Thinking about building or renovating a house, or adding new rooms to your home?

If you’re the sort of homeowner who appreciates the convenience of working with one cohesive team from the beginning to the end of a project, you might consider hiring a design-build firm.

“A design-build company offers a single point of responsibility for your project, which can maximize efficiency, streamline communication, and save money,” says Ryan Graham, Vice President of Operations for Graham Builders in Honolulu.

Project complexity is another consideration. If you’re making significant changes to the structure of your home – its load-bearing walls, for example, and/or its plumbing or electrical systems – a design/build firm can help ensure the work is done safely and seamlessly.

But how do you begin choosing a competent, capable, reputable firm?

Due diligence

For starters, check with the Better Business Bureau and the DCCA (Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs) to see if a firm’s license is current and if there are unresolved complaints.

Ask the firms on your list if they’re willing to provide a project performance bond and clear written warranties for their work, as well as samples of payment and change order policies to ensure they’re written clearly and plainly.

Similar projects

Yee also strongly recommends reviewing the portfolios and experience of your short list of candidates.

“Look for firms that have experience with renovations in houses similar in age and style to your own, or experience building new homes on lots similar to yours, whether beachfront or mountainside, or somewhere in between,” says Malia Yee, Senior Architectural Designer for Graham Builders. “Take a look at their past work and see if you like it. Look for designers whose tastes are similar to yours, or ones that think outside the box.”

Specialists as appropriate

The firm you choose should assign an architectural designer to your project to help you clearly define your needs and expectations, and specialists as appropriate.

“If you’re going to build a forever home, or one for multiple generations, you might want a company with a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) on staff,” adds Yee. “If you’re concerned about the environment and energy efficiency, look for a firm with sustainable building certification.”

Trust, familiarity, and connection

Finally, take advantage of any educational sessions or seminars with general information on new construction and renovation offered by the firms on your list. That will help you get to know people who might be working on your project.

“Find a firm that you trust and get along well with,” Graham says. “You’ll be spending tons of time with the people on your team, so you should feel comfortable sharing some of your personal interests!”