Even before canvassing for an Engineer, Architect, Interior Designer or a building contractor, you should know exactly what you want. These will not only help the supplier or designer quote more accurately, but it will also give the impression you are in control of the project – not the supplier. Designers and construction suppliers normally have large contingency and sometimes, way too large that you can actually save as much as 30% if you know what you want.
Ask yourself the following:
1. What is your time-frame?
2. Make a list of specific things you want (Cut and paste pictures from magazines of things you want in your construction)
3. Set a maximum budget and a contingency fund (If you have set your maximum budget, you may declare this amount to the contractor less 30%, as your buffer or contingency fund should things go unplanned)
4. Make a rough sketch of your desired floor plan.
5. Without considering budget, what are the things you want?
6. Considering your budget, what are the things you could let go?
7. Pay a small fee to an Engineer, Architect or better yet a Project Manager to get his/her professional opinion on the contract your about to sign.
Which contractor to avoid?
1. Those who quote prices before actually seeing the job.
– A professional sends someones to inspect or make an ocular inspection himself on the proposed project. The more questions the supplier asks, the more responsible he will likely be when delivering your products or services. An ideal contractor is engaging, letting their clients know they know well and mean well.
2. Those who happen to be in your area doing some other work and can give you a “special price”.
– Many still fall for this scam. There are no “special prices” – a supplier can either give you the best price or not at all. Most contractors can actually give you a good price, but would not normally “offer” it unless they’re up to something. Worse, many will pretend they know what they’re doing. Consider one of our clients who actually thought he was dealing with a “real” architect. He finished the job right but there were many things that seem not right – then he finds out that the supplier “pretended” to be an Architect. The client didn’t do a background check.
3. Contractors that demand more than 40% deposit “to buy materials”.
– Reputable contractors maintain charge accounts with their suppliers and large deposit is not necessary. There are few suppliers that will bite on low budget projects. If you are having one, always assume that the contractor that bites into your low budget project has limited capital, thus never give more than 40% down payment. If the supplier insists on this condition, watch out for possible pitfalls! What usually happens is that contractors never finishes their project. They will reason that the budget was way too low and they did their best to maximize everything. Worse, they will scrimp on materials which is something you should watch out for.
4. Those that will not supply you with a detailed contract.
– Always demand a detailed accounting of the project, including materials, sizes and actual materials that will be used. It may seem tedious but all reputable contractors do this. If your supplier gives excuses when it comes to giving out details, better look for another.
5. Those that don’t have a permanent address
Builders or professionals usually have an office, however in today’s micromanaged economy, many have their SOHO or home offices which is acceptable. If someone doesn’t even have a home-office, accountabilty will be a problem. Obviously, this contractor is hiding or is wanting to hide from something. Contractors who doesn’t have a good track record naturally will change their name and location to avoid being credited from a previous project disaster.
6. The lowest price is not always the best price.
– A common pitfall, cheap is not spelled quality. Check works they have recently done in the past. If you cannot get a reference, consider going to their office and asking people or neighbors around.
Materials you should not scrimp on:
1. Tiles – Never buy cheap tiles. It may look nice but its luster will disappear in few months and cracks easily. You can never go wrong with branded tiles.
2. Steel gauge in your foundation. When strong earthquakes happen, your house can actually collapse.
3. Exterior paint – Be sure that your paint are all-weather when painting the exterior.
4. Wire gauge – Your investment could literary turn to ashes with sub-standard wires.
5. Water proofing compounds – Always get the brand your contractor recommends
6. Wall paper quality – If you cannot afford quality wall paper, settle with ordinary paint. You will only be peeling away your money within the next year.
7. Cement – In most third world countries, there are unscrupulous cement supplier that actually repacks cement mixed with clay. These produce brittle cement work that eventually chips off or caves in.
Look for warning signs such as (a) Cheap pricing, (b) delivered by a truck that has no company logo or signage that it came from a legitimate supplier and (c) observe curing time – Quality cement hardens quickly while adulterated ones take time.
Check for at least three contractors to bid. Asking for referrals is a good way to decide. Lastly, never sign a contract on the first few meetings with the contractor, even though you’ve gained confidence with this contractor. Excitement to start your construction may get on the way of right- thinking.