Questions to Ask a Builder

When you buy a new home you want to get full value for your investment. This means choosing an established and reputable builder—someone you can trust, someone who has the technical skills, a proven track record and a professional business approach.

Fortunately, there are many good builders around, and with a little effort you will have no trouble finding someone who is right for you. Before you enter into a contract with anyone, ask lots of questions to make sure it is the kind of company you want to do business with.

Is home building your profession? Home building is a serious business. It takes commitment to keep up with everything that is going on in the industry. It requires solid business skills and a track record of satisfied clients. If a "builder" proposes to build your home part-time, you should proceed with caution. If this builder offers you a "better" financial deal, you need to wonder. The old adage that you get what you pay for holds true for home buying as well.

What is your experience, and how long have you been in business? Good builders are proud of their track record, whether they have been in business for 3 or 30 years. They will tell you about their background, their training and experience, their strengths and what sets them apart from others. They will be honest with you about what they can do for you, when and for how much.

Are you a member of the Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA)? Membership in the Association is an indication of a builder's commitment to the industry, to the success of their own company and, ultimately, to their customers. Members agree to a Code of Ethics that calls for fair and honest dealings with consumers.

Are you a member of a home warranty program? Warranty programs provide additional protection for the home buyer's investment. In some regions, there is a variety of warranties available. Ask the builder to explain the details—you want the warranty that best meets your needs for both the short and the long term.

Will you give us references from your past clients?
Contact past customers to find out how satisfied they are with their new home. Ask if the home was completed on budget and on time, what the builder was like to work with (easy to talk with, understanding, helpful), and about the company's after-sales service.

What after-sales service does your company provide?
Professional builders stand behind their homes with an after-sales service program. Ask the builder to explain the program in some detail: what's covered, how to request service and the typical response time.

Can we visit your work site(s)?
The work site offers many clues about the company and the quality of the builder's homes. Ask for a tour of a home under construction and a chance to meet the site crew. Take note of the details: is the site clean and orderly, are materials stored out of the weather, and so on.

Remember that when you buy a home. You are also "buying" the builder-you need to pay as much attention to choosing the right builder as you do the right home. Asking the questions suggested here will give you the information you need to choose a builder with confidence.

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