Archive Monthly Archives: June 2017

What Shall I Ask Architects, Contractors, and Homeowners?

Have you asked yourself, “What do I want to get out of this home tour?” or “What do I want to get out of this meeting with a contractor my friend recommended?” or “What should I ask this homeowner who is a reference from this contractor I’m checking out?” Preparing a list of questions ahead of time will make the visit or meeting more productive, especially if there is a decision to make afterward. I found it easier to adapt from someone else’s list, so let me share my list of questions with you.

You can find the  list of questions we asked homeowners during the reference visits or reference calls attached here. Next to each question, I’ve listed the reason why we asked that question as well as follow-up probing questions. Keep in mind that homeowners who recently completed their project will have the cost and project experience fresh in their mind. The homeowners who have been living in their renovated house will have rich experience of how the material, appliance, or products have held up over time. You can use these questions or adapt them to your situation.

The list of questions we asked architects and contractors during the interview process is attached here. Next to each question, I’ve listed the reason why we asked that question as well as follow-up probing questions. You can use these questions or adapt them to your situation.

The list of questions linked from paragraphs above can be found at the end of Chapter 4 in the Midori Haus book.​ Here is a short excerpt from that chapter.

Some of the questions we crafted in the behavioral interview style would give us a feel for what it would be like working with them. For example, by asking, “Could you give us an example of a problem that came up in your project and how it got resolved?” we gave them a chance to tell a story to illustrate their problem-solving skills. Their answers would give us a sense of their problem-solving style as well as how they’d likely behave under pressure. Everyone is on good behavior during the interview. But when there are problems and things are stressful, we wanted to be partnered with someone who could rationally solve a problem rather than increase our stress. One of the builders we interviewed emphatically said that he would never work with a certain architect again. We asked him why.

“Because the last time I worked with him he lost it when we ran into a problem. He swore and berated me in front of others. It’s not professional.” Good to know. We didn’t have that architect on our list and after that discussion, we wouldn’t be talking to him for sure.

That conversation gave birth to one of my favorite questions, “What types of projects have you turned down or refused to do?” Most people pause and give a thoughtful response. The answer provides us with an insight into their boundaries and their personal standard of integrity.

When you visit a home, don't forget to note what your skin, nose, and eyes are sensing. It's one thing to have data from gadgets (temperature, humidity, air movement, air quality, sound, smell), but nothing can replace what your body is telling you.  

Below are some insightful questions we’ve been asked while giving public tours of our house. I wish I thought of these! Share the useful question you’ve used in the comment below, if you’d like.

  • What are you doing differently now that you’re cooking on an induction rather than on a gas stove?
  • Is there anything else in this kitchen that would be helpful for me to see?