If you’re like the majority of people who are renovating or otherwise freshening up their home, you’ll want to finish the work without blowing all your savings. Remodels can get quickly out of hand, financially, so it’s important to find ways to keep costs down.
Now, while you’ll probably want to do some jobs yourself to save money, there will be points at which you’ll need to outsource the work. This might be for safety or because you don’t have the necessary skills or experience to handle the task(s) effectively.
Don’t just hire the first person you find online, though. Spend your money well by finding a contractor who will get the job done right the first time, and stick to their quote. Not all tradespeople offer the same services or provide the same quality, so the onus is on homeowners to choose wisely. To make this process easier, follow key steps before you hire a contractor.
Steps to Take When You Need to Hire a Contractor
Determine Your Goals
Before you even begin to look for contractors, determine your goals for your project. You may have one big goal when it comes to your property, such as revamping every space in it, but you’ll also need to break this down into smaller targets as you work room by room or by different job types.
Getting clear on what you’re trying to achieve will make it simpler to see the kind of tasks you’ll need a contractor for, and therefore the qualifications they require, as well as the timeline you’ll need them to finish their work within. Don’t waste time researching contractors who are, for example, experts in Craftsman-style building work, if the result you want to achieve is mid-century modern.
For the best investment of funds, goals should be based around the popular features and styles in your suburb, too. Even if you plan to stay in your home for many years, it still pays to spend money on renovation work that will increase the value of your home and help you sell it later.
Setting goals is useful, too, because it gets you to think more thoroughly about your project as a whole and to consider which jobs need to be done and in what order. There’s no point looking into contractors to do kitchen tiling for you, for instance, if it’s more important to call in a faucet repair service in Philadelphia or another area first.
Set a Budget
Next, set a budget for the work you want a contractor to do. Have an overall budget for the entire renovation project, if it encompasses more than what you need a contractor for now, and then break this down into allowances for different rooms of the house or different jobs.
If you don’t set a budget, it’s easy to get swept away in the excitement of remodeling and have costs add up before you know it. Also, if you have a set amount you’re willing to spend on a contractor, this will make it easier to narrow down your list. Strike anyone who could be a contender but who doesn’t suit financially off your list ASAP. This might seem harsh, but it’s necessary and saves time and energy.
Shortlist Experienced and Licensed Contractors
Once your planning is complete, put together a shortlist of experienced and licensed contractors. Do this by researching potential candidates who are adequately qualified for the job you need them to do, experienced in this specific area (always opt for a specialist where possible), and licensed by the necessary governing bodies.
To find reliable options, ask family members, friends, and work colleagues for recommendations. You should have at least a few people in your circle who have used tradespeople in recent years, and who can refer you to options for further investigation.
Alternatively, head online and check out reviews and testimonials on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the like. The information you find on these websites is more likely to be honest and accurate than the details companies post on their own sites – these testimonials can be doctored, so must be taken with a grain of salt.
Keep in mind that these days it’s not hard for criminals or dodgy contractors to put up a website that claims they’re an expert in a particular field. No one monitors sites, and anyone can buy a domain and business name and other collateral to help themselves look legitimate. As such, testimonials and reviews provide some protection.
If you can, speak with past clients of different contractors to get a first-person account of their work results and dedication. One key question to ask is, “If you had to hire a contractor again now, would you pay for this contractor again, or go elsewhere?”
Chat with Contractors
When you feel comfortable with the list of people you have put together, chat with contractors over the phone or in person. This will give you a better feel of whether you’d want to hire someone, and if they seem pleasant and a person you’d be happy to have on your property.
Trust your gut instincts. If you get a bad feeling from an initial conversation, with red flags popping up, move onto the next person. There should be plenty of contractor options in your area, so don’t hire anyone who didn’t make a good impression. As you talk with people, look for signs that they’ll be reliable, excellent communicators, and active problem solvers, too.
When chatting with potential contractors, find out about each person’s availability. Since you will likely want someone to get started within the next few weeks or months, there’s no point going further with contractors who can’t start for six months, for example (unless you want to get other renovation work done first, and need the extra time). On the other hand, though, be wary of contractors who say they can start within just a few days. This indicates they’re not very busy and potentially aren’t great at their job or reliable.
Obtain Multiple Bids for the Work
With your shortlist now compiled, ask each person to bid on the work. Your shortlist will hopefully contain a list of between three to six names. Three is the minimum number of quotes you need to tell which price is fair, while going up to six will give you a clearer idea of how the different options stack up against each other. Any more than that, though, and you might get confused, so try to pare back.
Ask each contractor to provide you with a detailed bid that covers all the information you need to choose someone safely for your project. For example, the quote should include not just a total price, but costings for each element of the job. This way, if you decide to go ahead with some things but not others, you’ll know what you need to pay.
The bid should also detail acceptable payment methods and when different payments are due. Always request a payment schedule, with money released based on specific deadlines being met, rather than paying everything up front. Upfront payments don’t give contractors incentives to do their work on time or to the best of their abilities.
Ask for quotes to include materials costs, too, as you may be able to source some items yourself for a lower price. The bid should also note the deadline for completion of the job and any penalties contractors will face for not adhering to the schedule. For instance, you might get a particular percentage discount on fees if the job runs over by a month or more.
Compare Prices with Care
One of the biggest deciding factors when selecting a contractor is, of course, price. However, compare quotes with care so you understand the final total rates you’ll be charged, not just the most apparent costs. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need, to clarify things.
Depending on the way contractors lay out their bids, you may think one person is more affordable, but once every element is factored in, including potential “hidden” fees, they may be more expensive. Be on the lookout for extra costs found in the fine print. For example, there could be charges for using particular payment types, completing projects within a quicker timeframe, making changes to the brief, or other elements.
Sign a Suitable Contract
Signing a contract is another vital step in using a tradesperson. Don’t start work before you have read over, amended as needed, and signed the necessary paperwork. The contract should specifically detail what the person you’re hiring must do, when they’ll do this, and the prices involved.
Contracts require start and completion dates, a list of rights and responsibilities of each party, and the consequences of default by either person/group. The paperwork needs to highlight how to resolve differences if you’re unhappy with the contractor’s work, or if they don’t deliver on time or some other problem arises.
There is significant pressure to hire the right contractor when you need work done on your property, but by following the steps noted above, you’re more likely to end up with the best person for your needs.