Deciding to spend money on home improvements can be nerve wracking to say the least. Even more nerve wracking is figuring out who to hire to do the work to insure that you get the most for your money. There are a plethora of nightmare stories out there about people who are left high and dry, the work only half way done, with all their money gone. Don’t stress! The chances of that happening to you are slim if you follow the guidelines below.
Before Hiring a Contractor:
- Research how a project like yours is typically done and learn the vocabulary. Basically make sure you know exactly what you are talking about so you can’t get scammed by a bad contractor trying to do extra (unnecessary) work.
- Decide what design features you’re looking for and figure out the quality of materials you want to use. You want to be sure you are getting the quality you want for the price you are paying. There is nothing worse than paying too much for cheap quality.
- Know which permits (if any) your project will need. This way you can make sure the contractor obtains these permits. You can figure out what permits are needed by talking to your local building department.
Choosing a Contractor:
- Interview several contractors and ask for references. Go beyond just calling the references, ask if you may see the contractors work. If they don’t live close by ask them to send pictures. You should also check sites like angie’s list and yelp for customer reviews.
- Be hesitant of a contractor whose bid seems low. Ask why is it so low.
- Make sure the contractor has the proper licenses needed to do work in your state. There are websites where you can check if a contractors license is active and valid. For example, in Massachusetts you can go to http://elicense.chs.state.ma.us/Verification/Search.aspx and enter your contractors name. You can obtain their license information and you can also see if any disciplinary action has been brought upon them in the past.
- Most importantly, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If you don’t feel comfortable with someone don’t hire them.
- Read all contracts carefully before signing. If you have questions you can contact your local building department.
To avoid the “nightmare” situations referenced in the first paragraph you should structure payments against performance benchmarks. For example ask that it be put in the payment terms that payment will not be received until you are 100% satisfied with a certain aspect of the project.
- Be present. Don’t schedule a project while you are on vacation. Observe the work that is being performed.
- By observing the work being performed you can assert yourself early if you aren’t happy with the work.
- Anticipate extra costs. For example when moving a wall you may need to re-route electrical or plumbing. This may not be included in the contractors original quote.
- Obtain all change orders in writing. A change order would be used in the above situation. It is a change to the original scope of work of the project that is agreed on by the owner, contractor, and anyone else involved.
- Avoid making payments ahead of schedule
- Ask questions as necessary. Being involved will help the process run more smoothly.
There are a small number of contractors out there who are looking to “screw” you, but unfortunately they exist. Just be careful when making decisions, do your research, and follow your gut. If you end up being unhappy with the work or have any other issues with the contractor be sure to file a complaint. You can do so by first contacting your local building department they will refer you to the correct agency to file a complaint with.
Have you had a good (or bad) experience with a contractor? What tips do you have?