It’s spring, that time of year when plenty of fancies turn to thoughts of building. Whether your proposed structure is as simple as a compact garage or as big and lavish as a shopping center, you want the right price, the best possible construction with the fewest possible complications, and the job finished on time. Those all-important factors should make choosing the right construction company your number one goal.
No doubt you’ll have plenty of companies to choose from in your area. Unfortunately, many prospective clients hire the first company they talk to, usually because they’re excited and anxious to get started. This is the single biggest mistake you can make. Slow down, take time to gather information and think carefully. There is, after all, a lot on the line–i.e., your investment.
Of all the elements that can and should play into your decision, three things are particularly important to consider.
1. What Kind of Company Is It?
Make a list of construction companies in your area, then check out their websites. Make note of:
- the types of projects they specialize in, and determine whether your project is a good fit
- their level (years) of experience
- whether or not they provide references
- customer reviews
- whether or not they offer a warranty
- whether or not the company is licensed
As you narrow your list, call the references, and visit previous job sites. Stephanie Zimmerman at ABC News suggests you visit with building owners/residents to ask if they have any problems or complaints with the construction. Did they enjoy good communication with the company, or was it hard to get hold of a real person if and when the need arose?
Finally, check sites like Angie’s list and the Better Business Bureau, in case other customers lodged complaints.
2. What Will the Project Cost, and Will It Be Done on Time?
Chances are you’ll identify more than one viable candidate. Your next step is to contact the companies still on your list and request an estimate from each. “The estimates should be in writing and should include both the projected cost and the time frame needed to complete the job,” said Miles Construction Group, Inc.
Just remember, the lowest estimate shouldn’t necessarily determine your choice. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you meet with company representatives to discuss why their estimate is so much less than others you may have received. Will they cut corners? Use cheaper materials? Some experts say you should toss the lowball offer for those very reasons.
Finally, price isn’t, or shouldn’t be, your only consideration. You’ll want to be sure the construction company you choose is easy to work with, communicates openly and often, and shares your vision of the project.
3. What Will the Contract Say?
No matter how big or small your project, a good construction company will give you a written contract, spelling out the job in minute detail. Make sure the contract includes:
- a description of the project
- a timetable for completion
- a detailed list of the materials that will be used
- information on warranties
- a deadline for repairing defects
- a payment schedule
Written contracts keep everyone on the same page during construction; they also make potential disputes easier to settle.
As for the payment schedule, you should limit your down payment as much as possible. Some states legally limit the amount a construction company can ask for upfront, and your state or local consumer agency can let you know if that’s the case where you live. Subsequent payments are usually made periodically as contractually defined parts of the project are completed, so you’re only paying for work already done. If the project is delayed, your payments can be delayed, too.
Never pay cash, no matter how small the invoice.
As you can see, choosing the right construction company takes a bit of time and effort, but going through the process is your best guarantee of quality construction, completed on time at a reasonable price.