Finding the Right Home Contractor
Evaluating your Home Improvement Contractor
Tips on What to Ask and How
Tip #1: Don’t be Shy – You’re the Buyer
When looking for a good general contractor for a home improvement project, a good evaluating tip is to meet with a minimum of three. Once you meet them, you can summarize what they’ve told you on paper – better yet, ask them to do it and send you an email or an estimate with the jobs that will be done. Remember, you’re the buyer in this transaction so don’t be afraid to ask them to commit on paper. This will also help you to see if anything’s been left out that may cause disagreement at a later time.
Tip #2: Due Diligence, Do Diligence
If they need time to prepare the estimate or send a summary email, by all means give them that time, but be sure that you’ve made a separate note on what was spoken and decided so you can match that up and bring up any discrepancies once they do send it. During this process, you can also ask them to fax their credentials: a license to work your area, proof of workers’ compensation for their crew and proof of liability insurance to cover any accidental damages.
The need for transparency and forthrightness at this point will not be apparent now, but when problems arise, you always want to have something to fall back on. General contractors today are very savvy about all these things because every client usually asks for them; they will have copies ready most of the time. Besides, neither side wants to be at a disadvantage when it comes to price, details of the work, and other considerations that may crop up. On the whole, this approach works best.
Be sure to ask for references for similar jobs they’ve worked on. Call the referees and talk to them about whether the contractor met the obligations, whether he was easy to work with, and even permission to take a look at his work. Most homeowners would only be too happy to show off the work they’ve had done – if it was done well.
Tip #3: Stand Your Ground
Don’t cave in if a general contractor is reticent about your cooperating you’re your evaluation technique. One might say that it’s too early in the discussion to give out the information you’re looking for; another might stall for time hoping you’ll forget to remind him to send the papers; yet another might outright tell you that he doesn’t have any insurance. These are all major considerations that will go into the general contractor evaluation process. Don’t forget, it’s your home and it’s got to be on your terms or not at all.
Tip #4: The Assessment
When you’re comfortable with all the information you’ve collected, go back to the drawing board and do a comparative analysis, noting the pros and cons of each general contractor you are evaluating, and then weigh your options on a prioritized list before you make your decision.
Tip #5: The Close
Once you’ve decided who you’re going to go with, call them up and ask them to send over the final contract for signing. When you get that, again match it up with your notes and their initial proposal to see if everything is above board and transparent. A successful home improvement project with the right general contractor is about getting the most for your money, or bang for your buck if you will.