8 Steps to Choosing the Right Contractor

Building a home or developing a commercial project will likely be one of the largest investments you’ll make in your lifetime. 

Building a home or developing a commercial project will likely be one of the largest investments you’ll make in your lifetime. The success of your project largely depends on the job your contractor does in constructing your investment.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to choose the right construction contractor. Or, they don’t invest the requisite time conducting due diligence. Or both. The result? The construction quality is poor and/or they suffer high levels of frustration with the service they receive.

This white paper will guide you through the construction contractor selection process. Hopefully, it will convince you to take as much time as necessary to choose the best contractor for you to make a successful investment.

There are a few critical aspects of choosing a contractor that every homeowner or investor must carefully consider, so take the time to review and evaluate each component. These are the 8 key considerations detailed in this white paper:

  1. Take the Time to Complete the Process
  2. Research is a Must: Do Your Due Diligence
  3. Get a Local Contractor
  4. Remember: it’s Experience, Experience, Experience
  5. Insist on a Cost Guarantee
  6. Look for Constant Communication and Updates
  7. Prepare for Face-To-Face Discussion and Evaluation
  8. Be Sure to Check those References

1. Take the Time to Complete the Process

If you start this process understanding that the process of choosing your contractor is the key to your success, you won’t mind taking the time to fulfill your due diligence throughout the whole process. Don’t be intimidated–the process is important.

You owe it to yourself and your family to take the time necessary to complete the process. It is your right, and your duty–take on the challenge. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it does significantly improve the odds!

2. Research is a Must: Do Your Due Diligence

The process starts with research. Ask friends, go to the Internet, and find the owners of homes or projects under construction in your area that are similar to yours. The Internet will give you a variety of contractors to choose from.

A good and modern website doesn’t always guarantee a good contractor, but contractors that have updated, clear, and informative websites will more likely be helpful and communicative. Look for a contractor whose expertise and experience meet your needs.

3. Get a Local Contractor

In areas of busy development, especially following disasters such as the fires Sonoma and surrounding areas went through, contractors from out of area will travel to get more business. The problem with contractors not permanently based here is they will not be immediately available to you in years to come if any problems develop that require remediation work. They also don’t depend on the reviews of local clients, so they are less likely to be responsive.

There are plenty of local contractors in your area, so go local. You’ll have the peace-of-mind from knowing that your contractor will be immediately available to you for years to come.

Additionally, local contractors are more likely to understand the demands of the weather, climate, terrain, and other ecological or environmental factors specific to your area. Local contractors will probably have a stronger awareness of and dedication to environmental and economic sustainability as those components pertain to your area.

4. Remember: It’s Experience, Experience, Experience

Like most things in life, in construction there is no substitute for experience. It takes years of construction experience to understand countless pivotal factors, such as:

  • The best materials for quality and longevity
  • How to prevent water intrusion that leads to rot and required maintenance
  • Flawless square and level framing for longevity and aesthetics
  • Which subcontractors will do the best job for your project, on time and on budget
  • How to estimate guaranteed price and construction schedules that will not be exceeded during construction

There is an enormous amount of both macroscopic and minute details in construction. You can ensure these are covered by contracting with the most experienced, established professionals.

5. Insist on a Cost Guarantee

Look for a contractor that guarantees a maximum cost for your project. It is all too common that a contractor will give a low-ball cost estimate when, in fact, the final project cost is significantly more than the original estimate. As a result, many customers find that the final cost of their project is 15%-30% more than the original estimate—through no fault of their own!

Except for changes you make once construction is in progress (e.g. upgraded fixtures, appliances and materials) your contractor should be able to give you a fixed price for the construction. If he does not, it may because he lacks the confidence and experience to stand behind his original estimate.

The only way to guarantee that you are getting a cost guarantee, or in some cases, an estimate with a maximum of a 10% increase) is by hiring a contractor who makes that agreement before starting construction.

6. Look for Constant Communication and Updates

One of the most frustrating things customers complain about is that they can’t get their contractor to return calls or emails and provide regular, detailed updates. You can address this in advance by searching for a contractor who has an established process and reputation for constant communication throughout the entire construction process.

It is not enough for a contractor to simply assure you, “Don’t worry, we will communicate with you throughout the construction.”

Ask your contractor about their process of communication. Do not settle for intermittent phone calls and emails from the contractor. There needs to be a continuous communication process that is available to you when you want it if you want to get the most out of your project and investment.

Note: At Exel Construction, our online, password-protected Homeowner Portal is available to you 24/7. We update you every week through our web interface with schedule updates, cost updates and photo updates. Knowledge is power in the construction process. We know it is your money and your project on the line, and you deserve to be kept informed about your investment. there is no need to settle for a contractor with outdated methods or underwhelming expectations for communication.

7. Prepare for Face-To-Face Discussion and Evaluation

When your research is complete, you will have narrowed your search to a few local contractors who are worth further consideration. These finalists will have ample experience in the type of construction you need and will provide cost guarantees. In addition, they can be counted on to provide regular communication process with you throughout the construction process. Now it’s time for a face-to-face meeting with your candidates.

Set the meeting at your contractor’s office, and evaluate the contractor’s:

  • Work environment. Is it clean and organized?
  • Commitment to your project
  • Commitment to constantly keeping you continuously updated. Ask to review their written Quality Management and Project Management processes and procedures.
  • Care and detail with which your cost estimate was completed–it should be line-item detailed for all aspects of the construction.
  • Subcontractors’ relationships. How/what is the relationship between the contractor and the subcontractors, and how long that relationship has existed?

Don’t dismiss your gut feelings about whether or not the contractor views your project as just another project. Drive for your own inner confidence that he will give your project the time and care it deserves. Ask yourself: do you feel comfortable with your relationship with the contractor? You will be married to this contractor until your project is completed, so be sure the honeymoon will feel as good as it should.

8. Be Sure to Check those References

Once all of the above are completed, ask the potential contractors for a minimum of three references. These should be from customers whose completed projects are similar to those you require. When the calls are made, after your introduction, be sure to ask the reference:

  • How long ago was his or her project finished?
  • Was there a cost guarantee, and if yes, was the guarantee met?
  • How was the communication of the contractor throughout the construction process?
  • Was the contractor responsive to your construction requests and desires?
  • Was the project completed within the agreed time schedule?
  • Are you satisfied with the construction quality?
  • Was the project completed in a clean and tidy manner?
  • Was the final “punch list” completed to your satisfaction?
  • What would you consider the strengths and weaknesses of the contractor?
  • Would you hire this contractor again?

Conclusion

The age-old adage, “the harder I work, the luckier I get,” was never truer than in choosing a construction contractor who will make the best out of your investment. Some quality time and a modest amount of diligence invested in your process are necessary before choosing a contractor. It can save endless time, stress, and money over the lifetime of your home or commercial project investment.

The right contractor for you is out there, so invest the time to do your homework. Find a contractor who is local, experienced, has expertise in every relevant detail to your project, has a proven track record of thorough communication, provides a cost guarantee, and has references.

You deserve to know from start to finish that your future home or commercial investment is in the hands of proven professionals that have your best interests at mind and all the capabilities to make it happen.

Good luck, or maybe better said, good work!

For more information, call us, and we’ll be happy to help:

Mike Samuelson and George Tingo
Exel Construction Services LLC
Santa Rosa, CA
www.exelconstruction.com
(707) 838-0202