Saturday, January 19, 2008

Picking subs and feeling the housing crunch...

We're still picking the subs (aka subcontractors) for our house project, and it's not as easy as one thinks. You shouldn't always pick the cheapest, as I've heard time and time again. So, what are my tips so far?

- Always rely on your conversation with the sub. I have found that not only do I use my gut instinct to see who I like to work with, but I also like to get an idea of how the sub thinks. I try to see if he (sorry ladies, 99% of them are Hes) think outside the box or is open to new methodologies (like anything green!), that scores a lot of points with me. You know, great minds think alike :-)... my hubby is pretty darn smart, and he can usually tell when a guy is bluffing with the tech stuff and if the sub can understand what we want to accomplish. In the end, we usually will think he is worth the extra bucks if he's of sound mind.

- Follow the "He's just not that into you" tip. If the sub doesn't seem that enthused over your project, then I think they wouldn't put as much extra effort or give you any innovative tips. It's definitely a turn off to work with people who don't have interest in what you want to do. Also, it's always nice when they have the same sense of style as you. Most of our subs we chose like the modern style and want to do something different from a conventional home.

- Always check the LAST THREE references. Any hesitation on the part of getting these references is a huge red flag. I got one "excuse" the other day from a sub who said that those references probably aren't living in those houses any longer and that he didn't have any contact with them. He avoided giving me their contact information, so it lead me to believe that there was something wrong.

- Beware of rushed, impatient or temperamental people, whether with you or with other people. Your sub's emotions are contagious. If he is stressed and angry, it will make you stressed and angry. We have found that even-keeled, patient and calm people are what make your project easy to deal with and harmonious. We lucked out. All of the guys we have talked to so far seem helpful, patient and jovial. That's what you need when you are creating your baby.

- If someone's a LOT more expensive, compare bids by seeing how much detail is in them. Usually, the person with the most detail is probably the most accurate bidder and won't shock you in the end. Therefore, it is less likely you'll be surprised with a change order or additional costs. If someone is cheap, make sure you get him to detail what is included in his quote, that way you know what you're comparing.

- Check his response time. If he responds in a reasonable amount of time or responds to all your messages, then it's a good sign. Otherwise, you should really ask yourself if he's flaky now, what about when the building starts?

- Realize that you're a "one home" show and he may prioritize a bigger home builder over you. If this is the case, I would be cautious of working with him. Make sure you feel like you're taken care of! You're important too, as you have a mouth that can spread the word!

I've got more probably, but I can't think past these. Also, lately I have been feeling the housing crunch as more and more subs are calling me instead of me chasing THEM around. This is good, as I can get more competitive bids. The only thing is the cost of transportation (thanks to oil prices) and materials have gone up significantly, even though labor is easier to come by.

Hope this helps. I know some new owner builders are nervous about this whole thing, but it's nothing too difficult.


maxmsf said...

that's great perspective and advice - way to put that woman's intuition to work!

Jan & Myleen said...

haha, Max, yeah, it helps when vetting people. Somehow I sense things within 10 minutes of meeting someone!

Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for putting this blog together. It's wonderful!!!

My husband and I are just starting the UBuildit process and I found your site by doing google searches to check out UBuildit. So far everything seems amazing.

We just got our agreement from them today but it only had 10 site visits, did you negotiate for more to get to 20 visits?

Also, we are doing our project in the Westlake/Hill Country area also, have you found that the bids are somewhat higher due to the excessive rocks?

Thanks and good luck with your project.


Jan & Myleen said...

Hi M&M! Exciting that you are starting with UBuild It, and congrats on building your home.

We are working with UBuild It in the Northcross location (Mark and Glenn are the guys there). They said 20 site visits are included, and I don't know if that's standard with all UBuild It locations. I know there's one in the south off I-35. From what I've heard, every UBuildIt can have certain terms on their own, and each one is a franchise. What was your cost per A/C sq foot? Ours was $5.50. I don't know if that has changed from last year.

Regarding whether it's more expensive to build on solid rock (which is what we're facing). YES and NO, yes because excavation takes longer and they have to use more expensive equipment and no because our foundation didn't have to be as deep into the ground (less concrete, less expensive).

Feel free to call me if you want to know more, and if you e-mail me I'll give you all my contact information. Click on my profile and send an e-mail through that.

Hope to talk to you soon!

M&M said...

Hi Myleen,

Thank you so very much for responding. I sent an an email with my contact info. I look forward to hearing from you. I have a ton of questions regarding Ubuildit.

My husband is on the fence in regards to if using them will be a true value but we are both software people and we don't have a clue about building, so I think we really need them.

Anyway, thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you.