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A Guide to Choosing the right contractor for your construction project

A well-constructed home with durable materials and design will experience less depreciation and you’ll enjoy lower operational and maintenance costs. This is why you should choose the right contractor with quality workmanship and experience. Price should not be your only determining factor.

Select a contractor by interviewing them based on skills and previous work done. An interview will help you determine if you’ll be able to have a good and productive relationship with them. This will also be an opportunity to understand the type of contract they use and familiarise yourself with it. It will help clarify any grey areas in their contract in terms of what they will and won’t provide to avoid future conflict during the build.

4 ways to find a contractor

  1. Recommendations: It can sometimes be a good idea to go with someone you know or who has been recommended by friends or relatives. This means they will already have references you trust and you’ve seen their work. However, this doesn’t always work out, especially if you’re only contracting that person as a favour or to help them out. If things go wrong, not only could you end up with shoddy workmanship but you could also end up losing a friend or spoiling a relationship.
  2. Industry sources: Your architect should know a few contractors they can recommend from projects that they’ve worked on before. There should be an established relationship and they can vouch for their work.
  3. Building supply stores: Ask around and find out who are the best contractors. They’re usually the ones who always pay their accounts on time and have a healthy supply of work to keep them busy. But tread with caution, some may be so high in demand that they don’t reject work but try to help everyone even with limited capacity. This can lead to contractors cutting corners to finish quickly and move onto the next customer. So ask about their workload and other commitments.
  4. Get bids: Get at least three separate bids/quotes, preferably with costs broken down. The contractors will need your blueprints, desires, and budget to establish a quote. To compare bids/quotes, ask each builder to break down the cost of materials, labour, profit margins, and any other expenses. Building materials typically account for 40 percent of the total cost, and the remaining 60 percent covers overheads and the profit margin. That way, if you make changes to your design, you’ll know how much you’re saving. Get timeline estimates of how long it will take to complete the project as well. If a contractor wants half the total price paid upfront, this could be a red flag. (Most contractors are paid in stages based on what milestones they have accomplished)

Once you have 2 or 3 candidates, ask them if they can take on a project of your size and if they have any other big projects running concurrently with yours. Beware the lowest bidder. You need to be aware of a contractor who is cutting corners or one who is desperate for work. it can spell disaster.

When building, bear this in mind “You have cheap, you have quality and you have fast. You can only choose two. If it’s cheap and fast, it won’t be good quality, if it’s fast and good quality, it won’t be cheap. And if its quality and cheap, it won’t be fast.”

Factors to consider when evaluating your contractor

Experience

You want to find out how long they’ve been building for. If they’ve been building for a while then they should have good references and a decent portfolio of work to assess. You also want to know their approach to building, and the process they follow especially regarding payment and client communication. You don’t want to be in the dark and only contacted when there are problems or demands for payment. Do they give progress reports etc? Get as much insight as possible about how it will be to work with them.

Call references & visit the site

Call previous clients to find how they liked the contractor and how their home build turned out. Ask if the project started and finished on schedule. Take a look at the finished homes or renovation work to ensure that the contractor meets your standards. The previous client may give a good reference, but the job might not meet your standards when you do a site visit. You can also visit a current job site and see how the contractor and his workmen conduct themselves on site. Are workers courteous and is the site safe, neat, and clean?

Location

Give preference to someone who’s been around your area for some time. It may be easier to get the truth about their skills, and they will likely care more than someone traveling from out of town to your area, who has fewer established relationships and nothing to lose

Once you have selected a contractor it’s important to get everything in writing.DO NOT start building without a contract.

Before hiring a contractor, make it clear to them upfront that you expect and require quality workmanship – and be firm on this. Have everything in writing, it’s your only form of recourse. Set yourself up for a successful build with explicit expectations. Far too many people end up in unnecessary disputes because the basics were not in place. In addition, hold back any retainer fee until after work has been inspected.  Your payment is your only power.

Building doesn’t have to be a nightmare. You can follow this step-by-step guide for construction projects if you’re a newbie. It will obviously be much easier if you hired a contract administrator who will deal with contractors and handle payments and inspections on your behalf. Even if you have approved designs and just require someone to help you with the project management aspect, we offer those services and would love to lift that burden off your shoulder.

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