Reaching the decision to update your house is the easy.The hiring of a reliable contractor to accomplish your dream renovation may not be.
Unfortunately, scam artists frequent the industry, leaving in their wake unfinished or poorly executed projects and homeowners little to no hope of recovering payment.
Recognizing the scamBe wary of so-called contractors knocking on your door to present their services. Most reliable businesses do not.
A contractor of merit needs to view the project, like a garage needing painting or the bedroom with the bump-out bay windows. Anyone who figures a price blind is probably thinking how to rob you blind.If a contractor uses hard sale techniques to get an immediate verbal okay or a signed contract, smile, say thanks, and close the door. Any professional will give a potential client at least a week to consider a bid.
Smacking of fraud are offers to lower the price with other jobs’ leftover materials or for cash-only payments. There is a possible use of stolen goods and the desire to avoid tax payments.Where are honest contractors?
Find the contractor who will provide expertise at a fair price through word-of-mouth.Ask the opinion of those you respect from neighbors to friends and family. If the job went well, they will tell you. If not, your search time needs to include time to get an earful of grief. At least you will definitely know whom to avoid.
Most local building departments have lists of contractors. Do not expect recommendations or warnings, but most legitimate businesses are not going to file their information with local government agencies.The Better Business Bureau lists over 100,000 general contractors. Alphabetic ratings result from a contractor’s willingness to resolve a customer’s issue.
Do not depend too heavily on the opinions found on numerous consumer websites. Unfortunately, many resort to having fictional favorable reviews placed on their sites. One, Angie’s Lists, says its reviewers are never anonymous. That said, on Craigslist, and other sites, jobs for compensated reviewers pop up frequently.
Navigating the bid processCall at least three contractors for bids.
Each needs to contain the exact same information including the types and brands of materials and appliances used.
Rather than seeking references, ask for addresses of current job sites.Go straight to the homeowner, introduce yourself as a potential client of their contractor, and ask direct questions.
· Is the project keeping on schedule and if not is it a problem with the contractor’s scheduling or an unforeseen situation like weather?
· Has the contractor kept to their original bid without resorting to substandard products? The latter question is especially important when evaluating the lowest bidder. To your
· Does the contractor respond to phone calls/texts/emails in a timely manner?Ask to see proof of their insurance. At minimum, a legitimate contractor has worker’s compensation on all their workers.
Constructing a contract
Once comfortable with your selection, draw up a contract with all the project’s components in writing. Relying on verbal agreements could mean major future problems.List start and end dates. Be sure to include materials used, payment schedules, and budget. The latter can change should material costs rise, like lumber, or specialty items such as an appliance, be upgraded. Avoid nasty surprises by having both parties agree to sign change orders prior to any adjustments.
Contract templates can be found on the website of the Associated General Contractors of America.
Remember to include lien waivers in the contract. Periodically, have the contractor produce them as proof of payment to subcontractors. This protects you from subcontractors who did not rightfully suing for compensation, regardless if the contractor neglected to compensate them.Typically, contractor payments occur periodically during the project. Some ask for a down payment ranging between five to ten percent of the entire bid to buy materials. On large projects, progress payments occur after significant intervals like demolition or a major installation. Final payment comes with assurance every item in the contract has reached the homeowner’s satisfaction.
You might want to hire a lawyer to go over a contract before signing it.
Communication is the key to successBe clear on everything – even when confused. If unknown acronyms or phrases are used, ask –unembarrassed - for a better definition.
Never leave any request to a loose interpretation. Clarity among all parties means fewer problems and less chance of costly changes.Make sure your modes of communications mesh. If texting is your choice, however your contractor prefers voice mail settle on one before the project begins.
Finding the right contractor keeps your project and your sanity intact.