Building a house is one of the most exciting and exacerbating activities we’ve ever undertaken. It is our hope that our mistakes will help someone else have a better experience and outcome.
- If you’re building a custom home, talk to an architect who will help you understand the true costs of the project. It is an added expense, but it is well worth it.
- Always keep in mind, the builder works for you. If you have any concerns address them immediately and get any changes in writing.
- No matter how highly recommended a builder is, always get an estimate from more than one builder. After getting the estimates, find clients of the builders and ask a lot of questions, such as:
- Was the estimate accurate? If not, why, and how much was it off?
- Was the house built in a reasonable amount of time?
- Did the subcontractors do a good job? Did they clean up behind themselves?
- Was there a lot of waste of products that cost you money?
- If you encountered a problem, did the builder answer your calls and/or text messages in a timely manner?
- Was there a walk-through when the construction was completed? Did the builder address your concerns in a timely manner?
- Did the builder honor his home warranty if there was a problem?
- Read between the lines for what people are not saying. Are they hesitant when talking about certain aspects of the project?
- When making a contract with a builder, things you should consider are:
- Always have a lawyer review the contract. The expense is well worth it.
- Put a deadline on the project with serious monetary consequences for not meeting it.
- Never sign a costs and labor contract, which gives the builder license to spend with less accountability.
- Make sure you have written allowances for all aspects of the project, and the builder communicates with you as to when it appears you’re going over, preferably prior to spending. This will allow you to have more control over the costs before the money is spent.
- Never hand the builder a check without detailed invoices of what has been spent. His check stub with a date, payee, and amount should never be taken in place of the detailed invoice; neither should a sheet of paper with the name of the subcontractor and amount, with no detailed explanation as to how the amount was determined.
- Prior to the walk through, which is a must, write down any issues that need to be fixed and have the builder sign off on the sheet. Keep a record of how long it takes for the items to be fixed and do NOT give the builder a final check until they are done.
I hope the above points will help someone avoid the pitfalls we encountered when building our home. We’re hoping to find some joy and happiness in our new home, but it means we will not see our family in Wisconsin as often as we would like. We are also on a very strict budget. In other words, we’re house poor, not a place we were expecting to be in retirement. Good luck with your project and if you have any further questions, please leave a comment and I’ll respond.