How to Choose a Contractor
I have been working in the custom home industry since 1991 and have worked with hundreds of home owners from the stand point of a supplier, sub contractor, and working as their general contractor. I worked as a Contractor Salesman for 13 years selling to and servicing over fifty general contractors and working with their clients. Throughout these years I was always amazed at the number of people who hired a contractor to build their home and did not do their homework. They trust their life savings and the most money they ever spent to a person that they barely knew. Consequently there were several times that things did not go as the owner expected and caused what should have been a great experience to turn into a nightmare.
When looking for a contractor it is as important to find a company that is both a great builder and great to work with. A contractor that is open in communication – keeps the customer updated on both progress of the project and the finical aspects of the job. I would say that a good fit with the contractor is more important than the budget – The finishes and scope of the project set the budget not the builder you hire – but if the contractor and client do not mesh the whole job will run off the rails.
It cannot be said enough that you the client should always see both past and present work and call the references given by the contractor. There are also other ways to verify that the company is licensed and insured in the state and they do not have disputes pending with other clients. Ask the previous clients about their experience – how the contractor communicated – what where the good and bad aspects about working with the contractor. Ask to see either previous job pictures or make arrangement to see past work with the contractor. A good contractor will never have a problem with a potential client talking with past clients and looking at past work. If they have something to hide it should become event early in the process.
A good contractor will take the clients budget and work to get the most for the client within that number. I would contend that it is better to find a contractor that fits with you well and have them “quote” for the budget number rather than have multiple contractors bid on a project. In a competitive bid situation the contractor is forced to give the lowest price they can to complete the project as shown on a set of blue prints. If the only focus is to get the clients business by a low number more often than not even the slightest change in the project will result in a change order and added cost to the client. In the past I knew of contractors that would not present the change orders to the client till the job was completed – coming in on the last day of the job and dropping a bomb on the client telling them that they owed tens of thousands more for the selections they had made months earlier. All because it was different from the original scope or how the contractor had interpreted the plans and had established allowances in a competitive bid situation.
An honest contractor will never have a problem with you talking to his trades. At Dana Construction we have a team mentality. We use the majority of the same trades and sub contractors on every job. The client is always welcome to talk with anyone working on their home – ask questions – make suggestions – ask for input. Our team members are the best at what they do – they are professional and their entire focus is to be part of producing the best possible product for the client.
For most project – larger custom home especially – Dana Construction prefers to work on a cost plus basis. A budget will be established by the client and John at the beginning of the job – pricing and trades will be talked about and worked with openly – the client will be working directly with the given trades on selection for their home. For monthly billing an invoice will be presented to the client with copies of all the supporting billing from the trades and suppliers. A contractor fee will be added to the total and the client will see where all the money is going. If change orders are made during the course of the project the billing will reflect these changes when the work is done on the job – not all piled together at the end. Open and honest books are always the standard with Dana Construction.
Building a custom home should be a great experience – not an ordeal – Chose a contractor that is a great fit with you personally. Chose a contractor that communicates well with you. Do your homework before you spend your money and check both references and past work. Understand how the billing will be handled and most importantly how change orders will be handled. Allow the contractor to work for you with your budget number and not just against the competition to get a low number and the job.
I look forward to showing you how a properly run project can work and how fun it can be to build a home.
John A Dana
Sandpoint Custom Home Builder