Getting a top quality top contractor does not have to be “luck of the draw.” One way to protect yourself is to look for red flags that warn you a contractor will be trouble.
ONE… Beware of companies that don’t have experience or a proven track record.
Every custom home build always brings challenges and unique situations. You want a contractor with a demonstrated record – your home is not the time for “on-the-job” training! We’re proud to say we’ve been in business since 1985 and have proven experience on a very wide range of building projects.
At a minimum, verify that this is an actual company (not just a guy in a truck with a ladder and a tool box!). The contractor should have a listed phone number, an ad in the yellow pages or at least a listing. He should have a professionally done business card and trade association credentials. Also, be sure to check for a well-rounded website filled with specific information.
Bonus Tip: In Virginia, you can call the state contractors licensing board and find out if any complaints are filed against the company. Be sure to also check the contractor’s record with the Better Business Bureau.
TWO… Watch out for anyone with unrealistically low prices.
When prices are bottom-of-the-barrel, you’ll get what you pay for. After 30+ years, we have discovered a strong correlation between people who “hired the lowest bidder” and those people who describe their building experience as a “nightmare.”
Many builders are willing to use the cheapest materials and hire the cheapest sub-contractors in order to get the lowest cost (and highest profits). Unfortunately, the cheapest sub-contractors are usually the lowest quality sub-contractors with the least experienced work force. Hiring the lowest bidder will usually cost more dollars in the end due to the costs of fixing all the mistakes and problems caused by inferior workmanship and cheap materials.
THREE… Be cautious about anyone willing to give you a fixed quote that promises to include everything.
Most likely this will mean that you will actually overpay for what you get. A contractor is going to have to inflate the price to make sure that a cushion for changes and the unexpected are built-in. Instead of paying for exactly what you get, you pay based on inflated guesswork.
A better way to work is to have the builder clearly and transparently explain all pricing policies, get a complete plan in writing, and always understand the contract you’re signing. For more on this, please visit our Fixed Quotes page.
FOUR… Avoid anyone that does not have for proper insurance, and this includes insurance on any sub-contractors working on your project.
Prefer contractors who have a million dollar general liability policy. Also, make sure a workman’s compensation policy covers all workers and that the contractor has auto insurance in force. It’s your right to ask to have the contractor’s insurance company fax or mail you copies of his insurance certificates.
FIVE… Watch out for builders who have no certifications.
Home building is not a field that “stands still.” There are new products, new technologies, and new building techniques all the time. This is especially true in the area of energy efficiency – recent advances have been extraordinary.
You want to avoid any builder who refuses to change anything or learn anything new. Look instead for a builder who has earned armfuls of certifications. Also, ask if they regularly attend trade shows and keep up with industry trends. Listen closely to the answers and you’ll learn a lot about the builder.
By the way, if you want to learn about our certifications, please visit our Certifications & Associations page.
SIX… Beware of any builder who doesn’t have a systematic approach.
Don’t be afraid to ask about a builder’s process. If they give a wandering answer or seem to be “just winging it,” that is a sure sign of stress ahead.
If on the other hand they have a firm grasp and can outline a step-by-step process, you will likely have a smoother project and superb results.
SEVEN… Avoid going against your instincts about a builder.
What overall impression did the builder make on the first appointment? Your instincts are usually right – you’ll accurately sense the professionalism of a builder 99% of the time. But for some reason, people sometimes talk themselves out of what they know.
For example, look for little clues. How confident are they when answering specific design or build questions? Can they explain things properly and do they demonstrate a deep knowledge of home building?
What kind of vehicle did the contractor come in for the first appointment? It doesn’t have to be a loaded, shiny new truck, but it also shouldn’t be something that looks like it could break down at any moment. And did you look at their website and does it make a professional impression?
You can tell a lot by the little details – don’t ignore them!
Ready to get started? Contact us to schedule a Pre-Project Consultation.