How do I know I can trust a contractor in my home? Short answer, do your homework. Long answer, let’s talk about what the homework is.
This is not just the keys to a house we’re talking about, it’s the place you and your family go to feel safe and relax with some privacy from the world. It’s your home. So when it comes to finding a contractor, it’s important to find one who understands and respects your space, your privacy, and your security. After all, you’re inviting strangers into your home for weeks or even months. Sounds just a little nerve racking doesn’t it.
With the right research, interviews, and a little intuition, the following tips will help you find a great fit who understands your needs and can put your mind at ease.
In an industry where companies routinely come and go, you’ll want to be sure you’re working with a company that has stood the test of time. Look for a company that’s been around for 10 years or more. You don’t want the new kids on the block figuring out how it all works on your project. Reputations really mean something and are earned through consistent performance and reliability.
In addition to experience, make sure the companies you consider have experience in the type of work you’re considering. If your project is an addition, and the company you’re talking to has never built one, you might not want to be the guinea pig. Research and development are great things, but not in your backyard. Choose a contractor who has experience with projects just like the one you need, that way you’ll know you’re getting an expert in the field.
Once you’ve identified a few companies that seem like a fit, it’s time to have a chat with them. You may be thinking “What do I even ask? I’ve never interviewed contractors before.” A great place to start is by asking them to describe their process to you. You’re going to be relying on them to guide you through a fairly complex process of design and construction, so if they don’t have a clear plan, you may be in for a bumpy ride.
Next, discuss what we call the three project objectives. Scope, timing, and budget. Do they do projects like you’re thinking of, can they do it in a timeframe that works for you, and within a cost range that fits your project budget. You may have other objectives that are important to you to add to this list, so ask about those as well. If any of these aren’t aligned, you’ve likely not found a good fit.
The two bigger picture discussions above are a great place to start. For a list of questions to help you get everything you need from a good contractor interview, check out our Questions to Ask a Remodeler document here.
Insurance, workers compensation, contracts, project specifications, change orders, etc.. All these boring paperwork things, that you may not think of, are very important when deciding to hire a contractor. In your interview process, ask about these documents and how they are used to make the project clear for you and everyone involved. Never hire anyone without a written contract that spells out clearly what is included in the project. For more in-depth information about what should be included in this important set of documents, check out our Remodeling Roadmap ebook.
Okay, so it’s kind of a no-brainer to ask for references, but what are the chances someone is going to give you a reference from someone who’ll say negative things about them? So does that make this a waste of time? Not at all, and remember, hopefully, you’re picking between a good and a great fit for your project, not a good and bad one. The trick here is to ask the right questions when you interview the references. This can be tricky. After all, it can be a little awkward to ask too many questions and make someone feel interrogated when they’re being kind enough to help you out.
Start by asking about the company’s communication practices. Were they kept informed along the way of project progress and not surprised by what was coming next? Were decisions handled in a proactive way so they weren’t rushed to make choices under the gun?
A few well-placed questions, specific enough to get you a picture of what the process was really like will help you and the reference make the conversation useful.
Buying cheap sushi just isn’t worth the risk, and neither is hiring the cheapest remodeler. Be very cautious of choosing your remodeler based on a bid. Early bids done prior to any design work are very hard to quantify and should only be seen for what they are, an estimate. Even done correctly, which is a lot more work than most people think, a bid only tells you about the cost, not about the quality, service, friendliness, well….you get the point. Cost is definitely a piece of your decision, but just one piece, so be sure to weight out all of the factors involved. You get what you pay for, so the most important thing is to know what you’re paying for.
Better Business Bureau, Houzz, Google, Facebook, and testimonials are just a few places you can find reviews. Today there are lots of places to read what clients have to say about a company they’ve worked with. Take a few minutes to read them, and check them out on a few different sites. Remember, if there aren’t many reviews, there might be a reason for that. One word of caution here, as you know, anyone can write anything online, so if a remodeler has a plethora of strong reviews, and there’s just that one bad apple, they are probably not representative of the average client experience. On the other hand, if there aren’t many at all or there are several on the negative side, you may want to take notice.
Don’t underestimate the power of intuition. In our data-driven review saturated world, we often don’t give enough credit to listening to our gut. If something seems too good to be true or feels a little off, listen to your gut and at least dig a bit deeper. We all have natural instincts that tell us when something just doesn’t add up. Use this guide, download the other resources mentioned earlier, and you’ll have the tools to make a smart choice.
Have other questions or comments about this topic, please leave us a note below, or give us a call or email today. We’re here to help you avoid writing your own remodeling nightmare story.
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