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What Should I Know When Hiring Someone to Build a House?

by Laura Kingsbury

When hiring a contractor to build your home, you'll have a lot of choices based on the competition in the market. The question then becomes, who will do the best job within your budget and in a timely fashion? Fully understanding a contractor's work history, pricing, timeline and references will help you make that tough decision before signing any contract.

Are They Qualified?

Like any profession, contracting and home building have licenses and professional standards designed to signify who can handle the work. Your first step is always making sure your contractor is up to date on all licensing, fees and professional requirements. These licenses can often be easily checked online on your state government's website. In addition, you also want to make sure they are fully insured to avoid any potential lawsuits down the line.

What Is Their Work History?

Next, you should get a feel for their work history. Have they completed similar projects, and do you like the outcome of those projects? Pick a contractor whose team specializes in the type of home you want to build. This holds true from an aesthetic standpoint as well as a housing code standpoint. A contractor may be talented and knowledgeable in one type of property but not in the type of work you're looking for.

What Do Previous Clients Say?

As with hiring someone for any job or service, you should hear what past clients think about the company's work before entrusting them to build your property. This can be both in the form of testimonials or direct contact. Before signing any contracts, ask for a list of references. These references will be able to provide you with the best inside knowledge about the entire home building process with that contractor.

How Does Their Payment Schedule Work?

Finding a contractor that fits your desired budget isn't the only payment question you should be considering. You should also check on their payment timeline policies and procedures. Most contractors will ask for a down payment to get the work started, then additional payments throughout the work process ending with a final payment at completion. Hire a contractor that fits your timeline for funding and one that is willing to be paid in increments as they complete work. Be wary of contractors that ask for more than one-third up front.

What Is Their Current Workload?

Building a home correctly is a large time commitment. Select a contractor team that has adequate time to dedicate to your project. If their workload is too heavy, your project could suffer both in quality and in its timeline.

What's the Team Breakdown?

Because there will likely be many people working on your new house, you also need to consider the logistics of the contractor's team. This means making sure the whole team is credible, not just the foreman. It also means identifying what work will be done by the contractor's team and what will be subcontracted out. In most cases you will have a combination of the two, so you also want to check out any subcontractors to make sure their work quality matches that of the team you are hiring.

How Receptive Are They To Change?

During the home building process, you may want some changes made. While in order to complete a project on schedule these changes may need to remain minimal, you may still want to check if changes are possible and what they typically cost, as well as how they might extend your project's timeline.

How Good is Their Follow Through?

Sometimes the home building process does not always completely end when construction is finished. Like any project, there could be issues found later down the line. In order to minimize the inconvenience for you and your family long term, you should also check on their policies, warranties and processes for dealing with issues that pop up later down the line.

About the Author

Laura Kingsbury is the director of team support for a successful real estate brokerage, a realtor and an experienced writer. She holds a Bachelor's in journalism and more than 200 clips in four different newspapers and blogs including Andrew Mitchell & Company, "The Penn," "Butler Eagle" and Out Pittsburgh.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images