As anyone who has any experience working with contractors will tell you, finding the RIGHT contractor for your project entails much more than just finding the lowest price. Less tangible items like your ability to communicate and feel comfortable working with your contractor will inevitably prove to be much more important in determining your eventual satisfaction with the job – particularly if it’s a large project.
It’s always good to start your search with local building associations, like the Building Industry Association of Lancaster, National Association of Home Builders and the Better Business Bureau for accredited contractors in your area. You also want to make sure the contractor specializes in Home Remodeling and not Home Building. While they sound similar, they are very different. After you get a few names, the following are important tips that will help you choose the right contractor for your Home Improvement project:
Ask For References
Talk to homeowners this contractor has done work for in the past. Were they satisfied with the work? Did they keep the job site clean? Was the work finished? Did the contractor keep to the agreed-upon schedule? Did the contractor return phone calls?
Get Two or Three Specific Written Bids
Different contractors can vary widely on pricing and level of detail even when bidding for the same job. Make sure and get several estimates on your project, especially if it’s a large project. As much as possible, make sure that you explain the job fully to each of the contractors to ensure each one bids on the same exact job so that you can compare the estimates ‘apple-to-apple’.
DO NOT Automatically Accept the Lowest Bid
The old saying “you get what you pay for” applies here. A higher bid may be worth the price in better materials, workmanship and reliability. A large number of complaints filed against contractors are the result of homeowner taking the lowest bid and then being unhappy with the low quality of work. Even when the contractor promises to do the same job, be careful – often contractors will bid a job extremely aggressively in order to get it. When the work takes longer than originally planned, the contractor can feel ‘squeezed’ by the budget and try and cut corners. What you ‘save’ up front could easily cost you when they don’t guarantee the estimate and charge you much more then promised. It could also actually DECREASE the value of your home because of unprofessional work.
Make Sure Your Contractor is Properly Registered
It is very important to know that a license is not an endorsement of the quality of work. It does however provide some financial protection for you, the customer. As of July 1st, 2009 Contractor Registration is required in the state of Pennsylvania. Their registration number should be on all paperwork they show you. You can verify any contractors’ registration with the Attorney General.
Make Sure Your Contractor is Properly Insured
Ask your contractor for a copy of his proof of liability insurance and workman’s comp insurance or the name and number of his/her insurance agent to call and verify proof of coverage.
Most Importantly… Do You Trust This Person to Work on Your Home?
When it comes down to it, the most important thing to check is your own gut feeling. How do you feel about this contractor working on what is probably your single largest investment – your home? Do you trust this person inside your home? Around your children? Can you communicate well with this person about the project? Are they ‘in tune’ to your needs?
I hope you found this information useful. Choosing the right contractor for your project is the most important step to guaranteeing your satisfaction, and will make all the difference in the long term.
[This article was also published in the Lancaster Newspapers Spring Home, Lawn & Garden Issue on Page 2.]
Until next time,
Mike Blank, CGR CAPS