Three questions you may not have thought of to guide your contractor selection.
You’ve been thinking about custom-building for years, and you’ve decided now is the time. You’ve done your research and know what type of design you love. Now you’re ready to find the perfect builder (who can help you find the perfect architect and, if needed, the perfect lot). But how do you do that, exactly?
You’ve already scoped the websites and social media of the custom-home builders in your area. You’ve narrowed it down to a few companies whose work you really admire. But you’re a bit stumped. How do you make the final call?
It all comes down to the builder interview. And there are three questions that should be included in that interview, that may seem irrelevant at first. But when you understand the questions, they’re perfectly logical.
1. What are your values?
Absolute client satisfaction should top the list. And the most important indicator of client satisfaction is relationship-building.
Does your builder seem like someone who will take the time to get to know you, to understand your needs and dream home desires? Will this builder keep you appraised of progress and cost all throughout the process? (If you’re not getting a “gut-sense,” ask one of their former clients.)
Your builder needs to be service-oriented, willing to talk through decisions with you from the very beginning. Maybe you have a site and architect in mind. But if not, your builder should be able to help you find both.
Your builder needs to value transparency. You have to be able to trust your builder to be honest about limitations and expenses. Maybe you have your heart set on a particular site orientation, but your builder knows that long-term, that particular orientation will cause foundation problems. Your builder needs to be confident and open enough to communicate this, in a diplomatic way.
Your builder needs to value organization and communication. They need to know exactly how they’re spending your money and be able to share that information with you, down to the last cent, at all times.
Your builder needs to value relationships. Your contractor should be likable and respectful to others. Not only will you be spending a lot of time with your building team over the upcoming months, but you need to feel comfortable enough to return to your builder in the years to come, as maintenance issues arise.
Additionally, likable builders can tap into the best subcontractors. Demand for top-talent subs is high. They don’t have to work with anyone who doesn’t respect their time and safety. The best builders treat both their clients and their subcontractors with kindness and integrity.
Your builder needs to value a job well-done. Just completing a job, or even completing a job quickly and within budget, isn’t enough. You need an incredibly thorough, detail-oriented contractor if you want this home to be your legacy.
2. What are your hobbies?
Here’s where it starts to get weird. Why do you care about your builder’s hobbies?
The truth is, you’re asking because you want to make sure your builder has hobbies. Having hobbies makes us better workers. It’s scientifically proven to lead to more creativity, less stress, more focus and better job performance.
These benefits are even more pronounced if the hobby is creative, such as woodworking, building model ships, playing music, painting, performing, etc. That’s because of something called brain plasticity, which has to do with problem-solving and approaching issues from new angles.
Plus, having hobbies leads to better physical health, even if the hobby isn’t physical in nature. Again, this goes back to that stress-reduction thing. Lower blood pressure and cortisol levels means a more robust immune system and less sick days.
Here’s one CTO’s take on why his passion for performing chamber music helps him think more “big-picture,” increases his patience and discipline, and helps him become a better leader.
Finally, hobbies make us happy. And as we already mentioned, you and your contractor will be spending a lot of time together very soon. Wouldn’t you rather be around an upbeat, positive person than a gloomy person?
3. Do you get along with your mother?
We know, we know. This one seems a bit personal. But again, it has a clear purpose. The female head of the household often makes the most purchasing decisions, and we’re not just talking groceries and children’s items. She makes the decisions about the house itself—the types of floors and fixtures, the materials that go into the house, and even the rooms that should be included in the floor plan.
Part of this may be biology. According to research, the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for problem-solving and decision-making, is larger in women. But part of this is also social conditioning.
Not always, but often the woman does the majority of the cooking, so choosing kitchen features and appliances are up to her. Walk-in pantry, double-ovens, a pot-filler, a coffee-bar, quartz countertops? These are all decisions she’s likely to make.
A mother is often more attuned to her entire family’s needs. Do the kids play outside constantly? A mudroom to shed shoes and outwear may keep the home cleaner. A mom may think to include built-in desks in the kids’ rooms or to insist on sound-proofing against the teenager’s band practice.
Often the lady of the house runs dinner parties, holiday gatherings, and friend get-togethers. She’s the one who knows what type of entertaining spaces best suits her family. How many guest rooms does the home need? Does the house need an extra-large dining room? An outdoor living area with a grill, fireplace, and big-screen TV, for movies and the game? A basement arcade? A home bar?
So, going back to the original question, you want to know that your builder respects and listens to women and frankly, is comfortable taking direction from women. And one of the best ways to ascertain that is to figure out if he respects the women in his own life—such as his mother.
Interviewing Potential Builders
These are some great questions to kick-off your first meeting with your potential custom-home builder. If the contractor passes the three-questions test, here’s a guide to the rest of the questions you should be asking.
Good luck choosing the perfect custom-builder for your dream home!