What to Know When Hiring a Contractor

Posted by Steph Kaye on Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 1:32pm.

How to Hire a Contractor

You have finally decided that you are going to put your plans of home improvement into action. Then you realize you have no clue where to begin and how. To get started, you will need to find a professional home renovation contractor to make sure that your house will be safely and properly remodeled. It would be helpful if you could come up with a list of items that you would like to change so you can research the ideas before deciding on the renovations.

 Word of mouth is a great way to find a contractor.-ask your friends or family. Also, online customer reviews are a great resource. On its website, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has listed more than 100,000 reviews of general home contractors, and many are accredited by the BBB— which means they have a good-faith effort if customers are not satisfied. You can also read customer reviews on AngiesList.com to research a contractor's reputation, but the site does charge a monthly membership fee which could range from $2.60 to $6.80 depending on where you live, plus there is a $5 to $10 initiation fee. Unlike other websites, Angie's List doesn't allow anonymous reviews, which owner Angie Hicks says "enhances the accuracy" of its reviews. Get at least three bids, advises Rick Lopes, a spokesperson for the California Contractors State License Board (CCSLB). It's important to have the contractors survey the property before making an offer so that the bids are as accurate. To get a fair comparison, make sure the bids are identical in their plans, even to such details as what brands of materials will be used.

Some great advice comes from Stephen Fanuka. After years of managing building and renovation projects for decorators such as Nate Berkus, Eric Cohler, Thom Filicia, and Gordon Kahn, Stephen Fanuka has learned that hiring the right contractor can be harder than actually working on the project. “It’s like a blind date,” Fanuka says. “Sometimes it takes a few to find out who’s good for you.” Architectural Digest asked Fanuka to describe what questions you should ask a contractor—and yourself—before selecting somebody for the job.

1) Are they quick to respond? Give them 48 hours. If you don’t get a call within that time, it may be a sign that the contractor doesn’t have enough time to take on your renovation.

2) Will they be accommodating?  Are they on time? Are they in a hurry to leave? Do you feel like you will get along?  You want to know that your contractor is going to put whatever it takes to make your job perfect. 

3) How big is the contractors company? You ask this because it's important to know who’s going to be on the job. If the owner or project manager can’t make it one day, there should be someone else to come in their place.

4) Are they licensed? Contractors must be licensed to handle electrical and plumbing work.

5) Are they insured, and if so, can you hold the certificate? Along with Workers’ Compensation to protect any worker injured while working on your home, make sure your contractor has insurance to cover any accidental damages to your property. You want to be a certificate holder on both policies so that if the insurance ever expires, you will be notified and can stop  work until it is renewed.

6) What are the terms for payment ?  American Institute of Architects contract—a basic agreement available for a small download fee that details out a payment structure and other terms that protect the client, homeowner, and contractor. Remember that if your project costs less than $500, you don’t necessarily need a contract.

8) Are they willing to put in writing how long the job will take ?  You should include a one-week grace period.

9) Will they give an estimated time for fixing any mistakes or imperfections? Even great  contractors can miss things—a missing light switch, a loose towel bar. 

10) Will they come back after the job is done?  If you are willing to pay them, will they still come out to fix things?  Hiring a contractor is like finding a good doctor or dentist. You want someone who can keep your project in good shape after the job is done.

Lopes adds that you shouldn't necessarily go with the lowest estimate. "If two bids are the same and one is really low, ask yourself, 'Why is this person offering to do this for a lot less money?'" he says. "That low-ball bid may just be a way to get you to commit to them, and they're going to come back later and say things like, 'Oh, I didn't realize you needed this done,' or they may be providing you with inferior products."

The contractor should supply you with a list of references.  A better way to see a contractor's quality of work is to visit one of their current job sites. 

Warning signs. With a large number of scam artists pretending to be  contractors, homeowners should be suspicious if a contractor does any of the following:

• Pressures you for a quick hiring decision

• Accepts only cash (usually an indication he's trying to get out of paying taxes)

• Doesn't get a building permit 

• Solicits door to door 

• Tries to cut you a deal using materials left over from a previous project

• Quotes a final price without seeing the project

If you are in the market for a new house and would like information on homes for sale, or are first time home buyer not working with a Realtor and would like to schedule a consultation with a qualified Oakland County and Macomb County Realtor, please complete the Lang Premier Properties contact form to have a real estate agent contact you. 

Lang Premier Properties are Birmingham Realtors specializing in Oakland County Real Estate. Stephanie is an agent with Lang Premier Properties. See what past clients have to say about Stephanie Lang.  Lang Premier Properties looks out for your best interests when you purchase a new custom luxury home. We always recommend working with an experienced luxury real estate agent when buying a new luxury estate.

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