Checking Builder References

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The vast majority of builders are happy to provide prospective clients with a list of people for whom they have built homes. They encourage them to call these references and ask about their experience and level of satisfaction through planning, building and follow-up work.

References should include past clients as well as design professionals, trade contractors, material suppliers and other colleagues who can provide perspective on the builder’s professionalism and track record of performance. Homeowners who fail to check their builder’s references do themselves a disservice.

Current and past clients understand how difficult the selection decision can be and usually are happy to help out. Common questions for them include what kind of home was built, what neighborhood it was built in, whether the home was finished on time and on budget, and whether the client would recommend the builder to others.

Here are additional questions that may be far more insightful:

  • Did the builder care about you and your home?
  • Do you feel that you received value for the time, money and energy you spent?
  • Was communication with the builder’s superintendents and/or foreman easy?
  • Is the builder organized?
  • Do the builder’s managers deliver on their promises?
  • Does the builder keep deadlines and schedules, including being on time for meetings?
  • Was the home finished as expected?
  • Were the builder and his team pleasant to work with?
  • Were any issues that came up handled effectively and fairly?
  • How was communication and service after you moved in? Are you comfortable calling the builder today and requesting service?
  • Is there anything else I should know?

If you do uncover a problem, don’t jump to conclusions. Instead, get the builder’s side of the story. For instance, if the home went over budget, a follow-up conversation might reveal that the homeowners made a lot of costly changes after things were underway. These types of follow-up conversations set the stage for honest communication.

Any reluctance on the part of the builder to provide references is a red flag. A forthcoming attitude is a good sign that the builder values transparency and is secure in his or her reputation.


Terry Wardell
Wardell Builders
649 Valley Ave., Suite A
Solana Beach, CA 92075

Categories: Home Design