Are you purchasing a home and hoping to renovate it before you move in? Don’t just choose the first home renovation contractor that comes your way or select the one that offers the lowest bid for the project. Before you decide on a contractor, consider some important tips and tricks during your selection process.
Prior to inviting a contractor into your home and signing off on a project, you should make sure you are hiring a professional that is licensed in your state. Every contractor has a license number and without one they are opening themselves and you up to liability. Before you move on to any of our ten steps, you must confirm the license number of your proposed contractor.
- Pre-Construction Planning: Careful planning and budget before the work begins is important. Your contractor should be able to give you the right budget for your project and discuss potential contingencies for your project. Every project involves certain unknowns and a contractor should allocate a sufficient reserve for you (this might be 10 to 15% of your budget). If the contractor is not prepared to discuss potential issues with the project or present you with a plan of attack in case something does go wrong, they might not be the right choice for you.
- Interview at Least Two Contractors: It is common for contractors to get asked for detailed estimates and explanations behind the numbers. Even if a trusted contractor was referred to you by a friend, you should not hire the first one you talk to. Also if you have a written estimate from another contractor, the original bid made be made lowered because of the competition.
Along with this point, it is important to remember that the lowest bid is not always the best bid. When one contractor has a rock-bottom price, it may indicate they are getting their supplies from a substandard source or not being realistic about the budget you have laid out.
- Check the Better Business Bureau: More and more people are using the Better Business Bureau for their complaints and client information. People can’t fudge the numbers with the BBB because they were designed to detect fraud and evaluate the reliability of businesses of all types. If there is a complaint which has been filed against the company, the BBB offers them an opportunity to respond on the website. This allows you to see both sides to every story and determine for yourself that a contractor is reliable.
Reliable contractors should be able to give you examples of their work and even refer you to references. Some of the high-end contractors actually connect you with people willing to show you their work, discuss their experiences, and get the ‘scoop’ about their work.
- Sign a Construction Contract to Protect Yourself: No matter how comfortable you feel with your contractor or how well you know the person, you must protect yourself by signing a construction contract to protect yourself. In the writing and signing of the contract, a professional should never give you a different company name for the contract or be vague about their legal name. Fishy contracts are a big red flag. It is not right for you to get conflicting information from the contractor.
- Set a Payment Schedule: Although this seems obvious, contractors that are too enthusiastic to get their money up front may actually have financial problems. For large projects, it is normal to see a 10 percent of the contract fee due on the signing of the contract but you should never pay in full before the project is complete.
- Discuss Your Expectations for the Project. You need to make it clear with your contractor when you expect them to be at the house and when they should not be there. A reputable contractor should follow the requirements of the job and have aestimated timeline for project completion.
- Verify the Contractor has Insurance. The people you hire must be protected by liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance. It is your right to check their credentials and make sure their policy is still active. This should protect you if there is an injury while the worker is on-site at your home.
- Document All Changes in Writing. If there is a change to your project, you need to write down the change and price to expect. Homeowners and contractors often change the original plan through an oral agreement which increases the contract price and changes project scope. The burden of this change, when disputed, may lie on you as the homeowner.
- Get a List of their Main Suppliers. Contractors should be well-established with their suppliers. Seeing who they turn to provides information to you as a homeowner on what their role and reputation is in the community. It is possible to see how reliable a contractor is by talking to the owner of the tile shop, kitchen or bathroom store, or lumber yard where they find and purchase their materials. A good reputation should exist with the customers as well as the suppliers of their materials.
- Meet the Laborer. The contractor you speak to during your initial consultation and appointment to discuss the project is likely not the laborer you will deal with on a daily basis. If the contractor is running the job himself or herself, ask if they will be there every day. If not, ask to meet the laborer so you can get an accurate picture of how the job will run on a daily basis. You may really like the contractor but if the laborerisn’t someone you believe you could get along with, their company may not be right for you.
If you are looking for a home to buy and then renovate, you need a professional on your side to represent you in real estate proceedings. Title Lab is ready to meet all of your needs and is available for an initial consultation at your convenience. We are available by phone at (305) 440-4150 or online at www.titlelab.com. The experts on our team include practicing attorneys, real estate paralegals, and bonded notaries ready to represent people in South Florida.