Good general contractors are good managers of not only their talent, but also their money and their clients’ priorities and expectations. The best don’t mind an opportunity to set upfront expectations with serious customers. Here are three questions you can ask that will give you some insight on your prospective contractor:
1. Can you give me an example of a conflict that came up on a recent job and describe how you resolved it? Murphy’s Law works on building projects just as well as anywhere else. You can tell a lot about a person by how fair-minded they are when they retell a conflict resolution story.
2. Will you work until my project is finished, or will you stop and start with some time in between? Having an understanding and expectation of a contractor’s routine is vital to your own happiness throughout the construction process. Also, make sure you know what time of day the contractor will start working.
3. How many jobs do you run at a time, and how often should I expect to see you? Sole proprietors are very hands-on and only take on one job at a time. Larger companies have subcontractors or employees who work different jobs under the same general contractor’s license. In cases like the latter, it’s not uncommon to see the foreman more than the general contractor, but you should definitely know the specifics of the situation before any work begins.
If you get the answers to one or two of these questions and still aren’t satisfied, it’s OK to ask if the contractor can accommodate you in some aspect. For example, if the contractor isn’t going to be around much, you may want to request more contact. Ask if they’d be willing to keep you apprised of the progress and any issues via email once a week. It can also be comforting for a contractor to hear you say exactly what will make you happy.