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Portland Design Build Remodeling Blog

Top Questions to Ask a Custom Home Builder [and their References]

Posted by Lane Cooper on Aug 26, 2020 3:27:00 PM

The choice of a custom home builder can have lifelong consequences — you want your Portland dream home to be perfect and to last a lifetime — so you shouldn’t cut corners when making that decision. Here are some important steps to take when selecting a home builder.

Preliminary Research

 To get started, learn what builders work in the Portland area by checking out the real estate sections of local newspapers; there you can see what types of homes they are advertising and their price ranges. Ask friends and family members for recommendations. Talk to real estate agents and lenders.

When you’ve narrowed down your list, go online and look for reviews; visit the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland website for a list of members; check out reports at the Better Business Bureau and Oregon Constructors Contractors Board.

You also can do some on-the-ground research by touring new homes offered by builders during home tours and open houses. It’s critical to be able to see a builder’s work up close: Notice the quality of the materials, the attention to detail in trim work and paint, and the overall feel that a home gives you. Spend some time grilling the builder’s representatives if they’re on-site.

When you’ve chosen about three top prospects, give each one a call. Ask if the company can give you references of previous homebuyers, what experience it has building the kind of house you want, whether its schedule would match your needs, and if you could visit one of its homes under construction.

#1 Interview Builders

Unless you’re put off by the phone inquiry and online research, schedule face-to-face consultations with your top builders. Go armed with a notebook and lots of questions and don’t be afraid to ask them. This is your dream home you’re talking about. The list of potential questions is long. Here are some important ones:

  • Can you describe the quality of the materials you use?

  • Describe how you would work with my designer/architect to deliver the home I want within my budget (unless you’re talking to a design-build company).

  • How would you determine how much it would cost to build the house I want?

  • How much experience do you have building the style and quality of house I have in mind?

  • Who would be supervising the construction, and would I have regular contact with that person? Is that the person who would be responsible for answering my questions and concerns during construction?

  • How do you ensure that your subcontractors are skilled craftsmen?

  • If we decide to make changes to the design, or if surprises arise, how are those changes and the resulting costs dealt with?

  • In your professional opinion, how long would my project take?

  • What kind of warranty do you provide on your homes, and how do you handle any necessary service?

As you talk with the builder, note whether he or she listens carefully and answers your questions to your satisfaction. Think about whether this would be the kind of company and team of people you would be happy working with throughout the long and sometimes stressful journey of a home build.

You should also ask the builder to provide samples of a contract, budget, construction schedule, change order request, warranty and other documents that give a sense of how the company operates. The builder also should provide you with proof of insurance and bond before you sign any contract.


#2 Check Those References

Your legwork isn’t quite finished, even after a thorough interview with the builder. Call or visit the references the builder provides and then go a step further and take a weekend trip to a neighborhood where the company has built homes. Talk to people in their front yards or driveways and ask questions such as:

  • Are you happy with your home? Would you use this builder again?

  • Was the original price estimate accurate?

  • Was the house finished on time?

  • Were problems addressed to your satisfaction?

  • How clean and organized was the work site?

  • Were there any subcontractors that you wish hadn’t worked on the job? Were there any outstanding subcontractors you recommend?

  • Were you satisfied with how the builder communicated with you during the project?

COOPER Design Builders is an award-winning design-build firm in Portland, Oregon. For more information on custom home building and design in Portland, visit our portfolio.  

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Topics: Custom Home, Luxury Home