At what stage should I involve a contractor in the construction of my new home or renovation of my existing home?

This is a fair question that many anxious clients ask as they start the ball rolling on what can be a fairly intimidating project.

There are so many decisions to make in regards to form, function and cost. Top that with government regulations, strict lending requirements and skyrocketing building prices. These are just a few of the aspects that can make a construction project seem so overwhelming. A starting point in the process is determining if the project you are dreaming of will fall within the ball park of your budget. You turn to your favorite search engine and call the first builder that pops up. You ask what it will cost to add on to your kitchen to make a great room. That would be much like contacting your local car dealership and asking what a new car would cost. He tells you around $3500. Imagine your dismay when you go to pick up your new ride and the bottom line shows $83,500. You described a used sedan on the phone, but you ended up choosing a shiny new SUV! Oh, and then there are those doc prep fees, theft recovery fees, registration fees, fee for a fee fees. While you may be able to come up with a ball park figure, give or take tens of thousands, it’s really impossible to accurately price a construction project without an engineered set of plans. So where do you begin?

“Having a good builder on your design team from the beginning will help save you a lot of headache and unnecessary expense down the road.”

You have two main options:

The first is to reach out to an architect or designer to have your plans drawn up. Once your plans are complete and engineered, you can have a number of contractors bid your project. Beware of low ball prices, but understand high bids do not always equate experienced builders. Make sure the contractors are giving complete bids. Bids can only be as comprehensive as the plans and scope of work you provide. Make sure you give the same information to each builder, or you will be comparing apples and tires in the end. You may get certain vibes from each contractor, but this is usually the route taken when your choice is largely based on numbers. The other option is to shop your builder first. While you can’t choose your family, you can choose your builder! And for the duration of construction, they will be like another member of the family. Ask your friends, neighbors, or co-workers for recommendations. Contact the local Home Builder’s Association for a list of qualified members. Interview these builders to see if their business models, styles, and personalities would mesh well with yours. Contact their previous clients to find out how they do on things such as schedule, cleanliness, creativity, quality, organization and budgets. Find out about those qualities that are important to you. Based on your research, choose a builder who will provide you with the level of quality you expect for a fair price. Have this builder guide you through the design process. A good builder will listen to your needs and strive to design a project that fits your lifestyle, both now and in the long-term. A good builder will be able to suggest innovative designs and products that fit your budget. A good builder will be knowledgeable in current energy efficiency practices to provide lasting value and comfort. A good builder will be able to guide you towards best building practices that will give you more bang for your buck, and help you prioritize where you would truly like to spend your money. It is much easier and less costly to deal with these issues while it is still on paper. There is a lot of leg work that needs to happen up front on a well-executed construction project. Having a good builder on your design team from the beginning will help save you a lot of headache and unnecessary expense down the road. It sets the tone for a positive building experience.

Join us for our next blog post: How do I choose a builder