Choosing a Builder

The Right General Contractor

Choosing an excellent general contractor can make the challenging prospect of building a custom home much more enjoyable and less risky. This article addresses the qualities you might look for in your contractor. It also touches on contracts and construction practices since the way the contractor runs the job and charges you for the work is important for building a good working relationship.

The Team Approach

A collaborative designer, builder, and client team is usually the most effective way to a successful project.

Hallmarks of a successful team

General contractors thrive or fail based on their reputation. Contractors should be more than happy to provide referrals willing to share their experience.


General contractors have different ways of supervising the project. Ask prospective general contractors how the project will be supervised. It’s important to know who will do the day to day supervision as they will have the biggest impact on the quality and cost of the construction. You may really like the owner of the firm, but it’s the supervisor you’ll be speaking with almost daily.

Working relationship with clients

While building your custom home, you’ll interact with your contractor on a daily basis. You’ll want to work with someone you can really get along with. Work with someone who will level with you, rather than offer the moon and the stars and not be able deliver. Choose a contractor who’s willing to give you honest answers even if it’s not what you want to hear.

The process will be much more enjoyable and productive if you work with a contractor who views building as a collaborative process with you as an integral part of the team.

Working relationship with sub contractors and suppliers

Find out about the contractor’s working relationships with sub contractors and suppliers. Good general contractors build long term relationships and loyalty with subcontractors and suppliers. They resist the temptation to “shop around”, always looking for the best deal. This builds strong working relationships, increases quality and avoids costly mistakes. When building is booming, the subs will show up for the contractor who treats them well.

Working relationship with design professionals

Design professionals are integral team members in the construction process. Your contractor should be able to communicate and collaborate well with design professionals.

Apples to apples

When speaking with prospective contractors, the conversation invariably turns to “how much will it cost me to build my dream home?” The usual measure for this is cost per square foot. Though it sounds simple, it’s important to know that different contractors arrive at this number in different ways. Ask what’s included in the figure. Contractor A might have a apparently low cost per square foot, but is including unfinished basement space and the garage. Contractor B’s cost per square foot might seem higher, but might actually be able to build the house for less.

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