Whether you’re taking on a total home refurb, or renovating a single room, it’s important to hire the right contractor if you want to improve your home. With so many out there to choose from, you’d think it’d be easy to find a good one, but the horror stories tell another tale. It pays to take your time and to be choosy, and by following these four steps, you’re more likely to find the right contractor for you.
Do Your Research & Draw Up a Shortlist
In the digital age we’re fortunate to have a wealth of information at our fingertips. Searching online can be a great way to begin your quest and there are a variety of portals that offer real customer reviews, a list of services offered and proof of licensing. However, avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.
Personal recommendations from those you trust are always great, and you’ll get the chance to view the finished work. If you can’t get personal recommendations from friends or family, it might be worth visiting some local suppliers – timber yards, hardware stores, etc. If you ask around, you’re likely to hear about those contractors who frequently pay on time and purchase quality goods.
Interview and Narrow Down
With a list of likely sounding candidates drawn up, you can begin the process of narrowing it down to several solid contenders. When you are trying to find a great professional, whether it’s the best real estate agent for you or the greatest nanny, you should start with a simple phone interview to establish the most important details. Decide on a set of well-placed questions that will help you whittle your list down:
- Are you able to take on a project of this size and if so, do you have a standard process for such projects?
- When are you available and what is your work schedule?
- Are you able to provide a list of previous customers?
- Can you provide financial references from banks or suppliers?
- Who will take care of permits?
- Are you able to help with designs and ideas?
- How long have you and your subcontractors been working in the trade?
Contractors who are able to confidently answer all of your questions, and can back up their answers, are worth making note of. Others may be reluctant to discuss certain financial questions or those regarding previous experience, which should raise red flags. When you have 3 or 4 contenders, arrange a face-to-face meeting with each.
Investigate Your Options & Plan Ahead
Be prepared for the face to face meeting and be sure you can explain exactly what your plans are for the project; include blueprints if necessary. A good contractor may make alternative suggestions if they feel it could work out better for you, so keep an ear open for questions and ideas.
Use this opportunity to ask any other questions you may have, before requesting an estimate. Check if they will be able to break their estimate down for you in terms of materials, overheads and profit margins.
After you’ve met in person, consider how the meeting went. Were you comfortable with the contractor, and were you able to communicate well? Would you be happy letting this person into your home for extended periods of time?
While awaiting estimates, take the time to visit both ongoing projects to get an idea of how the contractor works and finished projects to see how high a standard they work to. Speak to previous customers for personal reviews in order to gain a deeper understanding of their work ethic.
Make Your Choice and Seal the Deal
When the estimates come in, it’s almost time to make a decision, but first be sure to discuss a payment schedule, giving you an insight into their financial situation. Be wary of those who ask for a large amount upfront, which might indicate they are short of cash or are concerned about getting paid after you’ve seen their work. A standard payment schedule for larger projects will generally consist of 10% up front, followed by 3 periodic payments of 25% and a final 15% payment once the project is complete.
Also, be wary of low bids, which can suggest the contractor is desperate for work or might be cutting corners. Your final decision should not be a solely financial one, and it’s important you feel comfortable with your choice. Trust your gut and remember that good communication is essential to a good working relationship.
When you’ve made your choice, draw up a clear, concise contract that details each step. Be sure to mention start and estimated end dates, the payment schedule, specific materials, proof of liability insurance, and request that your contractor obtains lien releases from suppliers and subcontractors. With all these measures in place, if and when you decide to sell your home, you can be sure you’ll pass the house inspection with flying colours!
Don’t be shy when hiring a contractor and remember that you are in control – there are plenty of fish in the sea after all! Being clear and defining the appropriate boundaries will be appreciated by good contractors and can filter out the less desirable ones.