Choosing the right contractor for your home takes research!
Step One: Vet Companies Thoroughly
When you are getting ready to have a contractor remodel your home, it is important to do your homework and vet companies thoroughly. Your home is one of the most expensive items you own, and home improvement can run in the 10's of 1,000's of dollars. You want to make sure that the job will be done well, and you will be happy with the results. The worst thing you can do is to assume that a company will do a good job based solely on what you have heard in an ad or have seen on social media.
To get started:
It is wise to interview several contractors. To begin, choose only contractors who are licensed and bonded with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. Check to see that they have owned and operated their own business, under the same name, for 5 years or longer. This is an important step as new construction businesses suffer an 86% failure rate.
Search the ROC:
Take the license number for each company that you are considering and search for it on the ROC website to verify their status and see if they have had past issues or not: ROC "Find A Contractor" Search
Here's what to look for on the ROC website:
- Verify that the license is in good standing, has not expired or been suspended and has no complaints against it. Check that the bond is funded.
- Make sure the company is licensed in the category that you are hiring them to do work in.
- Check the owners name listed on the sight. Does it match the current owner of the company? If not, this could mean they are borrowing another company's license. This can be a sign that a company is working under someone else's license- find out why.
- Run a search on the owner's name. Does he own other companies? If there are other companies that he owns, make sure to check them out as well.
- How much are they licensed and bonded for? Preferably, the amount is equal to the amount of work they do during the year. Take note of when their bond and insurance expire. Make sure that the license and insurance will be good for the duration of your project.
Step Two: The Dating Phase
Schedule an appointment with each company that you are considering. Take note of everything! If this is a big project you will be spending a lot of time with the people who work at the company and in your home. Your relationship with the company will likely be a long one as you will want them to be around for any warranty issues.
- Are they friendly and polite? Are they dressed neatly? How are you greeted when you call the office?
- Are they timely? Did they call back when they said they would? Did they show up at your home on time? If they aren't on time during the dating phase with an appointment, don't expect them to be on time with an entire job! Timeliness is either important to them or it is not.
- Being on time is a good indication that they will be respectful of your schedule as well as committed, concentrated and focused on getting a job done.
- Visit one of their job sites: Is it clean and organized? Are there piles of trash or litter? Is the job sight generally picked up? Have they been respectful as to where they park?
- Visit their office for the same reasons. Is it clean and organized? If the office is a pick-up truck that is ok as long as it is tidy. If you see loose receipts and piles of fast food wrappers heaped together, that is an indication that your paperwork won't be respected either.
Step Three: Dig Deep
- Get a list of past and current customers for you to interview yourself. Ask why they hired the company and if they would do it again. Is the company doing a good job communicating with them, keeping the job in good order and keeping their commitments? Are past clients happy with the finished product?
- Ask for a written schedule from start to finish. If the time frame you desire for the job is essential then this will be one good tool for narrowing down your choice.
Step Four: Dig A Bit Deeper
• Here is a great tip for vetting a company. Get a List of suppliers and subcontractors.
Chances are that the name of one of them will show up on a couple of contractors lists. Call that sub or supplier and tell them what you would like to get done. Without telling them who you are considering, ask who they would choose to work on their own house. If they don't list one of your candidates, ask what they know about them. Suppliers and subcontractors are a great source of information!
What about the cost factor?
If you are shopping for the cheapest price, there is nothing I can say to help you choose a good contractor. Anyone can finagle a bid to come in at the lowest price. This can be very costly to the homeowner. A lowest bidder may be low because they have left something out of the bid or they are new to the industry and underestimate the cost of running a company (this is a common cause of the 85% failure rate). Neither is an optimum scenario. The contractor will need to add change orders to compensate for what was forgotten on the estimate or they may run out of money before the job is complete.
Once you have found a contractor that you can trust, based on the guidelines above, ask them for an estimate without telling them your budget. Calculating an accurate bid for a project takes lots of time. For that reason, many companies charge for the estimate. Once you are given the price ask them what is covered and just as importantly what is NOT covered.
Ask the company what about their services sets them apart and makes their pricing worth the money. A remodeling / construction company that wants to provide a good experience for their customers will be on the job daily to meet and instruct the subcontractors, schedule weekly meetings to keep the homeowner informed, do the job right the first time and work hard at keeping the job neat and the home clean during the process. This kind of supervision costs but, is worth it for a well-run job.
Taking the time to truly vet a contractor will pay big dividends in the end. So often we have people call and tell us that they chose the lowest bidder for a job. The story ends with the contractor walking off the job or providing sub-standard work. Very few reputable contractors want to be the finisher of an abandoned job as they are too hard to warranty.
The moral of the story is: Don't let your inner cheapskate cost you! Choose a reputable contractor! Your overall happiness with the job will make it worth it.
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