Picking a contractor can be a fairly difficult process, especially since there are too many stories about homeowners being ripped off by contractors. So when you decide to remodel your home, how do you select a remodeling firm that will provide you with a good experience at a fair price? Here are six tips to help you pick a contractor that you can trust:
1. Ask friends and family members for referrals.
This is, by far, one of the best ways to find a contractor that you can trust. Your friends and family are going to be blunt with you about the experience they had with the remodeler they selected. Start your search by asking them who they’d recommend.
Keep in mind that people tend to go into more detail when they had a bad experience than if they had a good one. If someone was really pleased with a contractor, ask them why. Talk about how easy it was to contact them and how responsive they were throughout the project. Take a look at pictures of their finished projects.
2. Don't base your selection entirely on price.
We’ve all heard the adage, “You get what you pay for,” and you do need to keep that in mind when selecting a remodeling firm. The truth is, a contractor who will provide you with a good remodeling experience probably will not be the cheapest. On the flip side, if you find a contractor who is significantly less expensive than the others, it may be an indication that they cut corners, such as using lower-grade materials, not carrying proper insurance or trying to be a handyman and doing it all by themselves (instead of hiring experienced subcontractors for specialty work).
If you are considering a much-lower-priced contractor for your remodeling project, do be mindful of how that could affect the progress and outcome of your project. In too many cases, contractors who low-ball the estimate are not giving much space to adjust the price if materials or labor end up costing more. This means that you might end up with a higher bill than you expected. Read through the contract carefully before you sign, to see how tightly your contractor plans to stick to the original estimate.
3. Think of your contractor as a relationship.
Think of your contractor as a relationship. While selecting a new home builder is important, selecting a contractor to renovate your home is even more so because they are inside your home – and your lives – day in and day out. You need to be comfortable with having the contractor’s entire team (including subcontractors) in and around your home for the duration of the project.
- Can you communicate with them easily? Do they understand what you want in your renovated space, and do you feel confident that you and the contractor can work well together throughout the entire construction process?
- Do you feel the contractor will be respectful of your home, your belongings, your schedule and your pets?
- Does the construction process match your expectations? Do you feel comfortable with the payment schedule? The design process? How selections are chosen? Do you feel comfortable with living with the timeframe in which your home will be under construction?
3. Review the contractor’s portfolio.
Review the contractors’ portfolio. Look at their past work to see what types of projects they tend to do. Everything from design creativity to ballpark price will be revealed in past projects, which should help you determine if they may be a good fit for what you have in mind.
While you’re looking at the portfolio, search for indicators that they have experience working with your particular project. If you don’t see examples that compare, ask if they have more. It’s better to confirm that they know how to work with antique wood or Mid-Century Modern design if that’s what you want, than to assume they will be able to meet the challenge.
4. Call past customers.
Call past customers. All contractors have past customers who are happy to serve as references, but most homeowners don’t make those calls. Take the time to do so, and ask the past customers questions such as “What’s the one thing you’d do differently about your remodeling project?” and “What’s the one frustration you had with the contractor, and looking back, how would you have resolved it?” No projects go off without a hitch, and knowing some steps you can take to avoid even the tiniest of frustrations will make your remodeling experience that much better.
5. Ask lots of questions.
If you’re spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a project, it is very important that you feel comfortable with your choice. You may worry about wasting a contractor’s time with questions before you have made a selection or received an estimate, but you should make a point to ask them anyway.
Having an in-depth conversation with a contractor, about what you want from the project and what you expect from them, is an easy way to get a better sense for what kind of person you’re dealing with. For example, you should ask about proof of licensing and insurance. If the contractor seems unprepared to address your concerns or tries to distract you from the answer, you can expect that to happen during the project, too. Look for confidence and transparency in the answers to your questions. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if you need it.
6. Listen to your gut.
Almost anyone who has been a homeowner for many years has a contractor horror story. And every time you hear it, you’ll probably listen to them say they wish they had followed their gut instincts in the first place. This is your opportunity to do that in advance of making a choice that could affect your life for years to come. Resist the temptation to commit to hiring a contractor right after the first consultation.
Instead, give yourself at least one night to think it over. Take time to examine every aspect of the transaction to look for concerns. Did you feel like your questions got sufficient answers? Do you believe the contractor respects your time and is likely to prioritize your needs throughout the process? Were you pressured to make a commitment, or given plenty of time to make a choice? All these factors and more will help you determine if the contractor is going to be a good fit for you and your project.
In addition to these tips, please refer to these 18 questions to ask to hire the right design/build contractor for you. Or Contact us to schedule a time to chat about your project.