1. Get Recommendations
To get a reliable renovation contractor you can start with your friends and family, then look up a list of members in your region. You can also speak to a construction inspector, who would know the home improvement contractors consistently meet code standards, or pay a visit to the local lumberyard, which sees contractors on a regular basis and knows which ones buy quality materials and pay their bills on time.
2. Do Phone Interviews
Make a quick call to each of your prospects and go through these questions to ask a renovation contractor:
- Do they work on projects that are similar to yours?
- Is it possible for them to have financial references from vendors or banks?
- Is it possible for them to provide you with a list of past clients?
- How many other projects will they be working on concurrently?
- When did they start working with their subcontractors?
The answers to these questions will show the company’s availability, dependability, and the amount of time they’ll be able to devote to your project, as well as how smoothly the work will go.
3. Meet Face to Face
Choose three or four contractors to meet for forecasts and further discussion based on the phone interviews. A contractor should be able to satisfactorily answer your questions in a way that puts you at ease. Since this person would be in your home for hours at a time, it’s important that you and this person interact well. On the other hand, don’t be fooled by a person’s personality. Before you employ a contractor, check with your state’s consumer protection department and your local Better Business Bureau to see whether they have a history of conflicts with clients or subcontractors.
4. Investigate the Facts
Put your study to work now that you’ve narrowed down your list. Inquire about previous clients’ projects and request to see the finished product. Perhaps more importantly, go to a current job site and observe the contractor in action. Is the construction site clean and safe? Are the staff respectful of the homeowner’s belongings?
5. Make Plans, Get Bids
You’ve narrowed down the list of contractors to those with a good track record and a responsible work ethic. It’s time to move on from your previous work and focus on your current project. A responsible contractor would need not only a full set of blueprints, but also an understanding of what the homeowners want from the project and how much they want to invest. Ask everyone to break down the cost of supplies, staff, profit margins, and other costs to compare bids. Materials typically account for 40% of the production cost; the remaining costs include overhead and the average profit margin of 15 to 20%.
6. Set a Payment Schedule
Another valuable tip for recruiting a contractor is to plan ahead of time for payment. Payment schedules may reveal a contractor’s financial situation as well as his or her work ethic. They may have financial issues or be concerned that you won’t pay the rest until you’ve seen the job if they want half of the offer up front. For huge projects, a typical payment plan includes 10% at contract signing, three payments of 25% equally spread over the project’s lifetime, and a review for the remaining 15% when you believe all items on the punch list have been completed.
7. Don’t Let Price Be Your Guide
Comfort should play an equivalent or greater role in your decision than technical competence. The ability of you and the contractor to connect is the single most important factor in selecting a contractor. When hiring a contractor, it’s easier to pay more to get someone you’re happy with if all other factors are equivalent.
8. Put it in Writing
Create a contract that outlines every phase of the project, including a payment plan, proof of liability insurance, and worker’s compensation payments; a start date and estimated completion date; clear materials and supplies to be used; and a provision that the contractor receive lien releases from all subcontractors and vendors (which cover you if he doesn’t pay his bills). It isn’t about suspicion that you insist on a straightforward contract. It’s just about making sure the renovation goes smoothly. Finally, keep in mind that every time an improvement is made or a problem is discovered, the price goes up and the project gets longer.