Building a custom home is a serious commitment, and without a good contractor, it can be miserable. You need a contractor who will keep your best interests at heart and make sure you get the highest quality work possible. You need a contractor who will respect your budget. You need a contractor who has realized he or she is building a home that should stand up to the elements for decades to come.

You actually have more tools at your disposal than prospective house builders used to have, thanks to the internet. Social media and review sites can provide invaluable insights into the true nature of a contractor and the way he or she does business. However, finding a gem of a contractor is more than reading reviews. Check out our list of things to look for in a contractor!

Good reviews.

Before you call any contractors, you should see what the internet says about them. This is your chance to assess each contractor free of sales copy and smiles. If the contractor has no internet presence, you’re probably better off with someone else. If you find one or two bad reviews in a bunch of good ones, it’s probably worth giving the contractor a call. Finally, if a contractor has a majority of bad reviews, cross them off of your list.

Willingness to set a limit.

The contractor you want will understand that you have a budget and will have no problem offering a flat fee and specifying the cost of change orders. If a contractor insists on having unlimited time and materials, it’s time to turn tail and run.

Realistic expectations.

Make sure you know how long home builds usually take before you sign a contract. That way, you’ll know if a contractor is offering you too much in too little time. As with everything, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A great contractor will be upfront with you about all timing and costs. In fact, you may almost feel like the contractor is trying to educate you. This is generally a good thing, because it usually means your contractor sees you as a person, not a dollar sign.

Proactive communication.

Great contractors know they’re building homes for actual people, and they understand that home is extremely important. They treat their customers like they would want to be treated and keep them informed. This great communication starts with your first call or visit: it should be very easy for you to get a hold of prospective contractors. If you try calling a contractor and cannot get a hold of him or her to begin with, move on. Chances are good you’d have just as hard a time communicating with them during the construction of your home, and there’s nothing worse than realizing it’s been a week and you have no idea what is happening on your build site!

They don’t ask for more than 15 percent upfront.

In order to get started on your home, a contractor needs some money. The money will buy supplies and secure your place on the calendar. However, they shouldn’t ask for more than 15 percent. If a contractor starts talking more, end the conversation and find someone else.

Their references are up-to-date.

Great contractors are popular and do good work, which allows them to have a constantly-revolving list of happy, new customers for you to check with. These should be recent or even current customers who are building homes like yours. If contractors can only provide old references, they may be trying to hide a downswing in customer satisfaction.

Getting permits isn’t even a question.

Permits don’t come cheap, but they are absolutely essential to any project. Without them, building projects of any type can be completely shut down by building officials. The contractor you choose should proactively inform you of needed permits, how much they will cost, and when inspections are scheduled to happen. If he or she seems at all unconcerned, lukewarm, or negative about permits, it’s time to move on.

Now that we’ve discussed key characteristics to watch for, we want to give you some practical steps you can take today to move your contractor search forward. Read on!

  • Get several bids

    • You should have bids from at least three contractors. Five is better. Throw out the highest and lowest bids and focus on the middle bids, which are usually the most realistic.
  • Take full advantage of references

    • Don’t be afraid to ask references the hard questions. Was the work finished at the promised price? How long did it take for the contractor to return phone calls? Was the contractor reliable and quick to address changes and concerns? The only satisfactory answer to these questions is a firm yes.
  • Investigate, investigate, investigate

    • As we said at the beginning of our blog, the internet is your most powerful tool when it comes to finding and vetting contractors. You can start by asking your neighbors for recommendations, and then Google them. Survey what shows up. Ecstatic reviews? Lawsuits? More negatives than positives mean you should move on.
  • Check on licenses and litigation

    • You want a contractor who is fully licensed and hasn’t been taken to court. Don’t be afraid to ask to see the contractor’s license. You can check the Better Business Bureau to see if the contractor has gone through litigation. You can ask the contractor to explain what happened or just find a new one. Focus on any complaints you find and see how the contractor handles them. This is probably how he or she will handle yours!

Contact us in Watkins for world-class home construction!