HOW TO CHOOSE A CONTRACTOR
Updated: Feb 1, 2020
Let’s be real, the industry is saturated with a ton of contractors and if you don’t know how to sort through the professionals from the “nightmares” (to say the least), it could cost you a lot of time, money, and property damage – all of which are major no-no’s when investing in real estate.
KNOW YOUR VISION
Before you can hire someone to make any changes to your home you first need to know what renovations you want to be done.
For example, if you want your bathroom remodeled you need to know how you want it to look. Is there anything you want to add or take away from this space? Do you prefer a subway tile or are you open to other ideas? What color do you want the walls? Knowing the answer to these questions can take you a long way when working with your contractor.
You can brainstorm ideas by looking at pictures online or in a magazine. If you are a more hands-on person, you can even go window shopping at your local Home Depot or Ikea to get some creative ideas.
Once you’ve brainstormed some ideas of what you want, I recommend drawing a sketch. Your sketch doesn’t have to be an art masterpiece, it just needs to be a rough draft of your vision… and we’ve all been using crayons to color since children – you can do it!
Now that you have a clear vision for your project, it is time to educate yourself on what it’s going to take to complete it. There are 2 things I recommend you to research, on top of any other curiosities that you may have – permits and materials.
By definition, a building permit is an official approval issued by the local government agency that allows you or your contractor to proceed with a construction or remodeling project on your property.
Work that requires a certain level of skill often requires a permit; this is how towns ensure safety.
For example, if you were painting the interior of your home or installing a new carpet you would NOT need a permit. Why? Because those are considered cosmetic changes and generally cosmetic changes don’t require permits. However, if your scope of work included rough plumbing or an electrical rewire you WILL need a permit. That work requires a certain level of skill and could not be done without a licensed professional.
To assist with your research, you can always visit your town's local municipal building.
It’s a given that your contractor will be knowledgeable of the materials needed to complete your renovations however you should still be aware of what materials are necessary and how much they cost.
WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET?
After teaching yourself the ins and outs of your upcoming project it’s time to create a REALISTIC budget. By this time in the process, you will have an idea of how much materials cost, so now all you have to do is add up the prices for materials, the sum of that will be your materials budget.
Part of your due diligence in the previous step is to compare prices from multiple retailers. Remember, there are more retailers than just Home Depot & Lowes.
Now that you created your materials budget it’s time to come up with your labor budget.
To get your labor budget I recommend calling at least 3 different contractors and asking for an estimate for the work you’d like done. When requesting an estimate be sure to specify that you are looking for labor prices only. Many contractors will charge you extra if they have to pick up project materials for you.
Your labor budget comes from the contractor you decide to go with.
Keep in mind that the cheaper price isn’t always the best deal. You get what you pay for. The next step can give you great insight on what contractor to go with.
Once you choose your contractor based on price, it’s time for you to do some more due diligence – this step is going to ensure that you’re choosing the right person to complete your renovations.
When you first meet with the contractor you should have a list of questions already prepared. Your contractor should make you feel comfortable and confident with their knowledge as they are answering your questions. If there are any questions you have that the contractor does not have the answer to do not be alarmed, at least they’re being honest. What really counts is if they’re able to utilize their resources to get back to you promptly with an informative answer to your question.
In addition to having all of your questions answered, you want to make sure that your contractor can provide you with their license and insurance.
A license is important because if your project requires a building permit; your contractor can’t pull it without one. Licenses are not “one size fits all.” Just because your contractor has a general contracting license does not mean they’ll be able to pull plumbing permits; you would need a licensed plumber for that.
Insurance is important for the same reasons you need car, home, or even cell phone insurance – it keeps you (and your wallet) protected if anything happens. If one of your contractor’s employees gets hurt while working on your property and the contractor does not have insurance, you will be held liable. And when you’re held liable it generally ends with your being sued and that is not part of the budget you created.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to see pictures of your contractor's work or even ask for referrals. By the time you’re done with this step, you need to be 100% comfortable with your contractor and their level of skills.
These simple tips can help you navigate while searching for a contractor to assist you with your project. Stay tuned because I’ll be teaching you how to build a good relationship with your contractor next.
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