How to Choose the Right Building Partner

You’ve been dreaming about a new home, a remodel, or a home addition for a while. You’ve thought about what you want it to look like, how you’ll use the space, and the memories you’ll make there. Maybe you have Pinterest boards full of beautiful photos and floor plans sketched on napkins. It’s time to get started: you need to choose a builder. But how do you make this important decision? How do you know which building partner is right for you?

How Can You Find Them?

If you don’t know where to start, you can do an internet search for local home builders (Virginia home builders, Maryland home builders, or DC home builders for example). Read builders’ websites and look for ones that highlight values and priorities that are important to you. Dig into their experience and specialties. Even better, talk to friends who have had good experiences with builders and get some word-of-mouth referrals. You can also contact your local home builders’ association to get some names of local builders. Once you have a few companies on your list, you can start digging deeper. Choose your top few and contact them via phone or a form on their website. Note how quickly and professionally they get back to you. Schedule a time to visit their office

How Do They Run Their Business?

When you visit a builder’s office or jobsite, you can often get a good feeling about how the business runs. Ask questions and make observations.

  • Are they professional and is the business running smoothly? 

  • What business systems do they have in place? 

  • Do they have an office manager or support team in the office for the benefit of those in the field, to help keep things on track?

You can also ask questions about how many projects they currently have. Too many, and they may not be able to prioritize yours. Too few, and you might wonder why. 

It’s also a good time to talk to your prospective builder about how they handle specifications and selections.

  • Specifications are the specific details of construction included in each part of your project. For example, what concrete finish will be used for the foundation, or what type of siding your walls will have. These important decisions need to be made and specifically documented ahead of time so the client and the construction team know exactly what to expect.

  • Selections are the finishes the homeowner needs to choose–often tough decisions that the designer can help with. All the selections need to be made on schedule so the team isn’t delayed and the client doesn’t get overwhelmed or end up making decisions that throw off their budget.

  • You want to find a builder who knows how to handle specifications and selections in a way that keeps the builder, team, and client on the same page, makes sure the project is moving ahead on schedule, and helps the client make decisions that they will love and will maintain their budget. 

You’ll want to have some conversations with them about the vision you have for your project. Have they built homes like the one you want before? Do they specialize in the type of remodel or addition you are looking for? You want a team who is knowledgeable and confident in their ability to do your project and who knows their market.

How Do They Run Their Projects?

If you’re still comfortable with the builder you’re considering, you may want to tour a current job site next. You want to make sure they manage the site well. The contractor should be visiting the site regularly, the subcontractors should know the plans for the project well, and the area should be tidied at the end of each day. 

You want to make sure there is a dedicated Site Supervisor who is assigned to oversee that specific project. There should also be a Project Manager assigned to that project, who can oversee the Site Supervisor and manage the ins and outs of the project.

Now is also a good time to ask

  • if they have a Critical Path Schedule (CPM). This is a detailed list of activities with relationships to direct the order of the construction work and keep the project on track. With so many moving parts in a construction project, it’s important to have a CPM in place to coordinate everything.

  • if the company has a production manager who oversees all projects and leads the project implementation team.

  • what the company’s Change Order Policy is. How do they handle unexpected changes that come up in the process of demolition or construction?

  • Good builders listen to their clients, asking questions and making sure they understand the clients’ vision for their homes. They make suggestions the client may not have considered and are able to explain why a particular idea is or is not a good solution. They respect the fact that a client’s home is very important to them, they respect the property they are working on, and they respect the family they are working for.

What Are They Offering or Promising You?

If a builder is offering you something that seems too good to be true…it probably is. Building a home, putting on an addition, or doing a major remodel takes time. If the contractor you’re considering is telling you they can have the project done in no time, they may cut corners to keep that promise or not be able to meet their own deadline, resulting in frustration on your end. If they are quoting you a price that seems low, they may end up raising prices based on material selections or change orders, in ways you didn’t plan for. A good builder takes time to

  • meet with you and fully understand your desires for the project.

  • discuss your budget with you.

  • give you a detailed and complete estimate.

  • present you with a design for your project and discuss it with you.

  • take the time to prepare beforehand, ordering materials and arranging subcontractors.

  • do the work well, keeping you informed of progress, issues, delays, and change orders.

  • finish the project completely and well, answering any questions you have.

  • be available to you after the project is completed in case there are any issues.

What Do People Say?

It’s a good idea to ask your potential builder for references. You can learn a lot about the quality of their construction and what it’s like to work with them from previous clients. Ask for a reference for at least one past client and one current one. When you contact the clients, talk to them about 

  • whether or not there was good communication throughout the process,

  • if the actual work done was high quality, with attention to detail,

  • if the project was completed in a timely manner, and

  • whether or not the client would work with the builder again.

You also want to make sure that the contractor has good relationships with their subcontractors, and check to see whether their business is part of the local home building association or has other industry involvement. This shows a desire to grow and improve that you want to see in your builder.

How Do You Feel About Them?

The builder you hire is someone you’re going to be working with for a while. They will be in your home. Don’t ignore your gut feelings about the contractors you’re considering. Do you connect with them? Are they easy to talk to? Do they treat you with consideration and respect? Do they take the time to answer your questions and seem interested in your ideas? Can you see yourself working with them?

Who Should You Choose?

Choosing the right building partner can be overwhelming. Here at BOLT Builders, we are dedicated to people-centric, excellent construction with a commitment to excellence and attention to detail. We have a legacy of satisfied clients who love the work we’ve done on their homes. You can browse our Projects page to see photos of our craftsmanship. Contact us now to discuss new home construction, home additions, and home renovations on your DC, Maryland, or Virginia home. We’d love to help you feel certain that we are the right building partner for you.