What to Look for in a Designer or a General Contractor

Competence & experience – Before you even interview your designer or general contractor, do a bit of research. Check out their website and out their online portfolio. You’ll see what kind of work they do and how much of it they’ve done. You’ll also get to read about their business and design philosophy – these will give you a sense of what kind of professional you’ll be dealing with. And then you can ask them questions about the type and number of projects they’ve done and about their customer service philosophy during the face-to-face interview.

Ability to finish the job – The professional that you’re considering may be technically or creatively proficient but if he or she is flaky, temperamental or egotistical, then you have a problem in the making. So it’s best to find out at the start whether there is any hint of this or not as you should only hire someone who is 100% drama-free. You need to work with a consummate professional who looks out for you and genuinely cares about creating a fantastic end result. The best people to work with are the ones who know how to listen and strive to understand your needs. Maintaining their reputation is important to them as they know that good news travels fast and bad news travels even faster.

Integrity & honesty – Keep in mind that you’ll be giving the keys to your house and in some cases even your credit card numbers to your designer or contractor, so honesty and integrity are key. Ask around if the person that you’re about to hire is trustworthy and reliable. Although delays and cost overruns are sometimes unavoidable, you don’t want to hire someone who quotes you a low price just to get the job and then turns around and asks for more money once you’ve hired them; or takes 4 months to complete a 3-week job.

Positive Feedback – Another way is by calling the names of past clients whose names appear on the testimonials page of their company website. Ask them if the person that you’re thinking of hiring has ever left them in the lurch or left them with an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Or you can call the association that they’re a member of to find out if there is any negative feedback related to the person that you’re thinking of hiring. Consider it a very good sign if the designer or contactor that you’re considering does a lot of repeat (and three-peat) jobs for their clients. That means they’re straight-shooters and easy to deal with.

Cooperative – A designer or contractor is critical partner that you may end up using several times throughout your life, as their knowledge and skill are important in helping you enhance the most valuable asset that you own – your house. That being the case, you must absolutely be comfortable working with them and/or interacting with them on a daily basis, so avoid the arrogant or know-it-all types. They need to know how to incorporate your needs with what they know is best. In other words, they should know when to stop you from being silly or impractical, but they also have to realize that you’re the boss and the one paying the bills.

Gut feel – There nothing like meeting with your designer or general contractor to confirm what you’ve read and heard. You can get a pretty good sense of whether this person is the real deal or just a bag of hot air. You’ll also see whether this person is a straight-shooter or a little shady based on their answers and how confidently they can look you in the eye. You may want to discuss several of their projects to see how they handled it, what the end results were and how happy their customers were with the whole experience.


How NOT to Choose Your Designer or General Contractor

Choosing based on price – When people decide to renovate, they typically call three contractors to submit bids. And once they arrange the numbers into high, medium and low, most people will opt for the middle number.  Why is this not the best way to award a project? Well… you’re making a choice based on numbers, not competence.  While you may have chosen a reasonably priced contractor, they may not necessarily do a great job. Want to know a secret? Most contractors don’t fully understand what they’re quoting on, as the specifications (or list of things you want done) are usually not very clear at this stage, so they just throw numbers out in the hopes of getting a job. A lot of times, their quotes are way off the mark, so people end up paying more than what was agreed on 80% – 90% time (check out START WITH A BUDGET)

They’re a friend or a cousin – Don’t hire a person to do a job simply because they’re your friend or one of your relatives. Hire people based on their ability to deliver. The problem with friends and family is that you typically can’t make strong impositions on them. If they show up late for a meeting or forget to pay their debt, you can only sigh and put up with it.  Once you impose normal business expectations on friends (or family) who think that they can do whatever they want whenever they feel like it, you’ll run into a lot of problems and also some drama. This is why it’s usually best to hire someone that’s not a friend or family member to do a job, especially if there’s a budget and deadline involved. If they mess up, then that’s the last time that they’ll work with you. If they don’t perform, then you can simply fire them – no drama and no hard feelings. If a friend or family member messes up, on the other hand, you have to forgive them and swallow your loss in order to avoid the hard feelings and the drama.  That said, there are certain family members – and friends – who are true to their word and get things done no matter what. You can work with those people, no problem.

Persuasive ability – A number of people have the gift of gab and can sell ice to eskimos. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re reliable or that they can deliver. If a person tells you everything that you want to hear, then great. If you find their personality to be scintillating, then even better. If they’re good looking and stylish, then that’s extra points for them. But don’t ever forget to do your due diligence. Check out their references, their website and their portfolio.  At the end of the day, the person that you hire has to be able to do a good job as pleasantly and as painlessly as possible. And if they’re likeable on top of it all, then that’s a bonus for you.

Photo by Victor1588


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