How to hire a builder aka General Contractor? Hiring is a tough job. When hiring builders aka general contractors it is best to do due diligence. Before hiring a builder you should ask the following important questions.
What to do before hiring a builder?
Before you go and ask builders for quotes you need to have four important things handy. These include:
- An architectural and a structural design blueprint of the house or project. An architectural blueprint is different and distinct from a structural design blueprint. An architectural blue print explains how the various rooms are assorted and what are the dimensions of the rooms. A structural design blueprint explains how the various support pillars and beams of the house will be laid. Similarly what type of foundation the house will be built upon and how it will be laid with how much thickness etc. Your local housing authority may also require you to have a plumbing and electric map of the house. However the plumbing and electric map is not mandated by law. Some housing authorities and local goverments require it while others don’t. So you need to get in touch with your local authority to figure this detail out.
- A permit from the local government and housing authority that grants you approval to build your house or project. I have explained it in detail here.
- A permit from your local goverment for house utilities like electricity, water, gas and sewage.
- A permit from your local goverment regarding fire safety of the house. This has been made mandatory in current housing code.
What to ask before hiring a builder?
It is wise to ask your builder the following questions before hiring:
- What type of projects the builder usually works on, whether residential or commercial projects. Most builders usually specialize in working in one area either residential or commercial. It is best to not hire residential builders for commercial projects and vice versa. Construction is all about the team and the contacts. If your builder mostly works on residential projects then it is unlikely that he would have the contacts in commercial sector and hence he will recieve higher quotes and that will get passed on to you.
- Is the builder available? Many people forget this important point. Builders are usually very busy especially during the summer season when a ton of construction projects are going on simultaneously. If the builder is not available or has many projects on his plate already then it is wise to stay away from him. As he would not be able to give your construction project due time and it can result in delays and increased cost burden on you. No matter how good the builder is, if he is busy with ten other projects your project will get delayed by a few months nonetheless.
- Does the builder understand your demands and expectations from the build and is he comfortable in meeting them? Be aware if the builder is not sure about certain aspects of your structural design or is reluctant to meet your standards then is is likely that he is not confidant that he would be able to do your project. Most builders will tell you straight whether they would take on the challenge or not as most builders don’t want unrealistic expectations to hang over their head. I would advise you to not try forcing a builder into taking up your project. It is best to find a different builder who wants the build.
- Previous work experience of the builder? Ask for any previous solo or partnered builds that the builder was involved in. Visit these properties and take a sense of the final outcomes.
- Ask for quotes, costs, and time. If your builder says it is gonna take $150,000 to build the project expect to pay around $170,000. If your builder says it’s gonna take 6 months. Expect the build to get finished in 8-9 months. This is because there are always cost increases due to shipping problems, non availability of items and price hikes of various construction materials during the 8 month build period. Similarly there are time delays as some construction materials are out of stock, there may be a labor shortage or your subcontractors may get busy with other projects.
How do I find the right builder?
Finding a great builder can be a trial and error method. If you are working in the construction industry then you would be aware of great builders in your area but if you are from outside the construction field then you won’t know how to differentiate the good from the bad builders. Generally, every builder will say that he is the best, period. So you can never rely on the builder’s word of mouth. Here this guide can help you immensely. I have listed five important points to help you find the right builders for your house or project below:
- Send the builder your architectural designs and structural designs and location of your build. This will make the good builders take you more seriously as you would have completed the necessary steps to start the build. If you don’t provide these details to the builder you will only get quotes back from shitty or newer builders. Most experienced builders will not even bother to return your calls as they want to waste their time.
- Ask for a cost and time quote. Always ask for time quote and when you do a legal draft with your builder jot down the estimated time for the build. This will make the builder accountable and you can hold him responsible in case you have to pay extra costs due to time delays.
- Ask for portfolio projects completed by the builder. Now you need to go and visit a few of the builder’s projects and see the quality of the build. Do not focus on the designs. The design is the job of the architect. The quality assurance of the work is the job of the builder. See if the builder has installed any wonky tiles. See if the builder cheaped out and installed a low quality roof etc.
- Always ask whether the builder supports credit work. Credit work means that the builder will pay the various subcontractors timely and you will just pay the pre determined amounts when the house reaches a certain stage. For e.g when you and your builder agree to a build of $100,000. You builder will demand a deposit of $20,000 in stage A. After the foundation and walls are up he will be paid $30,000. When the roof is done the builder will recieve $20,000. Similarly when the house is complete the builder will recieve $30,000. During all these phases the builder will pay the subcontractors timely while you will pay the builder only when one phase is complete. Some builders agree to this while others don’t so you will have to compromise on this if your preferred builder doesn’t agree.
- Ask the builder about in house teams. Most builders have in house equipment and teams like for e.g. a builder may have an in house team for laying down foundation. The in house teams reduce the cost incurred by the builder as he does not have to pay subcontractors. The builder is thus not tied to the quotes of the subcontractor. This will significantly reduce your overall home construction cost.
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