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How to Choose a General Contractor

We know that taking on a home project can be expensive and that’s why this month’s newsletter is so important. One place we often see our clients try to save money is when they are hiring a General Contractor. Rates can vary quite a bit on GC’s, so it’s only natural that you would want to try to get the best deal. However, it’s so important for you to know that there is also a variety of service that you will receive. There are some important things you should know before you hire your next General Contractor. We want to share some tricks of the trade so you know what questions to ask and what to look out for in order to get the best value out of your GC on your next project.


What is a general contractor?

A GC’s primary job is to coordinate sub contractors and purchase product and materials for your project. They handle scheduling and every element from installation to quality oversight. Their job is to represent you as the client with your best interests in mind.

We see two kinds of general contractors. 

  1. The first is full service. Everything is covered. You don’t have to manage the project or request updates. They are communicative and once we provide the specs for the job, they make it happen. This type of GC is, of course, more expensive.
  2. The second type of GC comes in and charges less but they also do less overall and, for the most part, is less invested throughout the project. This means that you, the home owner, have to be more involved in purchasing, placing orders and coordinating delivery throughout your project. This type of GC is often less expensive, but costs you more time because you are doing a lot more work.

So, how do you choose?

When choosing the right GC for you, it is important for you to know the type of experience you want. When you’re interviewing contractors, there are several important questions to ask.


Make sure the contractor will run the job with your expectations in mind.

For instance, if you want an update from them every day, communicate that up front. They will be honest with you about whether that is part of their policy and if they can comply. It’s common for a client to feel like no one has worked on their project for a few days and to be confused by that. A good general contractor will keep you up to date on when the next subcontractor has availability to come out to complete the next phase of the project instead of leaving you wondering.


Communicate the type of service you want.  

Ask your potential GC how much time you should be investing into the project. Ask about the quality of their subcontractors. Most GC’s who have been in business for a while will have a good team of subcontractors and vendors that they pull from. Ask about the companies they are hiring to do the work on your projects.

Ask about their policy on change orders.

  1. Change orders can mean additional costs to your project. So, do your work up front: finalize your scope of work and select your products and finishes.
  2. Make sure you understand what the contractor will consider a change order.

What we don’t want you to feel when working with your General Contractor is:

  • that someone else is manipulating what your goals are for your project.
  • that you are a burden when making requests or asking questions.
  • that you aren’t getting clear answers on why certain things you’ve asked for aren’t a good fit for your project.
  • that your project is your GC’s lowest priority or that they don’t care.

What we do want you to feel when working with your General Contractor is:

  • that you are free to communicate as much as you need to in order to make you comfortable.
  • that you can trust their process without feeling the need to check up on them to make sure things are done right throughout the project.
  • that you have been included on walk throughs and punch lists throughout the process. This is a must!

A good rule of thumb is that the lower the cost of the GC, the more you should expect to participate in the overall process. The higher the price point, the more your GC should be managing the job. Remember that any job can run into problems but that a good GC will make it right if that does happen without costing you extra time or money.

One of my favorite contractors built a house here in North Carolina for clients of ours who were living in TX during the process. This is a great example of what can happen when clear communication, honest expectations and trust are involved. And, it clearly showed that he had his client’s best interests in mind.

If you are ready to build a new home or add an addition to your existing home, give us a call at 704.708.4466. We would be happy to provide recommendations for our favorite general contractors for your next project! 

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