Although you may use your gut instinct to judge a design-builder's personality, you should carefully assess a design-builder's experience. Fly-by-night operations are common and many design-builders present themselves as more qualified than they are.
To assess their ability, ask the following questions:
What is the history of your company?
How and when did you get into the business?
What projects have you completed?
Can you provide references?
Good design-builders are proud of their work and will have lists, pictures and references of their previous projects.
What services do you offer?
Do you provide in-house design or work with independent designers?
Do you have your own construction teams or do you hire contract workers?
Asking these questions will give you an idea of the size and scope of their operation. Also, ask why they choose to operate that way.
Do you belong to any building associations?
Local building associations can be a great source of reference, and some groups pre-qualify potential members and have conditions for maintaining membership. Although memberships do not necessarily guarantee quality or experience, they may help you weed out fly-by-night operations.
Have you done renovations like ours before?
Just because they have done many projects does not mean they have experience. For example, they may have renovated over 100 kitchens but that does not qualify them to add a second-story addition to your home. Can they provide references for similar projects?
Can we visit one of your projects?
Work sites indicate how design-builders operate and will show the quality of work they do. Is the site clean and well organized? Does the quality of work meet your standards?
Do you carry disability and liability insurance?
Hiring someone who is not properly insured could put you at considerable financial risk should someone be injured on your job site. Ensure that you see proof of their coverage.
What warranty do you offer on your work?
A professional design-builder delivers prompt follow-up on any problems or defects in the work. Find out what is covered and for how long. When checking customer references, ask about the design-builder's follow-up performance.