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Owner Builders: 43 Interview Questions You Need to Ask When Choosing the Right Sub-Contractors

Jul 27, 2008
Owner builders oversee the construction of their new homes, cutting out the costs of a general contractor. To do this, though, owner builders need to hire and manage their own sub-contractors.

Choosing the right sub-contractors will make the difference between a successful owner builder construction project and a financial disaster.

Owner builders need to ask these 43 questions when choosing their sub-contractors:

Owner Builder Questions to Sub-Contractors

1) How long have you been in business?

2) Have you or your partners worked under any other names?

3) How many jobs do you do per year?

4) How many jobs do you work concurrently?

5) How much time are you (the owner of the sub-contractor firm) on site personally?

6) How many crews do you have?

7) Will you be working with the crew on my site?

8) Do you sub out any of the work? If so, what?

9) Do you have a contract you use? (Owner builders should use their own contract, not the sub-contractor's contract if at all possible.)

10) Can you provide me with a copy of the contract in advance?

11) How long has your foreman worked for you? (Owner builders should ask this if the owner of the company is not doing the job himself.)

12) Please provide me with a bank reference.

13) Please provide me with a copy of your insurance certificate.

14) Have you had any suits brought against you by any homeowners or builders for whom you have worked? (Owner builders can check their background for bankruptcies, judgments, and lawsuits. Let them know you will be checking.)

15) If yes, why, and what was the outcome?

16) How many change orders would you consider average per job?

17) Are there charges or fees for a change order (other than the obvious costs for the change)? Some contractors charge a fee for this.

18) If a mistake is made by one of your crews, who pays for it?

19) What kind of warranty do you provide?

20) Are your warranties guaranteed by you or a third party?

21) Please provide 3 (or 5) references for work done in the last 6 months.

22) Please provide 3 (or 5) suppliers you buy materials from.

Owner Builder Questions to Sub-Contractor's References

1) How would you rate your experience with this contractor?

2) How would you rate the contractor's communication with you?

3) What are the contractor's strong points?

4) Weak points?

5) Why did you choose this contractor? Was it quality, price, reputation, other?

6) Was the work finished on time?

7) Was the work completed on budget?

8) Would you hire this contractor again?

9) Have you called them back for any warranty work?

10) If yes, how did they respond?

11) Did they keep the work area clean and neat?

12) Were they easily accessible by phone?

13) Was he (if the owner) on site or did he have a supervisor on site?

14) Was the on-site supervision adequate?

15) Would you recommend them to a family member?

Owner Builder Questions to Sub-Contractor's Supplier References

1) How long have you known the contractor?

2) How would you rate his/her reputation?

3) Does he/she have an open account with you?

4) If so, what are the payment terms, and does he pay on time?

5) How much of your business does he do with you each year? (1%, 5%, etc.)

6) What is your relationship with the contractor? (Is it strictly business, personal friend, family, etc.?)

Remember, the more homework an owner builder does the more he is prepared before hammering the first nail. Owner builders will save significant time and money this way.

Owner builders who skip these steps and who think they can have a verbal agreement with a sub-contractor get burned in the long run.

Remember the big picture! The owner builder goal is to build your dream home and save tens of thousands of dollars in the process. This does not mean owner builders need to be cheap.

And it does not mean that owner builders should skip steps just to get to the fun of building - you will have plenty of time for that!
About the Author
If you are considering building your home as an owner builder, Chris Esposito provides owner builder construction loans and a wealth of information through the Owner Builder 101 program. Visit www.OwnerBuilder101.com to learn more about owner builder loans, or call (877) 876-3688.
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