Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Done Before I Started

You know that term "contractor fatigue?" No? I'm pretty sure that's because I just made it up. However, I'm sure there's a website, blog, non-fiction book, and scholarly journal devoted entirely to this subject matter. If these resources do not exist, I encourage anyone who has experienced such a condition to start documenting it. That way, novice home builders will be able to accurately set their expectations when venturing out into the murky, ambiguous world that is Contractors.

I just picked up the recent issue of Dwell, a magazine focused on modern and green architecture and design. It's a consisently cool magazine but this is not why I grabbed the new issue. Rather, an article entitled "Contractors 101: Everything You Should Know," caught my eye. And by caught I mean it made my hands start to sweat and my cheeks get all flushed and I felt a little dizzy because I thought that maybe finally, finally I had found the answers to the nagging questions that lately keep me up at night. What...what?!...is wrong with contractors? And how....how?!...can I build a home without one?

I'll save you some time. The article doesn't answer the questions. It does, however, bring some much needed levity and humor to my current situation and the situation that I am certain millions of others have gone through or are currently experiencing. I am painstakingly crafting each sentence here in order to avoid incredibly crass statements in regards to this profession. In fact, I am trying to be "mature" and "rational" by acknowledging that my limited experience with these folks is not representative of the entire group. And I am entirely certain it is not. With that said - I'm holding an open call starting here on this puny blog. I am calling forth any and all contractors who believe they are not associated with the negative labels I have given them (unreliable, slightly dishonest, flaky, unreliable, flaky, and very unreliable). If you are out there and most certainly do not fall into this category - if you are willing to take on this project - if what I said about your profession pisses you off and you want to prove me wrong - well, please do get in touch!! From the bottom of my heart, I absolutely cannot wait to hear from you.

In order to avoid specifics, let's just say the process of obtaining bids from contractors hasn't been, er,....easy. Perhaps my expectations were out of wack. In light of the economy I expected our building plans would be happily embraced by all builders, that word would spread that someone was building, that people would line up at the door, that birds would sing and flowers would grow, and that I would be at one with the contractors. What came to pass was all of this - only - completely opposite. My phone is intact. My email appears to be working. But..nothing. I have come to accept that the builders either do not want to build or simply lack the ability to truthfully communicate their personal timelines and intentions.

I started out being pretty damn sweet on the phone. I wasn't trying to impress anyone but did want to appear as an un-fussy potential client with a simple project and a can-do attitude. The initial "interviews" consists of 20-25 minutes in which a spiel is given by the builder, promises are made, hopes are raised, dreams are born. It's the follow-through that seems to get them. Six contractors later, my heart is broken. I'm starting to feel like I got stood up for a dance. Now, my phone calls go something like this: "My name's Jenna. I want you to build a house for me. No, no, you must wait your turn to speak. For now, I will do the talking. I've got this much money. I've got this much land, and I'm out of patience. If you say you're gonna show up - show up. If you're not gonna show up - call, email, or text. If you do none of these things, that's fine, but I will find you and publicly humiliate you. Thank you for your time."

Sigh. Pretty good for an amateur, no? No. Trial and error has taught me the correct questions to ask and that a certain level of pushiness is necessary, if not expected, when going through this process. This isn't the time for polite conversation. It's more about stating clearly a "No BS" policy, providing a budget, and looking to see who's left standing.

And just to keep things relevant to the overall subject matter of this blog, I give you an update of epic proportions: Chula let me examine her teeth this weekend. How about that?

1 comment:

John said...

http://hbaaustin.com/...I would recommend that you go with a Graduate Master Builder (GMB) or at least a Certified Graduate Builder (CGB). See the link below


Obtaining accurate bids on single family projects is very difficult unless you have VERY thorough drawings and specifications from your Architect. This level of detail is generally considered overkill and most builders budget on allowances. X dollars for kitchen appliance, cabinetry, etc. This often means you are comparing apples to oranges because Builder A puts in $20,000 for kitchen appliances, while Builder B budgets $10,000. I would select your builder based on his/her competence, personality, and quality of work (talk to there past clients). My two cents...let me know if I can help with anything.