You are making a huge investment, and there is so much to consider! It all can be very intimidating. Choosing the right contractor, one that you can trust to make your dream asset a reality is probably the biggest and most important decision you’ll be making!
We have heard the nightmarish stories of a contractor who is unreliable, not competent and unable to deliver what you want. Or the contractor who gives you a lowball bid only to sock you with change orders down the road making the building more expensive in the long run. The good news is that for every nightmare you’ve heard about, there is success story. You wouldn’t choose a surgeon without doing your research, and the same should be true for choosing your contractor; do your research.
Your contractor is your “partner” in this process. Not everyone can be a Chip or Joanna Gaines but you can find someone you can communicate with easily. A good contractor has references you can call and has shown they have the knowledge and expertise to assist you in every step of the building process. A good contractor is busy. Which means they won’t be able to start right away on your project, but that is a good sign.
In order to make the right choice, there are some key questions you should pose to potential contractors to ensure you’re getting a good match. This is your project, so make sure you get someone who’s dependable and determined to get the job done right. Here’s a list of questions we get asked all the time:
- How much is this going to cost? Assuming you already have your plans drawn, any contractor should be able to give you a fairly tight estimate.
- Can you give me an estimated start date and completion date? After bidding your project, they will be able to give you an idea as to when they can start, and how long the building process should take. If they haven’t included time for weather, make sure they add it.
- Do you have the proper licenses? All legitimate contractors will be licensed. If they will not show you proof of licensing, find someone else.
- Are you insured? All legitimate contractors must carry insurance on the job site as well as on their company. Again, if they won’t show you proof, look elsewhere.
- What does the contract look like or how is the contract going to be structured? (for example: Not to exceed price, Guaranteed maximum price, etc.) Get more than one bid for your building so that you can compare the contracts. If you get two bids that are wildly different, get a third one to help you determine which one is closer – don’t just choose the cheapest one, because chances are, there’s a reason it’s lower.
- What is the overall process? A good contractor should be able to walk you through the entire process from the minute you hand them the signed contract until they hand you the keys. Don’t accept vague or incomplete answers.
- How long will the project take to complete? This will depend on many variables, but this is also a place to compare with the other bids you’re getting. If one builder says a year and another says six months you should consider getting a third bid.
- Do you have prior experience with this type of project? This is where you need to do your homework. And if you don’t know where to start, the builder should be able to give you examples of places to drive by or contact about their work. They should also be able to give you references of people to call to ask about the entire experience.
- What do I do during the process? You should be very involved up front, but as the process moves along, you won’t need to be making decisions as they will all be made. Don’t expect to be able to drop by the job site at any time – builders have strict safety rules to adhere to so you’ll have to schedule a time with the builder to escort you.
A good contractor will walk you through every step of the way, and allow you to ask as many questions as you need to ask to feel comfortable. If you are just beginning the process and still need plans, consider Ahmann Companies. We are a TRUE design-build company and we are able to design, purchase land and build your space all under one roof. Our teams from Compass Commercial Services and Fusion Architects work together on a daily basis and are used to collaborating to help you keep costs in line. And when you’re finished, we have a team that can help you lease or sell any additional space within your building through Pivot Real Estate. At Pivot, we can even manage your building/leasing for you when you’re finished and all moved in. Choosing the right contractor means making sure you’re comfortable with the cost, the people and the timeline.