64 Questions That Are Essential to Ask Any Homebuilder
If you are looking to save thousands of dollars and avoid costly legal battles, make sure you ask your custom homebuilder the following questions before you sign any contract or pay any down payment for your dream home.
Down Payment and Pricing Questions
A reputable homebuilder will prepare a contract once you have finalized your plans and detailed specifications. This contract should clearly set out the responsibilities, and importantly, a progress and payment schedule of each party.
- How much is the deposit and how much will be kept should we not proceed?
- At what point will we have the final price?
- Can you give us a price before we pay a deposit?
- If we pay for things like soil test and property information, do we get these reports to own should we not proceed?
Finding the perfect lot for your new home is an important decision. There are several considerations when choosing the size, location and exposure of your land to ensure you can build your dream home.
If you agree to pay for preliminary information like a soil test, property report and levels, you should ask your builder the following questions. If the answers to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you will need to obtain a cost for each that will likely sit outside standard inclusions.
- Do I require an engineer-designed foundation? (You may require this if your block is on reactive soil or close to the coast.)
- Do I require protection against termites?
- Does the storm or septic water disposal system need to be engineer-designed?
- Are retaining walls likely to be required?
- Will there be soil/fill that needs to be taken away or brought onto the site?
- Will there be services required to receive distant connections?
Plan & Design Questions
- How many plans do you have in your range?
- Can I modify your standard plans and at what cost?
- Can I bring in my own plans for you to price?
- Will you inspect our lot before we buy it to ensure it is suitable for the kind of home we want to build?
- What is included in your floor area total? (The total square footage of a home can be measured in different ways. Some builders could include decks, eaves, patios or paved areas.)
- Will you provide a comprehensive design consultation service? What will this include?
- Will you provide modern visual design aids and access to professional designers to help me achieve the ideal plan that I want?
- Will you help me to find out if there are specific requirements or restrictions regarding our home’s location on our lot?
- Will you give me a simple concept plan with my quote before I pay my deposit?
- What energy rating will my home be aiming to achieve?
- Where will the midday sun enter the home?
- How much afternoon sun is going to enter the home?
- Where will the view (if any) be visible from inside?
- Are there long distances for the hot water and if so how will wastage/lag time be reduced?
Standard Inclusion Questions
- Is your quote comprehensive in its inclusions?
- Can you explain what is not included?
- What soil classification is allowed for in your standard inclusions for foundation and slab design? (Some builders often treat even simple excavations and siteworks as extras.)
- Will my color selections be carried out locally?
- What heating and cooling is included?
- What floor coverings are included?
- Do you have a soil test allowance in your standard inclusions?
- Does the contract or quote include any provisional sums? (These costs could potentially be a guesstimate that are not fixed and will change once they have the final price from their supplier.)
- Have you included full drainage and other service costs, or have you listed them as a provisional sum? (This could potentially be listed as a provisional sum which could rise considerably.)
- Are you licensed and insured?
- Can you show me through any homes that are currently being constructed, or any completed homes? (Here you can check the quality of workmanship of existing customer homes.)
- Can you provide me written testimonials from past clients?
- Is it a fixed build time?
- Will you pay me money if you are over contract time? (This is also known as liquidation damages.)
- What exceptions enable you to extend the contract time with no liquidation damages payable?
- What jobsite health and safety processes do you have in place?
- What contractors do you use?
- Do you have a dedicated construction coordinator who will personally manage all sub-trades on my site, keep me informed of progress and answer my questions?
- Can I speak directly to the registered builder who is ultimately responsible for my home construction?
- How can I be sure your company is financially stable?
- Who does the builder acquire homeowner warranty insurance from?
- Does this insurer cover loss of down payment, non-completion and defects?
- Does the builder have public liability insurance, and construction insurance adequate for your home?
- What is the maintenance or warranty period?
Although many of these questions are technical in nature, it can be beneficial to have responses so that you can accurately compare quotes.
- Is the supply of concrete pumping included?
- What wall and ceiling insulation is included?
- What type/level of paint system is included? What is the brand of paint?
- Is sheathing to roofing included?
- Are gutters and downpipes included?
- Are eaves standard on our chosen design?
- What type of toilets and basins are included?
- Is frosted/privacy glass included in any bathroom?
- Are there plan-specific upper kitchen cabinets included?
- Is a gas or electric tankless water heater included?
- Is the rangehood ducted to natural air i.e. not recirculated?
- Is termite treatment included and what system is used? Will maintenance be required?
- Is trenching and conduit for service connections included?
- Is ceiling plaster fixed onto metal battens, reducing the risk of warping and cracking?
- Is a finished garage included? What level of finish is included? At what stages will you be able to inspect the works?
Two Golden Rules
Finally, there are two golden rules to follow when dealing with homebuilders. First, never sign anything with your homebuilder until you have read the fine print. If there is something that you do not understand, seek advice from an independent homebuilder, consultant, or obtain legal advice. Remember that there is no ‘cooling off’ period. So, once you sign a homebuilding contract you normally cannot withdraw from it if you change your mind.
Second, ensure you keep a written copy of everything important and that all request, confirmations, and changes are in written correspondents; email is the best way to do this.