Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Finding a New Contractor - Part 3 - The Search Begins

The idea of finding a person/company that will do the work on the Horner House is very daunting. Like owning a business together the relationship between a contractor and a home owner is similar to a marriage. It’s a long term commitment that requires excellent communication for both parties to be happy. And every way I turn I hear some new horror story about a major problem that was caused by an ignorant or untrustworthy contractor. So how do I make sure that I am getting the best possible person at a rate I can afford?
True story.
My first stop was Indiana Landmarks. They have a list of people that do this type of work, but anyone can be on it, so it’s not really a recommendation. I also called a couple of friends and got a few names that way. At first, I was only looking at the three companies that had been recommended to us. Even starting that small, it was hard for me to articulate to prospective companies what our project entails and what I need in a contractor. Fortunately, as I went through this process it became easier and easier.

Eric and I had a long conversation about whether we would just talk to those who had been recommended to us or if we should look further. Knowing the possible repercussions of not getting a good match we decided to look at a wide range of people. I went through the list from Indiana Landmarks very thoroughly and checked the yellow pages as well. We were able to mark some companies off the list from the information on their web sites and by using Angie’s List. 

After that I sat down with a list of names and phone numbers and began calling. Many of the places I talked to were not even interested in talking to us. Some were interested, but not willing to work with our timeline. And others just didn’t think that we would make a good fit, but were quite helpful.

Kathy Cuppy at All Phase Group was very helpful to us. She didn’t think that the project was a good fit for her company, but did recommend someone else and offered to talk to me anytime about any aspect of the project. I have known all along that the only way to protect us from making too many, or too big, of a mistake on this project is to educate ourselves. Kathy was the first contractor I talked to that understood this and the difficulties involved in doing so. Kathy deserves a big thank you. Not many companies are willing to help when they are not getting anything out of it. 

So after many phone calls I thought I was pretty much at the end of the options. Then I went to the Home Show. I was not really planning on talking to any of the contractors there as most of them seemed to be more focused on hail damage or building new homes. By a rather odd route of heating companies and architects suggesting that I talk to specific contractors, we ended up with several additional companies that were interested in the project.

Throughout the process we had meetings with each person/company at the house. They were asked to give their opinion on the process and the issues. We asked each person to give us a bid for the work on the West Wing and the process they would use to stabilize the house. Additionally we asked for references from prior clients and wanted to see something that each group had done. We also let them know that we would be asking for an understanding of their hiring requirements (i.e. Do they do background checks.) and let them know that we would ask for background checks on the principals of the companies and needed to get a copy of their insurance.

I know that this sounds like a lot, but these people will be on my property and in my home. Almost every company was 100% understanding of our requests and those that were not we have marked off of the list. They may be wonderful people to work with, but they just are not a good fit for us and this project. This house is so special to us and many people in the surrounding communities that I want to be the best caretaker I can possibly be. The Horner House has stood for over 135 years without us and anything we do should be able to stand for another 135 years.


Next Blog: Our New Contractor (Hopefully coming soon!)


  1. Amanda, while you don't know me, I did this type of work for over twenty five years (on a small) scale and most of the 90's was working on property in the Old North Side including the Central Avenue UMC which is now the home of Indiana Landmarks. In addition I was was the 1st Manager of Major Gifts and Planned giving for WFYI TV20 / FM90 along with doing bookkeeping and taxes for individuals and construction business.

    I'm very comfortable helping you guys talk though what is right for YOU! This whole house thing can even be hard on a marriage. I know a number of couples that allowed their historic property to be the thing that ended their relationship and it is not worth that. The big advantage you guys have is your not living onsite.

    I guarantee you I can find almost as many different opinions as I can contractors. There are some real basics and from there it is only the end result you guys desire that counts.

    I think you have my contact information but I will send it to you again. If you guys want to buy me a cup of coffee we'll see if we can keep you on take to your goals and dreams for your property. If you live where I think I can walk to your house from mine, I'm on 3rd.

    Hang-in be blessed, and keep caring and sharing!

    Sometimes it only takes hearing yourself say it out loud to find the right answer.

    1. Tom - I know it's been awhile since you posted, I'm just now cleaning up some long overdue replies! Thank you so much for the offer of help. We had actually already finalized our contractor when this was posted. One of the goals of our blog is to hopefully help others see what steps we have taken so that maybe they can skip some of our mistakes. :) I really do appreciate your offer of help, though and hope to have the opportunity to meet you and other members of our community as we go through this process.

      And yes, I still need to write and post the final chapter of this saga so that everyone gets to meet our new contractor.