Monday, October 4, 2010

Things to know when hiring a contractor

by Faith Ranoli

Do you have home remodeling projects? What if you've watched the building TV shows and know you do not want to end up like some of those people. How do you protect yourself? How do you bring your project in on time and on budget? Most importantly, how do you hire a team to accomplish your goals of bringing your dream into reality on budget?

Here are some tips to help you hire the right people and avoid common pitfalls. The best advice is to be prepared and do your due diligence.

Before you start your project:
Hire a home inspector to assess the property for hidden needed repairs. Speak with professionals to help you lay out the project, perhaps an architect, designer, the kitchen or bath staff at the big box store, look at magazine and search the Internet for ideas and products.Depending on your time commitment and level of involvement you may choose to hire a remodeling coach to help interface with contractors or to oversea the project or to help you do some of the work.Once you have a plan of action think about your budget, hold back 10-15% for the unexpected, if you don't spend it on surprise repairs then you can upgrade fixtures or other materials towards the end of the project.

When hiring a contractor:
Ask friends or professional contacts for contractor referrals, check with your home insurance company carrier or Realtor for their vendor list. When talking to contractors ask for proof of insurance, workman's compensation insurance and state licensing. Call and verify all insurances and ask for certificates of insurance before you start the job. Call and verify the contractor is in good standing with the state licensing board. Call and verify the contractor and the company name are in good standing with the Secretary of State's office and the Better Business Bureau. Use the Internet and research the contractor and his company. Ask to see their driver's license and car insurance. Ask for past customer references from each contractor, call those customers and ask to see the finished work.

During the bid process:
Obtain bids from at least three qualified contractors. Ensure the bids are made on the same job specifications and quality of materials. Obtain a land and cell phone number, street mailing address not a post office box, an email address and website address for each contractor and make sure this information is reflected on their bid. Each bid should have a start date, end date and payment breakout dates. Ask for the bid to be broken down into labor and materials for each phase of the project.

Drawing up the contract:
After selecting your contractor(s)ask for the contract and look for:
-- A start date and end date with a clause detailing the process if the contractor cannot meet the end date. The work description encompasses the total project they bid on, all the details are written into the contract.
-- A payment schedule, based on finishing phases of the project.
-- A plan for obtaining permits where needed.
-- A lien release from all subcontractors and material suppliers, do this before paying for any work.
-- A means to track changes to the project. Unexpected repairs or changes to the original design will crop up, a way to track those changes is necessary because it will most likely change the cost of the project. A form filled out by the contractor and signed by both of you is recommended.
-- A clause for touch ups and warranties.
-- A labor and material price breakdown for each phase of the project.
-- A means of negotiating if the job is not done to your agreed upon contract.

Remember, anything you sign is a contract. When the job is completed, do not write that final check until you have the signed and completed permit from your local building inspection office. Also, have others look at the finished project and look for touch ups. You've been looking at the project daily and you might miss something, a fresh eye will help you see the touch ups needed while the contractor is motivated to make those repairs.

Tune in to Faith Ranoli’s, Heart & Home radio show, Thursday 1p.m.PT

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