Eight Questions to ask When You Hire a Contractor
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 • 3:22pm
Choosing a contractor can be a stressful, often daunting task and home owners don’t always know the right way to face these challenges. Most home owners know to ask for references and to also look for multiple bids, but these simple items can lay the ground work for a smoother, more pleasurable experience.
1. How many projects do you currently work on?
It’s important to find out how many projects are currently on a contractors plate. Very often during a project a builder will be there for a week or two every day and then gone for a week. Establish priorities early; communicate your needs and wants. You’ll not likely be the only client at any given time, but by clearing the air initially, expectations are easier to meet.
2, Have you done similar work?
Not all parts are interchangeable. A framing carpenter isn’t always the best choice for finish cabinets or other detailed work. Make certain to review a builder’s portfolio, most are eager to share pictures, videos, and other specific information, so make sure you’re dealing with the right type of trades person for your project.
3. Do you have a process for change orders?
Especially when building a large scale project, changes are very often needed. Always find out how your builder normally handles change orders and not only make sure your comfortable with the process, but take some time to familiarize yourself with the potential affect with local township rules and state laws. For example; any change order or contract in NJ over $500 in value, must be in writing.
4, Will you be using sub-contractors on MY project?
There’s an old military saying, “you can assign the task, not the responsibility”. It’s very common to use sub-contractors on large projects, ask if they have worked with the subs previously and how many times? If the builder is taking a risk, so are you.
5. How do you plan on minimizing the inconvenience to me and my family?
You’ll always have to “break a few eggs when you make a cake”, but a solid plan will help avoid any unnecessary heartache. I would always try to set up an “ad hoc” kitchen and quiet spaces to help ease the displacement of a build out. Make a plan and make sure to express to your builder how important your “routine” is to you.
6, Would you like me to be available as a reference?
Setting an expectation up front that you would be willing to be a reference and allow the builder to show your home to prospective clients can really help smooth the road for your project and help the builder focus on keeping you happy.
7. How will you handle any issues that arise after the initial build?
Even after a project has closed you should have time to notify your builder of issues that crop up due to various factors. Unfortunately, if 99% of the job went perfectly, the last 1% can be the most difficult. Make sure to create an escrow to ensure that a contractor will come back to resolve any outstanding issues. A small escrow shows the contractor that you’re committed and it does the same for you.
8. What percent of the time will YOU be on my site?
Make sure you’re dealing with the person that’s in charge. It’s not unreasonable to want the boss on your job. Get them to commit to their time on the job. “The only jobs that are done right, are the ones the boss checks.”
As I’ve learned over the years, establishing some simple ground rules and a clear path of communication can be the difference between a great building experience and a bad one.
Mitchell P. Harris has over 30 years experience in all aspects of construction and real estate. He has decided to bundle all of his experience and knowledge and become the “Property Manager” for the home owner. Find out more at h-o-m-experts.com or call 908-346-1111.
The HOME Expert - Since 1983
30 Years of Real Estate & Construction, Licensed Real Estate Broker, RCS Building Inspector, Certified Public Adjuster, Black Seal, CPO, General Contractor
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