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For the clients not being your own builder or general contractor, choosing a builder is the
MOST IMPORTANT TASK.
The builder or general contractor is the "conductor of the orchestra." Without him or her, your project will operate without a compass. This will result in being OVER budget and BEHIND schedule.
During a normal project, there are over sixty sub-contractors and suppliers to schedule and supervise.
The majority of home building horror stories are a direct result of hiring a bad builder. The specific problem usually is:
An incompetent and/or inexperienced builder who fails to manage the project effectively which results in: The project being behind schedule The project being over budget The quality of workmanship is unacceptable Foundation and structural framing is installed improperly or undersized resulting in failures Not paying suppliers and/or sub-contractors The MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR in choosing a builder or general contractor is GOOD REFERENCES!
However, these are not references just from the prospective builder or general contractor, these are ones you find out about on your own also. References do not just include past or current homeowners, but also sup-contractors, suppliers and bank references too. A builder is not going to list clients that there have been problems with. This is why you must perform due diligence in locating several past clients.
Also interview CURRENT clients that are under construction, just moved in, and in the warranty period. This should give you a good basis in determining the right builder.
As stated before, also interview sub-contractors, suppliers and his or her banker.
Ask the sub-contractor:
Is the job ready when scheduled to start work consistently? Is the builder or superintendent easily accessible by phone? Is the builder of superintendent on the site frequently? What is the payment history? Late or on time?
Even though a sub-contractor works for the builder, most sub-contractors will talk when prompted if there are major problems with the builder or general contractor. This is a positive result of our several year home building growth period where subs do not have a problem in finding work, which will make them more open to talk to homeowners.
When initially meeting with prospective builders, observe how personable and open they are. Are they just salesman? Are they slick and smooth talkers? Or are they personable and providing honest answers to questions rather than telling you what you want to hear: BEWARE of slick and smooth sales pitches.
A builder is a scheduler, supervisor and a manager not just a salesperson!
In addition, ask the builder permission to visit a couple of project sites with a home inspector that you hire to perform an inspection. You should inspect one home that is ready to insulate and drywall and one home that is complete. The pre-drywall inspection will review framing, plumbing, electrical and heating/air-conditioning installation. I always pay an independent inspector to provide a report at the pre-drywall and completion stage of the project.
After obtaining comfort with two or three builders (preferably two) it is now time to narrow down your choice by contract terms and cost...
Does the builder work on a Cost Plus Fee, Cost Plus Fee Cap or Fixed Price Basis?
Many believe a Fixed Price is the ONLY way to build a home because it limits cost overruns and change orders. In most instances, this is not true. If you make changes (which you will) you will receive a change order. A fixed price usually benefits the builder more than the client because the builder must overestimate each line item budget to cover possible cost overruns by him or herself since it is a Fixed Price meaning the builder guarantees the price. There are not many people who will guarantee a price with a tight budget (no fudge factor). So when you are given a Fixed (guaranteed) Price it is usually higher than a Cost Plus Fee budget.
In addition, in a Fixed (guaranteed) Price contract, the builder does NOT disclose his or her fee or provide actual invoiced amounts from sub-contractors to you. A Fixed (guaranteed) Price contract requires when an item is completed you pay the entire budget amount.
In a Cost Plus Fee contract, you only pay the actual invoiced amount whether it is under or over the amount budgeted. This does in some instances cause problems between the client and the builder if the amount invoiced is over budget. However, in most instances, you will be under budget in another item to pay for the overage.
Under a Fixed (guaranteed) Price contract, you do not receive ANY savings for being under budget! This is why it is so IMPORTANT to find out if your builder has a good history in budgeting. You do not want to pick a builder with problems in budgeting.
Okay, now you are thinking that under a Cost Plus Fee arrangement, a builder will want the budget items higher to receive a greater fee. However, that is why you are going to receive bids from two or three builders so one doesnt jack up the price in order to receive more profit.
The most important aspect of the bidding process is having a COMPLETE SET OF PLANS AND THOROUGH SET OF SPECIFICATIONS.
The specifications are written detailed assumptions used to determine a budget. The architectural plans will show the items that make up the house, such as cabinets, windows, fireplaces and stairs. The specifications will specify the specifics of these items. It will include material, grade, brand name, color, etc. Specifications ALSO detail the interior finish out that is not noted on the plans such as paint, flooring, wallpaper, trim, etc.
For example: The quantity and type of crown molding. You may be thinking your getting a three-piece stain grade crown mould. However, the builder may be thinking your getting a one-piece paint grade crown mould. This will result in ill will on both sides.
ALL ITEMS MUST BE SPECIFIED OR AN ALLOWANCE SET UP.
For example: Your appliances do not need to be individually specified if you have set up an appliance allowance in the budget. However, the budget allowance must be enough to purchase the appliance package you are wanting.
After completing the specifications, give copies along with the complete set of plans to EACH builder for a bid. All bidders should receive identical plans and specifics so you get an apples to apples bid.
After receiving the bids, analyze each bid carefully for thoroughness and completeness. Compare each bid to see if any of the bidders failed to include a budget item. The builder or general contractor is the "conductor of the orchestra." Without him or her, your project will operate without a compass. This will result in being OVER budget and BEHIND schedule.During a normal project, there are over sixty sub-contractors and suppliers to schedule and supervise.The majority of home building horror stories are a direct result of hiring a bad builder. The specific problem usually is:However, these are not references just from the prospective builder or general contractor, these are ones you find out about on your own also. References do not just include past or current homeowners, but also sup-contractors, suppliers and bank references too. A builder is not going to list clients that there have been problems with. This is why you must perform due diligence in locating several past clients.Also interview CURRENT clients that are under construction, just moved in, and in the warranty period. This should give you a good basis in determining the right builder.As stated before, also interview sub-contractors, suppliers and his or her banker.