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If you’ve started to interview builders, you’ve likely started to see the difference on how they operate. They each have areas they thrive in and other’s not so much. But no matter their skill set or competitive advantages, you’ll ultimately get to the big step of reviewing and signing a contract with one of them.  Even though this might be months from the first day you meet with them, it’s important to start asking questions early on their contract!

I bring this up because we’ve seen deals fall apart after drawings are finished and bulldozers are at the site because the Buyer or Builder didn’t agree on some facet of the contract. So, don’t wait until your 2nd or 8th meeting with the builder to review the contract, start EARLY!

And when you do, you need to know about the different types of contracts! Forget about the fine print, the overall premise of the contract is what’s most important in the beginning. What I mean by that is, how are you paying your builder? Is it a cost plus contract or a fixed price contract? This is a VERY important item to ask.

Below are the types of contracts and how each works:

Fixed Price Contract – The cost of building a home is essentially the sum of all the parts from foundation to countertops! A fixed cost contract puts the risk on the builder to price out all of the items accurately to be sure he has ample cost and profit in the deal for him. When you execute a Fixed Price Contract, the builder bids out the plan (typically) to all of his vendors and suppliers, adds allowances for items you need to pick, adds his profit margin and then gives you a price. The profit margin might be fixed on his initial pro-forma (which they may or may not share), but ultimately it will slide up and down based on the cost of each non-allowance based item. The spec sheet guides his choices to be sure he doesn’t skimp on anything in the house.

Benefits:

  • The Builder’s responsible for any overruns (not caused by the land).
  • You know your price from Day 1 of contract signing!
  • Your bank can easily give you a loan based on a for sure number (minus allowance overruns)

Negatives:

  • The builder will try to save money where ever they can.  
  • It’s on you to stay in line with your allowances and be sure they’re adequate for your taste.
  • You might not see what your Builder’s profit margin is.

Cost Plus Contract –  The alternative to a fixed priced contract is cost plus where you see each and every item that is needed to build a home. The Builder will get bids for each item and then take on a fee for themselves. This fee can be a cost plus or a management fee. Examples might be a 15% cost plus or $100,000 management fee added to the cost. Sometime it can be both! They can be floating depending on how the scale of the build carries out. The responsibility is on the builder AND the client to review the bids to make sure they’re accurate and there is enough buffer to make sure you’re covered. These contracts can fluctuate in price drastically depending on how things go on the building site and how well your builder priced each of the categories.

Benefits:

  • Full transparency because you can see each of the costs
  • You know exactly what your builder is being paid!
  • You can influence each item if you care to.

Negatives:

  • Builder profit can be tied to how much YOU spend.
  • The builder is less concerned about keeping price under control.
  • The price is always moving – positively or negatively!

As you meet with Builders, be sure to talk with them about how they operate on this regard. If you have a preferred way to go about it, you’ll want to be sure you let the builder know that from the get go! No sense wasting your time if you and the builder can’t agree on the framework for a future deal!!

As a bonus, here are a few questions to ask your builder about their contracts…

  • What is the deposit and when do I give that to you?
  • How long does it take to build a home and will the delivery date be added into the contract)?
  • Ask about their financial capacity to pay subcontractors and how quickly they are paid.
  • If there are issues with construction, timing, execution, how are they handled?
  • Do you finance the construction or do I need a construction loan?

I  know this seems a bit overwhelming, but it’s important!  An as always, feel free to reach out to Build Cincinnati to help guide you through the new construction buying process.