When planning renovations for your house, unless you are a professional, contractors are crucial. Whether you are staying, selling, updating to stay current with fashion trends, or making necessary repairs following an inspection report, the right contactor(s) will make all the difference in the quality and speed of the project.
But how does a person find a good contractor?
That is a question that even professionals in the real estate industry struggle with on a regular basis.
Over the years I have learned a few things about working with contractors and getting the right person for the job. Here are some of the ways I make sure to get great trades people.
This one is no big secret. The best way to find a great contractor is to ask for a referral. Even if you have worked with someone before, they may not be available or may no longer be in business.
If you have a friend, family member or colleague who has just had some work done on their house and is raving about it, ask them who they used!
This is the best way to get someone who is up on the latest trends and that more than likely works in your area.
Before calling to set an appointment, go and see the project that was done for the person you know (if you haven’t seen it already) to make sure that the work is up to your standards. Give the work a critical look. Is it well done?Do you like it?
Don’t Play Favorites
Before hiring your contractor, speak to several of these referrals. Don’t just settle on the first name you receive or the first contactor you meet.
It is important that you ask for several bids. Different contractors may have different methods of working. Ask for an estimate of the project scope and the cost and have them explain their reasoning. Don’t automatically dismiss the higher quotes. While it is true that sometimes bids are padded, it is equally true that some people will bid low to get the job and then add expenses during the work.
I would recommend that you start with three quotes. If the bids are similar, then choose your preferred professional. If the quotes have drastically different costs, it may be wise to get additional quotes to get a better idea of the true costs involved.
Communication Is Key
One of the most important factors in choosing a contractor after competency is communication.
Find the contractor who explains things clearly and in a way that appeals to you. Check to see if they get impatient or will explain things in a different way if you don’t understand something.
They may have the expertise, but you are the boss! You will be having many conversations with this person and it is important that not only are you able to understand each other, but that communication is pleasant. When you are in the middle of the project and things get stressful, you will be thankful for someone capable of smooth and easy communication.
Even if you received the contractor’s contact info from someone you know, ask for references.
This is important because their standards may have changed since the time they did the work for the person you know. In addition, the type of project may not be similar to the one you are considering. Ask for references for the specific type of work you plan to have done.
Don't forget to ask about their portfolio. A good professional will be proud to show you their work! This may either be photos they bring with them, or their web site:
Once you are ready to contact the references, here are some questions to ask:
- How was their experience with the contractor?
- Was the work done as estimated?
- Were the costs close to the estimated amount?
- Was the project completed in the quoted time frame?
- Were there any problems during the project?
- Are there any problems that have surfaced since the work was done?
- Would they be willing to let you see the work? – It never hurts to ask!
Don’t just ask the questions. Listen to the answers. Does the person hesitate when answering? Are they using vague terms or glossing over key points? Are they gushing with praise?
This is valuable information. You may even with to note some key points so that you do not forget or get the contractor mixed up.
Don’t Dock The Docs
It is important to get a written estimate of all the included work. This is the best way to ensure that all quotes from the different contractors bidding are for the same work. It is also a very clear way to ensure that the contractor you select lives up to the demands and expectations of the project.
- Who gets the required permit(s)?
- Are materials included?
- Who chooses the materials and finishes?
- When will the work start and when will it end?
- Who does the work? Is the job passed on to sub-contractors?
- What is included in the clean-up? If a dumpster is required, is it included?
- What is the penalty if they don’t complete the work on time?
In addition to a detailed estimate, other important documentation includes proof of liability insurance as well as proof of insurance for any workers. Make sure they have appropriate licences for their trade. If they are working inside your house, find out if the workers who will be present are bonded.
Do not rely on a conversation for this information. Get it in writing and see the proof.
Once the work has started, review any change orders with a critical eye.
Ask if there are other ways to achieve the same result with a lower cost. You may be surprised how a small compromise may save you large sums of money.
It is important to understand the terms of payment for the project and what is included.
Determine if the contractor accept credit cards, checks or only cash. If it is cash, will you get a detailed receipt? Depending on who pays for the materials, how is that payment made.
Never pay for the entire project up front. Is payment due on completion or does the contractor expect a certain amount in advance. A fair contractor may ask for a deposit so that he can pay his staff on a long project. Avoid paying anything in advance on small projects.
Never make the final payment until you are satisfied with the completed work. It is sad to say, but once a contractor receives final payment, it can be difficult to get them to complete work, or fine tune it to your satisfaction.
It may also be to your advantage to pay for the materials on your own. In this way you can decide what products to purchase and monitor usage. Another benefit is that you may be able to get a 0% interest financing from certain renovation supply centers. Additionally, you may receive points or other rewards for such a purchase.
Don’t Take Them For Granted
If you manage to find a great person to work for you, treat them with respect. Not only do you want this job to go well, you may wish to rehire them in the future.
On a cautionary note, just because they did a great job this time, don’t assume they will in the future. Prices may increase, and quality may go down. Continue to get other bids just to ensure that you are getting the best work possible.
If you can't bear the thought of going through a construction project, or you have come to the realization that it is time to move right now to have a better life, but your house isn’t prepared, or if you are juggling too many responsibilities to sell your house yourself this summer, then there are people who specialize in the sale of properties "as is" - usually within a week to resolve the situation quickly. Contact me for details.
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