I was presented with a thought provoking question from a colleague of mine just outside of Chicago. Bryan Sebring of Sebring Services in Naperville, IL, (a friend, and fellow remodeling business owner) was writing an article and posed this question to me;
“What would be the most important tip you would give someone about to start a remodeling project?”
It’s a difficult proposition to narrow down to one, single most important tip for a homeowner to consider when hiring a home remodeling contractor. Still, if I were to pin it to a single word, that word would be Stability. (defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quality or state of something that is not likely to change”)
A Stable company can create a level of predictability for your remodel project. They’ve “been there and done that,” and likely hundreds of times. It could be something as simple as knowing what details your Home Owners Association wants to see in order to approve your room addition project, or it may be a hidden challenge they’ve encountered before in your neighborhood such as a soil condition that will make it more difficult to dig the footings for said addition project. Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable knowing up-front the excavation will be an additional $$$ before the digging actually begins; giving you the chance to plan for it, instead of suffering through the surprise of a dreaded change order?
A Stable company has assembled a top-notch and reliable, Team of tradesmen, suppliers, and trade contractors. Who makes the cut to work on your project? Remodeling is a relationship business, not only with the homeowners but with the tradesmen as well. A stable contracting company has developed these relationships over a number of years, and knows who to rely on to come through for your project. (To slip in a self-promotional tid-bit……. Our countertop installer was hired for our 1st ever, relevant project and has worked with us on every single project since 2001. When we took on a Beach House Remodel in San Diego, he even went there to do the countertops for that project. Certainly, you’d agree this is the type of Team Member we can rely on?)
A Stable company is financially sound. Why is this important to you? A financially stable company runs its Remodeling Business as just that, a Business. They know the costs associated with the overhead of being in business: Liability Insurance, Workers Compensation Insurance, Licensing, Business Taxes, Payroll Taxes, Rent, Office & Support Staff, Employee Benefits, and a whole bunch of other expenses to consider. Accounting for these significant expenses is what keeps a business in business. A financially stable company also knows the costs associated with building your project. They know what the design will cost, what the tile installation costs will be, and what it will take for Supervision for your project. When a design/build remodeling contractor knows their costs, you don’t run the risk of them disappearing in the middle of your kitchen remodel because they under-bid it and need to start another low-bid project to help fund what’s left on your project. Or, worse yet, what if they realize they are not able to cover the expenses of your project and decide to disappear and never come back?
A Stable company will be around for years to come. The average lifespan of a home remodeling company is only 2-4 years. That is a staggeringly high rate of failure in the construction industry. In Arizona, licensed contractors are held to a minimum 2-year warranty on all projects. What does that mean for your project? If the contractor is brand new to the business, then I suppose the statistics show they’ll be around the two years necessary to provide you warranty services should something come up. If, conversely, they’re 3-4 years in business then the stats say they are fighting an uphill battle to be around long enough to take care of your warranty requests. Frankly, it seems as if there’s a risk they’ll even finish your project, let alone provide warranty. How comfortable do you want to feel about your contractor being there in the future when you need them?
A Stable company may be boring. A boring company only because of the aforementioned predictability. Is it boring to know when crews will be in your home? Does it lack the excitement that you’ll know what the actual investment amount will be before your project actually begins? Do you crave the uncertainty of whether or not the contractor you hired will be around to complete your bathroom remodel? If that’s your criteria, then certainly a Professional Contractor will be boring…boring…boring….
Would You Allow Your Daughter to Date the Contractor?
How about marrying them? There are three different types of remodeling contractors:
- The one you’re okay with for the minor, un-eventful, low-risk project. (We’ll call this the High School boyfriend)
- The Contractor who may be qualified, but you don’t hope for a long term future with. They’ll do an okay job, but you just want to get the project completed and over with. (We’ll call this the rebound boyfriend)
- And the 3rd, the Design/Build Remodel Contractor who you don’t want to leave. You’ll find yourself becoming a remodeling addict and start discussing the kitchen remodel with them; before they’ve even completed the bathroom remodel. You’re comfortable with them, there is mutual trust and respect, and you genuinely like each other. (This is the one you hope she marries!