There is a not-so-subtle artfulness in home-building. Houses may be going up left and right in our area but so few of them are really, truly homes. A house is where you live. A home is where life happens.
In the pursuit of building a home, partnering with a contractor that will take your vision and run with it is essential. While competent, professional contractors are found everywhere, not all of them will nurture your dream and push it forward to a successful completion.
So here are 5 things that you need to consider before choosing a contractor.
If you’ve ever built a house or known someone who has built a house, you know that the daily ins-and-outs of the jobsite are constantly changing. Communication is a two-way street. Open dialogue as the project progresses is essential. From appliance choice to rooflines, things will change. And when those changes are made, you want to be reassured that every detail has been gone over and every facet considered. We like to think of the contractor-client relationship as a short-term marriage. When you sign that contract and the work begins, you better hope that the marriage is built on strong communication.
As part of your pre-construction homework, you should be gathering references for contractors. If the people you talk to simply say, “they were great,” or “they were fine to work with”, you should run. If their past clients aren’t thrilled to talk at length about the experience, then that contractor most likely built them a house, not a home. Listen for words like, “artistic, passionate, detailed, thorough, patient, and personal.” Listen to how they talk about the enjoyable parts of the project but also ask them about how they dealt with the problems or difficulties. Because that is the measure of a great contractor; how they act through the hardest parts of the project.
Contractors are not engineers, they follow a plan but they also should be actively looking for ways to improve your design. Building homes for a living gives them an advantage of experience. They know what previous clients have hated and loved about their own designs. A contractor who is willing to go off-script so that they can create a custom, artistic change to the design, is a contractor who cares about the end-product and the vision.
Something you should ask your potential contractor about is how they choose subcontractors. There are generally two ways that contractors choose subcontractors. Some contractors are only concerned about the bottom-line. They will use the cheapest subcontractors they can find in an effort to come in with the lowest bid. While this method of choosing subs could work in some industries, it can have long-reaching negative effects on your building project. The other way of selecting subcontractors is more relational. The contractor will have a list of subs they've used before and trust to do great work. This method builds more trust on the jobsite and allows for easier communication as everyone knows what the expectations are for each party involved. If something breaks or goes wrong, you want to be guaranteed that the general contractor will stand by the work that his subs did while also being willing to go to bat for you as the homeowner. A dedicated team of subcontractors who work together is vital for your project’s success.
While it is true that not all experienced contractors are especially great, great contractors are all very experienced. They have built hundreds of homes over the years and honed their craft to perfection. Building in different climates, with different materials, in different styles and sizes, giving them a wealth of knowledge that can be used on your next project. They know the process from start to finish and will help guide you along the way.
We hope that you consider these five things as you start or continue your building project. Building a home is an incredibly special, thrilling, scary, and exciting undertaking. Make sure that you are teaming up with the best possible contractor for the job. It will save you time, sweat, tears, and money.
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