Friday, March 7, 2014
So You Need Some Home Repairs: Top Contractor Hiring Tips
I was talking with a couple of neighbors outside about the various ravages of Winter our homes have taken. Of course, you can't have any sort of conversation without having the good old nightmare story popping up -- and boy, were there no shortage of those (and then I had a lightbulb Oprah "a'ha!" moment)
Many of the following tips may seem very 'well, no duh!!', but often times when we're faced with needing work done on our homes ASAP, we will often just go for the cheapest person, the ad we find up on a free classified website, or will settle for the company that can get out as soon as possible. We can let the emotion of needing something done yesterday get in the way of actually going through the process of hiring a person or business that will get the job done right the first time...and will leave you satisfied all around.
Here are a few tips for you to consider when hiring a Contractor for any extensive renovation or home repair:
1.) Family & friends can be the best resource -- ask around if they know of an experienced Contractor that has done work for them in the past. This doesn't mean that you don't have to go through the usual screening process - it's just a good starting point when you get a thumbs up from someone you trust.
2.) Use caution when companies solicit door-to-door or just by making cold calls to your home - and if you should answer this call, don't give in to sales pressure. Many times these businesses will give you a 'deadline' to act upon a quoted price or face it going up if not taken immediately.
3.) Don't go with the first Contractor. Get at least three estimates as well as references (and check them) -- read online reviews and look on their social media networks as well, if they have them. Also look head over to the Better Business Bureau website and see if there are any filed complaints against the Contractor and, if so, how was the situation handled.
4.) Get these estimates in writing. If you have any initial phone or in-person conversations and facts/figures are discussed, no matter how minuscule you might think it is - make sure you write it down and get initials/signature on that too. Anytime something along those lines is discussed via phone/in person, it should also be acknowledged in writing by both parties. If you've ever seen "Judge Judy", you know that verbal agreements don't hold water...and "get everything in writing".
5.) Your estimate should include a full breakdown of the costs involved..both labor and material. No Contractor should be charging for an estimate. If they do -- red flag. Remember that the lowest estimate is not always the best choice, nor does the highest estimate always equate with the company that will do the highest quality of work. You have to do your homework.
6.) Make sure they are fully licensed, bonded & insured. You'll need to make sure that the Contractor has all of their certificates of insurance (both general liability and worker's comp).
7.) When it comes to payment, the rule of thumb is 33% paid upfront. If they ask you to pay for the entire job at once, run!
8.) Once you've settled on a Contractor, make sure the first-draft of the contract includes specifics: exact work to be performed, start and end dates, any warranties, and your agreed upon payment and schedule for payments. You'll also want to make sure there is a hold-harmless clause that exempts you from any injuries the public may incur while this work is being performed. If you've got a friend or family member who is a lawyer, it might be a good idea to have them take a look over the contract.
Having to get your home repaired - or remodeled - whether planned or not, can be a stressful situation - both financially and just in a lifestyle shift for however long work is being performed in and around our home. When renovations and repairs are done right, it adds to your home's value...and that will mean more money in your pocket at the end of the day!
Do you have any tips to add? Have you ever had any major renovations done to your home? How was that experience?