Finding a good contractor and establishing an effective working relationship is a little like courtship and marriage. First you have to make a good match; then you have to live with your choice--at least until the house is finished.
Here are a few tips from Building Ideas magazine to help you choose a contractor you can live with day in and day out.
* Get the names of several contractors. Ask for recommendations from your architect, banker or friends who have recently worked with contractors.
* Get estimates from several contractors. Ask the ones that interest you to give you rough cost estimates. Discuss ideas with them; ask for advice. A reliable contractor will tell you an estimate may be slightly higher or lower than the final bid, because not all materials and labor will be precisely figured at the time.
* Evaluate the contractors and their estimates carefully. Before you call back any contractors for final bids, check out their reputations to determine how reliable they are. Talk to the people who recommended the contractors. Ask your chamber of commerce and the Better Business Bureau for references. Check these references thoroughly.
* Get final bids. After narrowing your list of contractors to five or fewer, ask them for final bids. Write down everything you want them to do and review these items with them. Specify the number of materials you want and the brands, patterns and model numbers of products. Make sure everything is included in the bid.
Ask for the bids by a certain date, giving each contractor about three weeks to calculate a cost estimate. Review bids with each contractor. Good contractors use top-grade materials and hire skilled carpenters and subcontractors, and this will be reflected in the bid.
* Don't base your decision on the bid alone. Building a house and enjoying it requires a good working relationship with your contractor.