When I started my business in 1994, it mostly catered to sprawling, vacation “2nd homes” in the mountains. Couples nearing retirement came to western North Carolina from the flatlands of Florida and Atlanta, escaping the heat, wanting to sit on the veranda and feel the mountain breeze. They chose “top-of-the-mountain” lots (to get the views) and wanted nothing less than 4000 square feet. They envisioned grandchildren in their future, hiking through trails of rhododendron and stoking wood fires on twinkling winter nights.
Husbands generally deferred to their wives for design decisions, but it was also the women who were intrigued by the process and followed it closely, from bulldozers to framers to tile-setters. Many times I heard the phrase, “I’d love to do what you do.”
Nuts and bolts aside, women are “naturals” when it comes to the building trade, so it stands to reason that a woman-builder can understand what an owner is trying to convey—sometimes when they don’t even know themselves, because it’s just a feeling. There’s a certain “X-Factor”—an intangible element—to interpreting an owner’s wants and needs and turning them into a living space, and it starts from the very first meeting.
All this is to say that when choosing a builder, trust your instinct beyond all else. Do your homework, of course. Speak to their clients, go see some of their work. If you can visit a work-in-progress, even better: observe the neatness of the job, the attitude of the trade contractors and the sense you get of their relationship with the builder. Don’t just rely on the old “3 bids” rule. It’s not uncommon for a contractor to simply throw out a price they think will win them the job, then fill in the blanks later. Estimating is a lengthy and complicated process. Cutting it short will most likely result in lots of unexpected costs during the building process.