Thursday, March 10, 2011

it's not like comparing apples and oranges, it's like passionfruit and pickles

So, we're back in the interview process looking for a new general contractor. We thought we had one we liked, but we saw some really odd behaviors just prior to going into contract with him, so we backed. away. slowly. I feel confident in our decision to do that for sure, but the only bummer is that it put us right back to square one: looking for someone.

What we're doing right now is interviewing 3 different "design-build" companies. These types of builders can do the floor plan, bid from that, get the permit processes running, and then build the damn thing. Before, we were looking at dividing those tasks up as separate processes, and the just seemed to us like the a big cluster-frack. I am a huge fan of feeling "integrated" as many of you know LOL.

We met with the first company last Saturday. The design-guy half of the company came out to the house (his long time business and life-partner is the construction-guy). We all got excited and started talking details right as he walked in the door, but stopped and he said, "Wait. Let's sit down for a minute and let me get to know you a bit and hear more about your project." Music to my ears. Cool. The meeting went great. We like him and what we've seen of his firm's work quite a bit, but we're pretty sure that their bid is going to be on the high end of the scale. The other thing that is of a concern, is that TheMostImportantGuy spoke with the DesignGuy yesterday and said, "You know, we were talking and wondering about maybe laying things out a bit differently. We think it might make for less structural work and a huge cost savings," and which point DesignGuy says, "You know, were were talking about that very same thing back here at the office and were wondering the same thing ourselves, and wondering why you wanted to do it the way you wanted to do it." This left TheMIG feeling like he was staring at this huge red flag, that this company may just be soooo into making people happy and building what you ask them to build, that they may not offer all the information about how to do things differently and more cost-effectively. I see the flag, too but I am hoping that they just didn't get it out of their own mouths before we did, is all. I'm thinking these guys need a second interview with us, and that we bring along our red-flag detector.

Let's contrast this with company number two. Who is really not a company, he's a GUY, but he has a whole bunch of subcontractors that work with him on every job he does it sound like. We meet him out front, and we very quickly determined that he was quite familiar with our house. Why?? Because he also had an offer on it when it was for sale, but we got it. He was bummed on some level, as he had fully imagined himself living there and how he would use the property. He barreled into the house and told us that, "Surely we wanted to get rid of the two bedrooms upstairs and make it a giant master suite," to which I pointed out that I'm disabled and not a fan of stairs so the upstairs would be TheMIG's realm, and our bedroom and my craftroom (yes--craftroom! squee!) would be downstairs. Then he told us that the diningroom should be an office (not), and that "this is where he would have put a pool table." I could give you about 20 more examples of him telling us how he saw things should be, and never once did he stop to ask how we would use the space. He also made 3 outright racial slurs about what type of people we should or should not rent to, so offensive to me that I cannot even bear to type them here. Does his being a racist show in his quality of work? Probably not. Will it haunt me that his energy (and the fact he really thinks our house should be HIS house?) will be forever buried in the grout of our kitchen tile? Yes. Totally. Did he offer up a ton of good ideas (along with the bad ones?). Yes. Was he very well priced, but of decent quality? Yes. Would I let him remodel the in-law unit for renting? Maybe. Because I could see from his non-portfolio (we had to ASK for photos of finished work to be sent to us) that he builds the same. exact. kitchen. over and over and over. Remodel an in-law unit he has down to a science. Would I let him near my house?? Fuck no.

We are meeting with a third contractor next week. Please...please...(who exactly am I praying to, the gods of construction??) let the pendulum in our experience swing. I want us to find someone in the middle.


Gina said...

I highly recommend Big Red Construction (Kathy Kovell). She's based in Moraga but works throughout the Bay Area. Feel free to contact me if you want more details of the terrific job she did for me.