Have you decided to finally take the plunge and hire a general contractor to get that long overdue home remodeling project done? Before you jump, make sure that you know what to look for in a contractor and how to make sure that you find the right one for your project at a price that you can afford.
Before you think, “I already know all of this!”, remember – a contractor complaint is the #2 complaint on the annual Top 10 Consumer Complaint list. According to a report by the Better Business Bureau, over 50% of the complaints are never resolved and settled between client and contractor. That’s why we’ve created these 6 tips to help you know exactly what to look for as well as what questions to ask.
What to Look for When Hiring a Contractor
Based on decades of experience, we’ve determined that there are six key factors that you want to in determine before hiring anyone to work on your project. These key questions are:
- Project Plan
- Time to Completion
- Contractor Team
- Client Reviews
Project Plan –
This is where you find out exactly what and how the contractor is planning on completing your project. Ask them to lay it out and show you what, where and when each phase or part of the project will be done.
Ask questions such as:
- Who handles permits and government agencies?
- If this is being financed via a home improvement loan, who provides the certificates and documentation to the lender for funding?
- Who is your contact person and what is their availability like?
- What hours and days would you need to expect contractors on the premises?
- How much input can you have in the process as well as if circumstances change and you need to revise either the scope or timeline?
- How are disputes handled?
Finding out the answers to these questions and any others that arise from the answers you receive will go a long way to ensuring a successful project.
Once you’ve got all your project plans, rate the contractors from highest to lowest in terms of project plan scope as well as efficient handling of issues. This is a bit subjective but helpful.
Time to Completion –
So often this isn’t clarified prior to the start of a project! And it’s a critical piece of the puzzle that needs to be determined. Too many contractors are known to drag out projects longer than necessary and that causes major headaches for homeowners.
By simply asking a few questions or researching a bit, you can help yourself avoid this headache.
Ask questions such as:
- Can you provide me a few former clients to contact? And then contact them to determine if the contractor stayed on schedule.
- What’s the estimated time to completion?
- What could hold up the project and what steps are taken to get it back on track and completed on time?
- Ask the contractor what percentage of their projects are completed within the timeframe given at the start of the project?
By knowing this information in advance you’ll avoid potential issues down the road when it’s too late, generally, to make a change.
Sticking to deliverables is a critical part of a project. Based on information from the company as well as past clients, rate the companies from highest to lowest in terms of meeting deliverable dates and on-time completion of a project.
For most of us, the cost to complete the project is the critical factor in deciding what and how much work will be included in the scope of work for a home renovation project.
And while many homeowners look for the lowest pricing, that might actually end up costing you more than one of the higher estimates.
To make sure that all estimates are covering the same scope of work, get them in writing. And any point that is not clear, ask for clarification and more details.
For an estimate that is not covering all of the work that is to be done, ask for that to be included and resubmitted.
Do not accept any general comments by a contractor that says something is covered but is not stated in the proposal. That’s a potential headache waiting to happen.
Check out some of the online resources for pricing estimates as well. Several sites can give rough guidelines for what various projects or parts of a renovation project will cost in your area. Do remember, that it’s only a guideline. In some areas, the information will be right on track and for other regions of the country, there may be some deviation.
Once you have proposals that are covering the same scope of work by all contractors, you can then review them to determine which groups make it to the final cut.
Ranking the home improvement contractors or builders for this section includes not only considering pricing but also rating the contractors in terms of covering everything so that there is no “scope creep”. Rank each contractor in terms of pricing from lowest to highest.
Contractor Team –
By reviewing the materials a company might provide with their proposal as well as checking out their website for more information, you can learn a bit about the company’s team and experience.
In addition, the referrals that you’ve asked for above will also be able to tell you about their experiences with the team they had on their project. Ask them for those that they enjoyed having worked on their home as well as those that they would prefer not to work with again.
Ask to meet, if you haven’t already, the manager for your potential project. You want to find someone that is experienced, available and that you feel comfortable working with during this stressful time.
Finally, a little insider’s tip – try calling for your contact person or a name from the company and see if they are readily available or call back in a timely manner. If they aren’t responsive before you’ve hired them, that’s a sign to consider someone else.
Rate each of the contractor teams based on experience and availability from highest to lowest.
Lack of experience can be a costly mistake! Few individuals are able to know all parts of a home renovation project. However, some contractors will try to imply that they are experienced and able to handle everything.
Ask questions such as:
- Who will be handling which parts of the project?
- How much experience do each member of the contractor’s team have?
- Can they provide examples of other projects that are similar to this one that they’ve done?
Make sure that each contractor provides you with examples of work from their portfolio of projects that they’ve done. Ask to see photos of before and after. Not only is that fun to do, but it’s also very helpful in seeing what kind of results a company has had with prior clients.
Another tip would be to ask to visit a job site of a current project. That will give ideas of what the site looks like and give you a close up look at how they work.
Rate the companies from best to worst in terms of years experience as well as experience with your exact type of project.
Client Reviews –
Most contractors will provide the names and contact information of some prior clients. Clearly, they are likely to be providing the names of clients that are happy with them. Definitely contact these clients and find out what they had done and how the project went but dig deeper as well!
Check out client reviews on Angie’s List, Yelp and other third-party sources to see what kind of ratings, reviews and results are posted.
See how many total reviews are actually posted for each contractor you are considering. That gives you a good idea of how much work they have done. And a contractor with more reviews ought to be weighted higher than one with less.
Extra tip – do a Google or other search engine search with the company name + review. Another search option is the company name + complaint. These might pull up some additional information on the company that you wouldn’t have found from other sources.
Now that you have conversations as well as online review results for each contractor, rank the contractors from highest to lowest in terms of the number of positive results.
While reviewing and rating each contractor does take some time, the amount of time and money saved makes this step well worth the effort.
For each of the six sections, find the top 2-3 contractors. Award contractors in
Position #1 – 3 points,
Position #2 – 2 points
Position #3 – 1 point
Total up the results to find the best general contractor with the highest results for your current project.
This process makes it simple to find a general contractor that you can work well with, at a price that fits your budget and delivers a result that you will love!