Making Good Decisions
The process of building a home is a cooperative effort, and relies as much on building relationships as raising walls. You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of personal relationships in your building project. Finding the right people to work with is at least as important as choosing the right materials and systems. Shared values and work ethics are at the heart of every successful building project; similarly, many projects that do not go well are due to sour relationships. You should ensure that you feel comfortable with everybody you hire, from general contractor to tradespeople and laborers. Clear communication, good decision-making processes, and collaboration will encourage the best possible results.
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Make no mistake; the fees charged by a general contractor (GC) are usually well deserved. There are many reasons you might choose to be your own general contractor, but saving the money you would otherwise pay a GC is not a good reason. It takes many, many hours to coordinate a construction project, and you will either put in those hours yourself or you will pay somebody to do it. There is no right or wrong choice, but cost savings are not sole the grounds on which to make the choice.
GCs typically have the advantage of experience and an established network of tradespeople and suppliers; a good GC is familiar with codes and inspection requirements and understands the sequencing of a construction project. Everything a GC does can be done by an informed and motivated homeowner, but the learning curve will be steep and there will be at least a few delays, additional costs, and other hiccups to be expected from a first-time owner-builder.
At the center of good professional relationships are good contracts. Whether you are hiring a GC, a tradesperson, or an occasional laborer, write down your agreements and have them signed. The clarity offered by a clear contract is valuable for its ability to avoid the vast majority
Remember that people not materials make buildings of misunderstandings as well as its role in settling them should they arise. Many contract templates are available, but you can just as easily write down your understanding of the agreement in your own language.