There are so many bad apples that finding a reliable contractor can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. I often hear this complaint from clients.
- Use your network
- Get to know the contractor
- Check and compare their quotes
- Check if they are willing to sign to your conditions
- Observe their reaction
- Do a background check
- Ask for references
- Lead by example
The Germany construction sector is tough
The construction sector in Germany is quite special. As is typical in Germany, there is a rule and a guidebook for everything. Unfortunately, it feels like for each rule there is a loophole, and a lot of contractors live thrive on those loopholes.
Foreign clients, in particular, come to discover that building in Germany is quite different from most other countries. I was born in the Netherlands, and I work with clients who construct the same buildings in multiple countries. In my and their experience, Germany is one of the toughest countries to build in.
That’s because those clients often have very limited knowledge of German construction laws. This means that without proper guidance, contractors can easily deceive them. The initial quotes for a project are low, and everything seems to be fine. But after a short time, the contractors submit their first change orders, and the client realizes that they have very few options but to approve them, as the contracts are not waterproof.
Your contracts should be tailor-made for Germany. Make sure that a German lawyer who specializes in construction law checks it for you. It will be money well spent.
Use your network
If you don’t yet have a network in Germany, get some local construction professionals with large networks to help you. Since they work with construction companies on a daily basis, they are well informed about which construction companies are reliable and which are not. Even if they don’t know a specific company, those professionals can ask around within their network to get an opinion of the company. It’s a small world, and the German construction sector can sometimes feel like a small village in that small world. People know each other; good news spreads fast, and bad news spreads even faster. Use that knowledge.
Get to know the contractors
You’ll be talking to your contractors during multiple negotiation rounds before signing the contract. This gives you the opportunity to get to know them a bit better. Ask them specific questions to find out if what they are all about, don’t avoid the unpleasant topics.
Check and compare their quotes
Look at their offer; does it seem like they’ve really taken the time to calculate everything down to the last Euro? Did they have lots of questions for you whilst preparing the offer? Did they come up with alternative solutions?
If the answer to most of the above questions is no, then you need to be careful. Unprofessional companies will go in quick and low and then earn their money through change orders over the course of the project.
Check if they are willing to sign your conditions
After checking their offer, show them the contract that you’ve carefully prepared and ask if they are willing to sign a lump-sum agreement.
If they are unwilling to sign a lump-sum agreement, ask them why not. After all, their offer has been carefully calculated, hasn’t it?
Observe their reaction
Personally, I always tell the client and the contractor that the agreement needs to be fair to both sides, which means that both parties have responsibilities. Ask the a couple of specific questions and observe their reaction carefully to see what they are all about.
Do a background check
Have the contractor fill out a pre-qualification form, providing their company’s details. Check their financial stability and whether they’ve paid their social fees.
Ask them for references
Have them give you a list of the projects they’ve completed and the contacts for those projects. Don’t shy away from giving that person a call or sending them an email. Most will be more than happy to share their experiences with you.
Lead by example
If you’ve followed the tips I’ve provided above and have found a reliable contractor, you can be sure that their services are in high demand. So make sure they enjoy working with you as well. Make sure you’ve got a project manager that can communicate eye-to-eye with them.
Of course, the final test will be the quality of the cooperation during the project’s lifetime. Are they reliable, honest, and transparent? Or are they trying to “milk the cow”, so to speak?
Picking the best construction strategy