Southern Living, Van Chaplin

By Louis Joyner
Courtesy of the HBAA, part of the NHBA

You've spent hours tearing out pages of homes magazines and poring over plans, and finally you've chosen the look you want. You're ready to build your dream home or that master-bedroom addition. Just one question remains: Who is going to build it? To help with that selection, we've put together 10 questions for you to ask potential contractors and builders.

1. What types of projects do you do?
Match your job to the builder. Some contractors may be better at new construction -- others at remodeling . Explore pricing as well. A builder that concentrates on million-dollar custom homes may not be the best choice for a modest cottage on a tight budget.

2. Can I see some of your projects?
Good builders are proud of their work and enjoy showing it to potential clients. Ask to see photographs of complete projects, and choose someone whose work looks similar to the job you're planning.

3. Can I talk to some of your former clients?
Word of mouth if often the best way to find and learn about a builder.

4. Are you licensed and insured?
Depending on the state, builders should have a state-issued home builder's license in addition to a local business license. They and their subcontractors also should carry a general liability and workers’ compensation liability insurance.

5. How long have you been in the business?
While longevity isn't a guarantee of quality or reliability, it is an indication that the builder can run a job successfully and satisfy clients.

6. How do you handle callbacks?
You need to hire a builder who is willing to return to the site and fix any building-related problems that may arise -- even after the job is finished.

7. How much do you charge?
While an experienced builder may be able to give you a rough cost estimate, most really can't give an exact number until you work out plans and specifications.

8. What is your payment schedule?
Most professional builders work on a pay-as-you-go basis, receiving partial payments throughout the process. The payments for new construction, also called draws, typically are scheduled as a certain percentage of the total cost when specific stages of construction are completed. Avoid any contractor who wants full payment before starting the job.

9. With whom will I be working on the jobsite?
Know who your main contact will be. Some builders supervise in person; others use superintendants or foremen to handle day-to-day operations.

10. Do you belong to any type of professional building organization?
Professional licensing often is a requirement for membership in a group such as the National Association of Home Builders. Members also are encouraged to attend continuing education program courses, and they often receive professional designations such as Certified Graduate Builder (CGB). Because licensing and membership in this type of organization is an indication of a builder's knowledge and reputability, you're likely to find a good builder through such an organization.

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