Brooks Builders is a leading residential contractor in Franklin Lakes, Ridgewood, Wyckoff, HoHoKus, Saddle River, and the surrounding areas. Selecting the right professionals to work with you on your building project is essential to the project’s success. Following is a checklist of questions to ask and issues to keep in mind as you sift through the myriad choices of builders for your project. We have filled in Brooks Builder’s answers to help you understand our philosophy and approach to the Building business.
How long have you been in business?
My Father started the business in 1971, and I, Bruce D. Bohuny, took over as President in 1993. I have completed over 130 projects totaling over $50,000,000.00.
What are their professional qualifications and credentials?
Do they have all required licenses and are they insured?
Unfortunately, there are no professional qualifications or credentials to be in Residential Construction. New Jersey requires a Home Improvement License which basically confirms that you have General Liability Insurance and checks for existing Lawsuits. We also have a New Home Builders License which requires you be able to qualify and have either the State or a Private New Home Warranty Insurance provider. We have worked with the Residential Warranty Company which is a private insurer. The private insurers have more stringent financial and quality requirements.
We carry both General Liability Insurance and Workers Compensation Insurance
Will they give you a list of references from current and past clients whom you may contact?
When speaking with the references, ask about the quality of the work, if the agreed-upon timeline was followed, and if they would use them again.
We believe the best way to assess a Builder is ask him to take you to one of his recent projects and ask him to explain what distinguishes his quality of work from other builders. We love the opportunity to take prospective clients to our projects to show the unusual amount of care, thought, and craftsmanship that makes Brooks Builders unique.
We are also happy to provide a list of recent/relevant projects and our clients phone numbers. I believe one of the best referrals we ever received was from a large Real Estate attorney who said he was amazed at how happy our clients were at our closings.
Have they worked in the area before?
Brooks Builders has worked throughout New Jersey (in over 40 different communities). The loyalty of subcontractors, the size of our suppliers, and the efficiency of our office allows us to cover a large area.
Are they familiar with local building codes?
Our length of time in the business and wide range of projects has made us very familiar with Building Code. I, as the President, perform the permit submittal process so that I can meet the local Building Officials and ask if they have any specific requirements that we might be unfamiliar with. Code enforcement is uneven, so I believe this is vital for smooth relations with Town Hall.
Are they able to meet your deadline?
We take great pride in providing a proper timeline and meeting that deadline. We understand that Builders often provide inaccurate timelines that do not help Homeowners properly prepare for their move-in or completion date. We believe that does not well serve either the Homeowner or Builder.
Many Builders do not understand that an efficient project flow helps both parties financially. We want to get you into your home as soon as possible, without sacrificing quality for speed.
How many projects, other than yours, will they be working on?
You want to hire someone who will be focused on your project, not someone who will only spend short bursts of time on it due to other commitments.
We do not take on any more projects then we can efficiently handle for the reason mentioned above. We work extremely hard to make the building process as smooth as possible. We understand that these projects are often some of the largest financial undertakings you will ever incur. That is stressful in and of its self, we do not want to add any additional stress to the project. Our job is to use our knowledge and experience to walk you through every stage of your project.
Will they be using subcontractors and, if so, are the subcontractors insured?
All residential builders excluding major developers use subcontractors. We have spent 20 years finding the highest quality, most reliable, and fairly priced subcontractors in the business. Price is not our priority when selecting subs. We have found quality sub contractors require less supervision and all but eliminate call backs. That makes us unique in the business. We make sure to respect their time, have the job site ready for them, pay quickly, and keep them busy. Our clients get to reap the benefits of well managed subs by getting the best sub contractors in the business working on their jobs without paying more.
We are audited annually by our Insurance companies to insure that all our subs carry General Liability and Workers Compensation.
Have they previously built projects of a style similar to yours?
We have the good fortune of having been able to work on many different style homes throughout the years. There is always something new to learn in the building business, but fortunately we have encountered most of the design challenges that are likely to arise. In a business that has no instruction book, and is primarily trial by error, I would recommend that any builder you consider have at least 10 years of solid experience with your level of project.
I believe another of our strengths is that we have done speculative building. That means we have built on our own nickel and therefore understand value-added building. In other words, how to get the most impact out of your budget. I will always offer suggestions and options for each design stage. Homeowners who have recently completed a project often tell me, ‘we wish our builder told us we had that option’. We do not want you to have regrets when your project is complete.
Do they have enough staff to handle your project?
We have experienced Job Supervisors and Crews large enough to handle any project. Building is the sum of a 1000 little pieces and the key is that there is advance planning and constant supervision, so that all these pieces come together in the right order. The office work that goes into this planning and supervison is often the weakest part of many building companies. It is hard for an owner who also does the physical construction to manage this aspect of the business. This is the primary reason for choppy job flow and delays. The quality of the presentation of the estimate will tell you a lot about a builders ability to manage this aspect of the business.
What is their estimated fee? How do they establish fees?
Although the fee is a factor in your decision, it should not be the most important one. An estimate that seems low may indicate a shoddy work style. If the estimate is high, ask if they are willing to work with you to make it more affordable and confirm that their estimate includes all aspects of the project from start to finish.
We provide a very detailed estimate and specifications so you can understand what we have figured into your project. I believe in transparency. Blueprints only cover so much of a project. The builder specifications are very important for you to understand what is actually figured into your project. Our detailed specifications help you to make sure that other bidders have included the same items. We want you to have a realistic budget for your project. The less surprises, the better.
Are their estimates usually on target?
As mentioned above, we work very hard to create a realistic budget at the onset. There are often unexpected costs in renovation projects. There is a bit of a myth about all old construction being good. We often find some shoddy craftsmanship behind walls that would have been impossible to anticipate. What we try to avoid, through detail specifications, is surprises on items that would have been reasonably assumed to be part of the project. Our cost overruns are usually more of a product of clients who decide to take on additional work or upgrades because they are excited about the project. We are very fair with cost overages, and make sure that both parties agree on the defined scope and price before proceeding.
Have they ever been sued?
If so, ask for details.
Brooks has never been sued.
How detailed and clear are their contracts?
Ask for a sample contract to review.
We provide a very clear and fair contract that serves both parties. It basically says that we need to perform the work in quality manor and timeline as defined on the plans and in the specifications, and you will pay us if we do so.
How organized are their worksites?
Visit a current worksite or speak with past clients to confirm details.
Our worksites and kept very clean as it helps keep the process orderly.
Are they knowledgeable? Did they seem well-versed in all aspects of their business? Do you have a good rapport with them?
This is someone with whom you will be working closely for several months, so it is important that your personalities do not clash.
Do you trust what they are telling you?
Are you comfortable with them?
You can never be too prepared.
You are making a large financial commitment, so get as much information as possible from the professionals and take your time comparing the pros and cons of each.
I strongly agree with point in this question. It is vital that there be a good relationship between the Homeowner and the Builder. It a fairly lengthy and intense process that requires good communication. The main question I would ask is, ‘do you feel very confident in your Builders honesty’. There is a lot of grey area even in a well defined building process (less so in new construction). I know of no other way then being honest, and have surrounded myself with like minded people. I believe our very good relationships with our clients attests to this. We love what we do, and we are very proud of the products that bear Brooks Builders name.