Q: What differentiates some builders from others?
A: This is a difficult question because each builder has their own unique style. The attention to detail and the process of building your home is important as well as the quality of tradesmen the builder uses. Make sure the builder designs and builds your home to fit your lifestyle and your budget.

Q: How does one find a good builder?
A: You’ll need to do a bit of leg work, but the effort will pay off in many ways.


  1. Asking the builder for a list of references you can call and then contacting them and seeing work the contractor has already completed.
  2. Contacting your local builders association for recommendations and obtain a number of bids.
  3. Asking the contractor for proof of personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage or bonding. Finally, ask if they are a registered contractor in Montana as a extra step to protect yourself. Regardless still ask for this as it is one more step to ensuring a good contractor.

Q: What are some of the challenges to building a new home?
A: Surprisingly, the two areas that folks commonly overlook are; communication and information?

  1. Communication: Building a new home is an emotional experience, effective and timely communication between the builder and the buyer and vice versa is extremely important and helps in preventing unnecessary frustration. There are many phases to a building project, some requiring more communication between the builder and the buyer than others. First, the builder should respond to your questions or requests in a timely manner. Next, many things will be discussed verbally but to ensure that there are no misunderstandings or lost intent the builder should always and in a timely manner follow-up verbal communications involving key dates, purchase orders, changes orders, selections, buyer’s intent or requests with a short written response and or confirmation of what was discussed, requested, or decided. Also, it is the buyer’s responsibility to review and respond (if only briefly) to all communications and review final selections. We all forget things and occasionally write things down incorrectly; ultimately written communication is the key to success. If you find yourself about to use the word ‘Assume’ don’t. If you, the buyer communicate directly with a sub and the general contractor (GC) was not present or ‘CC’ed in the email the buyer should briefly summarize / forward that communication in an email to the GC. This will allow the GC to do the job he was hired to do. Ultimately effective and timey communication by both the GC and the buyer is the key to a successful project. Again, if you find yourself about to use the word ‘Assume’ don’t.
  2. Information: In today’s society the internet provides an infinite amount of information and choices. This can be overwhelming for even the most organized of folks. Building a home is a complex process and having a good understanding of what you want and researching is important but too much research can cause information overload. Don’t feel you need to come to the GC with everything already picked out for your new home, if you do, great(!) but this is not required. The GC will walk you through this process prior to starting the build and work out a lot of these details and help you make your choices prior to building. If more help is required and your budget allows a great addition to the team is an interior designer.

Q: How long will it take to build a home?
A: The length of time it takes to build a home depends on the size of the home and the time of year that the construction starts. Many factors play a role on the estimated time of completion, and some of these factors are beyond our control. These factors can include: the buyer’s decisions, buyer’s time to make decisions, availability of materials, making timelines, and the weather, change orders, to name a few.

Q: What should be in a construction contract?
A: A contract is a document that clearly states the expectations, responsibilities and rights of the parties involved in a project. Remember, if it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist. As a starting point, consider including the points listed below:

  1. The contractor’s name, address, phone, and license number.
  2. Verification of insurance or bonding the contractor and sub-contractors are required to carry. Avoid doing business with contractors who don’t carry the appropriate insurance. Otherwise, you could be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.
  3. A clear description of the work that is to be performed.
  4. A description of the materials, products and equipment to be used.
  5. A start and estimated completion date. Understand that situations beyond the control of the contractor can delay a project, such as weather, change orders, back-ordered materials, or other unforeseen problems.
  6. Procedures for change orders and associated cost and impact on completion date.
  7. A request for all written warranties from any appliances, equipment, or materials used in the project.
  8. The payment schedule for the project. Typically, the contractor will require a down payment and installments throughout the course of the project.
  9. Make the final payment contingent on satisfaction of the work performed and verification, via lien releases, that the subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.
  10. A method for settling any disputes.

Q: I’ve changed my mind about what I want. Can I make a change to the project?
A: Typically, yes, via the Change order process. The type of change and when the request occurs can greatly impact the ability to physically make the change, as well as the associated costs. Changes should be agreed to in writing with a “change order” noting what is to be changed as well as the costs and how these cost increase or decrease the overall cost of the project.

Q: What is a ‘lien’ or ‘mechanics lien’?
A: If a contractor or business is hired to work on your construction project and then you refuse to pay, the individual or business has the right to file a lien (within Montana 90 days from when the work was performed/completed). The lien is a claim on your home. This means the contractors and suppliers could go to court to force you to sell your home to satisfy their unpaid bills from your project.

Q: What is the dollar per square foot cost to build a new home?
A: There is no exact price per square foot. There are so many variables that affect the price per square foot (i.e. floor coverings, fixtures, cabinets, cathedral or tray ceilings, number of baths, price of the lot, etc.).