Finding the right contractor for your commercial build out can be a daunting task. After all, you have invested your hard-earned money to buy a building for your business or to lease/sublease to tenants. The best place to find the right contractor is to start by asking your network, including other developers/investors and subcontractors which contractors they recommend – and which they would avoid. But it goes beyond just receiving the recommended name. Ask them “Why” they enjoy working with them. This may not seem like a normal practice in commercial real estate, especially when you may be competing for tenants, but asking is just the start to the process. A simple question to ask is, “Who would you hire if you were renovating a property or recommending a contractor to a potential tenant?”
Once you have your list of names, do your homework and make sure each contractor is properly licensed and insured to cover your project. A great place to start is the BBB. Equally, be sure to contact several references provided by the contractor. You want to get as many different perspectives as possible to feel confident in narrowing down to a short list of contractors you would like to get bids from.
By asking the right questions, you will learn the positive and negative experiences your network has had on previous projects. Believe it or not, people are willing to give you honest feedback!
So, what are some of the critical questions to find out before narrowing your list?
- What kind of work did the contractor do for you? You want to be sure to compare apples to apples with your project. It doesn’t do any good if the contractor recommended only did a small residential bathroom project and you have a 20,000 square foot building.
- Did your project come in on time, and on budget? Only work with contractors who have a track record of delivering what was promised. The key here is that you don’t want any surprises. You’re looking for a contractor who provides consistent work.
- Did you like how their crew managed work? Yes or no, you want a contractor whose crew shows up on time, keeps the work area safe, cleans up at the end of the day, and has a plan for the next day’s work.
- Did you have any change orders? Changes take place all the time on construction projects. However, it’s important to make sure the contractor is covering its scope of work. If exclusions were listed in your contract, have a full understanding of the exclusion and its impact on budget prior to granting permission to proceed. Make sure all change orders are provided in writing by the contractor and signed off by you or your representative(s).
- Would you hire this contractor again? For the most part, this says it all.
We can’t stop at just 5! Here are two bonus questions that could help you make your final decision if you are still unsure.
- Did the contractor listen to you? Nothing is worse than having a contractor who is refuses to take the time to listen to your needs and to answer your questions. So, be sure to ask the references whether the contractor was willing to listen and to engage in a two-way conversation where their opinions were valued.
- Ask if you can see some of the contractor’s previous work by visiting spaces where the commercial build out took place. Any reference should be proud of their space(s) and work done. By seeing the contractor’s work, you can gauge the quality of their craftsmanship and can help you make your final decision.