Building a modular home is a big decision and a huge investment. But by knowing the right questions to ask a modular home builder during the vetting process, you can ensure you’re getting the best possible builder for your needs. Keep reading to learn how to identify a trustworthy builder and the best questions to ask a home builder to make sure you’re making the right choice.
Why You Need to Look for a Reputable and Experienced Home Builder
When you’re building a home, you need to choose a builder that will achieve results you’ll love. The best way to do that is to find a reputable, experienced builder. This is especially important if you’re building a modular home because this type of construction is its own specialty.
You should look for a company with years of experience under its belt and a history of success with its past home building projects. Some home builders will offer modular home builds as a side option, but they likely aren’t as familiar with techniques in modular construction as a manufacturer that specializes in modular home building.
You should also search for builders who are willing to walk you through the building process with ease and answer all the questions you have about the process. They should be able to advise you on the different floor plan offerings, custom features you might want, and everything in between.
That’s why it’s important to do your research before you even schedule a builder meeting. To determine whether it’s worth scheduling an appointment with a home builder, you can take steps like:
- Checking online reviews on sites like Google and Yelp to see what people are saying about the builder.
- Visiting builder websites to see how many plans they offer. Builders that showcase a variety of floor plan options on their website are more trustworthy. It’s a good sign that they’ll have multiple options for you to choose from.
- Determining whether the builder offers different energy-efficient solutions to help keep costs down once you’re living in the home.
- Paying attention to the customer service experience as you visit the company’s site. If a site is easy to navigate and the company has policies about answering your questions during the building phase, it’s a sign that you’ll probably have a great customer service experience throughout the process.
- Looking at their previous projects or photo galleries of finished homes. If this information isn’t available on their website, call the builder and request it. A builder should be proud of their previous projects; if they won’t show you their work, don’t go any further.
If your research suggests that a builder is trustworthy, then it’s likely worth scheduling an appointment with them.
Top 13 Questions to Ask in an Initial Meeting
Your first meeting with a modular home builder is the time to ask questions. This is when you can get information that you can’t find with just online research.
In your initial meeting, the builder should be knowledgeable and provide you with a game plan for getting started. They should be able to suggest customization options to meet your needs and answer questions without hesitation. The following are some good questions to ask:
1. How many modular homes have you built, and how long have you been building?
The first and most important element of choosing a home builder is selecting one that has experience in your preferred type of construction. With modular homes, this is particularly important. If you can’t find the answers to these questions online, they should be the first questions you ask during your builder meeting.
The number of modular homes they’ve built is a critical indication of their experience. A builder that’s constructed 200 modular homes will almost always have more knowledge and provide better results than a builder that’s constructed 20.
How long a builder has been in business is also important. Builders that have been constructing modular homes for decades have long-lasting partnerships and a history of providing guaranteed results. If a builder has only been operating for a few years, you can’t check how their homes hold up to decades of wear.
2. Can you provide references or testimonials from past customers and/or a portfolio of finished homes you've built?
Next, if the company doesn’t have a portfolio or testimonial page online, you should ask to see this information in your meeting. Past projects and customers are the best evidence of a construction company’s quality. Trustworthy builders will make testimonials, references, and portfolios easily accessible to show pride in their work and customer service.
Be suspicious if a company won’t show you any previous construction projects it’s done. You should also be concerned if it doesn’t have any positive testimonials or references it can give you. Both of these are signs that it doesn’t do good work. The builder may build ugly homes or provide an awful customer experience. Either way, it’s best to end the meeting then and there.
3. Do you have any modular homes I can tour or homes in the area that I can drive by and look at?
There’s nothing quite like seeing a modular home in person to assess the quality of the construction. Trustworthy builders that have operated in your area for a while typically have a list of addresses you can drive past to see what their work looks like. Many will even build show homes that you can tour.
Most builders keep addresses out of their online portfolios to protect their clients’ privacy. However, during your meeting, you can ask for addresses of homes you can tour or look at from the outside. While it’s not necessarily a red flag if they don’t have any addresses to give you, it means you have no way to verify the construction quality in person.
4. What is the process for designing and ordering a modular home?
If you’ve never been involved in the construction of a home before, you probably don’t understand how the process works. When you add the extra considerations involved in designing and building a modular home, the process changes further.
Asking the builder about how this process works is an excellent way to clear up any confusion. The builder should be able to explain clearly what you need to do to design and order the home with step-by-step instructions. If they can’t, or if they aren’t prepared to give you that information in the first meeting, then they may not be professional enough to provide you with a quality home.
5. What does the building timeline look like?
A great element of modular house construction is how quickly it can occur. Ask your builder to give you a general description of the building timeline during your first meeting. This can help you understand what to expect from the construction process and plan things like moving dates in advance.
6. Can I make changes to the plans or specifications of the home during the construction process?
Depending on the manufacturer, you may or may not be able to make changes to your home’s specifications and plans during construction. It’s critical to understand whether you’ll be able to request changes before you finalize the project.
Often, builders will permit small changes like paint colors and finishes as long as you request them before they begin that phase of the project. However, modular home construction is a quick process, so you may not have much time to request these adjustments. Furthermore, larger changes like altering the size or layout of the home may not be possible without significant additional costs.
Make sure you ask a prospective builder what kinds of changes they permit and what you need to do to request them. Even if you’re confident in what you want, it’s better to know this information in advance rather than find out halfway through the project that you can’t make a change.
7. What does your quality assurance process look like?
Every modular home builder must have thorough quality inspection and assurance processes. Since portions of the house will be transported to your site, it’s vital that every part is built well. If you’re concerned about the quality of a modular home compared to a site-constructed house, ask the builder about their quality assurance process.
If you’re meeting with a high-quality company, you should receive a clear explanation of how on-site inspectors examine each component of your house before and after it’s delivered to your property. The more specific your builder can get, the more trust you can place in your home’s eventual quality.
8. What is the customer service and communication experience like throughout the process?
Deciding to build your own home is one of the biggest investments you can make. It’s important that you’re able to talk to your builder all the way through the process so you’re aware of what’s going on every step of the way.
That’s why you should ask about the builder’s communication and customer service policies. Highly qualified builders will have a clear answer that explains how you can get in contact with them and how they’ll respond. If a builder doesn’t have a clear communication plan, you should expect to struggle if you need to ask questions or get things changed halfway through the process.
9. Are there special considerations to consider when building a modular home in this area?
Most places have strict building codes for how homes must be constructed. These building codes vary significantly across the country, and it’s important to choose a builder that understands the specific considerations of your new neighborhood. Similarly, every location has weather and soil conditions that can impact a build site.
When you ask this question, your builder should be able to name any unique issues with the building code and the local conditions. If the company claims there’s nothing special to worry about, or if the builder seems unfamiliar with local issues like flooding or severe weather, then they may not have the experience necessary to build your home.
10. How do you ensure you get the right permits for the home?
All buildings require permits prior to breaking ground. Modular homes occasionally require additional permits compared to stick-built houses due to their unique construction. Ask the builder what permits they will need to acquire and what you’ll need to do to get those permits ready. Experienced local businesses will be able to guide you through the permit acquisition process and ensure all the right documents are filed so the construction of your new house can start on schedule.
11. What kind of warranty do you offer on your homes?
All home builders should offer warranties on their projects. However, the specifics of these warranties can differ. Ask the builder about their modular home warranties. Great construction companies will offer warranties like:
- Multiyear workmanship guarantees
- Free repairs or replacements to workmanship errors
- Broad coverage of things including foundations, waterproofing, insulation, electrical work, roofing and siding, heating and cooling, and doors and windows
In general, the more inclusive and long-lasting the builder warranty, the more confident the company is in its work. Be cautious about warranties that seem short or overly narrow.
12. Do you post pricing with a list of standards included in that pricing?
If the builder provides this information, it’s a good sign that they are reputable. Note that asking about the average cost per square foot alone will not give you a thorough picture of what you’re getting for your money. You need a full understanding of what all the company offers.
The bottom line is simple: you want a builder that will take full responsibility. A builder who gives you a complete price list proves that they take full responsibility for every element of the build. Look for a builder that provides the whole package with everything you need for a move-in-ready home. If the builder requires you to select resources to complete parts of the build, you’re stuck with a huge task in an area that you likely don’t have expertise in.
This can also create a conflict with your builder if something goes wrong. The builder may blame your resources instead of taking responsibility. This is absolutely not something you want involved in your home build.
13. Do you offer any price locks?
Price locks let you handle any financial obstacles that might come between you and ordering a home without losing your quoted price. If the builder wants to put material escalators in the contract, that’s a bad sign. These escalators mean you’ll never know the total cost of the home until it’s completed. Century Home Builders offers 90-day price locks to help you complete your financing and other contingencies like selling a previous home. Once your order is placed, the home price is the home price, and it will not change.
How Do You Feel After the Initial Discussion?
After your meeting, take some time to think about how you feel about the builder. Did the builder make you feel rushed or pressured to make a decision? That’s often a bad sign. High-pressure sales tactics are a sign that the company is struggling to get business or doesn’t trust its products to speak for themselves.
You should also think about more concrete concerns. Do you know exactly when you’ll be receiving an estimate? Do you fully understand your options and know what you’re getting for the cost? Do you have paper copies of important documents like warranties and contracts to read through at home? The best builders will make sure you have the answers to all of these questions in the meeting.
If you walk away from your initial consultation without important questions answered, then the builder might not be the one for you. Meanwhile, if the meeting left you feeling confident in the builder’s knowledge and experience and provided you with solid answers to your questions, then you’ve probably found a builder that’s worth the investment.
Choose a Modular Home Builder That’s Ready to Answer Your Questions
Choosing the right modular home builder is an important decision. It’s essential to one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. Learning the right questions to ask a modular home builder will help you narrow down your choices and find the best builder for your needs.
Buying a new modular home can be a confusing and frustrating process, but it doesn’t have to be. Here at Century Home Builders, you can expect help with making the right decisions. The Century team is ready to help you find a home that meets your needs, direct you through current banking guidelines, and make sure you find a home that meets your comfort level. Contact us today to set up an initial meeting to discuss your needs.