There are too are many property owners who have lost money to unscrupulous contractors. We all know at least one person who has told us their construction horror stories and their struggles to find a good contractor. Sometimes it feels as though you are doomed even when you take the right steps. You get the references, review the proposals and weigh cost over quality and you still end up with a con man.
No one wants to deal with this type of drama when starting a home construction or home improvement project. Although there are some contractors who are professional and honest, it sometimes looks as though they are a rare breed. The scammers, who are ready and willing to take your hard-earned money, make it difficult to find and hire the good contractors who genuinely have your best interests at heart. The challenge is to find out who the good contractors are and how you can get them to work on your project.
Does Your Project Require a Contractor?
Depending on the scope of your project, you may not need a contractor. Smaller tasks may fall under the home repair/ maintenance category. A tasker or repairperson, who possesses the necessary skills to perform the specific task, can complete these small projects. Examples of small projects are installing a new toilet, cleaning gutters, replacing floor coverings, repairing outdoor fences. If your project requires specialised knowledge or permits, a contractor should be hired instead of a repair person.
For large and complex projects, the services of a contractor may be required. The best contractors are licensed professionals who work with skilled and licensed teams. General contractors may hire sub-contractors for specialised tasks and projects. Examples of large projects are updating a home’s electrical wires; replacing plumbing; installing new windows and doors and building a home from the ground up.
How to Find a Good Contractor
If you can wade through the horror stories, you can find honest, hardworking contractors.
1. Ask Around
In this case, asking around is not limited to seeking references from people that you know. It also includes perusing review sites; contacting local trade and building organisations and asking your financial institutions for their recommended professionals. Be aware though. Sometimes first-time referrals can backfire, which is why you need several referrals for one contractor.
2. Ask the Right Questions
When you are asking around for contractors, you can ask some specific questions. If you are asking friends and family, find out if the contractor completed the project to their quality standards. Ask them about the cost of the project and if it was completed within budget. Another question to ask is if the project was completed on time.
3. Create a Shortlist
After you have reviewed the list of contractors, you should create shortlist of the ones that you consider the best fit for you. The next step is to contact the contractors on your shortlist to get information about their business, if they are registered with any local agencies and if they have insurance coverage. Good contractors will meet all three of these requirements.
4. Secure References
When securing a mortgage, some financial institutions require references who can attest to the contractor’s work. References should be obtained from three homeowners they worked with in the last year. Additionally, contact information for the homeowners and photos of the projects must be submitted. You can contact the homeowners and ask them about the contractor.
5. Talk to the Contractors
Having in depth conversations with the contractors will let you know more about them. Ask them about their recent projects; recent bids for other projects and staffing complement. Answers to these questions can give insight into the contractor’s practices and their ability to work on your project. Some of these questions and answers can be verified by the references.
6. Request Estimates
Ideally, you should have at least three estimates for your project from three contractors. This will mean that the contractors will have to review your project plans and visit your property to assess the scope of work. When you receive estimates, you should compare the project cost, materials list, timeline, services included; additional/ contingency fees; and warranties. Take heed. The lowest bid is not necessarily the best bid.
7. Sign the Contract
When you have selected your contractor, it is time to sign the contract. Do not start your project without a contract and if your chosen contractor refuses to sign on, find another contractor. The terms of the contract should be specific to your project and should not be a general contract. At minimum, contracts should include the budget, deadlines and guarantees from the contractor. If you are unsure about the wording of the contract, ask your attorney to review it.
A good contractor will try to meet all of your needs, even if it means going a step beyond their usual level of service. Good contractors will not bid extremely low just to secure the job. They will not require that you get your own permits and approvals. In addition, they will not ask for all of the money up-front. If you meet a contractor who exhibits these qualities, you should cut ties immediately and find someone else.
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