This is one of the first posts we did. Its been a while, and its got some good info. I thought it would be good to give it another posting. Enjoy!
What should the criteria be for selecting a contractor to build my new home or custom renovation? Is it price? Is it quality? What’s the best way?
We often hear from potential customers that they are going to get 3 bids on a project to determine who they are going to use for the project. While this approach is common, it is not necessarily the best approach to selecting your contractor. Getting 3 bids and basing the decision off of simply the overall bid, assumes several things. First, it assumes that all builders will accurately understand and interpret the plans. Often, building plans are complex and do not fully show all details. Some builders will ask for further clarification, but many will simply not include items because they were not fully shown on the plans, and will issue change orders for the items not shown on the plans during the construction process. This can be very costly later on. Second, this assumes that builders will interpret what the customer wants EXACTLY the same. Unless the plans include a complete specification book detailing every specific part of the home, builders will be left to interpret what the customer wants. The plans may show tile flooring, but do you want a $1 tile or a $50 tile? Is there a large lead time on that tile that will add to the project schedule? There are several examples of this throughout the home where builders may just put in the cheapest option available to show a lower end bid. Third, this assumes that all other items between builders are the same. Experience, personality, ability to build on a schedule, ability to communicate, and other critical items are assumed to be exactly the same. It assumes that all builders can perform to the same level and will produce the same end results. That would be extremely rare. In all of these cases, many builders will “buy the job” by providing the lowest cost for every line item they possibly can in order to get the project. This may not be what you want and will likely result in costly changes along the way.
There is starting to be a shift in the method of selecting a contractor. It is our preference as well as many other reputable builders, that you select your contractor in a slightly different view. We view the project as a unique custom project that will require a “project team” consisting of the architect, contractor, engineer, customer, designer, and landscape designer. Being open about budgets and open about the desired end results, will allow this team of professionals to create what you want. This will also allow for open communication about the project from the design phase all the way through living in and using the project.
We suggest that you evaluate the project based on a slightly different criteria in order to select the best fit for your project. We suggest that you work with contractors and select a contractor based on a “negotiated contract”. This will remove the assumption that the builder is completely valued based on the bottom line cost of the bid. We suggest that you pick your project team as soon in the process as possible (lot selection timeline is ideal) as all players on the team will have valuable input that can help produce the results that you want.
A good list of questions to help determine the best fit might include the following:
#1. How will questions about my project be handled during construction?
#2. Who will be managing my project each day? Who will be your site representative?
#3. How do you prefer to communicate and how often can I plan to hear from you? Email, text, phone call, etc.
#4. What will you do to make sure your project budgets are met and how will you help direct me towards those budgets?
#5. What do you do to make sure quality standards are met?
#6. What is your warranty process?
#7. How will you schedule my project and how will you make sure this project is completed within this timeline?
#8. Have you built similar projects and how did they turn out? (ask for references if possible)
#9. Do you have insurance and are you licensed to build in our area?
#10. Do you have designers, architects, and others that you work best with?
#11. Can you provide us a list of references to call?
Asking these types of questions and then negotiating contracts based on the project and the requirements of the project team will result in a great experience and will eliminate a lot of the horror stories you hear about building new home!