Success in building a new home is closely related to who you choose to be your contractor. The right builder can make the construction process enjoyable and rewarding, the wrong builder can make it one of the most stressful times in your life. After you purchase house plans for your project consider these five points when looking for a contractor.
- Reputation: Word of mouth is one of the best friends to a good builder and is how they find most of their work. Ask friends, family or someone else you can trust if they have had any recent experiences with contractors and who they might recommend to you. Visit subdivisions where new homes are being built and find out which builders are well spoken of. Be alert to any negative feedback, but make sure you consider the source, if the feedback is coming from the competition it may be biased. Check with the local building officials to see if the contractors are known for building to code or cutting corners.
- References: If possible make a short list of three different available contractors and then ask for references. Preferably speak to clients whose projects are similar to yours and are completed. Find out whether the contractor was easy to work with, if they were over or under the estimated price and if so the reasons. Make sure you get several references and take the time to follow up, one reference from a friend or family member is usually a warning sign. If the builder is new to the area you may not want to be his first client.
- Quality: As with any major purchase, quality is very important. The contracting world is filled with stories of home owners being left with poor quality work that needs major repairs or becomes an insurance nightmare. Ask to physically see their completed work so you can get a first-hand look at the quality and finish. Even economical homes using less expensive materials should be square, solid, and look good. Spending more at the beginning to get good quality work will save you in the long run.
- Communication: A good contractor needs to be a good communicator, a contractor that is hard to reach and slow to answer messages during the bidding process will be worse during the build. Pay attention to how the builder responds to questions you might have and whether he takes them seriously or brushes them off. In this day and age the internet is a very important tool in construction, make sure the builder has an email address and checks his emails regularly.
- Pricing: When the time comes to review any pricing take time to carefully compare all the bids. The best contractors may take a little longer to come back to you with their final pricing because they are more thorough. Check the allowances for different items in the estimate, some builders will come to you with a lower price to build but when it comes time to choose flooring, lighting, cabinets, or other finishing items you may find the allowance does not allow for the finishing you desire. Far too often the contractor with the lowest estimate ends up costing you more in upgrades of finishes.
These are just a few points to consider when choosing a contractor, the main thing is to take your time and take the decision seriously. Don’t commit yourself to a builder until you have considered all the facts, and don’t let them pressure you into deciding before you are ready. With careful planning and a good set of house plans choosing a contractor can be an enjoyable and educational part of your new home build.