Hire the right contractor for the right job.
When you are planning a home renovation or improvement project, you should be aware that your contractor choice can be a critical part of the planning process. You definitely want to be sure of the quality of their work befrore they begin and have everyting you want done in writing and definitely agree on the scope and cost of the project. Another great idea is to be sure the contractor is properly licensed and insured just in case something goes wrong.
Follow these top tips when you select a contractor:
1. Obtain more than one or two estimates
Have several contractors give you written estimates. Be sure different estimates are for the same quality of materials and similar work results. And not just building materials or work methods, but also timelines! If it is cheaper but takes 3 times as long, it may be better to go with the higher priced job. It may also be wise to negate the high and low estimates and go with the moderate ones..
2. If you can, hire local people who are licensed contractors
Using someone local will make it far easier if problems develop in the future. Local contractors will very likely be more familiar with the building codes that affect your project. Be sure to get contractors local, physical address. Peopole who go door-to-door should be avoided.
3. Get feedback from people they have worked for
Knowing what the quality of their past work for previous jobs has been can really help you make the correct person. Finding someone who specializes in the kind of work you need done can improve your chances of success. Inquire about their professional reputation and how many years in business with the organizations like the Better Business Bureau. Greater than five years of experience is suggested for best results.
4. Don't rush your decision
It can take some time to get multiple bids. You shouldn't let someone pressure you into making an immediate decision, especially regarding contracts. Be very careful if you are asked to pay a deposit up front. Take the time to be sure and read the fine print on all estimates and contracts. In the case of emergency repairs you may not have enough time to thoroughly research multiple contractors. This is a good time to ask your neighbors, family or friends if they have had any experience with an emergency services contractor.
5. Be sure they are Insured and Bonded
A competent contractor will be properly insured and bonded. Ask contractors for a certificate of insurance (COI), which will provide the name of the insurance company, policy number and policy limits the contractor carries. You can even contact the insurance company directly if you want to verify their coverage and be sure the policy is still in effect. Never do business with a contractor who does not have the appropriate insurance coverage. Remember, If you hire a contractor that is not properly insured, you may be liable for accidents that occur on your own property!
6. Be sure to get everything in writing
Make sure you have a comprehensive contract in hand before any work begins. Everything should be in writing, and the contract shoudl be clear and well written. For larger, or more expensive projects, It may even be wise to have an attorney review the proposed contract before you sign. A solid contract should include:
- A detailed description of the work to be completed and the price of each portion.
- A payment schedule – If there is to be a deposit for example: one-half down and one-third when work is partially completed, and the balance due upon completion of repairs.
- The estimated start date and completion date on larger projects.
- Any and all guarantees should be written into the contract and clearly state what is guaranteed, who is responsible for the guarantee, and how long the guarantee is valid.
- Signatures from both parties. Never sign a contract containing blank sections.
- Any changes made to the contract should be acknowledged by all parties in writing. Be sure to confirm the contractor has obtained all applicable building permits. When cancelling a signed contract, follow the contract’s cancellation clause. Written notification of the cancellation should be sent by registered mail to ensure you have proof of the cancellation.
7. Know and understand your right to cancel
The law may require a “cooling off” period, during which you can cancel the contract without penalty. Check with the Federal Trade Commission and your state laws to know your rights. Always follow all applicable rules during the cooling off period. When canceling a contract, it is wise to send the notice of cancellation by registered mail to ensure you have proof of the cancellation.
8. Never pay up-front
You should never pay for an entire project before it is completed. It is recommended that you make checks payable to a company, not an individual, and do not pay in cash. With larger projects, it is a standard practice to pay one-third of the estimated costs as an initial down payment. In these cases, your cashed check is a receipt, and proof of your payment.
9. Delays happen
When delays happen, and they will, they may not be the fault of your contractor. In spite of the timeline outlined for the project, inevitably circumstances such as weather may cause the work do deviate from the schedule. Always be realistic and be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly.
10. Create a Job File
Keep your contract and all the supporting documents in one folder. A job file should also contain any change orders, plans and specifications, bills and invoices, canceled checks, and certificates of insurance and any letters, notes, or correspondence with the contractor. Having everything in one place makes it easier to access in the event discrepancies occur. Be sure to keep it safe in a fire proof safe or even a safety deposit box.
While preparing to follow all these tips, you should also remember that in some cases, major renovation could alter the insurance needs you might have for your home or property. Please call us at the Liveoak Agency to discuss your current insurance policies, and any changes that might be necessary both during and after a renovation project. Any savings we can come up with might help ease the pain of your renovation costs!