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Choosing Your Builder 1- Essential Intangible Qualities

This post is part of a series of 6 listing 30 checks to consider when selecting a building contractor. 

Every building project involves a number of massive financial transactions. For all clients the stakes are incredibly high, and for many construction is a new experience. In this context successful builders with established reputations and good careers are defined by strong personal character, communication skills and honesty.

In my experience as an architect, good main contractors for domestic renovations are some of the best people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They have excellent interpersonal skills, are natural leaders and incredibly trustworthy. This isn’t surprising, because with so much uncertainty in the construction process, they wouldn’t win enough work to make a living of they didn’t exude these qualities.   

When selecting a main contractor, you may opt to work with someone who has a rough and ready attitude to record keeping, or who has difficulty meeting deadlines, but they cannot be employed if they are not exemplary in these key areas.  

Consider what level your contractor will deliver under each of these headings, and discuss with your architect how that will affect your experience of the construction process.

Contractor Service Levels- Pressure Points for Customer Experience 

Low- description of contractor services at lowest merchantable standard

Medium – description of services of typical competent contractor

High- services at unusually high level within norms of small scale construction

Interpersonal Communication Skills

Low: has difficulty expressing technical and management issues, and problems motivating staff.  Medium: is effective and communicative, enjoys loyalty and trust from most people involved in project. Creates a good working environment on site.  High: feels like a friend and ally to all involved in the project, deals with all situations diplomatically, creates a calm mood onsite and in emails, communicates  well for management and problem solving. 


Low: is considered a bad employer, has difficulty retaining staff and establishing long term business relationships.  Medium: can manage staff in an adequate way, sites feel professional and business-like.  High: has dedicated long term staff and regular subcontractors. All staff share enthusiasm for the project and confidence in the main contractor. There is often a positive jovial mood onsite. 

Honesty and Integrity

Low: typically fail basic pre-qualification checks, cannot supply references and are not employed on projects. OR they refuse to complete proper binding building contracts before work commences.   Medium: acts in keeping with the contract terms, but engages in sharp practice tactics within the contract framework to increase project scope and profits.   High: is entirely trustworthy in all matters, and treats the building and the project finances with complete care and respect. Acts in client’s best interests at all times, above and beyond the defined terms of the contract and enjoys excellent good- will and long term working relationships. 

Follow- Through

Low: seldom finishes projects, has difficulty working through complex issues to achieve a completed building. Looses focus on the project. Such individuals effectively cannot operate as main building contractors.  Medium: works to terms of the contract, completing substantial elements of the building to a fair standard. Difficulty achieving a high standard in a timely fashion at completion stage. Typically long snag lists and health and safety concerns during construction. Achieve compliant construction, with bad customer experience.   High: develops strong feeling of ownership for every project. Cares about project success and quality, with each building representing a major phase in their career. They remain in contact with clients and often return to remedy defects years or decades after the contract has ended.  

 Links to Study the Six Categories

  1. Essentials- intangible qualities of every professional builder
  2. Management of Time and Money
  3. Resources for Customer Service
  4. Resources for Getting the Job Done
  5. Achieving Quality
  6. Set-up and Accreditation

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