Finding the right builder

Find the right builder

You have decided to tackle a home rebuild or initiate a major home improvement project, and the next step is to find the right builder.

Tip #1: It’s all about the details

All building projects have a budget and a timeline, so do your homework before meeting with potential builders. Before selecting the right construction company for your project, be sure you know what you want to achieve. A builder cannot offer an accurate bid or create a timeline without knowing the details. This will save time and money. It is common for clients to ask for changes to a project, which increases the costs and time.

Tip #2 Reputation matters

Choose to interview builders who are licensed, reputable and local. Ask for a list of past projects and past client references.

Why a local builder?

For starters, you can visit a couple of their finished projects and check out the completed work. Local builders generally use local suppliers and subcontractors. This will help your project stay on track, on budget and on time.

Tip #3 Spell out the terms

A building contract is a must and do not work with a contractor/builder who does not provide a written contract. There are many forms of a contract. Contracts for residential projects often include the drawings and schedules so it is clear what is included and what is not. And the payment terms are agreed upon before work begins, too. Remember, a contract addresses the “what ifs”, such as: What if the work is changed along the way? What if the project takes longer than agreed?

Tip #4 Hire the general contractor early in the design process

You are seeking a company that is committed to excellence at every step from bringing in their subcontractors, executing the complete scope, to meeting deadlines, providing a quality end-product, and protecting the owner’s interest by managing a budget, providing appropriate insurance, and tracking lien releases.

The earlier in the process that you can hire the general contractor, the better it is in the end. Even before the design begins, they can start saving you money and providing you with valuable feedback. It is common to hire the general contractor early under a preconstruction contract before awarding the general construction contract.

An easy way to select a general contractor early in the process (before the plans and scope are ready to be bid) is to interview your top choices for general contractor. Use a placeholder value for the hard construction costs (i.e., the “sticks and bricks”) and then ask the construction company to provide pricing for their overhead, fee, management, and supervision based off that placeholder value. Ultimately, these fees are what a general contractor can control and negotiate early; the remaining project costs are going to be based off market pricing from subcontractors according to the design and scope of the project as dictated by the client (i.e., outside the general contractors control).

The company with the lowest pricing is not necessarily the best choice; the most experienced and most qualified company will save you time, effort and heartache in the long run.

After the general contractor is hired they can start digging into the project. Through competitive bidding, a qualified general contractor will be able to compare and negotiate subcontractor costs for services, materials and labor for each of the components of the project on behalf of the client. Depending on the size of a project, three to five bids are reasonable. The general contractor will also be able to provide valuable cost savings ideas to help implement the design and client vision.

We appreciate it when potential clients let us know early that they have identified Murfey Company as their strongest candidate and would like to ask for additional information. This gives a general contractor the opportunity to answer more detailed questions and to start providing more time and attention to the potential project.

Tip #5 Stay calm

The final stage of the project sometimes can be a little bit rough for the property owner and the builder. The owner can be anxious to get the project completed, and the builder still has many loose ends to tie up.

To minimize potential frustrations, write a comprehensive list of items that the builder needs to complete and review it together. Before you know it, you will be enjoying your new space.

Murfey Company has been helping San Diegans Create Their Lifestyle since 2009. For more information go to