By Bob Hoebeke
President, Hoebeke Builders
“Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…”
On the used car lot, all the vehicles look great. Clean on the inside, and shiny on the outside. But each car couldn’t be more different. Small, stylish, high-speed roadsters behave differently than “Mom-mobile” SUVs with plenty of room for the family. Standard, mid-line sedans provide reliable transportation, while opulent, luxurious cars get you there in style. And, so it goes, always something for everyone’s various needs.
Building professionals are the same way.
Some design small houses, some only do larger projects. Some can only build traditional designs, some prefer a more contemporary line. Some specialize in English interiors, some in French. Finding the right personality mix will dramatically increase your project efficiency, and save you lots of money.
So, where do you find professionals that you’ll like? And once you find them, what are the right questions to ask? Since designing and building or remodeling usually takes a while, how are you going to feel about spending significant time with your newfound friend?
Most people pursue the process by staging what we like to call the Architect/Builder/Interior Designer “Beauty Contest” – they’ll pick four to six professionals in a given discipline, give them the basic outline of what they think they may want, wind them up, and let them each tell their story. Whoever tells the best story, wins!
Let’s contemplate a different path which seems to have yielded better results. First a few ground rules:
- Don’t rush the process. Doing it correctly requires a little extra effort, but “pay me now, or pay me later.” Think of this as a treasure hunt … one enormously benefiting your family.
- Don’t be shy. You’re not inconveniencing anyone, and you really want good information.
- Listen very carefully. Below, we’ll discuss “intersections” and as you process information, we don’t want you to miss the obvious.
- Be your own independent judge. Because of potential professional symbiotic relationships, it’s better if you don’t ask one professional discipline to recommend another — you’ll get who they want, not who’s best for you.
Where To Find Professionals You Like
Everyone has an opinion — even you. Friends, colleagues, satisfied homeowners — even you. Don’t discount your own instincts. It may be a home you’ve driven by and you’re in love with; an interior over which you swoon; heck, maybe a jobsite so clean and organized you KNOW the builder is terrific. Listening to the success of others and paying attention to your feelings are the best methods for finding the commonalities that make you happy.
Step out, ask questions: look for friends or colleagues who have had positive building experiences. Don’t be afraid to knock on doors of homes that capture your eye to ask who drew the plans, designed the interiors, or built the home. Were they happy with the process, would they do it again?
The more work you do, the more effort you make, you’ll begin to discover what we like to call “intersections.” A name (or names) will keep popping up in conversation. Multiple referrals will lead you to the same place. Soon, you’ll find professionals sharing common interests, maybe even desires. BINGO you’ve found your person! Once you’ve found them…
Ask The Right Questions
You’ve gotten this far and perhaps you’ve found several multiples of the same discipline. Suddenly you’re interested in 3 architects, 2 builders, and 4 interior designers. Now what? Miss the “Beauty Contest” and get specific:
- How long have they been in business? What caused them to get in business in the first place? Where did they train for the business they are in? Have they ever gone bankrupt and do they have any liens or judgments? Do they operate off loans or lines of credit, and if so, what kind of balances do they carry? Generally, what is their fee structure?
- Who influenced them the most in their work and why? Do they work in a variety of styles, or just prefer a certain one?
- What is their current workload? Any idea how long this project will last? Will they be the primary, or will an associate do the work? Can you interview the associate?
- References: the last five projects — no cherry-picking — and call every one of them!
- Questions for builders: Names and phone numbers for concrete, framing materials, plumbing, HVAC, trim materials, flooring, painting, and appliances. How long has the relationship lasted? How often do you jump from sub-contractor to sub-contractor? (Longer relationships are better, suggesting greater stability, and the ability to consistently produce a high level of quality.)
- Questions for the supplier or sub-contractor: How long have you done business with the builder? How organized and efficient is the contractor? Does he pay his bills on time? Does he “say what he’ll do, and do what he says”?
Within reason, all professional disciplines will be about the same in cost. Market pressures dictate all competitors for your business will charge about the same. While each values their services and charges for those services differently, you’ll find it difficult to make an “apples to apples” comparison, and the difference between competitors will be negligible.
With whom do you feel most comfortable? Who will wear the best over time? Who’s expertise do you trust? You’ve just found your person!
Whew! That’s a lot.
NEXT WEEK: We’ll discuss how to blend all of the professional disciplines you’ve selected so your Project Team can begin to work for YOU!
From, developing a “Lifestyle Inventory,” to building and monitoring your Project Team, Hoebeke Builders Consulting Services has all the tools necessary to dramatically increase your project’s efficiency, while decreasing your project’s cost! www.hoebekebuilders.com