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Selecting a Residential Contractor

Selecting a contractor can be one of the most difficult decisions you have to make as a homeowner. You will more than likely spend a lot of money for your project and you want to make sure you are hiring an honest, competent contractor. Unfortunately, there are some dishonest, unscrupulous contractors that are only too eager to take your money and either not finish the job or does not possess the competency and resources to complete to work on your home. So do your homework to make sure you hire the contractor that will work best for you. Word of mouth is usually how many people find a contractor, but with the current economic times even that can be difficult. Contractors retire, go out of business, find different lines of work, etc. That is why many people turn to the internet.

There are some basic things you can do to hire a good contractor

and make sure you are not taken advantage of:

  • Make sure you communicate the details you want in your project. For example, if you are remodeling your kitchen, indicate if you are replacing your cabinets, counters, flooring, appliances, etc. What do you want for new flooring? Tile, laminate, hard wood, vinyl? There are many different products to choose from today.
  • If your project is a new home or a project that requires carpentry, plumbing, electrical, concrete work, etc. you should probably hire a general contractor as opposed to a handy man. A general contractor will have access to more resources and the capital necessary to complete your job.
  • Let the contractor know what your budget is. If you want to completely remodel your bathroom complete with all new fixtures and your budget is only $3,000 you will be wasting a lot time between yourself and the contractors you talk to when you find out that that the cost will be at least double that amount. Many customers do not want to divulge their budget to the contractor in fear that the contractor may increase their price to meet a higher than expected amount. In this case, you can hold back a little bit and negotiate with the contractor.
  • Verify the contractor has the experience and resources to do the job. Ask for references that the contractor has performed the same kind of work as you are requesting.
  • A good contractor will have a contract that spells out all of the details of your project as well as the legal language that should be included. This contract should protect you the customer just as much and perhaps more than the contractor. The contract should state all of the particulars should as the customer’s name, address, scope of the project, details of construction, approximately start and completion dates, amount, signatures, etc.
  • Make sure the contractor has adequate insurance. The best way to do this is request a certificate of insurance from their insurance agent. It will stipulate the coverage’s the contractor has. Don’t worry if you do not understand what all of the coverage’s mean, just make sure the dates show their coverage is current. More than likely, the agent will make sure the contractor has the right coverage. If the contractor cannot provide a certificate within a couple of days, you should probably not hire them.
  • The contractor will probably request a deposit. Most of the time it is not necessary to give any more than one third up front. There are many reasons the contractor wants money up front. It secures your place on the production schedule, it helps to compensate the contractor for all of the time spent to gain your contract, there may be out of pockets expenses such as a building permit and special orders for doors or windows that cannot be returned.
  • Communication between the contractor and customer is essential. You the customer, need to make sure you are asking questions and make sure the contractor is answering your questions in a reasonable time and following through with the terms of the contract.
  • Do not pay the contractor in full until the project is 100% complete. The contract should have a small amount to pay at the end of the contract for a punch list of final finishing touches that need to be completed. This amount should somewhere around 2% to 5% depending on the job.

Following these basic steps and procedures will help insure that your project goes smoothly, stays on budget and gets completed on time. Like any project, things will come up that are unexpected that you will have to make a decision on after the project is started. The key is to make sure the contractor has communicated the options to you and the price of those options.

Whether you are building a new home or improving your existing home, selecting a contractor does not have to be an event that keeps you awake at night. Just follow these basic rules, use your common sense and you should be fine.