Hiring a contractor is probably the second most important decision after your architect. The choice will determine the quality of craftsmanship and the timely completion of the project within budget. You will be depending on them to control your large investment wisely. Some contractors may use only the most skilled craftspeople, while others may depend on day laborers for the same job. The result is differing strengths, quality, and price. Consult your architect to help form a list of potential candidates, and then begin initial interviews. Ask consistent questions for an apple-to-apples comparison.
Some highlights from our contractor interview questions are:
1) Who would be directly supervising the project and what is their background?
2) What type of contract and pricing structure do you normally work with (fixed-price, cost-plus, guaranteed maximum)? Each has pros and cons depending on your project.
3) What type and size projects do you typically work with? Provide a range of typical budgets.
4) How do you help manage and track pricing through construction to avoid significant cost escalation?
5) How many projects do you take on at one time and what is your track record for coming in on budget?
6) How often do you supervise projects on site? All day, part of the day, every few days?
7) How does this project fit within the goals of your company?
1) Have they built this type of work before?
2) Do they have a solid reputation and personal references (for last 3 completed projects)?
3) Are they available to build this project?
4) Is their workload balanced for their size or are they overcommitted?
5) Are their sub-contractors consistent from project to project?
6) Are they thorough and do they communicate clearly?
7) After touring some of their completed projects, do you like the quality of craftsmanship you see?
We normally guide our clients through the selection and interview process, and stay involved on a weekly basis throughout construction. With proper planning and research, your project is more likely to be done well, on time, and within budget.
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One day during the construction of the Carrboro house, the tile installer interrupted me to ask: “What is this place?” “A house?” I responded, somewhat unsure of the question.
He looked up then over, “Really!?” He started walking away. “Wow… Holy cow!” As he walked down the hallway, his head turned up to the skylights and back to the floor. “Wow! This place is (expletive) amazing!” As he entered the living room, he grinned from ear to ear and said, “I’d love something like this in the country.”
I wish I had video of him walking through the house because his reaction is part of the joy we get from creating places that make people feel good every day. Many others have walked through with more reserved comments: “beautiful,” “fabulous,” “love it!” But once in a while you see people visibly moved like the realtor who walked into the Jetty House bathroom and exclaimed, “Wow! Honey, come here! Look! Now this is architecture!”
One common question we receive is how much should be budgeted for a modern home project? Paying for a home is analogous to buying car: the bigger the car, the higher the cost. More options add cost and higher quality costs more than lower quality. If you’re in North Carolina, we suggest budgeting between $225 and $250 per square foot as a base – in Massachusetts, add $50 to those numbers. This should achieve a good level of quality and energy efficiency with a balanced cost approach. If you desire Porsche-level high design and perfection, add up to 40% to the above. If you’re on a shoestring budget, consider building a smaller home. There are many ways to make a small home live big and you’ll have less to maintain. Our Carrboro house is a 4 bedroom, 2.5 baths, with a very generous living area in just 1750sf.
There are many variables in the cost of building, but controlling a budget starts with the layout and design. A compact 2-story 3,000sf home will cost less than a single story 3,000sf home, as some of the larger building costs are associated with foundation and roof areas. This is why it is often helpful to consult with an architect early in the planning process.
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