In the last few blogs I discussed making updates to your Windsor home. Whether you are selling or have recently purchased a property that needs remodeling, chances are, you may be considering hiring a contractor. This is a huge task as the contractor determines the quality of the project. You need to make sure you get the very best person for the job, as this is usually a project that can add quite a bit of emotional and financial stress to your life.
So how do you hire a contractor? What questions do you ask? My advice is to get recommendations from friends and family. Interview at least three and ask plenty of questions, including some of the most important below:
1. How long have you been in business?
I suggest hiring a local contractor when you can. It’s much easier to get a better idea of their reputation and because you want a person that will visit the job site often and can be there in an emergency. Make sure you see a nearby address on their business card. Ideally, you will want a contractor who has had several years experience and has a good, established association of subcontractors and suppliers. Ask for references, particularly some of their earliest clients, so you can determine they have had a local presence in the community for several years.
2. I would like an itemized bid. Will you provide this?
The reason you want an itemized bid as opposed to a one price is it will give you a play-by-play view of the job. It will show the costs for all aspects for the renovation and, if the budget goes over, you can determine more easily where you want to cut. If a contractor resists in doing this, then you may want to consider hiring someone else. This is not a difficult nor out of the ordinary request.
3. Who are your suppliers?
This could be the best way to check the reputation of your contractor. Ask for their suppliers and then call each and every one of them. Here, you will find out if your contractor has any unhappy clients, if they pay their bills and suppliers on time or any other information that you may need. If a contractor gives you problems or keeps putting you off when you ask for this information, take this as a sign to find another person for your job. Any contractor should be pleased to give you a list as long as they are a good customer.
4. Who will be the job foreman? How often will you be here?
If a job foreman will be handling the details of your job, then ask to meet them. Go by and see what project they are currently working on and see if they can handle the project. Talk to the homeowners and see if he shows up on time and if it is going smoothly. You also want to make sure they clean up after themselves and not leave huge messes that would make other neighbours complain. If your contractor will be handling your remodeling on a day-to-day basis, ask him how often he will be at your home and if he will be checking in every day.
5. How often are you paid?
Contractors do various things when billing. Some require deposits, others set up payment plans throughout the project. However, a word of advice is never pay for the job upfront. This should trigger a warning bell as we have all heard the horror stories of homeowners paying up front for materials only to never hear from the contractor again. If a contractor cannot pay for supplies, then consider looking for someone else.
Finally, be aware of the following when hiring contractors:
Those that use scare tactics.
If a contractor tries to scare you for your business, then stay away.
Too quick to offer a price.
When a contractor gives you a verbal price, without giving it much thought, then look elsewhere. You will need a professional bid with an itemized billing.
If a contractor doesn’t have business cards or any other sales materials, then avoid at all costs.
Don’t hire a contractor if they are pressuring you. If they use the old line, “You need to sign up today because costs will go up next week,” walk away.
Under the table deals.
Without documentation, you have no paper record of the work, no guarantee and no receipt. This is not the type of work legitimate contractors do.