Whether you’re building a new home from the ground up or you’re planning a minor renovation, you’re going to need a contractor. We’ve all heard the horror stories of jobs half done, lack of proper permits, or worse, projects that fall down in the first strong wind. No one wants to find themselves in that position.
Finding a contractor that you can trust is a challenge. These tips will help you make the right decision and hire the right contractor for your job.
- Get recommendations. They can come from friends, family, co-workers, local building inspectors, and even the local association of homebuilders or remodelers. If you don’t already have a few people in mind, start asking around.
- Check local resources. The Better Business Bureau and the state consumer protection agency (North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) can let you know if complaints have been filed against anyone you’re considering.
- Talk to them on the phone and in person. You’ll get a sense of who they are and how you can expect them to treat you. Communication is key; so make sure that you are comfortable with their communication style.
- Make a list of questions to ask. Ask for references – financial and previous clients. Ask if they handle jobs your size (big or small). Find out how many other projects will be going on simultaneously. Don’t be surprised if they can’t start on yours right away. Good contractors are busy ones.
- Check their references. Reading online reviews is helpful but shouldn’t be the only way you gauge business satisfaction. Make sure that you speak to at least a couple of their previous customers.
- Make sure that they can provide proof of licensing, bonding, and insurance before the project ever begins. Get this information before any work begins. They should have a license or certification in their trade or specialty as well as any necessary licensing from the city or county. Bonding guarantees the contractor will complete the job according to the terms you agree on. They should also have the proper insurance policies in place; including general liability, workers compensation, and builders risk policies. Ask about subcontractors and make sure they are licensed, bonded, and insured, as well.
- Ask for bids from at least three contractors. Don’t automatically choose the lowest bid – they may use the cheapest materials. The breakdown of costs is typically 40 percent for materials, 15 to 20 percent for their own profit margin, and the rest should include labor and overhead. Get detailed bids that break down these costs so you can see and decide for yourself if you’re being overcharged.
- Expect and discuss a payment schedule. Typically you’ll pay 10 percent up front, make three or four payments during the job, and a final payment will be due when the job is 100 percent complete. If a contractor asks for half or more as a deposit, this could be a sign of financial instability.
- Get everything in writing. Every detail – including start date, cost of materials, labor costs, job expectations, payment schedule, and any other details should be made in writing. Both you and the contractor should have a copy. Don’t work with anyone who isn’t willing to put the details in writing.
A home renovation or build is stressful enough. Finding the right contractor makes the process much easier and gives you peace of mind. Use these tips when you’re ready to hire your next. It’s also a good idea to keep your insurance agent up to date on your home’s progress – that way you’ll be sure to have the right North Carolina homeowner’s insurance policy in place when your project is complete.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Scott Lewis.