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On The Level: Hire the Right Contractor!

Here’s another great article from our friends at Hibbard Construction, offering 
valuable advice on on hiring and working with contractors.

Considering a home remodel in the near future?  If you are thinking of hiring a contractor to do the job for you, it is important to have a plan before you embark on your home improvement journey. 

It is no secret that the success of any home remodel project will depend significantly on qualified craftsmen, quality materials and an experienced contractor that can adequately deal with the unforeseen obsticals that almost always arise during these projects. 

To ensure the most affordable and succesful outcome, it is vitally important to hire the best contractor for your project. Follow these steps to help you select the right contractor for the job.

Do your homework…
Start by getting written detailed bids from three reputable contractors. When comparing bids, make sure you are comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges.  It is in your best interest to ask lots of questions. This is where you will flush out the details that are most important in identifying the specifics of your project and the scope of work the potential contractor can perform. 

Don’t assume that the lowest bid is the best deal.  Differences in materials will have a huge impact on the price of your project.  Make certain your bids are based on the same quality materials.  Also take into consideration the time frame it will take to complete the project.  There is nothing more frustrating than a project that takes longer to complete than originally anticipated.

Verify that the contractor’s license is active and check to see that the contractor is in good standing with the Bureau of Occupational Licenses. You can visit the web site at to see if your contractor is in good standing or has had complaints, liens or other derogatory claims filed against them.

Ask for and then check references. Look at other jobs the contractor has completed. Ask if you can speak directly to past clients.  Are they current with their vendors?  How long have they been in business?  Longevity is a good indicator that a contractor is good at what they do and that they conduct business with honesty and integrity.

Ask the contractor questions…
Do they have the experience and expertise to do the work you want done?  Ask for past examples similar to the type of project you are considering.  What makes them qualified to do this type of work.

Who will do the actual work: the contractor, subcontractors, or employees?  Desirable results are most often achieved if the contractor has his own employees on the job site.  Quality control is easier achieved in this manner.  If some of the work is to be performed by a subcontractor, ask how long that contractor has been doing business with the sub.  Be sure to ask for references and check to see if the subcontractor is in good standing with the Bureau of Occupational Licenses.

Other important questions to ask are: who is responsible for obtaining any necessary building permits?  Are architectural plans necessary for this project? How many other jobs will the contractor be working on at the same time as yours? 

It is important to know what written warranties are offered.  These can vary from project to project. If you plan on purchasing appliances, tubs, sinks and miscellaneous hardware for the project, are warranties available for those items, too? 

Lastly, it is important to know who you can call if you have questions or concerns during the project.  Is there a foreman or superintendent that can address concerns and is easy to contact?

Ask yourself…
Can I communicate with this contractor? Communication is vital during the project.  If the contractor cannot communicate before a contract is even agreed upon, the likelihood of having successful communications during the project is pretty slim.  Important decisions will be hard to make during the project process.  This can lead to a stressful home life during the project, and the overall project outcome may be less than desirable.

Does this contractor seem honest and forthright?  Is he looking out for your best interest?  A good contractor will tell you if your home improvement project is an over-improvement.  They will keep in mind that a good return on investment is key to keeping the value of your home in line with the surrounding homes in the neighborhood.

Do I have reasonable expectations, including being prepared for unexpected costs and delays?  This is a tricky one — Depending on the age of your home and the scope of work being performed, the unexpected can take a project in an entirely different direction.  It is important that a contractor keeps this in mind and communicates any unusual circumstances immediately and thoroughly to the homeowner.

A carefully written contract includes at least…
A list of materials to be used including quality, quantity, weight, color, size, brand names, etc. It is important and it needs to be concise in order to clarify the scope of work to be performed. 

A list of allowance items and the budgeted amount should be included as well. An allowance is a specific amount of money to buy items not yet selected. When these items (such as light fixtures) exceed the allowance, the homeowner pays the additional amount.

Agree in advance to a payment schedule that coincides with work as it is completed.  Be sure that your contract contains an agreement that the contractor and the homeowner will sign all “change orders”.  Each change order should be dated and include the nature and cost of the change. The change order will include who is responsible for any additional cost.

Workmanship warranties and specifically what they cover are also important to have outlined in your contract.  We live in an imperfect world and sometimes things don’t always work they way in which they were intended.  If it’s a manufacturing defect, does the manufacturer cover it?  A reputable contractor will use materials that have these types of warranties and provide warranties for work performed by his crew.

Start and completion dates are also important to include in your contract.  This is your insurance that the project will be completed in a timely manner.  If the completion date changes because of unforeseen obstacles, a change order should be created depicting the change.  Then a new completion date should be set.

And finally, the total price of the project should be clearly outlined in the contract as well.  A thorough contractor will create a budget for the entire project and operate within those amounts.  A detailed list of all expenses is important in understanding the entire scope of work being contracted. It helps both the homeowner and contractor keep the project on track financially.

With our extensive knowledge of the building industry, impressive list of professionals whom we’ve come to trust over the years, and expertise in guiding our clients through all kinds of Real Estate transactions, we are uniquely qualified to help you build your home.  

As REALTORS®, we’ll help you through every phase of building your new house, so you can build your life.  We can help you find Builders, Floorplans, and Land for your Dream Home or Estate.

Put us to work for you!