Unlike a car’s MPG rating, you want the HERS rating to be lower as it requires less utility consumption.
It is optional to have your home tested and receive a HERS score, and some builders opt out of getting their homes tested. Not knowing the score could cost you a significant amount of money over the life of the home. Would you buy a car if the manufacturer opted out of the MPG test? Be sure that a HERS score testing is included in your builder’s contract, and that the contract specifies who will do the test.