David Alexander, President of Star Building Systems
They say the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Expanding your building or even building a new structure for your business, church, or school isn’t all that different. It feels like an elephant. Attacking it is best done in small, deliberate pieces. But what they never explain in that piece of advice is, “Where should I take the first bite?”
I have no idea when it comes to elephants. In building, however, there is one tried and true answer: you start with the builder.
There is often a misconception that the builder isn’t all that different than a snake oil salesman. Or a lawyer. Or a politician. He’s only out to get the biggest project with the highest profit margin. In reality, the right builder will be your biggest champion for a solid structure that meets your needs and your budget. They’ll be your advocate. In fact, by the time the project is over, they may end up being your best friend.
What is hard to see for clients are the details that are invisible. Things like dirt work, plumbing, slab work, concrete, foundations, all these areas must be addressed before anything is built. A client will always have the big picture in mind, which is good. The builder, however, will be their detail manager. They know what needs to happen from alpha to omega. They can support, guide, and counsel you about areas that may not have even been considered, such as the topography of the land, if you’ll need a sprinkler system, how the water will run off, and so on and so forth.
When you’re ready to start talking about building, start with the builder. And to help you find the best possible match, here are a few pointers when shopping for that builder.
- Years in business
- Most people worry about getting taken advantage of by a builder. That is not the case with long-term, established builders. Many of these builders are second or third-generation companies. They are not in business to take advantage of people. Be more worried about the builders who show up overnight on the internet than the builders with a 40-year established business. Their years of service speak for themselves in fairness and honesty.
- Oftentimes, a builder marketing a low price per square foot may catch your attention when you’re researching online when, in reality, it may cost more. That square foot price may be a hook to simply get you in the door where they’ll slowly raise the price. You are better off looking at that builder’s projects and talking to previous customers. Were they happy? Did they get what they paid for? What was the quality of the builder’s work? This guideline will serve you far better in the long run.
- A good builder will also be a good manager of their own business. To determine this, talk to their suppliers and subcontractors. How are they to work with? What is their reputation within the industry? Do they pay their bills on time? If they can manage their own business requirements, they are likely qualified to help you manage your building project.
- Many builders specialize in one particular type of construction, such as agricultural, commercial, community (fire stations, churches, schools, etc.). Other builders are general and a jack-of-all-trades. Find out about that builder’s previous projects to help determine if they will best serve your needs.
In the end, the most important question to answer in getting started is, “Do I feel comfortable with this builder?” The right builder will be your partner in the project and an invaluable expert in managing all the details required.
Once you have selected the right builder, what’s the next step? Check back next week for part two of this series and find out what questions you and your builder will need to work together to answer.
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