How do you know what to ask a contractor or a consultant – to be sure they’re the right choice for you?
The three questions for the best takeaways...
The three questions for the best takeaways I would offer after decades in the business are listed below. And these go equally well for a builder or an architect or anyone else with whom you consider trusting your project, your money and your time.
- What projects have you done that are similar to mine?
This is clearly meant to establish the person’s capacity to do the work. Their level of confidence in their answer will give you insights to how they’ll approach your project.
It's important to remember that a qualified person might not have done any projects like yours. But their ability to convey their skills for the necessary tasks might be plenty for you to hire them.
The more you know about how a project goes together and what the important issues are for you in the final outcome, the more strengths you have in selecting someone who's not just blowing smoke.
- Can I see pictures of some of your work, and pose further questions as I review them?
Ask for prior work that is related in scope, style or level of quality, the general setting of the property and its surroundings, with some idea of general costs.
Or ask in what ways he/she thinks the work they're showing you is relevant. If what they're showing you is just OK... then you'll probably get just OK work from them. If you think their projects sit way beyond anything you could afford, or they're a style that doesn't resonate with you, just remember there are clients involved in those projects of theirs!
Ask followup questions about the builder's or the architect's philosophy toward projects... is their work a standalone monument to his or her craft and skill? Or is it a close response to what was asked of them? Who's project is this anyway?
Are they sensitive to smaller or tightly controlled budgets? What if you really want something and it goes against their grain?
Who should be the one in control? Of course, you should be, and if the contractor or consultant is so put off, they don't need to take (or continue with) the job.
"Know as much as you can about what your designer or contractor will do, so you can ask the right questions and follow their progress in an informed way... cut your risks!"
- Can you briefly run through how you manage a project from start to finish?
Because you’ve requested brevity, this can tell you a lot about how this person thinks, how well organized they are in their approach, and whether they have a solid understanding of what really goes into a project like yours.
This question might cause them to ask you several of their own, which is good because it means they’re there to listen and learn about you. Their response should generate further questions from you on how they respond to certain types of problems that can crop up on any project, or how well they respect the work of others on the team.
You’re looking for a qualified team player who's interested in the particulars of your project, someone who can leave their ego and their personal demands at the property line.
Best of luck in your landscape pursuits!