Questions to ask Previous Customers

"Now that you have a list of my references, it will be important to ask them the most important questions." - Paul Lehmann

How former customers answer these questions will prove whether or not a builder is being honest with you, what you can expect in your working relationship, and whether or not this person's company is a trustworthy entity.


Was the builder readily available to you?

How did the builder handle change orders?

How fair was his estimate compared to actual cost?

Did you feel comfortable working with him?


Was the builder readily available to you?

It's always frustrating to contact someone you've hired to do a job and never get a return phone call or email. The builder you hire should be available by phone, or have arrangements in place to handle return phone calls and emails to get an answer to your question. A qualified and honest builder should be able to give you some sort of status report on how the work is progressing within a couple of business days of the request.

At Lehmann Construction, we're proud to offer our homeowners a variety of methods to contact us including email, telephone, cell phone and fax.

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How did the builder handle change orders?

Before the building process begins, you should have a complete list of specifications you have both agreed to, a complete set of plans for the home, as well as a firm price. Any and all changes that are made throughout the process should be initialed by both parties before proceeding, especially when it affects the final price of the home.

The approval process should be relatively easy, even if you do not live in the area thanks to our use of conventional and electronic communications. Remember to have all correspondence documented and dated so that you and your builder can stay on the same page at all times.

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How fair was his estimate compared to actual cost?

No one likes surprises when it comes to money, and this is especially true when building a home. An experienced contractor should be able to give you a firm price based on the final house plans, requirements of the construction site to accommodate your new home, utility connections, pouring the foundation, and anything else associated with the process that is not defined in the blue prints.

There are two ways to handle an estimate: the Fixed Price method and the Cost Plus (or Time and Materials) method. Each situation is unique, so my preference for which method we use is based on the situation as well as the homeowner's wishes. In the simplest of terms, a Fixed Price Contract means the contractor has agreed to supply all labor and materials for a specific - or fixed - price. With the Cost Plus Contract, the contractor agrees to supply materials and labor, and adds a percentage fee to cover overhead and profit.

With the Fixed Price method, you will know the exact cost of building your home and that can be a plus. Unfortunately, this also requires you to place a lot of trust in your builder. It will be important to finalize your decisions before requesting an estimate of any builder to avoid surprises later on.

If decisions aren't finalized, then a contractor will use allowances to create the estimate. Some contractors will give a low allowance on many items to help keep the bottom line low, and to reduce the overall cost per square foot. Unfortunately, some contractors leave out big items, such as a septic system, well, or fixtures, in order to win a homeowner's bid.

It is vitally important that homeowners ask a lot of questions of a potential builder, and to always read the fine print when reviewing an estimate.

Another common problem with some builders is that if they see they are "cutting it close" so to speak during the final stages of the home, that person may decide to cut corners in building your home to increase the profit margin.

The worst part of this decision is that many of these cut corners are things that the homeowner will not even realize until years after the home has been completed.

If a potential builder insisted on working with the Fixed Price method, be sure to ask the references whether they have experienced any problems with their home post-construction, how long ago the home was built, if they found out corners were cut, or if they felt the builder was straightforward and honest with them during the entire process.

It will be important to work with your builder closely and stay apprised of your home's progress regardless of which method you choose. An experienced builder should be able to provide an estimate for stages of the home building process and be fairly close to the actual cost to help you avoid major surprises.

One negative to using the Cost Plus method is if your builder does not strive to get things done quickly, or shop prices on materials for the most advantageous price, your home will cost more. Paul Lehmann shops and negotiates for the lowest prices on high quality materials to keep your cost down.

Be sure to ask whether the builder was able to estimate well if the Cost Plus method was used. Did the house progress in a timely fashion? Were there any periods of time where things seemed unnecessarily stalled?

Lehmann Construction believes in high quality at a reasonable price—affordable elegance as I like to say. I charge homeowners for materials at their actual cost instead of inflated prices, and can assess potential problems with challenging home sites before construction begins. I'll be honest in my estimates and will strive to make sure you are informed of your home's progress and potential issues as they arise in a timely fashion. Ultimately, our work ethic revolves around the Golden Rule and every house is built as if it were my own personal home.

We have a comprehensive Estimating Worksheet to figure out the cost of building your home. At the very least, if you have a set of plans but no specifications, we can get a base figure to start out with. I will always work with homeowners to make sure their Dream Home is built to their specifications and in the budget they have to work with.

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Did you feel comfortable working with this builder? Is he trustworthy?

Building a home is a serious financial commitment, so it is important to have a strong rapport with your builder. Did you find that this person was accommodating to you in your requests? Was guidance offered to you when you were not quite sure of how to decide on something related to the home? Does the builder have a helpful staff member available? Do you feel that this person is trustworthy? Positive answers to questions like these can make or break your potential experience with a General Contractor. Consider the answers given to you by former customers carefully.

Sometimes a builder will tell a homeowner what they want to hear in the beginning, and then change things later. Lehmann Construction will always be up front with you, and to this day, my best source of marketing is my former customers. Visit the Testimonial page to get a review of Lehmann Construction.

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