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Despite the growing number of online and print sources of advice for property owners looking to custom-build their home, the construction process remains a daunting prospect for most. Clashing concerns about cost, time, and quality form a complicated “trilemma” that all owner-builders face. Choosing a contractor is typically the first and most important step towards building your home. However, many sources suggest that managing your own construction project is a viable money-saving option. This brief article intends to offer some basic information about the role of a contractor, how to choose one, and whether you can manage without one.
The Role of the Contractor:
Once the contract is signed, the contractor takes full responsibility for completing the project within the agreed-upon budget, specifications, and timeline. The tasks of the contractor include the following:
- Understanding the owner’s vision and interpreting the specifications of the design to plan a feasible project
- Establishing a payment schedule and distributing the budget among labor and materials
- Scheduling the construction
- Purchasing the materials and coordinating the deliveries
- Hiring, coordinating, and supervising the subcontractors
- Obtaining the necessary permits for construction or remodeling
- Detecting and resolving any problems that arise on site
- Communicating with the owner to provide progress reports and discuss options
In addition to a wealth of knowledge and experience in various areas of construction, a good contractor benefits from a solid relationship with a network of sub-contractors and vendors who are aware of the standards expected from them. Throughout the construction process, the contractor communicates with the owner regarding the progress of the projects and various options for going forward.
Can you be your own contractor?
Building a home can be a valuable experience for owners with some relevant skills and a long-term interest in construction, but you must be cautious not to overestimate your potential savings if you are considering the DIY option for economic reasons. It is realistic to assume that about 10% of your budget would go to your contractor if you chose to hire one. This is the amount that some sources suggest you would save as your own builder. However, about half of this 10% would cover costs such as truck and tools, accounting, office expenses, and business-related fees. As your own contractor, you would incur a portion of these costs, so your potential savings would be in the vicinity of 7%. But ‘potential’ is the operative word here. Remember that a fulltime contractor can exploit his connections and keep costs down by negotiating better prices for materials and labor. This is a bargaining chip that you might lack. More importantly, an experienced builder’s technical knowledge prevents costly setbacks while keeping the team on its toes and maintaining standards. You must be sure that you have the expertise and the time for this level of supervision; errors and delays can eat into your budget with a surprising rate and compromise the quality of your home. Lastly, put a price on your time, and do not underestimate how much of it you would need to invest in the project. Thus, unless you have some knowledge and interest in the field of construction management, I strongly recommend that you explore your contracting options before making a decision.
How to Choose a Contractor?
Choosing a contractor is not an exact science, and your first impressions will play a substantial role in your final selection. But you can start doing your research by asking your architect (if you work with one) or your experienced friends for recommendations. If possible, talk to owners of custom-built homes and familiarize yourself with the typical cost and timeline of projects similar to yours. This will help you adjust your expectations and enter negotiations with some information. Try to choose a builder whose work you are familiar with.
It is very important to select a builder whose forecasts about the project are professional, calculated, and realistic; a contractor who promises a mansion with a modest budget is setting you up for disappointment. Your contractor must have experience in completing projects whose scope and nature are similar to your project. Ask to tour some of his finished projects to ensure that the quality of his work meets your standards.
Here are some of the questions you should ask your prospective contractor:
- How and when can I make changes or upgrades in the course of the projects? Will there be any penalties?
You will be spending a lot of time with your contractor, and your relationship will be largely based on trust (it’s an old-school kind of partnership). Make sure that you can communicate easily, and that your tastes and philosophies align. Needless to say, it is vital to keep a written record of your agreements and communications throughout the process.
- How much experience do you have? How many homes have you built?
- Can you give me a tour of a home you have built for another customer?
- What type of warranty do you provide?
- Will you provide any services in obtaining the city permit and architectural plan?
- How do you charge your customers? Has it cost plus a percentage or is it a fixed fee?
- What is your payment schedule?
- How and when will the final price for my home be determined?
At Hope Construction we provide ourselves on the level of service and workmanship that is second to none.
Based in Broome, West Midlands we have built our reputation on a personal, reliable & quality customer service.
We offer all areas of property maintenance & construction from kitchen & bathroom refurbishments to landscaping.
We work in the local area, covering Broome, Clent, Hagley, Belbroughton, Chaddesley Corbett, Blakedown, Stourbridge & other towns and villages close by, so always on hand if in an emergency.
There’s no project too big or small.
“Just give us a call & we will be happy to help”