Building a home can be SUCH a rewarding experience. For many people rebuilding their homes after the October 2017 fires, the rebuilding process can feel like a big step toward healing and feeling settled again. The process--picking out flooring, and fixtures; choosing paint colors and back splash (can I get a #shiplap ???), and designing your house just as you want it to be can be a lot of fun. Seeing your vision come to life IS an amazing experience....
It can also be nerve wracking, frustrating, and even disappointing if you and your General Contractor don't see eye to eye. (Homeowners are from Mars, General Contractors are from Venus??? It can feel like that if you and your GC are constantly at odds). That's why it's so important to know what you're signing up for. We're breaking it down for you here. Assuming these extremely important requirements have already been met--they're licensed, bonded, insured, credit worthy, and have no claims against them, here are five factors to consider when choosing your general contractor:
1. What does the contractor's bid include? It is imperative to know exactly what you're getting.
The last thing you want to do is to step inside your new home only to be disappointed in the quality of the carpet or to discover that the bathroom faucets are not the style or finish you expected. Before signing a contract with your prospective builder, be sure to review the details of what's included, both in the actual construction and in your finishes--appliances, fixtures, surfaces, etc., and what will be an upgrade (READ: cost you more money). Look at the house plans with the GC and ask questions such as 'How many recessed lights are included? Does the island have electrical outlets? Is there a charge to have a window deleted in one place and added in another?'
Ask, ask, ask. Ask ALL the questions.
(Pro tip: If your prospective GC does not like that you that ask so many questions prior to signing a contract, chances are they will like it even less after you sign the contract. Just sayin'...). If you're buying a home in a subdivision, you may be able to choose from predesigned finishes and fixture packages. Choosing something outside the package could mean additional charges (usually paid upfront, prior to work being completed). If you're having a home built (or rebuilt) on your own land, your GC may have a list of standards that are included, and things outside that standard would incur an additional charge. The only way to know is to ask.
2. Does your prospective GC have local connections with quality tradespeople?
Good quality tradespeople (framers, plumbers, electricians, etc.) are difficult to come by, especially in a hot home construction market. Your contractor should have solid, long standing relationships with professional, quality subcontractors that have room in their schedules for him. Construction schedules are not written in stone (or in this case, cement). Each subcontractor's schedule is affected by the subcontractor's work that has to be completed prior (i.e. electrical, plumbing, and insulation must be completed prior to drywall) so while the homeowner needs to be flexible on the timeline, there is nothing more frustrating than having your project come to a complete standstill because your GC can't find a subcontractor to complete a specific job.
3. Does your prospective GC have insurance claims experience?
If your house is a rebuild due to damage caused by fire, flooding, or other catastrophic circumstances that involve insurance claims, understanding the insurance aspect of your rebuild is a must. Experienced contractors will be able to help you navigate your insurance company's procedures for reimbursement, and ensure that you are able to rebuild your house to it's original specifications. If you had hardwood floors in your original home, you don't want to end up only being able to afford vinyl flooring due to an incorrect reimbursement.
4. Do they make realistic promises?
It's so temping to believe that you can have your house built in just a few months but the reality is, that in some areas, just the planning and permitting processes can take several weeks at least (and often, much longer). Your contractor should be optimistic, but also honest, when giving you a timeline of construction. As noted previously, subcontractors are busy and may be booked out several weeks or months in advance. Your GC should present a realistic picture of the building process, and encourage you to be flexible on the exact timeline.
5. Finally, and possibly, most importantly, do you feel good about working with this person or this company?
You will be spending a lot of time (not to mention money) with them and you need to feel complete assurance about their ability, their experience, and their integrity. You must be able to communicate your questions and concerns honestly, and feel like you receive honest answers in return. Ask for references and call them. Ask to see examples of their work. Do not be pressured into making a decision quickly to 'get a good deal'. If something feels 'off', listen to your gut and find another contractor. Happy building!
To talk with us about building or rebuilding your home or to speak with our insurance claims expert, call Sonoma County Builders at 707.546.2228 or visit our website at www.sonomacountybuilders.com.