Selecting a builder is one of your most important tasks

FAQs

 

As experts in the custom home design and construction industry, we receive a wide array of questions from our clients before, during and after the process of creating their dream home.

The good news is that almost every problem has a solutionHere are a few of the more commonly asked questions. If your questions aren't addressed below, don't hesitate to contact us today.

  1. How do I select a custom home builder?
  2. What are the benefits of using a design-build firm
    like Greywood Homes?
  3. How long will the design process take?
  4. How long will the actual construction take?
  5. Should I competitively bid my project to several
    builders or negotiate with one builder?
  6. How do I analyze competitive bids on home construction projects?
  7. Should I insist on a fixed lump sum or is it OK to
    have a time and materials contract?
  8. Why do so many people have home construction nightmares?
  9. How can I minimize the problems associated with a home construction project?
  10. How do I avoid overruns?
  11. How do I avoid being taken advantage of on change orders?
  12. Why are so many builders and subcontractors evasive?

How do I select a custom home builder?
Selecting a builder is one of your most important tasks. While there is no foolproof way of making the right decision, ultimately, it comes down to trust... a gut feeling.  Do not get involved with a home builder you do not trust, regardless of how attractive the price is. You want someone with experience, competence, service, and value for your money. Referrals are good, but they can be misleading as some of those people providing the referrals may not know a good job from a bad one. It is best to visit some previous projects, and to see the workmanship first hand. Ask questions of past clients and don't be shy. This is your hard earned money at stake.
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What are the benefits of using a design-build firm like Greywood Homes?
Design-build firms (such as Greywood) offer greater participation in the design and planning process for you, the owner. One firm provides both design and construction which means you enjoy superior continuity of service, clear communication and accountability with one company. The combined design and construction experience of a professional working team provides you with efficiency, fewer surprises, a project that fits your budget, and a positive, rewarding experience.

How long will the design process take?
The design process time is determined by a variety of factors including but not limited to the size and type of project, its architectural and structural complexity, the level of finish, and the ability of the client to make time efficient decisions. Generally speaking, for interior renovations, we will work through preliminary design in one or two months. For one and two story additions, the time might run two to three months and for new custom homes additional time may be needed. Click here to learn more about our process.
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How long will the actual construction take?
Construction time varies based on project type, size, complexity, level of finish, access and many other variables. We establish a construction schedule once your project is authorized and have an excellent track record of completing work on time. Each project has its own custom schedule. Typical durations for some projects are:
Bathroom Full Remodel — three to six weeks
Kitchen Renovation — four to ten weeks
Interior Renovation — six to sixteen weeks
One Story Addition — three to five months
Two Story Addition — four to six months
Whole House Renovation — three to six months
New Custom Home — six to twelve months
Click here to learn more about our process.

As experts in the custom home design and construction industry, we receive a wide array of questions from our clients before, during and after the process of creating their dream home.Should I competitively bid my project to several builders or negotiate with one builder?
Unfortunately, there is no right way.  To negotiate with one builder whom you have researched thoroughly and believe to be reputable and trustworthy is probably the best approach.  The danger is that if your judgment is wrong, you could end up paying way too much for your project, or they might be very fair on pricing but incredibly inefficient, which could end up costing you more than dishonesty.
On paper, a competitive bid process makes a lot of sense, but the reality is that it can be wrought with danger.  A competitive bid on a project is essentially a game, because the bid is based on a set of plans which usually have mistakes and are generally incomplete. Competitive bids are never "apples to apples", since each builder is calculating on a different level of quality and service. Some builders bid low and make it up on extras, and some builders bid sloppily and make it up on poor workmanship. There are others who will scrutinize the plans for errors and omissions, and find areas that they can exploit to their advantage. Sometimes you can win the competitive bid game, but you can also lose. The more you do your homework and find out what things should cost, the more likely it is that you will get value for your money. If you find a good builder whom you can trust, and he or she has a reputation for pleasing clients, being efficient and fair on pricing, this is the builder you probably want. 
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How do I analyze competitive bids on home construction projects?
The first thing you want to do is make sure that the bids are as descriptive as possible. Every home builder has his own way of estimating and may use different approaches or descriptions than his competitors.

When the plans are given out to bid, an outline should be given to each builder, breaking down the project the same way. You should then require each builder to fill out the outline with his bid, and then you can compare the electrical price and the plumbing, etc.  Choosing a home builder should never be based on price alone, but the more clear information you can obtain about how the bid prices were reached, the better chance you have of making the right decision.

Should I insist on a fixed lump sum or is it OK to have a time and materials contract?
A cost plus contract with an unethical or inefficient builder can be tragically costly, but even with a fixed price, the cost can go up dramatically, as certain conditions are usually not covered in a fixed price, nor are changes and extras. Another major problem with a fixed price is that it puts you and the home builder on opposite sides of the table. Every quality decision the builder makes costs more or less money, so while the price is fixed, the house is not, and the builder could be compromising the quality of the home. A cost plus job creates more of a team atmosphere, and in general, will cost you more money, but you will have a better quality job.
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Selecting a builder is one of your most important tasksWhy do so many people have home construction nightmares?
For most people, a major home addition or the building of a new house represents one of the largest financial commitments of their lives, and if you analyze most construction nightmares you will find a common theme: they were seduced by a low bid. The problem is that you are not buying a product that you can go compare the same model, size, year, and features, and then find the one store that has it for the lowest price.  When purchasing a new home or renovation, it is extremely hard to do comparison shopping, since every builder builds differently. Don't get seduced by a low bid.

Why are there so many problems on a construction project?
Even when you are involved with a good home builder, there could be a variety of reasons why there are a number of problems with the project, that even a good home builder can not be in control of.  One problem that often occurs is that there are mistakes on the construction plans. Also, it could be that many of the materials used in construction are continually changing because of competition or new technologies. Many of these changes are not fully tested in the real world before they come on the market, and a product that performs beautifully in one part of the country may not in another.  The more custom your project is, the more vulnerable you become to the unknown and a good home builder can shield you from a lot of problems, but construction is inherently problematic. The good news is that almost every problem has a solution.
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How can I minimize the problems associated with a home construction project?
The first step is to understand that all construction problems can be reduced to issues of money or communication.  If money was not an issue there would be no problems, because you would simply buy your way out of any mistakes, compromises or misunderstandings. Money is an issue regardless of your wealth or budget.

People dream about houses just beyond their means or budgets. Set a budget, then set a contingency over that budget and adhere to it, because budgets usually don't go over because of one item, but they deteriorate incrementally as those "little things" add up.

Before the project begins know what your builder is charging you for markup, overhead and profit, extras. Understand fully who pays for what if something goes wrong, understand your warranties and guarantees, understand who is responsible when cracks or shrinkage or expansion occurs months after you have paid the builder. Go over all the money issues you can think of before you sign the contract.
Communication with your designer, with your builder, with the electrician, and all other members of your team, is paramount.  Having a formal meeting with the builder (and architect if one is involved) every week or every other week is very helpful. Even if you are doing a renovation and talk to the builder every day, a formal meeting forces people to communicate about the current issues of money, time, quality, and problems.

How do I avoid overruns?
Overruns are the amounts spent building your custom home or renovating your house that go beyond the original budget. This might include changes, additional work, low estimates, or unforeseen conditions. It is always good to start a construction project with a contingency. It is rare that a residential construction project doesn't go over budget. Changes and additional work can be kept to a minimum by fully understanding what you are building before you start. If you can't read plans, then have the architect or builder explain to you everything that is on the plans. Once you have accepted the design then you have to maintain the discipline to enforce the budget. You can always make the house nicer; but that costs money.
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It is important to explain in the contract how changes are going to be handledHow do I avoid being taken advantage of on change orders?
Changes are inherently inefficient, so even if your builder is honest you pay a premium for changes because they disrupt the flow of work. They create inefficiency, and some builders bid jobs low, planning to make up the money on their change orders. Once you are captive to a builder or subcontractor who sees changes as a gold mine, you've got a problem. Obviously, the best strategy is to keep changes to a minimum. It is important to explain in the contract how changes are going to be handled. What type of markups and overhead and profit is your builder going to charge you. If you can get an estimate of the entire project that is broken down into very detailed categories before the construction starts, that is very helpful. Then you will know what each item costs. This forces the builder to give you proper credit for items you already had in the project. Some builders may not have this information or may not want to share it with you. A good, honest, efficient home builder should. The more information a builder doesn't want to reveal to you, the more you should be wary of getting involved with that builder.

Why are so many builders and subcontractors evasive?
There is a language spoken by many people in the construction world that we call "Vaguese." It is an interesting language where words and phrases are combined to create vague impressions. Sentences are constructed to avoid any personal responsibility. It is a defensive language used to shield individuals and companies from financial liability. Since almost every problem in construction comes down to who is going to pay for it, and often times there are gray areas and several entities to blame, many people in the industry learn to speak Vaguese or risk owning the repair bill. As a consumer, you should try to find a home builder who doesn't speak this language, a home builder who is direct and honest. You should also consciously make sure that all of your communications are direct. If you make a mistake, admit it. Set the tone. Create a climate where you expect total honesty and you live by total honesty.
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