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How to choose a contractor

How to Choose a Contractor

Before beginning your search for a builder, you should have a general idea of what you want in your new home, your budget, and where you would like to build. We recommend making two lists; one consisting of items you need to have in your home and one consisting of items you would like to have- a sort of 'wish list. It is a good idea to look into financing and obtain a pre-qualification letter from your lender. With these steps completed, you are ready to choose a contractor.

It is best to work with a builder from the beginning. An experienced contractor can help ensure that your house plan and property conditions work well with each other. Also, builders have the local experience necessary for well permits, driveway access permits, building permits, installation of utility lines, septic system requirements and other pre-construction planning that must be done. Below are some questions to ask and tips for how to choose a contractor for your project.

Sources for contractor information:

  1. Ask your local building department for a list of registered builders in your area.
  2.  Talk to friends and neighbors about their building experiences.
  3. Banks in your area may also be able to supply you with a list of their approved contractors.
  4. Real estate agents and building suppliers are also good sources of information.
  5. Architects and draftsmen work with contractors on a daily basis and will be able
    to provide information on builders in your area.

You should be aware that using a price per square foot to compare builders only works with homes of the same style, size and specifications. Unless your plans are complete, obtaining bids from several builders only provides a rough estimate. Competent and reputable builders will provide very similar bids. If one seems lower than another, be aware that the lowest bidder may be using substandard quality labor and materials. If you choose a builder based on a lower bid, you may experience additional costs down the road.

A relationship of mutal respect and trust must be established between the builder and client for a successful construction project. It is wise to do your homework before entering into a contract with someone that you will be working with closely for several months!

Questions to ask your builder or contractor:

  1. Where do you build in the area?
  2. What types of homes do you build? i.e. custom log homes, frame homes, etc.
  3. Do you balance 'green' building practices with healthy construction to ensure energy efficiency and healthy indoor air quality?
  4. Are you a certified in green building and healthy home construction?
  5. Do you build homes that fall within a particular price range?
  6. Do you work from standard plans? Will you customize standard plans?
  7. Do you have a list of client references?
  8. Are you able to provide a bank reference?
  9.  How is your company structured; are you a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation? Who else is involved in your company?
  10. Do you attend any continuing education seminars or building conferences? If so, when was the last one you attended?
  11. To what professional organizations do you belong?
  12. Do you carry the necessary insurance- i.e. Workmen's Compensation and Employer's Liability insurance?.

Questions to ask a contractor's references:

  1. Was your builder professional and easy to work with?
  2. Were you pleased with the quality of work?
  3. Did your builder provide a high level of service and was he/she available at times that were convenient for you?
  4. Were the contract charges fair? Was the pricing, documentation and execution handled well?
  5. What kind or warranty program was provided? Did the builder provide acceptable follow-up work?
  6. Was there an effective callback system for any follow-up service?
  7. Would you use the same builder if you were to build another home?