Before Your Customer Says 'I Do' to a Contractor
By Manny Neves & Anderson Hines | Posted: 01/28/2014 3:30PM
The Hardcore Renos: Anderson Hines, left, and Manny Neves In the construction world, as in life, there are plenty of fish in the sea: big, small, weird, beautiful, ugly and cute. The same holds true with home remodeling contractors. Looks can be deceiving so we always tell our clients to do their research and choose wisely.
Your customer wouldn’t say “I DO” on a first date so they shouldn’t do it with a contractor either. Even if it is a referral, we tell our customers to make sure they do a thorough background check. After all, how many times have their friends said, ”I know just the right person for you?"
The same goes for deciding on who you, as the contractor, decide to work with. While the project may look great, if the clients aren’t – if they seem difficult, aren’t open to suggestions, aren’t prepared for the unknown of any build, aren’t somewhat flexible with time lines – it may not be worth your time.
With that in mind, here are 10 things we tell all of our potential customers to consider before they ‘take the plunge’ with any contractor. The more they know upfront, the happier we will all be!
1. Dating period: The contractor you choose will effectively become a major part of your life for the duration of the renovation, so take the time to do the research. Meet with multiple contractors and go see their work. A contractor should be your friend, a colleague and employee but remember they have families too. Soccer practice, date night and other events mean they will have other obligations. If you expect them to work on your home 20 hours a day, you will be disappointed. And if you are uneasy about anything, you may not be ready to commit.
2. Pre-reno agreement: Before any work begins on your home, you should have a contract or agreement in place outlining the work involved and the estimated costs. It should also spell out responsibilities and the expectations for the finished project as well as potential unforeseen variables.
3. Plan together: It is a common error to think the build will take the most time. Your contractor should spend more time planning than building. So before any work begins on your home, make sure there is an agreed upon and unified plan.
4. Picking up the permits: Research whether you need building permits with the expectation you will probably need one. You even need a permit to do demolition. Expect permits to take longer than anticipated. Some contractors will handle the permit paperwork while others will leave that to you.
5. Budget: Your contractor should provide a detailed estimate of the renovation, with a clear payment schedule. Payments should be made according to the work completed, rather than particular dates. It should also include a detailed breakdown of expected finish material and installation. If you agree to install a simple light fixture and then purchase one with more than 200 pieces of crystal, you can’t expect your contractor to do it for the same amount. You need to be a little fair.
6. Expect a rainy day: Even with the best planning, any renovation will hit unexpected twists and turns. Your contractor should be able to tell you about the changes and clearly communicate your options, even when these choices mean more money. And there should be a little wiggle room. There might be some issues that will cost $100 while others might cost more. If you are going to get nervous about every overage, you probably need to re-do your budget.
7. Agree on a schedule: A renovation may take longer than expected but make sure everyone knows the basic time line. But never force yourself, your family or your contractor to have everything done by a set family date, holiday or event, it only causes increased stress for everyone.
8. Communication: Handing over the keys to your largest investment will probably involve some stress. Make sure you are comfortable talking with your contractor before you start, and that he or she takes the time to answer your questions. You will need to communicate with each other throughout the build. Social media might be able to help. If your contractor is posting photos of progress on Twitter, you will know exactly what’s happening.
9. Listen: As the project starts, your contractor may have suggestions or changes based on what is found. Your plans may have a certain layout but if you find, for instance, that your floor joists go the other way, be willing to discuss other options and/or additional costs. And don’t be afraid to take advantage of uncovered usable space for a few extra dollars, such as incorporating a built-in cupboard or shoe drawer.
10. The inevitable break-up: While many marriages last, your relationship with your contractor will eventually end. Make sure the parting is amicable, because you never know, after some time, you may start feeling that you would like a little more work done.
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