The best builders know that the initial meeting is about earning your trust.
A big factor in someone's choice of a builder is their comfort with the first person they meet from the company, whether it's the owner or a sales person. Natural rapport is important, but gut feelings also play a role--feelings some homeowners aren't sure how to interpret.
These feelings usually grow from attitudes and actions on the part of the builder. Professional builders understand this, and they make sure to act in ways that earn their clients' trust, starting with that first meeting.
When interviewing builders, clarity about these attitudes and actions will help you choose someone you can work well with. Before signing anything, ask yourself the following questions.
Does the builder...
1. Show up like a pro? Someone in a cluttered pickup wearing old jeans and a dirty tee shirt may be a skilled craftsman, but their appearance raises questions. Although a pressed shirt and a clean vehicle don't guarantee a great choice, they're the first sign of a professional who runs a real business and pays attention to detail.
2. Play by the rules? Pros know that you want assurance that whoever builds your house will do it right, and that includes knowing they will follow relevant laws and regulations. Sample contracts, as well as proof of the necessary licensing and insurance, are signs of a conscientious company that doesn't cut corners.
3. Show emotional intelligence? A custom homebuilding project can be an emotional roller coaster or an enjoyable ride. You will naturally feel more confident in a builder who works to make it more of the latter. The best builders help people understand the ups and downs that will be likely during design and construction.
4. Take schedules seriously? Homeowners who know what will happen and when during construction suffer a lot less anxiety. That's why you will have more confidence in a builder who clearly communicates the overall job schedule as well as the approximate timetable for each major phase of construction.
5. Commit to keeping you informed? Pros also know that you will feel more secure, and the job will go more smoothly, if there's a regular forum for your questions and concerns. While the timing of these meetings depends on the builder and project, they're often scheduled on the building site at the end of key job phases, such as framing and electrical/mechanical.
6. Have clear change policies? Changes have a reputation for breeding anxiety and conflict, but that can be limited if everyone knows what to expect. A good builder will make sure you understand what change orders will cost, as well as how the builder will communicate any resulting adjustments in the job schedule.
7. Offer references? Most reputable companies will provide references to past clients. If some of those clients are happy to show you their completed home, that's even better--it's a sign that they really like and trust the builder.
A good builder knows that reducing uncertainty and developing trust, as illustrated by the actions above, are key to helping clients manage stress during a complex building project.
By the way, the best builders will also be vetting you, and they won't be afraid to politely decline the job if necessary. Be wary of a builder who is too eager for the work. The point here is that the initial visit shouldn't be about dollars and cents but about finding whether the two of you are a good fit.