We’ve all heard and possibly seen horrific stories of renovations gone wrong in the media or through friends. After decades of experience as a home construction company in the Greater Vancouver area, we’ve also witnessed the unfortunate aftereffects of unfinished construction due to disputes, abandoned projects, and poorly executed work.
In many of these situations there are warning signs apparent from the beginning of the project—even before a contract is signed. If you are in the market for a builder, shop for one as carefully as you did when you shopped for your home.
Know that it takes plenty of time, research, close inspection, and reliance on your instincts.
No license is required to become a renovator in BC, and there’s no oversight from the provincial government. This puts the onus on the homeowner to make a very careful decision in choosing a dependable and well-regarded home construction company for their project.
For tips on how to find a reputable home builder in Vancouver – while avoiding those that are unreliable, unethical, and produce poor-quality work – continue reading below.
1 / Start With Referrals for Home Construction Companies
Begin your search for the best home builder with recommendations from friends and industry professionals. Even a home in your neighborhood that you’ve seen under construction is a great option to contact—the home owner’s experience is relatively fresh and you may have encountered crew as you’ve walked by the site.
Just like buyer reviews for products or hotels, keep in mind that testimonials can be highly subjective rather than objective. Obtain several per home construction company that you’re considering for a more balanced perspective.
If one client’s complaint is seemingly minor in your opinion, still make a note of it and ask the builder about it or what their solution is in case it comes up again in your project.
2 / Do Due Diligence
Undertake detailed research on the home builder that you’re interested in hiring. The more you can find about them, the more credible they’re likely to be.
- Look at their previous projects – portfolio and in person
- Ensure the builder has an online presence with a website or Houzz profile – no presence is a bad sign that the business is temporary or avoiding being publicly called out for poor work
- Review their social media accounts – what content are they posting, if anything?
- Check BBB and industry affiliations with organizations such as CHBABC (Canadian Home Builders Assoc. BC chapter)- what accreditation do they have and have any complaints been filed against them?
- Pay attention to reviews on Google and social media – they can be more revealing than the edited testimonials on their website
- Perform a court search to see if there are any lawsuits against the company
When reading reviews, observe how the company responds to any negative ones. Their reaction speaks volumes about their professionalism and how they handle client dissatisfaction.
Don’t be afraid to ask the home builder for a list of previous clients to chat with or request to see a home building project in person. If the builder cannot provide references that you can speak to, move onto the next home construction company!
3 / Meet the Builder in Person
Discuss the option of going to the home construction company’s offices to meet the design and build team. Meeting in person and checking out their space provides some assurance that they won’t duck out on you. And it helps to get comfortable with the team you’ll potentially be working with over a long period of time.
If your gut instinct is to trust the project manager or company representative, that’s a great sign. If you feel unsure at all, move on to the next company. Home building requires investing a lot of time and money—trust will be a huge factor in the process.
Another red flag: If the builder or contractor is working from a PO box address and is unwilling to meet at their office.
4 / Review Pricing and Type of Contract
Be prepared with a list of questions about your home renovation project and the home construction company’s process. Now’s the time to dig into understanding how the project will be run.
Before receiving an estimate in writing (never verbal), be sure to know the difference between cost plus and fixed price projects and determine what works best for your family.
Other important topics to discuss at this point include how the billing and the warranty period work. The resulting detailed contract should identify the scope of work, the materials being used, the cost, and the payment plan. Review CHBABC’s resources and tips on contracts.
Red flags to look out for:
- Asking you to sign (estimate, authorization, or contract) before you’ve agreed to all the terms and want to hire them
- Requiring full payment before starting the job – this is usually the sign of a company that will dash after receiving cash
- Underbidding other home building companies by a large margin – could be a sign of subpar work or a different pricing scheme
- Being offered a promotion or special pricing in a time-sensitive manner, i.e. “If you sign today, we’ll give you 10% off!”
- Insisting upon cash-only payment so there is no paper trail of money being exchanged
5 / Confirm Communication Methods & Timing
It’s very common to skip over the communication plan and assume that you’ll receive regular project updates from your home builder. However, uncommunicativeness and lack of transparency are big issues – especially if you have different expectations or views on how the exchange of information works.
Some important considerations include:
- What method will be used to communicate important/urgent decisions?
- How will status updates be shared?
- What are the project milestones and check-in points with estimated dates?
For related reading, see “How protected are BC homeowners when home renovations projects go sideways?” by Global News.
Learn more about our design and build company, NOVERO Homes & Renovations, and view our projects. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about our home building process.