Feeling overwhelmed. How do I pick a contractor?

estrella18September 21, 2013

What should I ask? My husband has met with several, but he wants me to meet them and quote "run the show". He knows I'm more detail oriented, but honestly I don't know where to begin. I told him I'd ask here. Sorry if this has been asked a million times before. Feel free to link me. I appreciate all the help I can get!

Backstory: we are moving across the country for husbands job & planning to build dream home (not forever home). We have three young kids.

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Not an easy thing to do.

Here are some thoughts:
1. education -works to keep up with building technology science. -If it is a larger company who is actually going to be overseeing the job day to day.

2. personality -someone you feel like you can work with over a long stressful project.

3. honesty - seems transparent as to costs.

4. Good communicator -explains things well

5. past clients with good recommendations

6. seems well organized

The hardest part is usually that each builder will tend to use their own specs and it is very hard for homeowners to distinguish differences.

Always look at their past work and assume that your house will be similar unless you clarify differences in writing. They can't read your mind.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 10:03AM
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thank you Chris! The one we are leaning towards (that I am going to meet and ask questions to) says he designs the floorplans as well as oversees construction. My husband seems to think this is perfectly fine, but for some reason it strikes me as odd. I guess I feel like you can't do both well. Is this a common thing to do? Or should that be a red flag?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 12:52PM
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That's a great list of things to work with, Chris - thanks from another GW member starting on the path.

Design/Build is not unheard of and I could think of arguments for and against. I believe most people here prefer to keep design to an architect but perhaps a lot of that depends on the complexity of your house needs.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 3:07PM
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@dlm2000 - I have a very very rough design that I drew in photoshop showing what we want (we have a 2100 SF minimum for bottom floor, otherwise it would be smaller on the bottom). Basically I want a 2 story box house and a one story wing for the 1-car attached garage and mudroom/living/powder room. I have been going over all the wants/needs and feel like this is a really great start (I don't want to start the design without a really clear vision). He quoted my husband based on a more complicated design and it was under our budget, so I'm feeling good about it... though I have not gotten an estimate for the detached garage I added.

I want the elevation to look like a colonial house with a little gabled one story side wing. I want a very classic (IMO easy to design) house. I want a pitched roof with no dormers (angled ceilings on the upstairs). I have no clue how to configure the upstairs though as we want 3 similar sized child bedrooms (smaller the better), two full bathrooms that don't connect to rooms, a huge gameroom and a smallish laundry room (7x10ish?). I have given up trying to draw it, but know it can all fit if someone knows what they are doing.

See this pic for my very ROUGH idea of the downstairs that I have shown the builder we are most likely going to go with (good to hear that design + build is not uncommon).

My husband laughs at my spot for the Christmas tree, but that matters to me! I

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 3:52PM
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this is how I want it to look minus the balcony/porch and I don't want arched windows and the garage part would be a little behind the front of the house + I want a small front stoop.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 3:57PM
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Unfortunately another thing to consider is how they acknowledge your authority as a woman. Occasionaly over in the kitchen forum (which I encourage you to visit) a woman will have issues with a contractor. They will talk down to her, only listen if the husband is talking, dismiss her questions/concerns/demands.

Also some contractors don't like customers who demand quality, ask questions, want things done a different way then the contractor is used to.

So it is a good idea to have a long conversation with any prospects. Let them know you will be running the show, that you will inspect their work, ask lots and lots of questions, expect things done your way. If they can handle that its a good sign.

Here is another thing that recently came up on the kitchen forum. Often with new builds the contractor deals with certain suppliers such as for kitchen cabinets. Find out before signing the contract the details on this. You should be allowed to shop anywhere you want. Make sure any allowances set and actually reasonable for what you want. There is a current thread on this right now you might want to check out.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 4:33PM
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thank you Debra. I will include that in our conversation!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 4:35PM
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It depends, designers are a very mixed bag. You should look at their work and determine whether you like it or not.

Most builder/designers know how a house is put together but design houses similar to what they see around them which is often not as architecturally sophisticated as what an architect or trained designer would do. They often see their role as draftsmen -who's job is simply to draw whatever you tell them to draw.

That is not entirely a bad thing. Generally they produce cost efficient plans that meet the expectations of the people they serve.

Sometimes the result is an odd house but some people insist on a house that is like they want and do not care what anyone else thinks or only dislike it in hindsight.

Architects are also a mixed bag, -they can be very expensive, impractical, hard to work with and many have very little experience designing residential. They are also capable of producing odd houses.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 10:05AM
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Also based on another discussion here involving Hardi siding -I would make sure to specify that all products are installed to manufactures specifications.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 10:34AM
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