9 Nov 2010
You are thinking about building a house … It’s a pretty involved and complicated process under the most ideal of circumstances but if you are going to give it a go by yourself, this could be the difference. There are some steps you can take that can help with the most important step – choosing your contractor. I wrote about how important it was to actually check the references your contractor provides you but I thought it would be wise to pull out a little and look at the selection process from a wider perspective.
I have prepared a list of questions that every homeowner should ask the contractor during the interview process. These questions can be used to help guide and shape the conversation and while this list is by no means all-inclusive, they are a decent road map to get you started. Be prepared to expect detours at times based on the answers you receive…
1. How long have you been in business building homes?
2. What is your philosophy in building a home?
3. How is your company organized?
4. What type of staff is part of your company?
In house carpenters, paints, labor, etc.?
5. Who are your sub-contractors- such as plumber, electrician, etc.?
6. Does a superintendent come with the project?
How many hours per day?
7. How busy is your firm?
8. How many homes do you build a year?
9. How often is an architect involved?
10. How do you organize the scheduling and product verification on a project?
11. What format is your contract?
12. Are you receptive to a cost of materials/labor plus a fixed contractor fee contract?
Would back up invoices be available?
13. How you handle changes orders? Approval process, fees, etc.
14. What form of invoice do you use? Similar to A.I.A. G703 payment request?
15. How often do you invoice? (Monthly, bi-monthly, etc.)
16. Any issues with the architect providing Construction Administration services including payment request review?
17. When bidding a project how many bids do you get per trade?
18. Will you submit shop drawings for review?
19. What type of warranty is provided and length? What items are warrantied beyond this length?
20. Do you provide an owner’s manual at the completion of the project? (Manufacturer’s warranties, product information, sub-contractor contact information, etc.)
21. What sub-contractors are not under your contract and would be direct to the owner? (pool, landscape, A/V, etc)
Will you coordinate their scope and scheduling within your fee structure.
22. Why are you interested in building this home? Why are you qualified to build this home?
23. Have you built any homes similar to this one?
24. How long do you expect a home like this it might take to build?
25. How do you like working with an Architect?
What are the positives?
What are the negatives? (yeah right … as if!)
26. Can you provide a reference list?
27. What insurances does your firm carry?
28. Have you filed bankruptcy in the last ten years?
29. Any lawsuits in the five years?
30. After all these questions are you still interested in building a home for us?
These questions aren’t rocket science but you should hear something from the contractor during this conversation that will allow you to focus on the particulars of your project and the specific concerns you might develop. In addition to the answers, pay attention to the way the contractor answers your questions. Do you have a rapport? Do you like their personality? How prepared were they while answering these questions?
Being able to get along with your contractor is worth considering because there are always obstacles and hurdles along the way. At some point, you will be irritated at them and they will be irritated at you – that’s fairly normal. Being able to understand how the contractor communicates with you will carry you a long way during any rough patches, allowing you to work through any potential issues.