By CATHI AYCOCK
Looking to build your dream home?
Here are the ten questions you need to ask before you hire a contractor:
Building a home can be exciting--or a nightmare. Choosing the right contractor can make or break your experience. Image from Tennessee Valley Homes.

Building a home can be exciting — or a nightmare. Choosing the right contractor can make or break your experience. Image from Tennessee Valley Homes.

1. Are you licensed? 
“Always, always hire a contractor that is licensed,” explains  McClain Holloway Franks with Tennessee Valley Homes, who says licensed contractors are required to take state-issued exams and/or classes to ensure their competence in building and construction.
In the state of Tennessee, licenses for general contractors are broken down into classifications. For residential purposes, you should make sure your contractor has either a BC, the broadest category of licensing which covers all areas of contracting for residential and commercial, Residential BC-A, which encompasses all areas of contracting for residential, or BC/Ar which allow a contractor to work on construction, remodel and repair on single family homes with a monetary limit of $125,000.
2. What is your warranty? 
“It is important to understand what the warranty covers, how to make a claim, and the process for resolving disputes. A home is probably the biggest purchase you will ever make. A reputable builder will walk you through their warranty process before you commit,” says Franks.
3. How extensive is your General Liability insurance? 
Always make sure your contractor has General Liability insurance. Ask for a copy and show it to your own insurance agent to make sure all of the important coverage is in place, and that there are not exclusions for unoccupied homes or those under construction.
4. What is your contractor fee? 
Will the contractor bill you cost of construction plus a percentage? Or will he allow you to pay a flat fee for the entire project with line-item billing for actual construction costs?
5. Who will I speak with for project updates and concerns? 
Get a complete list of phone numbers and email addresses for the contractor and the employee who is your main on-site contact. Make sure the contractor has all of your contact information as well, including an emergency contact, so that he or she can reliably reach you.
“You are going to be in close contact with your contractor. You need a good working relationship with this person, so don’t be afraid to ask to meet in person and make sure your personalities are going to mesh,” says Franks.
6. Do you offer design services, landscape site services and or drafting services?
“You can amass a big bill if your contractor doesn’t offer these services and you know you want a design service to help you plan for function and aesthetics. Having a team of professional resources can save you money, so factor that in when choosing a contractor,” explains Franks, who is a designer for Tennessee Valley Homes and works with clients in everything from paint color to where to place electrical outlets.
Does your contractor offer professional design services? Landscape and site planning? Drafting? These options can save you time and money in the building process.

Does your contractor offer professional design services? Landscape and site planning? Drafting? These options can save you time and money in the building process. Image from Tennessee Valley Homes.

7. How long have you been in business?
“In our market, it is a very good sign if your builder has been building for at least ten years. That generally means they have good financials and a good track record in the area,” Franks explains.
8. What referrals can you offer?
Ask for at least two referrals on past projects. And don’t be afraid to ask friends and  local realtors for their history with contractors.
9. Do you have model homes that I can walk through to see your finished product?
You should be able to see a home the contractor has completed to see the quality of their building.
10. How often do you finish on time and under budget? How many projects are you currently handling and is your roster of sub-contractors adequate to fulfill your deadline to me? 
If a contractor is busy that can mean they are in demand. It can also mean they bit off more than they can chew with projects endlessly delayed. Make sure your contractor has a talent pool deep enough to handle your all-important home project.
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