Building is a noble art that is as old as humans desire not to live in dank and dark caves. We have specialized since our beginnings, 45 years ago, in supplying builders, building professionals, and the trades. It takes years for a good builder to develop the knowledge and skills to orchestrate the construction of today’s designs. Challenges of building codes, energy codes, and all the complexities of permitting and inspections, while managing the many aspects of construction are something we believe are best handled by experienced professionals. Life is not an HDTV set on which everything seems to come together in 30 minutes. Today’s homeowner may be charmed by the spontaneous scripting of “Let’s just knock down these walls and push out onto the patio” but real life is a much more complicated process. We believe in hiring a pro to do the job, on time, on budget, and to minimize surprises that could drive delay and cost.
When a homeowner hires a pro, they are hiring experience, resources, and leverage with subs and suppliers. They are getting management and consulting services, and a level of control and oversight that they would not otherwise enjoy.
Although a lot of people think they can simply do it themselves, it’s very risky business try to take on the role of a pro, as an amateur. Here is an article that we share with homeowners through our website to explain our position and why we choose to Partner with the Pros, whether it’s a job we are doing or a job we are supplying. We hope it is of use to you in defining your client relationships. Our tag line sums it up: If your builder isn’t using Shepley…please ask why.
Why do you need a builder?
If you don’t speak the language every day, understanding it can be a huge learning curve. Have you ever listened to aircraft pilot radio communications? To us, the untrained, they are cryptic gibberish. We are not unintelligent, we are simply inexperienced. You or I could, with time and practice become skilled air traffic controllers, but if we’re learning radio speak, on the job, with little or no training, under pressure, the risks of error are extremely high.
So what is a builder?
We believe a good builder is a labor and materials manager who has leverage with suppliers and subcontractors. A good builder is an experienced consultant and advisor who serves as an information and referral source. A good builder is a Building Code expert, a critical path planner, a psychologist, a referee, and the orchestra conductor who has to keep track of all the parts of the job.
Where can you find a builder?
Use the resources that are available to you. You can look online, but verify the contact through your local Chamber of Commerce or the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod. There is nothing better than a referral! If someone you trust can make a recommendation, that’s typically a good start. And don’t forget to contact Shepley! We can give you a list of several good, solid builders to choose from.
How do you choose a builder?
The first step is to interview a few builders and make some determinations in regard to: values, capability, compatibility, communication, and definition.
Find a builder who has values similar to yours. You’re not likely to change each other during the course of building a house, so choose someone you can get along with – it’s a relationship. Visit current or recent jobs they’ve done and look for quality of work, cleanliness, safety adherence, and amount of waste created. You need a builder who can listen to you and understand you and your needs.
“You can’t force a square peg into a round hole”, the old saying goes. Find someone qualified to do your job. For instance, it may not be a good idea to hire a framer, who may have no General Contracting experience, to General Contract your job. Check out current clients that have similar projects and ask them if they would hire the contractor again and if the job was completed on-time and within budget. Do your diligence! You get what you inspect, not what you expect!
Don’t start a project without it! You are embarking on an adventure that can feel risky. With risk can come panic. Look for a builder that you can trust, who balances you, not upsets you. Check references and look for customers who have had similar work done by your prospective builder. Ask the key, closed ended question, “Would you hire this builder again for your next project?” Building is a wonderful and creative process – set yourself up to enjoy it!
Your interview process and budget discussions will open you and your builder up to each other. Define what you want for information, how much and how you like to get it –perhaps weekly meetings with progress reports and percentage of completion. Set a timeline and a budget to compare your progress to your goal. The best follow up is a quick note or e-mail to summarize a conversation and to clarify exactly what was said and who is responsible for what duties. I recommend writing e-mails because you can’t re-read a phone conversation! And don’t be afraid to clip out photographs and draw pictures. We are visual beings and this can be helpful to ensure you get exactly what you’re looking for.
Put it in writing! Define everything up front with a contract. Ask your builder to document and price any “extras” so you know what you’re spending and have control of the budget. Define the pricing structure. Will it be a contract price for the entire job, cost plus, or not to exceed with incentive to do better (could be based on time, money, or both)?
Never is a project more rewarding and enjoyable than when you have selected the correct professionals to do it right. When we at Shepley build anything, we always use a builder. We supply the pros, we hire the pros.
If your builder isn't using Shepley, please ask why!