A custom home can tick every box on a prospective buyer’s wish list. Without the right builder, however, both the experience of building the home and the finished product might come up short.

Before signing a contract with a builder, there are several important questions people in the market for a custom home should have answered.

What are our timelines?

Constructing a home takes time. Setting those expectations from the get-go is essential, says Lauren Herschel, BILD Calgary Region’s manager of communications.

“Not only should you know how long the build should take, but you should also receive a timeline of key milestones,” she said. “This will help give you an understanding of whether the project is on track and when you may be needed for certain decisions or site visits, and, of course, when your house will be ready for you to move in.”

Buyers should also be aware of how frequently they can expect to receive updates from the builder and how they would address potential delays, Herschel adds.

What’s your track record?

When deciding on a builder to trust with the money and time required to complete your home, their resumé counts.

“Ask if they have repeat clients. We have so many clients who have built two, three, four houses with us. That’s the true testament to what you’re doing right or wrong.” – Nick Lupi, Lupi Luxury Homes

“The longevity of a builder business usually indicates that they have been reputable and trustworthy,” said Herschel, adding the company’s time in Calgary might also shed light on their familiarity with local planning processes, bylaws and suppliers. Additionally, it might indicate how well they understand the region’s weather and how to prepare for it, creating a “smoother construction process.”

Look for references, too, says Nick Lupi, president and co-owner of Lupi Luxury Homes, now in its 50th year of operation.

“Ask if they have repeat clients,” said Lupi. “We have so many clients who have built two, three, four houses with us. That’s the true testament to what you’re doing right or wrong.”

How will we communicate?

Nobody with a home under construction should feel left in the dark. To make sure that does not happen, builders should have contacts who can make the process transparent.

“Some use a project manager to communicate, others have different ways of providing updates,” said Herschel. “Ask what the company uses to determine if it meets your expectations.”

She also recommends asking how the builder provides information about the progress of the home.

“Some use email, phone or an online system to relay information,” she said. “Be sure to communicate what type of communication works best for you, and how frequently you require updates and/or site visits.”

What’s under the surface?

Beneath the beauty of granite and hardwood are key materials homebuyers should be asking about.

While many homes present well, a few years down the road “you start to notice big differences around how a house is built,” said Lupi.

“How is my concrete done? How is my insulation done? What are you using in my walls? Longevity-wise, that makes a huge difference.”