From the Architect's Desk
Every house needs a contractor, someone who will work on the project based on the architect’s design and build the design dream into reality.
Often clients ask whether they should simply pick the least expensive one from the bids or try to negotiate a good price with the best match. When faced with this question I typically use an analogy.
I say, “Imagine that you are new in town and are in need of dental work, maybe even a root canal. You would probably ask your colleagues, neighbors and friends for qualified referrals. You might call several of the names you were given by your trusted sources and ask about the availability of an appointment, the treatment schedule and yes, the potential cost. Most likely, you would not simply ask “How much?” and then happily select the cheapest of the bunch.”
Alterations and additions, especially on an older home, are like root canals for the house. I shake my head and wonder why anyone would select a builder based on price alone. When it comes choosing a builder based on the bid alone, versus negotiating with the best choice for a better price, there really is no question. Price alone should not be the deciding factor.
Indeed, cost is a very important consideration. But so are the builder’s experience, the quality of his work and his subcontractor’s, the builder’s financial stability, track record, reliability and sensitivity to your family’s needs and your comfort. Did I mention the importance of communication skills? Your builder must be able to communicate with both you and your architect.
The best choice will have excellent recommendations. He or she will be able to communicate well with you and in the way you prefer –by phone, email, text or in person. The contractor will understand your family’s routines and sensitivities to noise and dust, will communicate clearly about expectations and schedule, will understand and be sensitive to your neighbor’s concerns for such things as temporary truck access and parking. When it is needed, the right choice will go the extra mile, building a temporary exterior stair or a back-up kitchen, for example, to ensure the house is functional and as comfortable as possible during construction. This builder may not be the cheapest guy in town, but really, is that what you want for you or for your home?
When selecting a contractor, remember the root canal analogy. How comfortable would you be as the Novocain approaches knowing you chose that dentist on price alone? Instead, consider all the aspects that will make a difference in your comfort and the quality of the work. Sometimes the cheapest bid is the most expensive when all is said and done.