Letting a stranger into your home can be stressful. Letting a strange in your home with power tools can be downright frightening. Whether you are adding a room, planning a renovation or doing some much needed repairs, if the job is beyond your DIY capabilities you will need to hire a contractor unless you have a close friend that can do home repairs and renovations. If you do hire a contractor you want to be sure they are reputable and competent. A job not done well can cost you big.
Fortunately there are some steps you can take before you engage a contractor to reduce your risks.
- Get recommendations. Talk to friends and family to see what experience they may have had with a local contractor. Angie’s List is another good source for information. Each business listing will have a rating based on reviews and a link to those reviews. There is a fee to use the service. As of this writing it is $3.75 a month or $9.99 for a full year. Well worth the price for some peace of mind. angieslist.com.
- Once you have found several contractors that you think you may want to work with check with your local Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) to see if there are any complaints and how they were resolved. Eliminate any contractors with whom you do not feel comfortable. Ideally when the time comes you will want at least three written bids to choose from.
- Do a telephone interview with each contractor you are considering. You will want to know:
- Is your job is too small or too big for them to handle?
- Will they be working on just your project or handling several at the same time.
- If they are working on a number of jobs at the same time, will yours get the attention it deserves?
- Do they use sub-contractors? If so how do they screen them? The contractor, and subs if used, should have liability insurance as well as workers comp.
- Do they have a license(s).
- Does your project require a permit and who will be responsible for obtaining the permit?
- Will they indemnify you if the work does not meet local codes or regulations?
- Will they provide references?
Once you have decided on two or three contractors you will want to follow-up with the references.
- From your telephone interviews, select several to meet face to face. You will want to take this opportunity to see how well you can get along with the contractor and if they truly listen to what you say. Walk them through the job and your ideas. Ask them for suggestions. Get a list of references.
- Contact the provided references and ask these questions:
- Were they happy with the work performed? You can be pretty sure they were or they would not be listed as a reference.
- Was the work done on time and within budget?
- Did the contractor keep the job site neat?
- Might it be possible to come and take a look at the workmanship? Many people may say no, but some will be more than happy to show off their completed project.
- Getting bids. You will want a written bid for the work.
- If you are getting bids from more than one contractor, tell them you would like a breakdown of the costs between materials, labor, and any other expenses. This will make it easier to compare bids.
- Be sure the scope of work is stated in detail. Keep in mind one sure way to quickly increase the cost of a project is with changes.
- If they will be using sub-contractors, specify you get copies of lien releases. This is to ensure the contractor has paid their subs.
- The bid should also stipulate the contractor is responsible for cleanup and any damages that might occur.
- The bid must also include a schedule of payments. A reasonable schedule might be 10% down, 3 payments of 25% throughout the project with the remaining 15% paid upon completion. This can vary. If the contractor asks for a substantial amount down, 50% or more, it should be taken as a warning sign that they may be experiencing financial issues.
- This is also the time to get copies of their license(s) and proof of insurance.
- Awarding the bid. Disregard any lowball bids. Any bid that is substantially lower then the others is probably cutting corners and you can be sure it will be at your expense. At this point, you will have to weigh any cost differences with how you relate with each contractor. It may be worth spending a few more dollars to work with a contractor you feel a connection with than with one you don’t. You should also look back at their reviews and references to help you decide.
- Once the project has begun, be sure to monitor the workmanship and progress. If you have any issues discuss them with the contractor immediately. Things are easier to fix when they happen rather then once the job is complete.
A job well done can add value and increase your enjoyment of your home.
If you are in the market to buy a home or just considering your options, it costs nothing to learn more. Call or email Linda for a free, no-obligation, no pressure consultation – 910.409.3519, Linda@LindaMehner.com.