white house with a picket fence
Cooking Light, Tria Giovan

By Louis Joyner
Courtesy of the HBAA, part of the NHBA

Determining the best contractor for your project will make the experience less stressful and result in a better end product. These tips will help you get started, and we've also provided some suggestions on how you can work together successfully.

1. Know what you can spend.
Before you begin, set a budget and stick to it. "The budget drives the project," says builder John Thomas, CAPS, CGB, CGR, of TCM Remodelers. "You've got to be realistic."

2. Figure out what you want.
Analyze your family's needs. Collect examples from home magazines and catalogs. "Pictures are a great part of the communication," Thomas says.

3. Match the professional to the project.
"Make sure that the builder has experience doing what you need done," Thomas suggests. "It should not be a first-time learning experience for him."

4. Ask your friends and neighbors for advice.
Seeing a contractor's previous work likely will give you what you a good idea of what to expect. "Ninety percent of our business is referrals or customers coming back to us," Thomas says.

5. Pick a builder you can live with.
Building or remodeling is a lengthy process. Remember that the contractor (and crew) you choose will be in and out of your residence constantly. "We move in with them for 6 months," Thomas points out.

6. Look for someone who pays attention to your needs.
"A builder should be a good listener," Thomas says. A healthy builder-client relationship will make all aspects of the job run smoother.

7. Choose a builder who can talk openly with you.
"The communication skills need to be there," Thomas notes. "(Builders and) homeowners speak different languages. You're both dealing with abstractions."

8. Get the contractor involved early on.
"Choose your builder or remodeler first, and then work on the plan," Thomas says. The person you select can estimate costs and make certain the plans match your budget.

9. Make sure your plans are accurate.
Whether you are hiring an architect, residential designer, plan service, or a design-build company, the working drawings and specifications should show exactly what you want built. "Get a clear set of plans," Thomas recommends. "We always go over the plans with the client."

10. Expect the unexpected.
"There are always problems," Thomas says. Together, you and your builder can solve them effectively and efficiently. "Both parties have to listen and cooperate all along."

Building Credentials
CAPS: Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist
CGB: Certified Graduate Builder
CGR: Certified Graduate Remodelor


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